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Huawei FreeBuds 5 review: The in-ears with in-house competition

Huawei FreeBuds 5 test case
Picture: TechnikNews/ David Worm
(Post picture: © 2023 TechnikNews/ David Worm)

A few weeks ago, Huawei presented the FreeBuds 5, the more expensive sister of the FreeBuds 5i. They also want to score points with a more elegant presentation and better quality. Is the extra cost really worth it? TechnikNews tested the FreeBuds 5.

Earlier this year we had the opportunity to test the Free Buds 5i. Those headphones that made it onto the Austrian market again. Now the Chinese are delivering and presenting the Huawei FreeBuds 5. While the i-model is priced under 100 euros, the new buds in Germany start at an RRP of 159 euros. Why pay more? We clarify the question review.

tl; dr - conclusion

With the new FreeBuds 5, Huawei takes a step back and makes the actually better headphones worse. After the price-performance hit of the FreeBuds 5i, the i-model feels much more mature and better. The rubber plugs make them fit better in the ear, ANC works much more reliably and the battery life is more convincing. Meanwhile, the FreeBuds 5 can only convince me with better sound quality and a slightly more elegant design.

For a price of 159 euros, there is a much better alternative that even comes from our own company: namely the FreeBuds 5i, which in the Price Comparison currently starting at 85 euros or around 89 euros available from Amazon are.

Elegant design, poor implementation

Nice to see that Huawei is coming up with new things with a slightly different designprodare to beer. Thanks to the ear-flattering shape, they can be worn extremely comfortably for several hours and do not pinch. But that is probably also due to the fact that they - at least for me - do not sit well and deep. Depending on the nature of the auricle, they fit differently - good or bad.

Huawei FreeBuds 5 Test Buds

On the Huawei FreeBuds 5 there are no rubber plugs ("ear tips"), as is usually the case with in-ear headphones. There are only earplugs in the packaging for larger auditory canals. These could at least compensate for an improper fit in the ear.

Unfortunately, the teardrop-shaped buds also seem relatively bulky and chunky - especially when compared to the FreeBuds 5i. This is not imaginary, as a look at the paper shows:

 Huawei FreeBuds 5Huawei FreeBuds 5i
Dimensions32,4 (length) x 17,6 (width) x 22,8 mm (thickness)30,9 (length) x 21,7 (width)x 23,9 mm (depth)
Weight5,4 g (Earphones); 45 g (case)4,9g (earbuds); 33,9 g (case)

I liked the more understated nature of the FreeBuds 5i better, even if they weren't as comfortable to wear. However, the loose and not closed seat also comes at the expense of noise canceling, more on that below.

Top sound, strange codecs

In contrast to the Huawei FreeBuds 5i, the 5 series are even "Hi-Res certified". Which means they support some high-quality codecs. The two L2HC and LDAC codecs are included here. The FreeBuds 5, on the other hand, cannot use the AptX codec that is widespread among smartphones.

Even if my Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus supports LDAC – at least not in combination with the FreeBuds 5. For other headphones, the S23 will show the slider to enable the codec in the settings. The situation is probably different with Huawei smartphones, but we couldn't avoid it at the moment due to the lack of a deviceprobeer So the codec seems to be there according to the paper, but probably not fully integrated with other smartphones.

Nevertheless, the FreeBuds 5 deliver a good sound for their type as in-ear headphones, which can be adjusted to your own wishes using the equalizer in the "Huawei AI Life" app. Unfortunately, some mid-tones and bass are lost due to the poor fit in the ear.

Fun fact: The FreeBuds 5i also support the LDAC codec, but are not officially "certified" with it - but it works here proseamlessly with my Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus and other Android devices.

Noise canceling

Basically, the noise suppression of the FreeBuds 5 seems to work a little more finely and is also "smarter" than that of the FreeBuds 5i. External noises are constantly recorded by three microphones and the ANC is readjusted again.

But this worked more badly than right. Even during a train journey with a relatively even background noise, noises could sometimes be heard again, then not again, but again a few seconds later. In addition, voices were always filtered out - which makes sense in some situations, but disappointingly cannot be switched off.

The relatively even filtering ANC of the FreeBuds 5i worked better because it hadn't constantly adjusted. There is no such “dynamic” mode on the cheaper model.

settings in the app

Huawei FreeBuds 5i app

Picture: TechnikNews

Other extras such as gesture control, equalizer and noise canceling strength can be adjusted in the "Huawei AI Life" app. The structure is quite intuitive and is reminiscent of the menu navigation on Huawei smartphones. This is available for Huawei smartphones directly in the Huawei AppGallery, for iOS in the App Store and Android as a separate download.

AI Life
AI Life
Developer: Amirror SE
Price: Free of charge
Price: Free of charge

We have examined other features of the app in more detail review report of the FreeBuds 5i:

Battery life too short

As the title says - unfortunately another downgrade to the FreeBuds 5i. After around 3 to 4 hours (depending on the volume) and activated ANC, the FreeBuds 5 have to be put back in the case. Together with the case, we got around 17 hours of music enjoyment review, with noise canceling activated.

That's way too short. With the cheaper FreeBuds 5i, it was possible to listen to music for almost 6 hours at a time. A look at the competition also shows significantly longer runtimes of up to 9 hours in some cases - also in this price range, mind you.

Price and availability

The Huawei FreeBuds 5 are available in Germany and Austria from a few stationary retailers, but are best available online. The headphones are currently available at a price of around 160 euros.

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David Wurm

Do that TechnikNews-Ding together with a great team for several years. Works in the background on the server infrastructure and is also responsible for everything editorial. Is fascinated by current technology and likes to blog about everything digital. In his free time, he can often be found developing websites, taking photos or making radio.

David has already written 951 articles and left 381 comments.

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