when the music is good (and accessible)

Oppo Enco W51, Xiaomi Mi True 2S and Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2… The active noise reduction is an indispensable selling point for in-ear headphones for less than 100 euros in the Landerneau. If a person sets himself this psychological tariff barrier, nothing more than a green ticket, is that really what he or she first expects in return? Comfort, autonomy and sound, here is a triptych of evaluation that comes closer to the ideals of frugal music lovers.

Design and ergonomics

Sometimes it doesn’t help to reinvent the wheel. Especially when it drives well. Huawei understood this well by taking the best of what it can for its new offspring. The Chinese manufacturer uses the same formula for the design of our companions as for the FreeBuds 3i. Namely headphones with a rod-shaped, comfortable semi-in-ear format, with the silicone tip resting gently on the edge of the ear without being inserted there. The shape is slightly watered down at the top to make a shape that pulls more towards the ovoid than towards the round. More softness, less stiffness in the lines. On the other hand, inflexibility is required in the ear. Even during intensive use, around 3 hours, the 4i never disturbed our hearing intimacy. And for the louder, you know the headphones hold up perfectly, even if you sway a little during a guitar solo. And that’s a good thing, because the earphone that accidentally falls into a sewer on the street or into a sink after an excessive nod is anything but an urban legend. Lived experience.

When designing the case, Huawei is largely based on its big brother, the FreeBuds Pro. An oval shape, except here the coating is painted and not matte. Compact (70 x 51.3 x 24.6 mm), but also lighter (60 g), this bag fits easily in one hand and does not distort the jeans pocket too much, in any case much less than the lengthways shell of the 3i. Incidentally, it’s sober and all the better, a USB-C charging port on the bottom, an LED on the front to indicate the charging status and a discreet button for Bluetooth pairing.

Another pleasant surprise was the confiscation of the headphones. On the 3i you had to be patient to get her out of her cave. In the long run, putting the case down while shaking it became almost a reflex to save time. A shame. From now on, the arrangement of the headphones in the housing makes typing easier. With your head slightly protruding, just slide your finger between the small space and the base and grab the earpiece. It’s not all perfect yet. In the first few days you need to show a pinch of dexterity, then the gesture becomes almost natural. We appreciate the effort.

Finally, with its headphones, Huawei supplies a USB-A to USB-C charging cable, which can be up to four feet long. So what ? Anyone who does not have exclusively low power outlets at home has already had to subject their high-tech products, usually headphones or mini speakers, to the agony of the slash. A product that floats halfway up when charging thanks to the cable supplied with a length of a few centimeters. Thanks to Huawei, you no longer play the hangman here.

Audio quality

On paper, these Bluetooth 5.2 headphones contain 10mm diameter transducers, are compatible with standard SBC and AAC codecs, and offer a frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz. Make space to listen to reality. Our entire test playlist was created with a Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro smartphone and on Spotify. First track “Si bien du mal” by singer Hervé. One thing strikes us immediately, the acoustic balance is there quickly. At an average sound level, the bass lags a bit behind, all the better, which brings out the highs of the first synth notes, especially the vocals.

To continue this experience, we are launching a podcast entitled “Les Chemins de la Philosophie” on France Inter. The impression is confirmed, the voice of the presenter Adèle Van Reeth is clear, even with a background noise or a jingle amplified almost to the right degree. The voices are different without flooding the rest of the spectrum too much. A quality found when using headphones for a call or while watching a movie. Listening to “The Sun” by Yael Naim and the latest London grammar “All My Love” will confirm this impression, even if in these very “acoustic” formats some notes (guitars or piano) sometimes seem a bit concise.

For more electronic music, here “Beirut Ma Bet Mout” by Yuksek, the headphones are not too strong bass. They’re obviously accented as the sound is raised, but the whole thing remains generous without too much dripping, especially on the kicks. With more pop or rock sounds, the sound stays clear and the dynamics are just right. To be picky, we will sometimes notice a lack of detail about multi-instrument music like classical or jazz. When we heard a best-of by Tito Puente in the sun on a Sunday morning, there was sometimes a lack of precision and attention to detail in the space. Nothing serious, it’s just a matter of dispute.

Noise reduction and control

As mentioned in the introduction, noise reduction is often a technological mirror of the skylines for true wireless intras under $ 100. Especially since the attenuation of ambient noise depends on many factors: physical isolation of the headphones depending on the ear, the type of audio content being played, the volume level of each individual … Suddenly simply giving numbers, here a reduction of 22 dB, distorts the opinion a little before the Purchase. Especially since a street with a lot of traffic can fluctuate between 60 and 80 dB if we only rely on numbers.

Unlike the FreeBuds Pro, which allows you to configure environment types in Huawei’s AI Life application to adjust noise reduction, the 4i doesn’t have this option. It will therefore be necessary to blindly trust the headphones in order to modulate the external noise as desired.

Huawei Freebuds 4i at the best price Base price: 99 €

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In moderately noisy places, such as in an open room with ten people or in a supermarket (outside rush hour), the noise reduction is noticeable as a little bad in all other situations. Busy streets, crowded public transport, train rides, static noise (urban works) … If silence is golden for you, then you need to turn to another model of more expensive headphones or turn up the volume during your urban walks. Which is paradoxical when looking for peace and quiet.

After all, it’s about listening habits and tastes. Concerning the “perceptual” mode, which is supposed to enhance the external environment, the same conclusion. Unfortunately it is ineffective, the voice of our office colleague about 2 meters away resonates in our Esgourdes like in a cave. However, this last question remains open. Is it better to have an above-average RBA than none and an even more enticing price? It almost borders on the philosophical debate. You have 5 hours.

When it comes to touch controls, Huawei plays Molière’s Harpagon. Double press to act as play / pause and long press to juggle between RBA, Sensing and Passive Isolation modes. And that’s it. You cannot navigate between tracks or adjust the volume. The base, thin. The same applies to the dedicated mobile application. It is only available for Android and only offers the option of adapting these “few” touch controls and performing updates. Don’t waste time looking for an equalizer, there isn’t one. A bit casual, but nothing dramatic.

Autonomy and charging

To say we expected Huawei at the turn on this point is an understatement. It must be said that with at best 3 hours per charge, the 3i were far from being as durable as the indescribable Haile Gebreselassie. The Chinese manufacturer was able to correct the shooting in an impressive way. The first week we were able to use the headphones at an average volume of 50 to 70% and with no RBA for just over 9 hours. In the second week, the headphones did not let go of us until around 7.45 a.m. by activating active noise reduction and sometimes switching to perception mode. From single to triple compared to the previous model. No other model is better in this strict price range. It is even necessary to google models from around 120 euros and sometimes more to keep them high.

Also note the loading speed. In just under 10 minutes we reach 40% of the battery and to recharge, in the right shape, completely, 25 minutes and the case is folded. On the other hand, the case’s performance doesn’t reach the headphones’ two full charges, but a good charge and a third. Which is still honorable.

Huawei Freebuds 4i at the best price Base price: 99 €

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Our opinion

No, the FreeBuds 4i are not a poorly updated version of their predecessors. They are more comfortable, more durable and deliver a balanced and warm sound. In this price range, they are the three most important criteria in our opinion. And outperform many of their direct competitors.

Below the 100 euro mark, you have to know how to accept some concessions. It is conceivable that the RBA is above average. It is understandable that the manufacturer skips a charging socket. On the other hand, the poverty of touch controls seems more of a dead end or an oversight than a concern for the economy.

In any case, over time, this new model will fulfill most of your everyday acoustic needs. As for the autonomy and the confiscation of the headphones, well done. Huawei engineers were able to take into account the negative feedback from customers and journalists about their old model. Sometimes direct democracy is good. So in 2022 will the FreeBuds 5i have an RBA and a touchscreen interface to do the job? If that is the case, we will be reaching the limit of perfection for no more than one greenback.

Huawei FreeBuds 4i

100 €

Design and ergonomics

8.0 / 10

Autonomy and charging

8.5 / 10

Techno-price ratio

8.0 / 10

We love

The convenience of the headphones. Remarkable sound for this price. Battery life

We like less

Anecdotal RBA Poor touchscreen controls Missing IP certifications

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