Sony reference WH-1000XM4 vs Huawei FreeBuds Studio

Sony WH-1000XM4 (black) or Huawei FreeBuds Studio (gold).

Huawei surprised observers by launching its new FreeBuds Studio closed-back headphones after several rather successful in-ear headphones. Can it compete with the Sony WH-1000XM4, fourth version what is probably the best series of Bluetooth headphones on the market? Multimedia test.

Let’s start with the cases of the two manufacturers. Sony perseveres with a cover identical to that of the previous model, compact, design and very classy in a sober fabric. Huawei for its part offers a case of a particular shape in a more plastic material, which seems resistant to stains. Inside, a small magnetic hatch allows you to connect the accessories: well seen!

Specific applications

The mechanics of the two helmets are different. While the Sony (specs) folds as shown in the photos, this is only possible with the Huawei (spec sheet). Executed in slightly different materials, both models are nicely finished, but with designs that are likely to appeal to different audiences.

The two models are connected via Bluetooth through specific applications, which allow different noise reduction settings. The two applications (Huawei AI Life and Sony Headphones) also allow you to make various advanced settings, such as ambient noise control on Sony, or again, talk to chat.

Sony WH-1000XM4 ou Huawei FreeBuds Studio.

Sony WH-1000XM4 ou Huawei FreeBuds Studio.

Huawei FreeBuds Studio.

Huawei FreeBuds Studio.

Sony WH-1000XM4.

Sony WH-1000XM4.

Sony WH-1000XM4 (black) or Huawei FreeBuds Studio (gold)

Sony WH-1000XM4 (black) or Huawei FreeBuds Studio (gold)

Sony WH-1000XM4.

Sony WH-1000XM4.

Sony WH-1000XM4 (black) or Huawei FreeBuds Studio (gold)

Sony WH-1000XM4 (black) or Huawei FreeBuds Studio (gold)

Read FreeBuds Studio.

Les FreeBuds Studio.

Read FreeBuds Studio.

Les FreeBuds Studio.

Sony WH-1000XM4.

Sony WH-1000XM4.

Sony WH-1000XM4.

Sony WH-1000XM4.

Read FreeBuds Studio.

Les FreeBuds Studio.

Read FreeBuds Studio.

Les FreeBuds Studio.

Sony WH-1000XM4.

Sony WH-1000XM4.

Read FreeBuds Studio.

Les FreeBuds Studio.

Read FreeBuds Studio.

Les FreeBuds Studio.

Little difference between the Sony WH-1000XM4 and the Sony WH-1000XM3.

Little difference between the Sony WH-1000XM4 and the Sony WH-1000XM3.

LDAC or L2HC?

Both headsets have tactile surfaces on the headphones to adjust the volume without having to open your smartphone. And both models stop playing music or listening to one device or another since both products support two devices simultaneously, which brings us to more technical considerations …

Indeed, in Sony’s settings, we see that the support of two devices simultaneously is not possible in LDAC mode. LDAC? A codec which increases the Bluetooth speed to approach the Hi-Res Audio label. Pity. That said, the Huawei, which according to the manufacturer’s presentation would use a high-resolution codec, is not compatible, but …

To get the best out of this Chinese headset, use it with a Huawei smartphone with EMUI 10.1 at least. In this case, the Huawei L2HC house codec avoids the loss of sound quality typical of other Bluetooth codes and brings the quality of transmission by cable closer.

The Huawei AI Life interface.

The Huawei AI Life interface.

The Huawei AI Life interface.

The Huawei AI Life interface.

The Huawei AI Life interface.

The Huawei AI Life interface.

The Huawei AI Life interface.

The Huawei AI Life interface.

The Huawei AI Life interface.

The Huawei AI Life interface.

The Huawei AI Life interface.

The Huawei AI Life interface.

The Huawei AI Life interface.

The Huawei AI Life interface.

The acoustic test can begin

Listening can start from a Samsung smartphone. Let’s start with the Huawei which delivers quite decent, clear and detailed sound, but which leaves us a little bit hungry. Something does not correspond to the image that we have constructed of different titles from several musical genres.

We then switch to the Sony WH-1000XM4. And, there it is a small shock. We find in broad outline all the qualities of its predecessor the WH-1000XM3. The sound is ample, very detailed with good coverage of the entire frequency range: a real treat, especially if you have taken the care to choose LDAC, activate the transmission for quality and have activated the DSEE Extreme.

L’interface de Sony Headphones.

L’interface de Sony Headphones.

L’interface de Sony Headphones.

L’interface de Sony Headphones.

L’interface de Sony Headphones.

L’interface de Sony Headphones.

L’interface de Sony Headphones.

L’interface de Sony Headphones.

L’interface de Sony Headphones.

L’interface de Sony Headphones.

L’interface de Sony Headphones.

L’interface de Sony Headphones.

L’interface de Sony Headphones.

L’interface de Sony Headphones.

L’interface de Sony Headphones.

L’interface de Sony Headphones.

Sound quality: the devil is in the details

Moreover, Sony is even stronger than with the previous model. The sound is just as rich, but some details are more noticeable and the sound even more detailed. No doubt, Sony, inventor of the CD and pioneer of musical digitization, reports all his knowledge and mastery. Superb!

However, we did not stop there and continued our tests with the Huawei on a smartphone from the same brand with the EMUI 10.1 overlay and observed a gain in quality and still excellent reduction of ambient noise. Even if the Sony offers a sound that seemed to me to be richer in harmonics, I must admit that I was surprised by this second series of experiments!

Impressive noise reductions

In everyday life, both models have impressive noise reduction features. Both manufacturers offer automatic modes, but in both cases we preferred maximum noise reduction. Note that Sony’s “Talk to chat” mode is interesting, except when it is triggered when you cough …

Also on the Sony, it is possible to use the Google Assistant and further optimize the sound with an analysis of his ear to listen to music in 360 Reality Audio using compatible applications. The must? When you put your hand flat over the right earpiece, you can hear ambient sound, as on previous models.

Remarkable results

It will be understood that Sony with its WH-1000MX4 remains the absolute reference in terms of functionalities and above all of quality and sound processing: a real treat! As for Huawei, it signs a most interesting opus for a first model, but certain lacks or compatibility problems weaken the final result a little.

Anyway, the consumer will have the choice between models at the reduction of his copy. So should you choose the WH-1000MX4 at 399 francs, its predecessor (which only manages one Bluetooth device), still excellent, available from 270 francs on the net or this Huawei FreeBuds Studio at 299 francs? Think about design, Bluetooth management and compatibility issues …

Xavier Studer

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