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Huawei FreeLace review

Solid audio wrapped in a sleek design

(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

The Huawei FreeLace’s integrated USB-C jack is a clever quirk that addresses a major peeve of wireless headphones - charging on the go. They also look great, are comfortably snug, sound better than you’d expect and can easily last 10-12 hours on a single charge. Though you’ll need a Huawei phone to make the most out of the features it offers.

For

  • Lightweight and comfy fit
  • Integrated USB-C
  • Great battery life
  • Great audio quality

Against

  • Awkward button controls
  • No multi-point connectivity
  • Needs a Huawei phone for best use

TechRadar Verdict

The Huawei FreeLace’s integrated USB-C jack is a clever quirk that addresses a major peeve of wireless headphones - charging on the go. They also look great, are comfortably snug, sound better than you’d expect and can easily last 10-12 hours on a single charge. Though you’ll need a Huawei phone to make the most out of the features it offers.

Pros

  • + Lightweight and comfy fit
  • + Integrated USB-C
  • + Great battery life
  • + Great audio quality

Cons

  • - Awkward button controls
  • - No multi-point connectivity
  • - Needs a Huawei phone for best use

The Huawei FreeLace were announced alongside the P30 series and have a neat little trick to overcome Bluetooth pairing pains and charging woes that plague wireless earphones. A built-in USB-C jack that can be accessed by taking off one end of the earphones and plugged into compatible phone for a quick battery top up and initial pairing with a Huawei phone.

They’re not truly wireless though, with a neckband connecting a pair of in-ear buds. But they still do away with the pesky cable connecting to your phone. When you’re not using the earphones or if they accidentally fall out, they’re still secured around your neck, ready for use.

This design was mastered by the BeatsX and seen recently with the OnePlus Bullets Wireless. Both are a great pair of earphones, especially for active use. But the FreeLace differentiates itself in a couple of ways - integrated USB-C and an 18 hour battery life.

Pricing & availability

The Huawei FreeLace are available now for AED 299 in black, green and orange. You can pick them up across major retailers in the UAE or from Huawei’s online store. It’s a great price, considering the amount of tech Huawei has packed into them, and puts it alongside rivals.

Design & fit

The Huawei FreeLace are a smart looking pair of earbuds reminiscent of the recent OnePlus Bullets Wireless which in turn takes its design cues from the BeatsX.

The band is a mixture of titanium and nickel ‘Memory Metal’ that conform to the shape of your neck, and is finished with a smooth matte texture that feels lovely on bare skin. It’s lightweight and perfect for when you’re out and about and need to keep earphones secure and nearby. They’re also great for workouts since they’re hard to lose, and an IPX5 rating means they can handle a good bout of water. Still, you’ll want to keep them away from the pool and rain.

(Image credit: Future)

The FreeLace follow a tethered design with the thickest part of the cable - the part that lands behind the neck - connecting an in-line remote and a small battery pack. This helps balance the FreeLace and allows for easy one-ear use without the other end tugging at you or falling out.

The in-ear buds have magnetic backs that snap together when not in use. This in tandem with the memory metal cable make the FreeLace unravel from any scrunched up state and come up tangle-free. They sit snug and comfy in the ear, not too tight or bulky, and come with a couple of extra ear tips if the default ones don’t fit.

(Image credit: Future)

The in-line remote hides the USB-C connector which is exposed when you separate the earbud cord from the rest of the headphones. It’s a tight clasp that takes a good amount of force to unlock, which is a good thing as you’re less likely to split it by accident.

(Image credit: Future)

You might prefer truly wireless options if you don’t like having the weight of a thick wire around your neck. But the FreeLace are light enough to not become a bother and can be comfortably worn for hours. Our only gripe is the position of the in-line remote which sits a little too high and close to the neck, making it awkward to access buttons.

Controls

The pairing process on the FreeLace works like any other wireless earbuds. You simply long-press the power button for four seconds to enter pairing mode. If you have a Huawei phone then you can bypass this process by sticking the FreeLace’s USB-C plug into a phone with EMUI 9.1 or higher. Although the Freelance have good connectivity and are relatively hassle free to pair with phones wirelessly, it’s always good to shave a few seconds off a mundane task.

The magnetic backs on the earbuds double as a switch that connect from your phone when together and disconnect when apart. They also end calls and pause/play whatever content you’re watching or listening to so that they don’t continue to play on your phone when disconnected.

(Image credit: Future)

You control the FreeLace through the in-line remote with a familiar layout. There’s a power button on the side, buttons for volume up and down and a multi-function button sits in a groove between the volume clickers.

It’s not always comfortable to reach the remote, and the small surface area means you’re less likely to press the intended button. And even if you do, the buttons can be fussy and not register input or worse - take false input causing mild annoyance.

Performance & battery life

One of the best things about wireless earbuds (neckbands or truly wireless) is their portability, but they often fallen short of their bulkier over-ear counterparts in terms of providing sufficient audio quality. This is not true for the FreeLace.

While they won’t blow away audiophiles, they will impress most with clear tones and vibrant bass - maybe too much bass out of the box, but that’s a quick fix with some EQ. The audio is very natural with no harsh mid and high ends which makes them comfortable to use over long periods of time.

Clarity and soundstage wise, the FreeLace are not remarkable but decent enough. They offer just enough depth to breathe new life into your favorite songs but if you’re looking for nuanced sound and deep punch then you won’t find them in the FreeLace. For the casual gym goer and commuter, the audio quality is sufficient and more premium than most neckband wireless earphones on the market.

Disappointingly there’s no form of noise cancellation on the FreeLace but they do use a double-wind noise reducing algorithm that works as long as you play the right content. When playing music the outside world almost disappears but put on a podcast and the outside world will creep back in. Not the best for tuning out and escaping, but still well-balanced in other areas.

(Image credit: Future)

Connectivity is very stable on the FreeLace with the earphones never failing to connect/disconnect when prompted to or when they’re near a paired phone. The range is short, however, with connection sputtering out at around 50 meters and completely disconnecting at 60 meters. Taking calls on the FreeLace works really well even under noisy conditions. The software does well to eliminate noise in the mic making sure the person on the other end can hear you clearly.

Powered by a modest 120mAh battery, the FreeLace claim to deliver 18 hours of playback and 12 hours of call time. In reality, we found they fell short of that promise, resulting in 13 hours of playback, which is still longer than what’s offered by rival wireless earphones.

You can eke out a day or three of heavy use with the FreeLace, and if you find yourself running out of juice, the earphones are super quick to top up. Five minutes of charge provides four hours of playback, and we found this to be more or less true. They also don’t drain your phone by much if you’re using it to charge the FreeLace.

Final verdict

All things considered, the FreeLace are well-balanced in all areas for general use but don’t stand out in any particular way. They’re competitively priced, offer solid audio quality, look great and have longer battery life than most earbuds in this price bracket. They will please both gym goers and music lovers looking for a comfy and reliable pair of wireless in-ears.

The main pull of these earphones is the built-in USB-C which means - if you have a compatible phone - it’s one less charger to worry about. If that’s not enough to drum up interest or you’re looking for exceptional audio quality, then you might want to check out wireless offerings by better audio-focused brands.

For Huawei phone owners, this would make a great companion accessory allowing you to use all of its features such as automatic pairing with HiPair. Others will want to consider how much use they’ll get out of the extras offered and whether they’re better off buying similarly priced alternatives like the OnePlus Bullets Wireless.

Ammara Rounaq is the Social Media manager at TechRadar Middle East.