I haven’t been a huge fan of OnePlus’ various earbuds so far. Either they were uncomfortable, they had poor controls or they didn’t sound so good. The only thing they have always had for them is a low price.
The OnePlus Buds Pro, the company’s first noise-canceling model, clearly “inspired” by the AirPods Pro, has finally got it right. Well, mostly. But at $ 150, it’s hard to blame him.
They are quite comfortable
The OnePlus Buds Pro have a very similar shape to the AirPods Pro, with their angled oval earbuds and a long stem. Also, like the AirPods Pro, the OnePlus Buds Pro aren’t trying to create the deepest, tightest seal, instead of focusing on providing a harmless fit that should work for most people. After all, active noise cancellation (ANC) is on board, so attenuating sound by passive means is not of paramount importance.
I’ve been using in-ear monitors (IEMs) for years, so personally I tend to prefer something with a more secure fit that goes deeper into the ear canal, but the OnePlus Buds Pro should be comfortable for most people who think silicone – tip earphones are like having plungers in your ears.
I also appreciate that the case is fairly compact despite the earbuds themselves being on the wider end of the spectrum. It’s also thin, so it won’t give you a big lump in your pocket.
Controls are reliable
Also, just like the AirPods Pro, the OnePlus Buds work by squeezing the stem, rather than the usual taps or pressing a button. While it seems a bit clunky and slow at first, I appreciate that this system helps to avoid accidental touches. It also means that the earbuds won’t randomly activate if splashed with water or sweat.
Otherwise, the controls are pretty simple:
- Press once to play / pause
- Press twice to jump forward
- Press three times to go back
- Press and hold for one second to toggle between ANC On, ANC Off and Transparency modes
- Press for three seconds to enter “Zen Mode Air” white noise mode (more on that later)
Thankfully, by default the controls are fully accessible with both earbuds, so you still have full access to the controls when using just one earbud. This is much appreciated by those who often use only one earphone when cycling (transparency mode is not useful when cycling due to wind noise).
The elephant in the room is the lack of volume control, which you’ll have to do via your phone. This isn’t the biggest deal for me, but it’s not ideal.
Noise cancellation is decent
Long story short: The OnePlus Buds won’t silently cover you if you’ve used high-end noise canceling products like the Sony WF-1000XM3 or Bose QuietComfort earbuds, but they’re better than most.
They attenuate some lower mid-low frequencies but don’t reduce the higher frequencies as much, so they won’t be ideal, for example, to reduce chatter in a crowded restaurant, or especially to quiet individual voices.
They will likely calm the hum of an airplane engine, but not the crying baby in the next lane. The headphones come with a “smart” noise canceling mode, but I just ended up cranking it up to the max.
Your best bet to further improve insulation would be to get a stronger passive seal, so you may want to invest in some foam earbuds if noise cancellation is a priority, although the large vents likely mean they won’t. never the kings of noise reduction. However, some cancellation is better than nothing, and as someone who doesn’t make ANC a priority, I could live with meager attenuation.
They sound great
Perhaps the biggest surprise for this review was the sound quality of the OnePlus Buds. they play fantastic. Frankly, they sound better than almost any wireless earbud I’ve tested, whether they’re aimed at audiophiles or not. To my ear, they sound better than Sony’s much more expensive WF-1000XM4 out of the box.
The lows resonate, the highs are clear, the mids are largely devoid of coloration. They also have a surprisingly decent soundstage for the earbuds too, probably aided by the vented design that prevents the pressure you get with low notes on some IEMs.
I won’t share the headphone measurements I acquired as I am currently reworking my setup, but based on data and comparisons with other earbuds, the OnePlus Buds Pro appears to be following the Harman curve quite closely, with perhaps a little more sparkle around the voice and brass.
The Harman Curve is a search-backed target response for headphones that produces a response that most people consider neutral and engaging, with a tonality similar to a good pair of speakers in a room. It may not be the ideal answer for everyone, but it’s a great bet for most listeners.
More importantly, if you know you like / hate the sound of the Harman Curves, you will know if these headphones are for you.
The headphones connect via SBC (bad sound quality), AAC (good sound quality), or LDHC (great sound quality, but few phones support it). To be clear, LDHC is not the same as LDAC, the latter being a high quality Sony technology built into every modern Android phone. OnePlus phones are some of the very few phones that I am aware of with LDHC in Western markets.
That said, most people won’t notice the difference between LDHC and AAC.
The white noise mode is very interesting indeed
Press and hold the stems of the earphones for 3 seconds and you will enter “Zen Mode Air”, a white noise mode. There are several soundscapes available, but by default it is a forest-like type of sound.
I appreciate this feature, I often find it easier to focus on certain activities while listening to white noise than music. It’s hard for me not to get too involved in music at times; yes, I tried to work listening to classical music, but Vivaldi can be as much a headbanger as Metallica.
A few more gems
This is where I put the things I didn’t know where else to put:
- The headphones support low latency mode when connected to OnePlus devices.
- They also support Dolby Atmos on OnePlus devices for spatial audio. I’m not sure if it works with other Atmos compatible phones, but the feature doesn’t work on my Pixel 4A (which doesn’t offer any kind of spatial audio).
- Battery life is estimated up to 38 hours including extra charges in the case.
- With OnePlus Warp Charge support, you get 10 hours of playback on a 10-minute charge. Most regular USB-C chargers will charge them pretty fast too.
- The earphone case also supports wireless charging.
- They are IP55 water and dust resistant, so they should survive most rainfall.
Some things I want are missing
Headphones definitely aren’t perfect. Aside from the relatively weak noise cancellation and lack of volume controls, here are a few other things to note:
- There is no hotword detection for a voice assistant. I have been very spoiled by this on earphones like Pixel Buds and Sony WH-1000XM4. It’s great to bring lots of groceries, wash dishes, walk the dog, ride a bike.
- There really isn’t even a way to access an assistant from the headphones by default. You can customize the left and right earbud to activate with a triple press, but it means you can’t rewind on both earbuds independently.
- Headphones sound great out of the box, but every headphone should be equipped with EQ in case the sound signature isn’t to your liking. Sometimes a subtle change is enough.
- There are no volume controls.
They are easy to recommend, especially for OnePlus users
Despite some caveats, the OnePlus Buds Pro are a simple recommendation. They’re comfortable, the controls are mostly reasonable, have active noise cancellation, and have the best sound quality I’ve ever heard from wireless earbuds.
While they may not beat some of the more expensive headphones in terms of features, and the relatively lackluster noise cancellation is underwhelming, there are also noise-canceling headphones that sell for more money.
While the earbuds are clearly best for people with OnePlus phones, for everyone else, the OnePlus Buds Pro still gets most of the basics. For $ 150, they’re worth listening to.
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