Huawei FreeBuds 4 vs FreeBuds 3 vs FreeBuds Pro – The open fit FreeBuds 3 get upgraded active noise cancelling

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The Huawei FreeBuds 3 were announced in Germany at IFA 2019 during the keynote which included the Kirin 990.

Sadly, the Huawei FreeBuds 4 have had their announcement in the Chinese market with no word on global availability yet. Due to all the issues Huawei have faced in the past 18-months, this is a trend will likely continue for the foreseeable future with all Huawei products.

I liked the FreeBuds 3, and I loved the FreeBuds Pro, so I hope the new FreeBuds 4 get launched globally.

Design

Similar to the previous model, the FreeBuds 4 use an open fit design similar to the AirPods Pro. This isn’t my personal preference, but my partner prefers the design, so it is good that people have a choice. The overall design appears almost identical, as does the case.

The FreeBuds 4 are listed as being IPX4 rated, so they offer a small amount of liquid protection. Neither the 3 nor Pro make any mention of an IP rating.

Drivers & ANC

Internal design of Freebuds 4

The new version comes with 14.3mm dynamic drivers and has three microphones for voice, and surrounding noise pick up. The active noise cancellation can reduce up to 25db of surrounding noise. Each earbud comes with three-level touch controls.

The previous FreeBuds 3 originally didn’t quote a noise cancelling reduction and I found its performance was quite subtle, with the open fit design not really being favourable to active noise cancelling. It now looks like they claim 15dB according to the Huawei website, which is quite a low level of performance.

Freebuds 3 has a 14.2 mm dynamic driver with a secondary bass tube, it is not clear if the FreeBuds 4 retain the bass tube. However, the product images show a similar looking tube for the internal design.

On the other hand, the FreeBuds Pro claimed up to 40dB noise cancelling, and I have found that these perform well for an in-ear device. The FreeBuds Pro only have an 11mm dynamic driver with no bass tube, but the eartips they use offer a closed design offering significantly better bass.

Chipset & Connectivity

All of these earphones use the Krin A1 chip, which was announced with the Freebuds 3.

However, the FreeBuds 4 now connect using Bluetooth 5.2 compared to Bluetooth 5.1 on the Freebuds 3 (Pro uses 5.2). They also support simultaneous connection to two devices. They also come with a special clear voice mode for vloggers, which promises to do a better job of picking up your voice in noisier environments. There’s also a low latency mode that dials back audio latency to 90ms, so you have crisp and accurate audio during your gaming sessions.

It is not clear how they achieve low latency, there is no word on the low latency codec used, such as aptX Adaptive.

The Freebuds 3 also made claims of low latency performance and dual-channel synchronous transmission.

Battery

The battery life seems to remain similar at 4 hours with ANC on with 22 hours in total with ANC off + charging from the battery. The Freebuds 3 offers 20 hours total, including the case.

Overall

It doesn’t look like much has changed since the FreeBuds 3. The main difference being a 15dB to 25dB. Decibels work on a logarithmic scale, so in theory, the 66% linear increase in the dB number should be more like a ten-fold improvement (I’m quite likely wrong about this).

However, the 25dB is still a long way off the FreeBuds Pro performance, and the open fit design will never offer exceptional levels of ANC.

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