Latest!

OnePlus Buds Pro review: doesn’t settle

OnePlus Buds Pro is only the third pair of true wireless earbuds from the brand, but it is undoubtedly its best yet. While the original OnePlus Buds failed to impress, OnePlus managed to reset and introduce an excellent product in the form of OnePlus Buds Z. The Buds Z came at an affordable price point and delivered on the fundamentals. The result of that success is OnePlus’ 12 percent market share in India’s competitive TWS market at the end of Q2 2021, as per Counterpoint Research.

Also Read: OnePlus Buds Z review: a cheaper, better alternative to the OnePlus Buds

With the newfound success and increased adoption of TWS devices, OnePlus has decided to go pro. With the Buds Pro, OnePlus is showing it is no longer an outsider in this segment. It wants to take on the budget contenders like boAt and Noise, but also wants to challenge the premium offersing from Samsung, Jabra and others. However, the real challenge for OnePlus Buds Pro might come in the form of Nothing ear (1), Google Pixel Buds A-Series and OPPO Enco X. Does OnePlus stand out in this space? Let’s find out.

Design and comfort

OnePlus Buds Pro Review

OnePlus Buds Pro is only the third TWS earbuds from the company

The primary motto behind the OnePlus Buds Pro’s design seems to avoid the customs fiasco from a year ago when CBP blocked OnePlus Buds (review) and labelled them as counterfeit Apple AirPods. The OnePlus Buds Pro don’t give up on Apple AirPods similarities entirely but they will certainly pass the muster of US Customs and Border Protection.

There are predominantly two designs popular in the TWS market. The first design is one that features a stem, made popular by Apple and seemingly adopted by every other brand. The second design is one that Bragi pioneered featuring just the earbuds, which was followed by everyone including Samsung, Jabra, Google and Amazon. OnePlus, widely recognised as Apple in the Android world, obviously chose the stem design similar to AirPods.

Honestly there is nothing wrong in following a successful precedent set by another brand. However, OnePlus does tweak that design to an extent that it works in its favour. The earbuds, like the AirPods Pro, have shorter stems which means these no longer look like earbuds with the wires cut off. For the earbuds, OnePlus decided to go with a dual tone finish. While this design is not as polarising as Nothing ear (1)’s semi-clear design, it definitely screams “I am not an AirPods Pro clone” in a nice way.

OnePlus Buds Pro Review

OnePlus Buds Pro are as light and comfortable as the Nothing ear (1) 

The part of the earbud that goes inside your ear canal is finished in matte while a portion of the stem gets glossy finish. Each earbud weighs only 4.35 grams which makes it extremely comfortable to wear for extended periods. I was able to wear them on work calls, while cycling and just occasionally with never once feeling any kind of pressure.

I would still pick Nothing ear (1) (review) as the most comfortable of the two, which is probably because of the selection of ear tips. This is true for every true wireless earbuds and is true for the OnePlus Buds Pro as well – the performance is directly proportional to the seal that you get. I had no issue whatsoever finding a comfortable seal with these, but your experience might vary.

OnePlus Buds Pro Review

OnePlus Buds Pro’s case supports wireless charging but the build quality is not reassuring

These earbuds are so well designed that they stayed in my ears and their IP55 rating means that I could use them for workouts as well. Like the AirPods Pro, the OnePlus Buds Pro also relies on a force sensor on the glossy part of the stem for controls. There is a learning curve but once you master the force area, you won’t touch it anywhere else. The controls are identical as well – pinching quickly with two fingers pauses playback, while performing the same action twice will let you skip songs. You can also hold the stem to switch between ANC and transparency modes.

It takes a little while getting used to but it is not difficult to master. The faint audio feedback to indicate your action is a nice touch. While the earbuds are well designed and engineered, the case leaves a lot to be desired. The first thing with any true wireless earbuds is the locking mechanism and the “tuck” sound you hear when you close the lid. The plastics used on the OnePlus Buds Pro never inspired confidence.

OnePlus Buds Pro Review

OnePlus Buds Pro’s case has clear and easy to read labels for the earbuds and a tactile button for pairing

The magnets hold the earbuds firmly in place but the quality of the case itself is not reassuring. It features a button inside to enable pairing mode or reset the device. There is also a label to indicate right and left earbuds. On the back, there is a USB Type-C port for charging and the earbuds support Warp Charge when placed inside the case. The case supports wireless charging and it is IPX4 rated, which is a rarity in this segment.

Sound, calls and ANC

Out of the box, it is remarkable how OnePlus Buds Pro manages to create a wide soundstage despite its compact shape. OnePlus says that it tuned these earbuds for bass reproduction but I think almost every audio company making TWS earbuds claims to tune them for solid bass. The devil is in the details and there is plenty of detail audible through these earbuds. The first song I played is Rihanna’s Love On The Brain, which has a fascinating chord progression and it’s 1950 inspired doo-wop sound with guitar line and organ form a great test.

OnePlus Buds Pro Review

OnePlus Buds Pro rely on 11mm drivers to deliver rich and performative sound

The OnePlus Buds Pro retain such character here that by the time the first chorus comes, you are already “fist fighting with fire”. I then switched to Paper Planes by M.I.A, a timeless performance that helps you understand the nuance of these earbuds thanks to the music sampled here. I also listened to BADBADNOTGOOD’s latest single called Signal from the Noise. The 9-minute long track is perfect to test the rhythm and timing of these earbuds.

In a nutshell, the 11mm drivers on the OnePlus Buds Pro deliver a sound signature that has well defined but not overzealous bass. The mids are not as detailed as you would find on the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 but that’s probably got to do with the price. I could not test LHDC since I did not have a phone that supports higher bitrate but for me, these did justice whether I was listening to Phoebe Bridgers’ ballad or Chvrches’ synth creation.

OnePlus Buds Pro Review

The earbuds themselves allow for a comfortable fit and offer AirPods Pro style controls

OnePlus Buds Pro, like most earbuds these days, are not a platform agnostic product. Meaning, it has features that are directly tied to a OnePlus phone. The aforementioned LHDC is one such example. Another example being the Dolby Atmos support. I tried Dolby Atmos with Apple Music on a OnePlus 8T. The caveats of Apple Music’s ever improving spatial audio aside, these succeed in producing that multiplanar effect. When you play Sukhwinder Singh’s Haule Haule from Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, you get those tango vibes all around and Sukhwinder Singh’s voice makes you feel the joy. The purpose of music is to make you feel good, and Dolby Atmos does that to some extent.

When I played Drive by R.E.M., which was probably created in 1992 with a belief that there will be Dolby Atmos to experience it some day, it was not an easy sailing. There were multiple times when I heard the guitar line in my left ear but the harmonica never kept up with the right. The bass here is over your head which makes a dramatic experience but somehow it never felt as mesmerizing as it did on a Yamaha’s YSP-5600 sound projector. Dolby Atmos still seems to be developing and it is a nice feature that could become a common streaming standard soon.

OnePlus Buds Pro Review

OnePlus Buds Pro also support Dolby Atmos when connected to a OnePlus smartphone

When it comes to active noise cancellation, it is not like OnePlus Buds Pro completely blocks the ambient noise. OnePlus says these earbuds are capable of blocking anywhere between 15 to 40db of sound. When indoors, I found these capable of blocking those low frequency sounds emitted by the air conditioner or sound coming from a ceiling fan. It was not particularly good at blocking voices. I could hear my family talking from the other end of the home even with the ANC turned On and set to the extreme setting.

OnePlus lets you choose from two ANC settings – faint and extreme. There is also a setting called smart that dials ANC automatically based on your ambient environment. When outdoors, it pushes the ANC to extreme to limit the sound but I never quite felt like it was doing enough. In some situations, the noise cancelled would be equivalent to you blocking both your ears with your hands. I think Jabra Elite 85t (review) does better in this department. There is also ultra low-latency of 94ms which requires a OnePlus smartphone running OxygenOS 11 or above and is created with gaming in mind.

I always use Babel to test latency and while there is a small lag noticeable, it was never distracting. During my time with OnePlus Buds Pro, I also found the calling experience to be right there with the best but the mic performance could have been better. When I was speaking to friends on regular voice calls as well as on Zoom or Google Meet, the people on the other side said they had no issue hearing me. Even outdoors under windy conditions, the audio was clear and people I spoke to didn’t face any issues. OnePlus had a giant list of boxes to tick in the audio department and it ticked a lot of them.

App and battery life

OnePlus’ HeyMelody has a long list of features but does not offer EQ settings

The OnePlus Buds Pro do not require an app to use when they are connected to a OnePlus smartphone. However, I used these most of the time with my Huawei P30 Pro and there you can dig into granular settings with the help of OnePlus’ HeyMelody app. I will tell you what this app does not do right away. It does not offer EQ adjustments and it also does not let you connect to two devices at once. OnePlus has promised to add multipoint as an update later.

Beyond the lack of these features, HeyMelody does not settle at the basics. It has so many features that you probably won’t even use a lot of them. For example, OnePlus has designed a hearing test that aims to create a sound profile tailored to your hearing. I like the way the hearing test is designed but the end result didn’t make much of a difference. There is also a fit test but I am not sure if these tests are anywhere accurate.

OnePlus has also borrowed a feature from Jabra’s Sound+ app and is calling it Zen Mode Air. This is designed to help you relax with five different sounds. I love this feature on Jabra’s TWS earbuds and I am glad to see OnePlus implement this. I am writing this review with a warm sunrise sound playing on the Buds Pro and you can save these sounds to earbuds so when you switch devices, you can continue listening to these sounds.

OnePlus Buds Pro Review

OnePlus Buds Pro not only pairs instantly with a OnePlus phone but also has great battery life

The Zen Mode Air is not something you will use a lot but for when you need to focus or relax and can do so with music playing straight from the earbuds is an experience every TWS earbuds should offer. The battery life is again one area where the OnePlus Buds Pro delivered on company’s claims. With ANC turned on, these earbuds last for nearly 5 hours and the charging case can add another 23 hours. You can stretch to 7 hours from the earbuds and another 31 hours with the case by turning noise cancellation off.

Bottomline

OnePlus Buds Pro Review

OnePlus Buds Pro pack too many features to use

OnePlus Buds Pro stays true to the mission of their creator by not settling for the basics. They pack so many features that most people might not even come around to using all of them. However, it would have been useful if OnePlus offered support for multipoint at the time of launch. Beyond that, it is hard to fault these earbuds without getting into the specifics. Like Nothing, OnePlus has hit the nail on the head when it comes to the design of these earbuds. They are light and extremely comfortable to wear for long periods of time.

The OnePlus Buds Pro deliver sound quality that is refined and performative compared to their predecessors. The battery life is among the best in this segment and unlike Nothing’s ear (1), these earbuds don’t suffer from in-ear detection or transparency mode bugs. I have not tried the Pixel Buds A-Series, but when compared to OPPO Enco X, I prefer the OnePlus Buds Pro. If you have a Rs 10k budget, the OnePlus Buds Pro are an easy recommendation.

Pricebaba’s rating: 8/10

What works

  • Lightweight design
  • Comfortable to wear for long duration
  • Good sound and clear calls
  • Reliable battery life

What doesn’t

  • Does not support multipoint
  • Charging case build could have been better
  • Requires OnePlus phone for some features
  • App lacks EQ adjustment
Comments
Tags:
Karthekayan Iyer

Karthekayan is an Assistant Editor at Pricebaba. He covers consumer technology for Pricebaba and leads the development of the deals section. With a degree in Instrumentation Engineering, Karthekayan spent three years working for an engineering firm before becoming a tech reporter. He writes news, features and reviews the latest gadgets. He has over 8 years' experience and has worked with Indian Express, Digit.in and BGR India in the past.