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Huawei FreeLace review: Clever design but uninspiring sound

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £99
inc VAT

Huawei’s new Bluetooth earphones have an intriguing design but fail to deliver an engaging sound


  • Smart and fast USB Type-C charging
  • Long battery life
  • Instantaneous pairing with Huawei phones


  • Uninspiring sound quality
  • Neckband design isn’t for everyone

Huawei’s FreeLace headphones, launched alongside the firm’s P30 and P30 Pro smartphones, might look like any old neckband wireless headphones but they’re actually a little bit different.

They’re charged not in the normal way – by plugging a cable into a port hidden somewhere on the remote/battery module – but by pulling them apart to expose a USB Type-C plug, then connecting said plug directly to a nearby Type-C port or adapter.

They can also be charged directly from your phone’s USB port, which is handy, and even if you’d rather charge via a standard USB port, Huawei includes an adapter in the box.

Free when you pre-order Huawei P30 Lite

The all-new Huawei P30 Lite isn’t cheap but to make the phone a little more alluring, Carphone Warehouse is throwing in a free pair of FreeLace earphones with every pre-order. The deal won’t last forever so if you were thinking of getting a new phone and wanted some in-ears to go along with it, now’s your chance.

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Huawei FreeLace review: What you need to know

That’s a neat idea, but not the FreeLace’s only great feature: battery life is even better, with Huawei rating the earphones at 18 hours, which is phenomenal. When you do run out of juice, they charge rapidly, too, gaining four hours worth of listening time in only five minutes. Plus, the microphone has noise-cancelling tech built in.

As for the rest of the design, that’s pretty standard. The FreeLace is a neckband-style earphone, which means the cable that connects the two earpieces hangs around the back of your neck while you’re wearing them. Like Marmite, you’ll either love this design or hate it. I’ve never been a fan as I don’t like the way the cable bounces around on my neck during exercise but there are plenty of people who love this type of headphone. That’s mainly because, when they’re not in use, you don’t have to stuff them away in a case – you can simply leave them hanging against your chest, ready to go.

The FreeLace have an extra trick here, too: they clip magnetically together when they’re not being worn, automatically powering down to save on battery capacity. As soon as they’re separated again, they instantaneously reconnect to your smartphone. This might sound a simple thing but it makes a big difference to usability.

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Neckband aside, I found the FreeLace’s compact earpieces to be lightweight and comfortable in the ear. They look good – you can get them in Graphite Black, Amber Sunrise, Emerald Green and Moonlight Silver – and they’re IPX5-rated, which means they’re a little bit water-resistant but not waterproof. In other words, they’ll survive a bit of sweat and rain but you can’t go swimming with them.

Connectivity, particularly via Huawei phones, is exceptional. Plug them in to either the Huawei P30 or P30 Pro and they will automatically pair with the handset. Unfortunately, codec support isn’t as impressive, with only support for AAC and SBC, excluding the higher-fidelity aptX, aptX HD and LDAC codecs.

As a result, the headphones’ 9.2mm dynamic drivers are left with plenty to do; alas, they fail to do that. I fired up Travis Scott’s “Pick Up the Phone” to get a feeling for the headphones’ bass response and was instantly disappointed. They lack full extension in the sub-bass region, with a slight roll-off at 20Hz and, although the mid-bass reproduction is more acceptable, it’s a touch uncontrolled.

The lower-mids aren’t awe-inspiring, either, with Drake’s “4pm In Calabasas” failing to engage. The upper-mids and high frequencies are better, with the FreeLace producing significantly more energy and extension in that direction, but the soundstage is disappointing. Although the earphones have great tonality, instrument separation is sub-par and the overall sound is shallow.

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Huawei FreeLace review: Price and competition

It’s easy to forgive such weaknesses with a £40 pair of headphones but at £99, the Huawei FreeLace’s shortcomings cannot be ignored. And at that price, there’s plenty of competition for your cash. The Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 at £70, the vastly impressive SoundMagic E11BT, and the Creative Outlier One at a mere £30 all offer better bang for your buck when it comes to sound quality.

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Huawei FreeLace review: Verdict

The FreeLace provide a set of commendable features that set them apart from other Bluetooth earphones, especially if you own one of the company’s latest, greatest smartphones. However, the sound quality is disappointing and with plenty of excellent alternatives under £100, I’d give Huawei’s FreeLace a miss.

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