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OnePlus Buds review: a great buy for OnePlus users

On: September 6, 2020

OnePlus is no stranger to the audio category, having launched three earphones in its popular neckband-style Bullets Wireless range. It therefore came as no surprise when the brand announced its entry into the fast-growing TWS earphones segment, in the form of the OnePlus Buds.

Also read: OnePlus 8 Pro long-term review: a stellar flagship experience

Priced competitively under Rs 5,000, the OnePlus Buds bring several premium features to the table, as well as extras specifically geared towards OnePlus users. I’ve been using these buds for the last two weeks, testing them alongside the OnePlus 8 Pro, other Android phones and my MacBook Air, to see if they’re worth their asking price.

Design

The OnePlus Buds feature the semi in-ear design seen on earbuds like Apple’s AirPods. I know many people prefer the in-ear fit with different sized eartips, but those always give me a headache. That said, if you’ve used the AirPods earlier, you’ll find the OnePlus Buds to be a bit on the larger side. For me, this meant the fit wasn’t very secure, but if you have a larger ear canal they might work for you. I could listen to music without them falling out, but when I wore them while doing my online yoga class for example, they fell out a few times.

What I did like about the OnePlus Buds is the attention to detail with the design. I received the Nord Blue variant, which features neon yellow accents around the touch controls and the interior of the case. While the blue is certainly a fun colour, it’s unusual and may not be for everyone. If you want a more subtle finish, you can pick up the buds in grey (with a nice red accent around the touch panel) and the more standard white.

Both the buds and the case are sturdy and made from good quality plastic. The buds come with an IPX4 rating, therefore making them sweat resistant and capable of surviving splashes. While the buds are glossy, the case gets a soft touch matte finish. The case compact and grippy, but most importantly, easy to flip open one-handed. It snaps shut with a satisfying click, and the buds are secured inside with strong magnets.

The case features an LED indicator in the front, and a Type-C port at the bottom. At the back, there’s a physical pairing button and a sturdy metallic hinge.

Pairing and controls

Pairing the OnePlus Buds is hassle free. If you have a OnePlus phone, they will be automatically detected and you can just tap to pair. For other devices, you need to long-press the pairing button and click on the buds from your device’s Bluetooth menu. The buds connect to devices using Bluetooth 5.0, and feature a connectivity range of 10 metres, which is standard.

The CD-pattern touch panel on each earbud has a large surface area and is easy to locate. By default, the controls are mapped to let you double tap to answer/end a call or skip tracks. You can also switch between two paired devices by long-pressing the touch panel for 3 seconds on either earbud. This was a convenient way for me to switch between my phone and laptop. Long-pressing the touch panel for 5 seconds lets you reject a call. There’s no option to play or pause a track however, which is a big omission in my opinion.

There are other customization options available, but unfortunately, these are only available if you have a OnePlus phone (OnePlus 6 and above). Paired with my OnePlus 8 Pro, the buds received a couple of software updates during my review period. After the first update, I was able to customize the double tap controls for either earbud, choosing between play/pause, activating a voice assistant, going to the previous track or to the next track.

These customisation options can be found by clicking on the buds inside your OnePlus phone’s Bluetooth menu. From here, you also have the option to find your Onelus Buds by ringing them. It’s a neat feature and lets you choose to ring either the left or right earbud. From here, you can also see the battery level of each earbud as well as the case. When connected, you can also check the battery levels from the notification shade.

The OnePlus Buds feature a neat wear detection feature, which automatically pauses the audio when you remove one of the earbuds from your ear, and resumes it when you place it back.

The OnePlus Buds also have a ‘Fnatic Mode’, which enables low latency of 103ms. Again, this mode is restricted to OnePlus phone users. The mode can be enabled via Game Space. Once you select the apps or games you want to enable low latency for, you can slide up on the ‘Gaming mode is on’ notification inside Game Space, and enable Fnatic mode from there.

Sound quality

The OnePlus Buds feature large 13.4mm drivers. They support the AAC Bluetooth codec, but you don’t get aptX support which you can incidentally find on OnePlus’ Bullets Wireless earphones.

Since the buds feature a semi in-ear fit, there is a fair bit of noise leakage and you won’t get the kind of noise isolation you would with in-ear tips. If you’re listening to music with a lot of background noise, it can be pretty distracting.

The OnePlus Buds, like most affordable TWS earphones I’ve reviewed lately, have a bass-heavy sound signature. The bass is inflated towards the low-end, and this is obvious in tracks like Blinding Lights by The Weeknd. There’s an uncomfortable thump accompanying the sharp beats, and the mids and vocals sound muddied.

If you enjoy listening to EDM music though, tracks like Calvin Harris’ Feel so Close sound peppy and upbeat, provided you don’t mind the boomy bass.

Personally, I prefer more balanced tuning, but I think the OnePlus Buds would appeal to casual listeners, especially in India where genres like Bollywood music and EDM are popular.

Coming to the microphone quality, the OnePlus Buds were among the better TWS earphones I’ve tested lately. Each earbud houses three microphones, and the longer stem means the mics are closer to your mouth. You also get environmental noise cancellation for calls. Callers on the other end reported clear audio without any visible distortion, which wasn’t the case on similarly priced earbuds like the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2, for example.

Battery life

The battery life is one of the major highlights of the OnePlus Buds. OnePlus says that the earbuds can offer 7 hours of playback on a single charge, while the case can charge the buds four times completely, resulting in a total battery life of 30 hours.

On top of that, the earbuds support fast charging, so placing them inside the case for 10 minutes lets you listen to music for 2 hours. In my experience, I got about six hours of usage on the buds, which is still excellent. The case takes about an hour and a half to charge completely.

Bottomline

At Rs 4,990, the OnePlus Buds have a lot to offer. They offer a premium build, IPX4 rating, excellent battery life, fast charging and good microphone quality. Unfortunately, there’s no companion app for these buds, which means firmware updates and new features will be restricted only to users with OnePlus phones. This severely limits the functionality for non-OnePlus users, who might want to look at other options like the Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 (review) and Realme Buds Air instead.

In sum, if you own a OnePlus phone and are looking to get TWS earbuds, you should definitely consider the OnePlus Buds. But if not, there are plenty of other options available in the market.

Pricebaba’s rating: 8 / 10

What works:

  • Premium build
  • Good microphone quality
  • Excellent battery life and fast charging
  • IPX4 rating

What doesn’t:

  • Bass-heavy sound signature
  • Firmware updates restricted to OnePlus users
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Ketaki Bhojnagarwala

Ketaki has over 10 years experience writing on tech, having worked at the Hindu Business Line and 91mobiles earlier. When she's not editing copies or reviewing the latest gadgets, she spends her time binge-watching Netflix and reading fantasy fiction.