Honor Earbuds 3 Pro Review
Great sound and comfort make these Honor true wireless earphones a winning pair, and more interesting than their AirPods Pro-like appearance suggests. Battery life and management of wind noise could be improved, but they’re a class act.
- Good mid-range texture and coherence
- Powerful sub-bass, great fun to listen to
- Highly effective active noise cancellation
- Only 4-hour battery life with ANC
- Design is uncomfortably close to Apple’s
- Sound width is just okay
- UKRRP: £169.99
- Dual driverThese little earphones have two drivers per earpiece, an 11mm dynamic driver and a ceramic tweeter
- Active noise cancellationANC removes low-frequency external noise very effectively, and there are several modes to help avoid discomfort
- Ear-detection sensorProximity sensors on the earbuds can pause your music when you take out an earpiece, and play again when you put it back in
If you know the brand Honor, it’s likely as a result of the company’s phones. However, Honor also makes great laptops, and the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro prove that the company can do a stellar job with earphones, too.
Honor has made standalone entry-level and mid-range earphones that are good value since 2018. But, at under £180, the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro mark an impressive new standard for the company, one that allows it to go head-to-head with true wireless pairs from any brand.
Great sound, plenty of features and highly effective active noise cancellation: the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro have everything I look for in a pair of true wireless earphones.
The UK model reviewed here doesn’t have the temperature gauge feature that was mentioned when the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro were first announced in China, but it’s no great loss. Tech fans out there may also notice that these earphones are uncomfortably close in design to Apple’s AirPods Pro, which may dilute the impact of all the work that’s gone into making this pair.
Nevertheless, you just can’t ignore the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro’s many strengths. They cost £170, but it’s worth keeping an eye out for Honor’s semi-regular sales. At the time of review, they were available for significantly less – around £135.
- Very similar in look to Apple’s AirPods
- Fit is secure enough for runners
The Honor Earbuds 3 Pro look near-identical to Apple’s AirPods Pro. But this is a trait that’s common across the brand’s younger categories. For example, Honor MagicBooks offer MacBook-like designs for, usually, less money.
These earphones are only slightly cheaper than the AirPods Pro, which raises expectations on them to deliver. If you’ve already taken note of the review score, then you’ll know that they largely do.
If you’re someone who would rather their buds didn’t look like a knock-off of the AirPods Pro, then the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro are also available in a silvery-grey option as well as the pure white option on review here.
And if you like the look of the white version, then Honor’s lack of originality with regards to the design is made than made up for by their comfort and practicality. There are just three tip sizes in the box, and I found the “large” pair provided excellent comfort and fit that would be good enough for use by runners.
The tips keep the hard plastic of the shells away from your ear cartilage to avoid discomfort over longer periods of use, while also maintaining an excellent seal, even after a 45-minute run.
Honor describes the Earbuds 3 Pro as “waterproof for daily use”, and while no IP rating is published on the Honor website, the company did claim IP54 water/dust-resistance at their launch. This means they can handle water splashes from all directions, matching the specs of the AirPods Pro.
You can find much better water-resistance from dedicated sporty earbuds; however, it’s very difficult to make earphones with advanced noise cancellation waterproof. Honor hasn’t detailed the number of microphones these earpieces use, but each likely has three – and each is a vulnerable point for water ingress.
The Honor Earbuds 3 Pro’s charging case is a small lozenge of glossy plastic, with a tiny status LED on the front and a USB-C charging socket. Once again, it’s a very Apple-like design.
Handily, the case benefits from wireless Qi charging, which will prove convenient at those times you find yourself with a dead case and your phone supports reverse wireless charging. Honor says that the Earbuds 3 Pro are the world’s first true wireless earphones with “5C” charging.
This standard isn’t commonly referred to, and determines the speed at which a device can charge. Ten minutes in the case takes the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro from flat to 55%. Support for 5C should mean the buds can reach full charge in 12 minutes; but they actually reach 69% in 12 minutes. They reached 100% in 26 minutes.
What does this tell us? The earphones likely charge at “up to 5C”, but the real-world results are still a bit better than Honor’s own claim of 30-minute charging.
The case provides almost exactly three charges, as claimed. Initially, I thought it might do even better, since the first recharge consumed just 26% of the case’s battery. But the second snipped 35%, and the third left the case with just 1% charge.
And battery life? The Honor Earbuds 3 Pro are rated for four hours of use with active noise cancellation, or six hours without.
I found the left earpiece died after 3hrs 49mins, the right one four minutes later, with ANC turned on. These results are close to the stated figures, but still uncomfortably short in my opinion – if anything, it makes you grateful for their relatively fast charging.
Without ANC the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro lasted around 5hrs 10mins, below the six-hour claim. Honor tests its units at 50% volume, and these results can be affected by the device to a degree; but, again, performance is no more than okay.
- Very good active noise cancellation
- SBC and AAC codec support only
- Ear sensor allows for auto play/pause
The Honor Earbuds 3 Pro come with quite a lot of features that you’d deem typical for true wireless earphones. But, in the UK at least, we don’t get the most unusual of the lot.
Honor talked about these buds’ temperature sensor at the launch, but that hasn’t made the cut in the UK model. This doesn’t necessarily mean the hardware has been left out; it may just mean the temperature sensor is used for wear detection in this version.
Take out one of the earphone and your music or podcasts will stop playing. Put it back in, and it will resume. If you don’t find that helpful, the feature can be turned off.
The Honor Earbuds 3 Pro also deliver great active noise cancellation, which uses an additional “ear canal” microphone, alongside dual external mics, to improve results. It’s highly effective, and you get a choice of modes.
Intelligent switches between ANC levels based on ambient noise; Cozy is made for office-like environmentsl; Moderate is the middle-rank mode; and Ultra maxes-out ANC regardless of the situation. Switch between them in a reasonably quiet room and you’re unlikely to notice much of a difference; but Ultra zaps far more low-frequency sound than Cozy in noisier environments.
The lighter modes are there for those who find ANC uncomfortable, although I find all of them just fine. Awareness mode does the opposite of ANC, filtering through external sound so you can hear what’s going on while you’re listening to content. The Honor Earbuds 3 Pro are quite susceptible to obvious wind noise when ANC is switched on. However, I was able to try out these earphones on four airplane flights and found they did an excellent job.
The ear canal mic enables the Fit Test feature, too. This plays a tone, and listens to it using the in-ear mic to see how it’s reproduced. Diminished bass will indicate to the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro that the tip fit isn’t good enough, and the earphones can EQ the sound to compensate. But if you experience this, I’d strongly recommend you try one of the others sets of tips rather than making do with EQ.
Next up we have Dual Connect. This lets the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro connect to two different phones simultaneously and switch between them.
These earphones have a solid set of features, then, and I’m almost please that we’ve lost the in-ear temperature reading, since that the one feature that could be considered fluff. However, codec support is fairly basic, with just SBC and AAC on the roster.
The controls are perhaps the most contentious of the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro’s features. They use touch-sensitive zones on each of the rounded earpiece stalks.
By default, double-taps on either earpiece act as a play/pause command. These can be switched to changing tracks or waking up your phone’s AI assistant, though. A press and hold gesture cycles between ANC, no ANC and the Awareness mode, and swipes up and down the stalks of the buds alter volume.
All these gestures work fine, but the slick high-friction surface of these earbuds can make changing volume feel awkward; and, on occasion, the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro seem to miss the odd double-tap command.
- Super-fun and engaging sound
- Great sub-bass power
- A touch bassy for purists, but not excessively so
EQ profiles are the missing feature common among true wireless earphones. However, I don’t think it matters; Honor has done a great job of tuning this pair of buds.
There were plenty of opportunities for it to mess up, too, since the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro have an unusual driver array. They have a large 11mm diameter dynamic driver and a PZT (piezoelectric) tweeter, adding crossover headaches for Honor’s engineers.
Honor has nailed the job, though. The Honor Earbuds 3 Pro’s sound quality is excellent, with no obvious shortfalls in any area.
Bass is deep and confident, without sounding remotely overemphasised; and sub-bass power is great. Treble is refined and detailed, with no glaring sibilance or harshness – a relief when Honor sums up the sound as “powerful bass, bright treble”.
The integration of the two drivers is fairly impressive, too. When two drivers are paired together without due care, you can sometimes hear their output as two separate entities, which isn’t ideal. The Honor Earbuds 3 Pro’s audio comes across as a cohesive whole.
This is largely down to the most important part of sound, which doesn’t get a look in through Honor’s various bits of blurb: the mid-range. The mids here are even, with a good level of texture and definition across the this entire tranche of the frequency spectrum.
It’s a stark contrast to the last pair I reviewed, the Edifier NeoBuds S, which display a distinct upper-mid bias. Honor’s more balanced approach is essential in the realistic rendering of vocals.
This stuff is obvious within the first few seconds of listening to music through the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro. It’s like seeing a painted portrait of your favourite actor and being able to recognise them instantly.
Despite all of this, the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro don’t actually have the kind of spare tuning you might hear in an “audiophile” set of earphones. There’s a bit of bonus mid-bass, which thickens up the sound a little, but that doesn’t clog up the sound, thanks to the good mid-range definition.
Bass is slightly elevated, too, but this is in line with what most people expect from earphones these days. Honor seems to have aimed for a more refined take on a mainstream sound, and has pulled this off well.
I have one complaint: the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro’s sound width is a little limited. It doesn’t initially seem as expansive as that of some true wireless headphones at the price, but I think this is easily outweighed by the high-quality mids.
If Honor were taking requests, I’d also ask for an EQ mode that trims down bass and mid-bass slightly. By reducing the 60Hz to 125Hz range by a decibel or two in the Dolby Atmos tools in one of my test phones, I was able to make the sound – to my ears, at least – more open and coherent. Still, plenty would see it as making the sound less fun and less powerful.
Let’s end with a word on our experience with call quality. I was told by the person on the other end that my voice was very clear through Honor Earbuds 3 Pro, and that the buds are great at removing external sound.
Should you buy it?
The Honor Earbuds 3 Pro sound great, offering a crowd-pleasing balance of power and refinement, and their active noise cancellation is top-notch, too.
Battery life of a little under four hours with ANC engaged isn’t ideal for all-day wear or super-long walks. And some may be put off by the overly Apple-inspired design.
The Honor Earbuds 3 Pro are surprisingly great earphones. Their Apple-esque design doesn’t inspire confidence, but almost every element of these buds can stand head-to-head with the best-in-class examples.
Honor’s active noise cancellation is super-effective, and the buds are comfortable and secure enough for exercise use. And, most importantly, they sound great.
Powerful sub-bass and detailed treble bring the fun, but these are matched by nicely textured mids that don’t sink into the background.
How we test
We test every headphones we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
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Tested with real world use
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These earphones come with “everyday” water-resistance, which is enough to handle a bit of sweat or rain; but they’re not ideal for more demanding sporty use.
Only AAC and SBC codecs are supported, but this is sufficient to provide high-quality streams with recent phones.
They have active noise cancellation with an adaptive mode that alters intensity to suit outside conditions.
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