The new $150 OnePlus Buds Pro is the company’s most elegant and stylish set of true wireless earbuds to date. Active noise cancellation, wireless charging, IP55 dust and water resistance, rugged battery life, and much more, there’s a lot of value that comes with that price. OnePlus also offers additional features such as a low-latency mode for gaming and Zen Mode Air to play relaxing audio. Available September 1 in matte black or glossy white.
The OnePlus Buds are considerably sleeker than the company’s previous earbuds, and the AirPods-esque (especially the black version) looks less blatant. Hopefully that will be enough to avoid any stumbling blocks at US customs. They have also proven to be reliable and consistent in my tests so far that I couldn’t say about the $99 Nothing earbuds when I saw them a few weeks ago. I’m referring to the Nothing bud because it’s the first project of OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei’s new company and has at least documentedly similar features, so there will inevitably be a comparison between the two.
The earbuds have a short stem design with a metal finish on the stem. It’s a nice touch of style, and it’s also a sign of where you’ll be pinching for control. Like the AirPods Pro force sensor, the OnePlus Buds Pro has the same controls on both sides. Quick pinch with two fingers to pause, double press to skip songs, triple press to go back, or press and hold to toggle between ANC and transparency modes. Each time a pinch is registered, you will hear the same faint little sound in your ear. unequal For the AirPods, there’s no jagged on the stem, but I’ve found the OnePlus’s approach to work reliably without the sensor. It’s a very borrowed idea, but at least a well-copied idea.
I found the OnePlus Buds Pro to be airy and comfortable for my ears. At 4.35 grams per earbud, it’s lighter than AirPods Pro and the latest Galaxy Buds 2. However, I couldn’t find one that perfectly matched the set of three silicone tips that came in the box. The larger size was the best, but I was still able to remove one of them. Earphones that pull slightly. The lightweight design helped alleviate this problem to some extent and it kept ringing in my ears. It didn’t loosen when I shook my head or ate it together. However, the OnePlus could have actually used more accommodating eartips.
Thankfully, the imperfect sealing didn’t compromise the audio quality. The OnePlus Buds have 11mm drivers that the company has “tuned for bass reproduction” and that’s what you hear. Tracks like Bleachers’ “Don’t Go Dark” have a strong, soft foundation, and the OnePlus Buds Pro prevents the bass from bulging thanks to a delightful, unruffled high end with rich detail.
The midrange is pretty common with earphones at this price and there are some dents, unfortunately, and the OnePlus’s HeyMelody app (available for both Android and iOS) doesn’t include EQ adjustments. But I’m generally happy with the way this sounds and it holds its own compared to the Amazon Echo Buds 2, Galaxy Buds 2, Jabra earbuds, and others in their price range. And I think they rank higher than the Nothing earbuds, but you should probably expect a $50 price difference. OnePlus includes audio tests to personalize your audio profile based on your hearing. As with most other attempts at this, I stopped doing this without being surprised by the difference.
The ANC performance was also satisfactory, but I think it will be more impressive if the earbuds fit well into the ears. As it stands, the OnePlus Buds Pro allows you to manually choose between “extreme” and “slight” modes for noise cancellation. OnePlus says these range from 40 dB (extreme) to 15 dB (slight) noise cancellation. There is also a “smart” mode that automatically adjusts the ANC level based on the loudness of the environment.
That’s where I left it for some of my reviews, and when I was in the living room, the earphones seemed to reduce their noise canceling ability. On the street and at my local coffee shop, the OnePlus Buds Pro seemed to be cranking the ANC by default. This is exactly what I wanted. The OnePlus Buds Pro does a great job at removing low-frequency noise and distractions from the ear and did a great job on the New York subway. I think Amazon is a bit better, and the more expensive earphones like the AirPods Pro and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds still have the upper hand overall, but for $150 there’s not much to complain about.
The same goes for battery life. Up to 5 hours of continuous playback with ANC on, extended up to 23 hours with extra juice in the case. Turning noise canceling off increases those numbers to 7 hours and 31 hours respectively. I wasn’t able to fully test the last quote there, but in general the OnePlus Buds seemed to be faithful to others and there were no unexpected battery issues or uneven discharge. The case can be charged wirelessly and has a rare IPX4 water resistance rating. The earbuds are more durable with an IP55 rating for dust and water resistance, making them a good choice for exercise if they fit your body well.
The microphone performance was good enough for voice calls and people I spoke to could clearly distinguish me. However, despite the fact that each earbud has three microphones and a wind noise reduction algorithm, the stem length of these earbuds has decreased, so I think the reality is that when you talk to people through it, you have to be content with being “good enough”.
Then other features are provided. The earbuds have a low-latency “pro gaming mode” with a response of 94 milliseconds, but only when paired with a OnePlus phone running OxygenOS 11 or later. (This is another example of earbud lock that my colleague Jon Porter recently wrote about.) Still, competitors like Razer can record latency as low as 60ms. Another exclusive OnePlus feature is Dolby Atmos audio, which the earbuds don’t support on other devices.
More personally useful was the Zen Mode Air feature, which plays soft sounds through the earphones to help you relax. Choose your favorite audio track from the HeyMelody app with options like warm sunrise, meditation, summer beach, night camping and more and it will be downloaded directly to your earbuds’ memory. The advantage of this is that relaxation sounds are still available when switching between different paired devices. OnePlus isn’t the only one offering this type of feature. Jabra includes features similar to earbuds. I don’t use it often, but when you need a minute or two of silence on a busy day, you’ll want to know that this little trick is there. Unfortunately, OnePlus Buds are currently lagging behind many of their competitors in that they lack multipoint pairing and can only connect to one device at a time. However, OnePlus says it aims to add multipoint via a future firmware update.
Compared to the wireless earbuds of the past, the sophistication and powerful performance of the OnePlus Buds Pro shows that OnePlus has grown confidently and comfortably in this market. Although there is no shortage of competition at this price, the OnePlus combines attractive features with an attractive design with relatively few weaknesses. Another reminder of how much you can get for $150.
Photo: Chris Welch / The Verge