Wireless earbuds might be the on-trend style of headphones and while that’s unlikely to change any time soon, there are some great alternatives out there and the Huawei FreeLace Pro are the best neckbuds you can buy.
It seemed like neckbuds came and went very quickly since the move to true wireless earbuds didn’t take long. However, this style comes with a number of benefits that might make them a far better choice for some users.
The FreeLace Pro are particularly good with a nice design, solid sound quality, excellent noise cancelling and long battery life.
Design & Build
If you’re new to neckbuds then they are earphones connected to each other via a wire that sits around the neck.
The FreeLace Pro are a perfect example of this and have a rubbery, slightly stiff section at the back leading to two larger metal sections. One simply sports a logo while the other has power and playback buttons.
This one also comes apart like taking a lid of a flash drive to reveal a USB-C port. This is how you charge the FreeLace Pro and you can either use the supplied adapter cable to plug into a full-size USB-A port or plug straight into USB-C.
If you have a phone with reverse wireless charging, you can – albeit slightly awkwardly – plug in to charge the heaphones. If you have a phone running EMUI 10 or Magic UI 3 or later then plugging the FreeLace Pro in will pair automatically via HiPair.
I haven’t been able to try that, but had no issues using them with various devices over Bluetooth 5.0.
Build quality is excellent and the neck section has a good amount of weight (the headphones total 34g) and flexibility to ensure a comfortable fit.
A regular wire leads to the earbuds which attach to each other with magnets for handy storage and this also automatically disconnects or connects them to your phone. The left earbud also has a touch sensitive button for controlling noise cancelling.
As usual, you get a range of eartip sizes to choose from. They have built-in wings but this means finding the right fit might be hard. For example, I have small ear canals but large ears, so the smallest tips have wings that do nothing for me.
While I think the design is comfortable and suitable for using during exercise, getting a secure fit is important if you plan to do something like running. If you can, then they also have IP55 waterproofing as a bonus.
The FreeLace Pro I tested are Graphite Black but you can also get them in Dawn White and Spruce Green.
Sound Quality & Features
With large 14.2mm dynamic drivers, the FreeLace Pro can produce a big sound.
Huawei doesn’t list a frequency range in the specs but the FreeLace Pro have an impressive response, particularly at the low end with rich and punchy bass with a subwoofer-esque feeling thanks to a ‘independent low-frequency sound tube’.
While they are certainly suited to bass-heavy music, the headphones still have a nicely balanced tuning. Mid-tones and the high-end are not forgotten about, although there’s a bias toward the mid-range like most headphones on the market.
However, there’s enough treble sparkle to provide brightness, while the mid-range delivers vocals and main instruments with confidence. Overall, I would say the sound is a little tight and could be a tad more free but I’m nitpicking there.
It’s impressive how well the FreeLace Pro handle higher volumes. Partly thanks to the larger drivers, pumping the FreeLace Pro to the higher end (without getting into dangerous levels) results in little to no distortion.
Active noise cancelling is the key feature here and is quite rare on neckbuds. It’s a dual-mic system activated by a long press on the left earbud. The press is perhaps too long but I got used to it and a voice tells you it’s been activated.
Importantly, the ANC quality is very good and as able to cut out pretty much all noise. I could barely hear when clicking my fingers near my ears. It’s up there with the best from the likes of Sony and Bose.
Long press the earbud a second time and you’ll move to transparency mode so you can hear your surroundings. Of course, the volume of your music affects this, but even at lower volume levels I still found myself wanting a little more transparency.
That’s probably my main complaint about the FreeLace Pro, the lack of control over the ANC. Perhaps I’ve been spoilt by testing other headphones but being able to adjust how much is extremely useful. I would typically find myself just taking one, or both, earbuds out to listen to things or talk to people.
Huawei does have the AI Life app, but there are no sliders to control the levels of ANC, just the ability to switch between the modes. Hopefully, this feature will come with a future firmware update.
Continuing to impress, Huawei quotes up to 24 hours of battery life with these headphones on a single charge. That’s one big advantage compared to wireless earbuds. That figure drops to 16 hours with ANC switched on but that’s still a long time and will cover you for even the longest of noisy flights.
It’s a lot longer than the Bowers & Wilkins PI3 we reviewed, which can offer just eight in comparison.
I haven’t used the FreeLace Pro for a session that long but it’s telling that I haven’t had to worry about battery life at all, and barely needed to charge them over the course of a few weeks. When you do, Huawei says you can get five hours of battery life from a five-minute charge.
We don’t have a UK price or release date for the FreeLace Pro yet, but they will arrive in October at 199 Euros in other markets.
I’ll update the review once we have those details but based on the European figure, I’d say the price is fair.
They’re not the cheapest around, of course, but you’re getting a high-end pair of neckbuds here with ANC. For comparison, Bowers & Wilkins similar PI4 are £269.
Take a look at our roundup of the best wireless headphones.
The FreeLace Pro are the best neckbuds we’ve tested to date. You can spend less but Huwaei offers good value for money here. They’re stylish and can be used for general listening but also suit sport use, too.
As mentioned above, there are cheaper rivals but they don’t have ANC and can’t offer the same level of battery life.
It says a lot that I’m struggling to find negative things to say about these headphones. Long battery life aside, the build quality is excellent, as is sound quality and the active noise cancelling is up there with the best.
Really all I can fault them on is a lack of control over the ANC and the transparency mode doesn’t quite let enough sound through for my personal taste.
I would also prefer the wing tips to be separate but the slightly ill-fit is partly down to my ear shape.
Huawei FreeLace Pro: Specs
- 14.2mm dynamic drivers
- Bluetooth 5.0
- Huawei HiPair
- Dual-mic Active Noise Cancellation (ANC)
- Triple-mic Noise Cancellation for calls
- Magnetic control earbuds
- Touch button (left earbud)
- Physical button control panel
- 150 mAh battery
- Up to 24 hour battery life
- USB-C with adapter
- 3 sizes of ear tip
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