OnePlus started with smartphones, moved on to accessories and audio products, and then even launched televisions last year. Although its audio range includes a wide range of wired and wireless products, the company only recently entered the popular true wireless earphones segment. The OnePlus Buds, priced at Rs. 4,990, is the company's first true wireless headset, and offers impressive features and specifications for the price. The new earphones were launched alongside the OnePlus Nord smartphone.
As with previous OnePlus wireless earphones, the OnePlus Buds are said to work best when used with a OnePlus smartphone. However, these Bluetooth earphones work just fine regardless of what source device you use them with, and promise features such as fast charging, gesture controls, and more. Do the OnePlus Buds live up to the hype? Find out in our review.
Many true wireless earphone makers these days are going with an outer-ear fit for their products, since this allows for larger driver units in the earphones. The OnePlus Buds also goes with this design, with 13.4mm dynamic drivers to make up for the obvious reduction in noise isolation that results from this type of fit. The earphones feel non-intrusive and quite comfortable, also allowing for a fair amount of ambient sound to be heard while they are worn.
There are some similarities between the OnePlus Buds and the slightly more expensive Vivo TWS Neo earphones when it comes to design, particularly that of the two products' stems. However, the OnePlus Buds are slightly larger on the whole, and have large touch sensors for gesture controls that closely resemble the company's own wireless neckband-style earphones such as the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z.
I quite liked the Nord blue colour unit that was sent for review, but you also have the option of buying the OnePlus Buds in white or grey, if you think the blue-and-yellow colour scheme is a bit too garish. The charging case is small and easily pocketable. The USB Type-C port for charging is at the bottom, and the pairing button is at the back. There are no OnePlus logos on the earphones or the charging case, but a small ‘designed by OnePlus' statement is visible at the back.
Although there are no visible sensors on the earphones, the OnePlus Buds have a wear-detection feature that works quite well. Strangely though, this can't be switched off, as is the case with many other true wireless earphones. Either earphone can be used individually, and the OnePlus Buds can quickly switch between paired devices with a long press (three seconds) on either earphone, which I found very useful.
There is no companion app for the OnePlus Buds, but when used with a OnePlus smartphone, detailed settings and information for the earphones become available through the Bluetooth settings page. These include the abiltiy to change the gesture controls, apply firmware updates, and check specific battery levels for both earphones and the case. The case battery level is updated every time the earphones are removed from it.
The OnePlus Buds earphones have 13.4mm dynamic drivers, with support for Dolby Atmos when used with compatible OnePlus smartphones. Google Fast Pair is supported, and there is also a low-latency mode promising a minimum latency of 103ms when used with Fnatic Mode on compatible OnePlus smartphones. The low-latency mode only works with OnePlus smartphones, and can't be toggled independently of Fnatic mode. Headsets from competing brands usually have a way to activate this from the earpieces directly, so this is a bit of a shortcoming on the OnePlus Buds.
The OnePlus Buds are IPX4 rated for water resistance, and will be able to handle a few light splashes of water. The SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs are supported; unfortunately there's no support for advanced codecs such as aptX.
The OnePlus Buds promise fast charging, with a 10-minute charge of the case claimed to be enough to deliver 10 hours of playback time. A full charge of the case with the earphones inside took around 90 minutes. The earphones ran for around six hours, with the case managing to recharge them close to four times over, for a total battery life of around 27-28 hours per charge cycle.
Although the OnePlus Bullets Wireless and Bullets Wireless 2 support the aptX Bluetooth codec, the company took a step back with the more affordable Bullets Wireless Z, which only supports the SBC and AAC codecs. The OnePlus Buds, although priced closer to the Bullets Wireless 2, are closer aligned to the Bullets Wireless Z when it comes to specifications and sound quality. Much more attention has been paid to design and features, while sound takes somewhat of a backseat here.
However, like the Bullets Wireless Z, this doesn't mean that the OnePlus Buds sound bad; on the contrary, they sound decent enough for their Rs. 4,990 price, and are largely on par with other options priced below Rs. 5,000. The sonic signature is tuned to bump up the bass a fair bit, and is enjoyable for the most part. Although there's barely any noise isolation, the earphones are loud enough to allow for a proper listening experience with some ability to hear your surroundings.
There's a significant sub-bass bump in the sonic signature, and this set the tone for pretty much everything I listened to. Starting with Run Boy Run by Woodkid, the sound was immediately punchy and aggressive, and on more than one occasion seemed to eat into the earphones' ability to properly replicate vocals and highs. With gentler, more melodic tracks such as Swoon (Lindstrom Remix) by The Chemical Brothers, the bass definitely still dictated the feel of the track, but didn't entirely overpower the rest of the frequency range, making for an enjoyable listen.
There isn't a vast amount of detail to be heard on the OnePlus Buds, and the soundstage is also limited. The sound never got too muddy, although the mid-range and highs were definitely a bit restrained by the strong lows. This much bass might seem enjoyable in short bursts, but long listening sessions got a bit tiresome, and turning down the volume didn't do much to reduce listener fatigue.
Using high-resolution music tracks did help overcome the shortcomings of the OnePlus Buds. Listening to a high-resolution version of Party Monster by The Weeknd was pleasant, with some of the roughness taken out of the bass, and the vocals and detail allowed to push through. Dolby Atmos audio similarly sounded a fair bit more detailed when listening to Belinda Carlisle's Heaven Is A Place On Earth, and the directional tuning worked to improve the soundstage a bit as well.
This means you need access to good audio to get the best out of the OnePlus Buds, and even then the AAC codec can only send through that much information for the Buds to work with. I did find some good quality recordings on Spotify and YouTube Music that sounded decent and fun enough, but there was always something missing at the top. Slightly more expensive earphones such as the Lypertek Tevi go much further when it comes to sound quality.
The OnePlus Buds does get very loud, and this is particularly helpful on voice calls. The sound was clean for the most part, and I could both hear and be heard clearly on most calls. The low-latency mode that works only with OnePlus smartphones did manage to make gaming on the phone a bit better, at the cost of a slight reduction in sound quality.
The OnePlus Buds is what many of us expected it to be, and doesn't disappoint when it comes to features and pricing. At Rs. 4,990, it's well priced for what's on offer. It's comfortable, and also has good battery life as well as useful features such as fast charging and quick switch. If you intend to use these with a OnePlus smartphone, you'll get the most out of the OnePlus Buds through low-latency mode, the ability to customise the controls, firmware updates, Dolby Atmos support, and detailed battery indicators.
I'd have liked a proper in-canal fit and support for advanced Bluetooth codecs, and the bass-heavy sound isn't for everyone. All of this put together makes the OnePlus Buds a worthwhile option to consider if you have a OnePlus smartphone, enjoy bass-heavy sound, and have access to high-resolution music. If not, other options such as the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 and JVC HA-A10T are worth considering over the OnePlus Buds.
Price: Rs. 4,990
Ratings (out of 5)
Which are the best truly wireless earphones under Rs. 10,000? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.