To create a earphone model that will suit everyone is a task from the realm of fantasy. Someone likes in-ear headsets, someone needs active noise cancellation, someone is looking for the most budget solution, and for someone the most important is the sound quality. It will not be possible to please everyone at the same time, but what if you try to create something compromise, which will meet the needs of the audience in most aspects? I think the result will be something like HUAWEI FreeBuds SE. Today we will figure out what features make these earphones an ideal candidate for purchase.
Market positioning and price
HUAWEI has outright flagship models, such as HUAWEI FreeBuds Pro 2, which we recently reviewed. There the design is absolutely unique, and the technical specifications shimmer with all the colors of the rainbow so that everyone can find something to their taste and color.
Here, everything is much more modest, practical and down-to-earth. The emphasis is on value for money guaranteeing good quality earphones at an adequate cost. The price for HUAWEI FreeBuds SE is about $40, which is quite modest for TWS earbuds. At the same time, both in terms of design and technical features, the earphones have something to offer the user.
The package of HUAWEI FreeBuds SE is quite rich as here you will find a headset in a case, a USB-C cable for charging, a set of additional ear cushions of size S and L (size M, as the most universal, is fixed on the headphones from the very beginning), a manual and a warranty card.
Design, materials, assembly
Speaking about the differences of these earphones from standard models, it is worth starting with the case. It is not a standard oval case, but a case indeed. Its proportions are more like a chest, in which pirates’ treasures are hidden.
The lid opens easily, inside you can see two earphones and a connection button. What stands out in the earphones is not quite standard form and the way they are enclosed in the case. If usually you deal rather with inserted pencils, then here the earphones actually lie. At first, it was unusual for me to take them out, because my fingers tried to repeat the trajectory, habitual for many models, and did not find the headphones in the right places. But in a few days I got used to it and I must confess that the decision to lay the earphones was justified as it is much more convenient to take them out of the case.
But let’s get back to the case, we will describe the earphones a little later. On the bottom there is a USB-C port for charging the earphones, on the front edge there is an LED indicator that lights up when the lid is opened and shows the charge level of the case – red, orange or green, respectively. But the assembly of the case disappointed me – after just a couple of days of use the lid began to loosen. But perhaps this is the problem of my test sample, because Huawei usually provides high quality in terms of assembly.
There are two color options for HUAWEI FreeBuds SE – white and blue, but I would rather call it mint. I adore this color, so I was even a little upset that I got a device in classic white for review.
Now let’s move directly to the earphones. Microphones and contacts for charging are located on an elongated leg. The leg of the earphones is extended, so they are easy to feel when you put on the earphones. This will be useful for gesture control, which we will talk about later.
The ear cushions of the earphones are very soft and easily bendable, so they lie very softly in the ear, besides, you can choose the size of ear cushions, which suits you best. Let me remind you that we deal not with in-ear buds, but with earbuds, so we can consider them the most universal model.
Ergonomics and comfort of use
HUAWEI FreeBuds SE headphones fit well in the ear, due to the soft ear cushion they sit quite tightly. At the same time, wearing the earphones for several hours does not cause any discomfort.
I liked that the design is very light, each individual earphone weighs about 5 g, so you can easily spend at least half a day in the earphones. Since the model is not in-ear, but more classic earbud, then, again, the scenario of long-term use is more than justified and comfortable.
Connection, control and software
As with other HUAWEI headphones, here the user has two options for connecting them – simply by detecting the device via Bluetooth or through the proprietary HUAWEI AI Life application.
Everything is simple and straightforward with the first option. Open the HUAWEI FreeBuds SE case, hold the button for a couple of seconds until the indicator flashes and find the headset in the list of available devices in Bluetooth connections. But this way you will neither check the charge level nor set up gesture control. So I recommend downloading and installing the HUAWEI AI Life app right away.
Then the scheme is simple, just open the lid of the case to “wake up” the earphones and find the headset in the list of devices in the application on your smartphone. Voila! Then you can see the charge level of the earphones and the case, check for firmware updates (by the way, the application immediately offered to update my device) and gesture control settings. As for the latter, then, let’s say, the basic functionality is here – only the double-tap is recognized, but for each earphone you can assign separately one of 5 preset actions. Not much, but better than nothing.
As for the quality of the music played, HUAWEI FreeBuds SE stay in the flow. We cannot say that this is an audiophile’s dream, but there are no special failures. A standard model with a sufficient volume level and averaged sound over the entire range. Taking into account the absence of the software equalizer – the decision is logical, aimed at the maximum versatility of the device.
HUAWEI FreeBuds SE have been given the function of noise cancellation during voice transmission. For this, two microphones are used in the earphones. The intelligent system recognizes the sounds of the environment and cuts them off, leaving the voice transmission clear and easy to understand by the interlocutors.
While using the earphones, I noticed a strange feature – periodically (about once every 5 minutes) I was thrown out of the conference in Zoom. It is likely that when you are silent for a while, the earphones think that you are not using them and simply turn off. And in many applications, this is equivalent to the end of the dialogue. So I had to listen to one of the working meetings on the speakerphone. Perhaps this will be fixed in other firmware, and for someone it may not matter at all, so I can not call it a significant disadvantage.
Each HUAWEI FreeBuds SE earbud has a 37 mAh battery, and the case has a 540 mAh battery. It seems that these are not the most convincing indicators compared to competitors, but the point here is not in the nominal battery capacity, but in how it is used.
In half an hour of work, the earphones spent about 5% of the charge, which makes them a very autonomous option. The case also lasts for a long time, after a week of use for a couple of hours a day, the case was discharged by only 30%. A full charge is enough to keep the earphones in an active state for up to 24 hours.
For the purity of the experiment, I discharged both the headphones and the case to zero. In 15 minutes they gained 40 and 20 percent respectively. In half an hour, the headphones were already with 85% of the charge, and the case with 40%. Given the low rate of charge consumption, it is clear that even such a short recharge will be enough for them to easily endure a day of productive work.
I must say that I was very pleased with HUAWEI FreeBuds SE. At a fairly modest price, they perfectly perform all the functions that you expect from a TWS-headset. Perhaps the main feature is the impressive battery life, I also note the quality design and ergonomics and the noise cancellation function during voice transmission.
My reservations to the earphones are not based on serious drawbacks, but rather relate to usability. I would like to see some equalizer or at least ready presets for the listening scenario, because bass was not enough for me, as it often happens with in-ear earphones. Well, the assembly of my device was weak.
Otherwise, Huawei FreeBuds SE due to its versatility, functionality and price can be considered an excellent contender for the title of “people’s favorite”.
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