Huawei FreeBuds 5 review: Ear fashion

Huawei FreeBuds 5 review: Ear fashion
The all-new Huawei FreeBuds 5 model is here, and if you've always wanted your earbuds to look like a piece of jewelry, your wish has been granted. These buds are not all about looks, though. They follow in the footsteps of all previous Huawei audio devices and thus inevitably inherit some great specs and features.

Huawei has a rich portfolio of earbuds, with entry-level models, high-end Pro versions, dedicated fashion spin-offs, and more, so it might be hard to navigate around these. As a midrange, mid-priced model, the Huawei FreeBuds 5 definitely offer a decent bang for your buck, and if you like open-ear designs, these buds might be right for you. Let's see what they're all about!

Huawei FreeBuds 5 Specs

Table of contents

Design and color options

Throughout Huawei's audio journey, the company has more or less stuck to the same design formula, keeping the stems of its buds similar across models and generations. The FreeBuds 5 model is a radical departure from that philosophy, and I dare say it's for the best.

There's no analogue to how these buds look, not only breaking any parallels with “you-know-what-company-I'm-talking-about,” but also offering something fresh, stylish, and comfortable*. The upper part of the buds is shaped like the hollow next to the ear canal (called the concha), while the stems have a teardrop shape.

The resulting design is quite pleasing, it resembles a pair of classy earrings. And while this analogy might not be the most sought after when you don't usually wear earrings, it looks stylish nonetheless. The Huawei FreeBuds 5 come in frost silver, ceramic white, and coral orange color options, with the silver ones being our favorites.

Fit and feel

This is when it gets interesting, and the asterisk from the section above comes into play. Huawei went through a lot of testing, including ear fittings to try out different molds and shapes. The anatomy of the human ear can vary wildly, and there's no guarantee that the FreeBuds 5 will work for you and your specific ear shape.

That being said, the buds feel almost weightless, and that was one of the goals when designing the strange shape of the FreeBuds 5. Well, the company has succeeded! A couple of minutes after you put them in, you stop feeling them.

On the other hand, these are open-ear headphones, which means they can fall out if your ear is bigger or if you do something active like headbanging, running, or firmly refusing a door-to-door salesperson's offer. To offer better grip and improved contact with your ear, Huawei has included eartips (which I'd call sleeves, as they wrap around the upper part of the earbuds).

Pairing and supported devices

Pairing is pretty straightforward, you just hold the button on the side of the case for a few seconds to put the buds in pairing mode, and then you can see them pop up in the Bluetooth menu of your phone, tablet, or computer.

What's not straightforward is getting the companion app, Huawei AI Life. I had to go through installing AppGallery first, and for some people, that might be a nuisance. You can use the buds without the app, but I would certainly advise otherwise, as all the cool features are inside the app.

App and features

For those of you familiar with Huawei audio products, the AI Life is a known variable, and you should feel at home with the interface and features. For everyone else, we'll do a quick rundown of what you can do with the app.

On the homescreen of the app, you can glance over the battery level of each bud, as well as the level of the charging case. If you go a level deeper, you'll find the Connection Center, Sound, and a bunch of other useful features bundled under the More tab.

Connection Center offers a glance over your connected devices (the Huawei FreeBuds 5 supports multipoint connection), and if you go a tap deeper, you can choose a preferred device to let the buds know what's your favorite source of music.

Sound Quality and Effects takes you to a menu with predefined EQ settings, but there's a new feature: you can manually tinker with the 10-band EQ and add your own sound setting. Here, you can also enable HD calls and choose to prioritize sound quality over connection quality, or vice versa.

Touch gestures

Even though the shape of these earbuds is quite extraordinary, they do support touch gestures, and once you're familiar with where the buds are in your ear, using these gestures is fairly easy and straightforward.

You've got a double tap gesture to play-pause or answer/end a call, a swipe to increase/decrease volume, and a tap and hold to change noise cancellation settings. It requires a little getting used to, as the shape of the stems is pretty unique.

Noise cancellation (ANC)

The Huawei FreeBuds 5 are equipped with three microphones that work in tandem with a 3A noise cancellation algorithm and a deep neutral network (DNN) algorithm to adaptively cancel out noise during calls and music listening sessions.

When activated, noise cancellation has three modes: dynamic, general, and cozy. The first one automatically adjusts the level of noise cancellation using the mics on the buds, and General offers the most amount of noise suppression. Cozy is for quieter places, as the name suggests.

The thing is, your mileage will vary greatly depending on how tight these buds fit inside your ears. Being open-ear and also kind of hanging outside the ear canal, ANC in these buds could range from non-existent to actually noticeable.

Sound quality

We start with the usual disclaimer that sound is subjective, and to some people, an extra oomph in the bass frequency beats the clarity in the high-midrange, for example. We try to focus on the general performance when listening to various music styles and highlight some apparent pros and cons to our ears.

First, let's say that the Huawei FreeBuds 5 supports LDAC and L2HC codecs, so you can listen to high definition music samples if you have the right source. We tried these with some 24 bit/96 kHz samples against the standard 16 bit/48 kHz ones, and there was an audible difference.

The 24 bit samples definitely revealed more details and offered better instrument separation, more clarity in the high frequencies, and a more open sound. With that out of the way, let's concentrate on the sound characteristics of these earbuds.

We started our test with Satie's "Gymnopedies", a classical piano piece that highlights the upper midrange and high frequencies quite well. Listening to classical music on these buds is a joy, and the open-ear design contributes to that by allowing a more natural and less muffled or bass-heavy quality to the sound.

We moved on to Kosheen's evergreen “Empty Skies" next, and the shortcomings of the open-ear design became apparent. There's no push in the bass response, something critical for most D'n'B tracks.

We just had to play “Flowers” by Miley Cyrus as our pop sample, and we're pleased to say that the FreeBuds 5 performed quite well, accenting on the vocal midrange frequencies with great detail. The bass in the track is again on the weak side, but overall these buds sound great for vocal music.

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Snoop Dog's “What's My Name?” displayed a very pleasing vocal soundstage and also decent bass, the track is beautifully mastered. Again, if you're a hip-hop fan, you'd be better off with big over-ear headphones, most likely.

Finally, on the aggressive hard-rock, heavy metal side of things, Judas Priest hit it hard with "Painkiller,” killing not only the pain but also a couple of weak and feeble brain cells, but as Norm from “Cheers” used to say, “It's survival of the fittest.”

Given the price of the FreeBuds 5 and their open-ear design, these buds produce pleasant and detailed audio across different genres, with the expected weak spot in the bass region.

Battery life and charging

The battery life is as advertised. Huawei says you can squeeze up to 3.5 hours out of the FreeBuds with ANC on, and we were able to confirm that. When listening at pretty loud volume levels with ANC on, we got 1:49 hours right when we hit 50% and 3:21 hours before the buds died on us.

You could easily extend that by at least an hour if you turn the ANC off, which we recommend as it's not the most prominent feature of these buds. The charging case was able to fully charge up the buds' batteries four times, so with ANC off and everything charged up, you could manage the advertised 30 hours, or at least something pretty close to that number, a full day of listening for sure.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, the Huawei FreeBuds 5 offer some pretty decent features for the quite reasonable asking price of around 159 euros. There's LDAC support, ANC (although not as powerful as the one found in other headphone designs), and a very interesting design.

This might sound shallow, but we think the way these buds look will be one of the deciding factors in most people's buying journey. That's not a bad thing, because, as we already said, the Huawei FreeBuds 5 are not all about fashion for your ears. Just make sure you try a pair to see how they fit in your ear before pulling the trigger. The Huawei FreeBuds 5 retails for 159 euros. 


  • Stylish design
  • Active noise cancelling
  • LDAC support
  • Touch gestures
  • Attractive price
  • Decent sound quality
  • Multipoint connection
  • IP54 dust and water resistance
  • Custom EQ settings


  • Might not fit all ears
  • ANC is pretty weak due to open-ear design
  • Ai Life has to be sideloaded through AppGallery
  • Battery life not amazing

PhoneArena Rating:


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