Honor Magic Earbuds full review

Honor’s Magic Earbuds are about what you’d expect from the company: an affordable take on true wireless earbuds that offers a slick if familiar design; an impressive feature set for the price; and performance that impresses and disappoints equally.

If you want an attractive pair of headphones that look a bit like Apple’s without breaking the bank - and pack in active noise cancelling to boot - then the Magic Earbuds are worth a look. Just be aware that you can do better on battery and audio elsewhere.

Design and build

It’s hard to get away from the fact that the Magic Earbuds look an awful lot like AirPods, especially in white - though the blue finish avoids the comparisons a little.

The long stem is lifted from the first-gen AirPods, while the silicon tips and metallic detailing nod to the AirPods Pro. I don’t want to suggest this is all-Apple - plenty of earbuds look a bit like this, and the Honor logo on the outside gives things away anyway - but the inspiration is obvious.

A selection of silicon tips should help you find a good fit, and I found the Magic Earbuds snug and comfortable. The shape leaves the stems sticking out from the head a little bit, rather than sitting flush against the jawline, but that’s really nitpicking.

Do note that there’s no IP rating - so officially these aren’t waterproof - and no wingtips. That means these won’t make ideal gym or running headphones as there’s nothing to stop them falling out or protect them from sweat, so heavy exercisers would be better off looking elsewhere.

The battery case avoids imitating Apple, opting for a longer design that allows the Earbuds to lie flat side-by-side. It’s not the slimmest, most portable case out there, and the glossy finish attracts scuffs and scratches easily, but it is at least lightweight at just 51g.

Controls are simple, using a touch-sensitive panel on the back of each bud. It’s a little unresponsive, and doesn’t always register a tap first time, but I’ve used worse. By default a double-tap covers play/pause and answering/ending phone calls, while a long press switches the active noise cancellation on or off.

Using the accompanying app you can customise this, but you’re limited to the double-tap and long-press, with controls mirrored across the buds. That makes controls simple and easy to remember, but does leave them less versatile than on most rivals.

Pairing is also quick and easy, with automatic detection through Huawei and Honor devices, and standard Bluetooth pairing otherwise. One minor hassle is that pairing is triggered by a button on the case, so you’ll need that to hand each time, but this won’t often be an issue.

Sound and performance

The headline feature on the Magic Earbuds is active noise cancellation, which is still rare on true wireless headphones and even rarer in those below £100.

And… it works. It’s fine. It’s more of a noise muffling than a noise cancelling, and really the seal of the silicon ear tips is doing most of the heavy lifting by passively blocking outside noise, but this will help tune out at least some distractions.

Don’t expect anything as good as what you’ll find in Sony’s WF-1000XM3 or the AirPods Pro, but for £90 this really isn’t bad at all.

That’s about where sound quality is on the whole really. The 10mm driver delivers respectable bass response, but there’s a loss of clarity in the mid and upper ranges that leaves some poppier or lighter tracks feeling slightly muddy or even washed out.

If you’re not an avowed audiophile then these are definitely good enough, but bear in mind that you could spend a little more to get the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 or the RHA TrueConnect and get noticeably better audio quality - though at the expense of the ANC.

Finally, battery life, and here you once again get what you pay for. You’ll get three or four hours of playtime before you need to charge the buds - which drops by an hour or so with ANC activated - and including the case you can go 12-14 hours total without plugging into the wall.

When you do need to top them up the USB-C charging is fairly fast at least. There’s no wireless charging support, but that’s no surprise for the price, especially since Honor already squeezed the noise cancelling in.

Price and availability

The best thing the Magic Earbuds might have going for them is the price. £89.99 (from Amazon or Honor's own store) is cheap enough to justify most of the compromises here, and it’s a phenomenal price once you factor in ANC.

It sets the Magic Earbuds at the upper end of what we consider budget true wireless headphones - up to £100 - but in turn delivers better audio and more features than most rivals in that space.

Just bear in mind that some of the best true wireless headphones start from just £119, so you wouldn’t have to spend much more to get an appreciable improvement in audio quality elsewhere.

Verdict

The Honor Magic Earbuds deliver solid, if bass-heavy, sound for the price, but there are compromises to get there.

The Apple-esque design is attractive, but unremarkable; the active noise cancellation works, but muffles rather than blocking sound entirely; and the battery life is average at best.

For £89.99 it’s not a bad proposition, but only if you really want ANC - otherwise you’ll find better bang for your buck elsewhere.

Specs

Honor Magic Earbuds: Specs

  • Wireless earbuds
  • 10mm driver
  • Touch controls
  • Active noise cancellation
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Charging case with USB-C charging
  • Earbud: 37mAh / Charging case: 410mAh
  • 5.4g per bud / 51g case
  • Pearl White & Robin Egg Blue