So you have an Android device, but want glancing strangers to think you own an iPhone. Well, if you don’t want to buy the AirPods Pro, you’re in luck. The HONOR Earbuds 2 Lite shares quite a few visual similarities. In fact, it even shares some premium specs with Apple’s flagship earphones: noise cancelling, sweat resistance, and plenty of extra battery from the case.
Let’s see if HONOR can live up to the hype at a bargain price.
Who should get the HONOR Earbuds 2 Lite?
- Huawei device owners can appreciate the relatively easy integration with these HONOR buds.
- Commuters with Android phones who want a little bit of everything from their daily earphones.
- Gym goers will like the stable connection and sweat-resistant IPX4 rating.
What’s it like to use the HONOR Earbuds 2 Lite?
The stemmed plastic earbuds sit in a glossy white (called “Glacier White”) rectangular battery case with rounded edges. HONOR’s other colorway is “Midnight Black” for those who want everything in dark mode. No matter your color choice, you’ll appreciate the dearth of obnoxious logos, which classes up the headset. With these Apple AirPods Pro lookalikes, you get three sets of silicone ear tips. Unfortunately, it’s difficult for me to get a good fit with the pre-installed pair, so I use one medium and one large ear sleeve. People who usually wear large or extra-large ear tips, be aware that the large size is quite small.
Start here: What makes a good set of in-ears?
For short periods at a time, the HONOR Earbuds 2 Lite feels pretty, well, light. Longer listening sessions can lead to discomfort since the buds wedge into your ear canals and don’t have wing tips to distribute the pressure. If I wear these earphones for more than an hour, I get a headache, but everyone’s ears are different. In terms of accessibility, mono listening works with either earbud.
The HONOR Earbuds 2 Lite has automatic play/pause functionality as you insert or remove the earbuds, but I promptly turned it off because of its inaccuracy. Similarly, the touch controls do not always work. Sometimes, double taps do not register. It also mistakenly registers touches when I adjust the buds’ position which triggers a pause/play/skip command, or cycles through the active noise cancellation (ANC) modes. Control misfires happen often because the earbuds don’t fit my ears all that well. Fortunately, you can toggle all of these functions off in the app, but it should all work better than it does.
The box includes a USB-C cable and a few spare sets of silicone ear tips. Literature in the box is sparse, but a QR code takes you to download the app (more about that later). There are also a couple of notes about pairing, as well as how to factory reset the Earbuds 2 Lite.
A case for better cases
The Earbuds 2 Lite case is lightweight and pocketable, and the glossy finish should hold up to daily use without too many scars, though it attracts some dust. At this price, the utilitarian design is expected. On the front, a single light indicates battery life (green means charged, yellow charging) and pairing mode (a slow blinking white light). On the right, a flush button activates the pairing and factory reset modes. The earphones’ stems make it easy to place each bud in the case.
The case’s lid gets the bulk of my gripes: the hinge is too loose with too much lateral play, and it regularly closes when I want it to stay open. This gets annoying when I’m doing something single-handedly because I’m on a bus or, I don’t know, trying to pair or update the Earbuds 2 Lite.
You can’t stand the case up when it’s open because it falls over, but you need it open for pairing. You can’t lay it on the front with the lid open because the magnets force it shut. You also can’t leave the lid open and lay the case on its back because the lid usually buckles under the weight and closes. It’s not impossible, but whatever solution you find seems unnecessarily fiddly.
How’s the noise cancellation on the Honor Earbuds 2 Lite?
Generally speaking, active noise cancelling most effectively reduces the loudness of low-frequency sounds, while passive isolation most effectively tempers sounds above 1kHz. The HONOR Earbuds 2 Lite quiets sounds across the audible frequency spectrum. The ANC even manages to attenuate midrange and treble frequencies, with the greatest net attenuation around 840Hz.
During what has been a hot summer, the HONOR headset dulls the roar of my one-meter-distant air conditioner to a subtle whoosh. Isolation depends on your ability to achieve a reliable seal with the ear tips, so while the ANC is objectively effective, the mediocre fit of the buds to my ears hampers the isolation. For most listeners able to get the Earbuds 2 Lite to fit well, conversations and clattering sounds will be one-quarter to one-sixth as loud with ANC enabled. If you want to hear background sounds, you can toggle Awareness mode on.
How do you connect the Honor Earbuds 2 Lite?
Unlike some earphones, the Earbuds 2 Lite does not automatically enter pairing mode when the case opens. The quick start guide will tell you to simply open the case and press the button on the case for two seconds. After initially pairing the Bluetooth 5.2 earbuds it automatically connects in the future. It stays connected without dropping the signal.
You only get AAC and SBC options, which is fine for most people. Considering most folks just stream compressed audio anyway, you don’t really miss out on a whole lot by using either. Latency typically is the main concern with these codecs. HONOR has a special low latency mode for gaming, which works well enough with my Android phone.
Should you get the app for the HONOR Earbuds 2 Lite?
Well, if you have a Huawei device the mobile app is probably already there: you just have to hit the settings gear icon when you look at your paired Bluetooth devices. You have no need to download the AI Life app.
If you own another Android device, go ahead and download the Huawei AI Life app for customization features and access to firmware updates. Apple users are out of luck because there is no iOS-compatible app. You’ll be effectively stuck with the factory settings if you try using the Earbuds 2 Lite with an iPhone.
I ran into a hitch that appears to be a regional problem. While my Huawei P30 natively has integrated app functions and works easily, the HONOR Earbuds 2 Lite is not listed when I download the app to a Samsung S10e. Initially, I thought the AI Life app did not recognize the Earbuds 2 Lite, because I was unable to access any of the features using the S10e. As it turns out, you need to use the QR code provided in the box or download the Huawei App Gallery to use the current AI Life. The version you find in the Google Play Store is outdated. This is because Huawei is effectively banned from the Google Play Store.
If you can get the app to work, you can adjust ANC: on, off, and awareness mode. You can also assign what you want a double-tap of the left or right earbud to perform. The default setting is play/pause for both earphones. I set my right ear to skip to the previous track, because I like to listen to songs repeatedly.
Meanwhile, assigning touch-and-hold is somewhat customizable, in that it applies solely to noise cancelling. You can set it to off, or set it to cycle through the ANC and awareness modes, or just one of the two. Again, the HONOR earphones don’t often register my commands. Adjusting touch commands for personal preference is something more and more budget products include, but few execute without error.
What happens to your data when you use the AI Life app?
Huawei has a lot of had legal troubles in multiple countries in recent years—you can read about in greater depth at our sister site, Android Authority. However, its agreement is one of the more transparent Terms of Service I’ve seen. While most users may not like the agreement, at least it’s there in slightly plain language.
Huawei keeps some of your data for six years. It also tracks your router, IP address, location, personal info, and your biometrics. In fairness, Huawei deletes much of it when you erase your account. To opt out or request your data, there is a link to contact Huawei’s legal department which is in Great Britain. It sort of forces you to agree in order to access the features. So while you can try the opt-out process later (though Huawei likely banks on the fact most of us won’t bother), you have to tick “I agree” initially. This reality, unfortunately, is pretty normal across the industry.
You might say, but I thought the Earbuds 2 Lite is by HONOR. It is, but the app is still labeled as a Huawei product—a bit like finding out your generic brand cola is made in the same factory as the name brand version. It’s odd though since Huawei and HONOR separated a bit ago, and the app still falls under Huawei’s domain. Basically, you can call this app Huawei, because as Shakespeare would say, a rose by any other name… would sound the same.
How long does the battery last on the HONOR Earbuds 2 Lite?
HONOR claims you get 10 hours of music playback on a standalone charge with an extra 22 hours of battery from the case. We subjected the earbuds to a constant output of 75dB(SPL) and it took 7 hours, 29 minutes for the batteries to deplete. You can fast charge the earbuds: 10 minutes in the case provides up to 4 hours of playtime.
How does the HONOR Earbuds 2 Lite sound?
Broadly speaking, the HONOR Earbuds 2 Lite closely follows our house curve. It really only diverges with any significance from the SoundGuys ideal frequency response with a 5dB dip in treble around 1okHz. The Earbuds 2 Lite has a touch more emphasized bass and slightly under-emphasized mids, and that’s roughly the sum of it. While auditory masking still occurs every now and then, you’ll find that all instruments generally come through clearly. On the whole, a lot of consumers out there will like the default frequency response of the Earbuds 2 Lite.
High, mids, lows
Listening to In Your Eyes by BADBADNOTGOOD (featuring Charlotte Day Wilson on vocals), I can pick out the subtle jazz bass holding down the track without the treble-heavy string section masking Day Wilson’s voice. Her reverb-drenched vocals sometimes compete for my ears with the clean electric guitar, however.
As an experiment, I used the Dolby Atmos equalizer built into my phone and bumped up the 8kHz and 16kHz sliders (because it’s rudimentary and I couldn’t pick 10kHz). While the 16kHz increase was not particularly audible to my ears, I could hear the overtones of notes a little better, though it was very slight. This was performed as a blind test with someone else turning the EQ on and off. I also tried this with boosting mids, and reducing the bass slightly to compensate for the difference between the Earbuds 2 Lite’s increased bass response and lessened midrange response relative to our house curve. I prefer that since it made it easier to hear Charlotte Day Wilson’s voice. This sort of EQ fine-tuning is how anyone can find what they like best.
What is the microphone on the HONOR Earbuds 2 Lite like?
If you just need earphones for occasional phone calls, you could do worse than the Earbuds 2 Lite. It has a digital filter designed to reject noise, and it works reasonably well with low decibel noise. Heavier wind, for example, will effectively cause the Earbuds 2 Lite to filter everything, including you, out.
HONOR Earbuds 2 Lite mic sample:
Should you buy the HONOR Earbuds 2 Lite?
Consider the Earbuds 2 Lite if you already have a Huawei phone, because it connects and integrates pretty seamlessly. The price feels fair for what you get. However, non-Huawei Android users might get put off by the workaround methods to get the AI Life software, when coupled with Huawei’s current legal status in North America. iPhone users who really want that AirPods Pro look for cheap, and can live with zero control over the controls, might like the Earbuds 2 Lite.
Nobody lives in a vacuum. And while we at SoundGuys choose to look at things such as ANC and frequency response with an objective journalistic bent, we know that your purchase hinges on real-world availability. The perfect set of earphones is immediately imperfect if you can’t find it anywhere. HONOR Earbuds 2 Lite is available on August 7, if you live in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Finland. Aside from HONOR’s website, you can purchase the Earbuds 2 Lite from Ali Express or Amazon UK, which might make shipping or customs a hassle depending on where you’re located.
What should you get instead of the HONOR Earbuds 2 Lite?
Most other options out there cost more money. The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro has a similar design, costs a little more (around $100), has decent ANC, and the app is much easier to get working. Bonus points to the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro for having EQ settings in the app, so even if the default frequency response is not as close to our ideal as the HONOR earbuds, you can improve it.
The Nothing Ear 1 costs around the same as the aforementioned Anker earbuds. If middling ANC is not a problem for you, this is a solid option. It has a stemmed design and optimal comfort with a good frequency response. Unlike the HONOR buds, the Nothing 1 app will work with both Android and iPhone without issue.