Saturday, September 25, 2021
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OnePlus Buds Pro review: Highly recommended earbuds


The OnePlus Buds Pro are a real surprise. They offer a solid package and are definitely one of the better in-ear Bluetooth earbuds that we have reviewed to date. We attribute this to the good price-performance ratio, great sound quality, and selected features found in normally more premium models. In this NextPit review, Ben rarely removed the earbuds from his ears for the entire week.

Good

  • Good sound optimization via Audio ID
  • Smart & effective ANC
  • Controls are precise
  • Quick charging
  • Compact charging case
  • “Dual Connection” arriving in a future firmware update

Bad

  • Battery life could be better
  • LHDC codec lacks compatibility, no aptX support
  • Susceptible to feedback
  • No multi-point pairing
  • No in-app equalizer

A brief overview about the OnePlus Buds Pro

I call the OnePlus Buds Pro a real gem because they offer convincing performance in many aspects with a recommended retail price of $149.99. I like the sound quality that is delivered after optimization by OnePlus’ Audio ID, and the earbuds do not have any special leaning towards selected musical genres like the Beats Studio Pro. In addition, the ANC also works in a smart and effective manner. What’s more, relying on squeeze controls makes it more difficult for you to accidentally activate a feature.

The earbuds are very comfortable to wear thanks to the lightweight build of 4.35 grams apiece that is accompanied by soft silicone tips. In addition, these earbuds do remain in place even when you are out in the rain courtesy of its IP55 certification rating. The compact and pretty charging case with quick-charging support also left a positive impression on my mind.

OnePlus Buds Pro in black

OnePlus Buds Pro in white

The quick-charging feature might have been oversold though. In reality, you are unable to obtain up to 10 hours of listening time with just a 10 minute charge time. In order to achieve 10 hours of listening time, you will have to keep the earbuds stashed away in their charging case for close to two hours. One negative point is the battery life of 5 hours with ANC enabled, which is nothing out of the ordinary compared to other models in the market. Not only that, the LHDC codec while technically impressive, remains compatible with just a small number of smartphones.

NextPit OnePlus Buds Pro headphones Headphones
The design of the OnePlus is based on the AirPods Pro / © NextPit

Therefore, we would highly recommend purchasing the OnePlus Buds Pro for OnePlus smartphone users. But even those who do not own a OnePlus device should consider the earbuds when making their decision.

Design & comfort: Pretty and comfortable

The OnePlus Buds Pro earbuds take its design cues from Apple’s AirPods Pro. This translates to 
a stem which makes it easy to insert and remove.
 Lightweight in nature, each earbud tips the scales at 4.35 grams while the charging case remains nice and compact, measuring 60 x 49 x 24.9 millimeters and weighing 52 grams. Those who are worried about getting caught in the rain or are often involved in sports would find the IP55 certification come in handy.

What I liked:

  • It looks really chic in my opinion
  • Charging case is compact and flat
  • Squeeze controls make it easier to operate without accidental activation
  • IP55 certification rating

What I disliked:

  • Not always easy to store them in their charging case

In terms of design, I don’t think OnePlus has made any major blunders with the Buds Pro. The manufacturer completely fulfills the premise of any self-respecting in-ear Bluetooth earbuds – that is, being light and chic. At just 2.5 centimeters long, the beautifully slim charging case fits easily in just about any pocket, while the 4.35 grams of each earbud make them barely noticeable when worn.

When they were nestled in my ears, the pre-installed silicone tips fit perfectly. Without having to take time to get used to them, I found them comfortable to wear for just under five hours straight right out of the box. I didn’t feel any pain or pressure while wearing them, too. Rather, I was pleased to find that the earbuds remained stuck in my ear so snugly that I was able to confidently get on my bike or get involved in all kinds of activity without worrying about them dropping.

NextPit OnePlus Buds Pro case closed
The charging case of the headphones is beautiful to look at. / © NextPit

If the OnePlus Buds Pro do tend to get loose by accident, it carries another advantage in terms of controls. Instead of relying on touch-sensitive surfaces like many other manufacturers, you simply squeeze the stem of the earbuds to control your music or activate ANC. This means adjusting the position of the earbuds whenever they begin to feel lose will not stop playback or switch tracks halfway. This is a splendid solution and the OnePlus Buds Pro respond with each detected squeeze with a satisfying sound to indicate so.

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While I welcome the IP55 certification that allows the earbuds to be used while you are caught in the rain, I do have a criticism about inserting the stems into the charging case after a week of practical experience. Here, the earbuds are held in place by a magnet, but you must make sure they are inserted properly in order to charge. While this is a minor infraction defect, I do not want to leave it unmentioned at this point.

TL;DR: With a high degree of wearing comfort and a pretty look, the OnePlus Buds Pro won me over at first sight. The only shortcoming of this pair of earbuds? The somewhat unreliable connection when inserted into the charging case which requires a precise and exact placement.

Operation and companion app: Just squeeze!

The OnePlus Buds Pro do not operate via touch-sensitive surfaces, but by squeezing.
You can control ANC, playback, switch between tracks, or even activate the Zen mode using different squeeze intervals and pressure. To experience the optimal user experience that includes volume controls, you might want to install Oppo’s “Hey Melody” app.

What I liked:

  • Cool squeeze controls
  • Apple’esque connectivity with OnePlus phones
  • Sound optimization via Hear ID

What I disliked:

  • Volume cannot be controlled via the earbuds directly
  • No in-app equalizer

As I have already mentioned, music playback is controlled by squeezing on the stem. If you squeeze it firmly enough, the respective earbud will respond with a sound. In my opinion, you will get used to such controls after a day of use, even if some reviewers have criticized this method. It certainly boils down to a matter of taste, but I think this method of interaction solves the problem of having incorrect input wherever I adjust the headphones or when I am out in the rain.

NextPit OnePlus Buds Pro inside
As with the AirPods Pro, control is achieved by squeezing the stem. / © NextPit

Control options are as follows:

  • Play/Pause
  • Activation of the transparency mode or ANC
  • Activation of the Zen mode
  • Activation of the voice assistant on your smartphone
  • Move one track forward or go back one track

As you can tell, there is no option to adjust the volume. In order to do this, you’ll have to take your smartphone out of your pocket or toggle volume controls via your preferred voice assistant. OnePlus has thankfully thought of wearable recognition in this case, but if we’re on our smartphones in the first place, we might as well go ahead and install the OnePlus Buds Pro companion app.

Oppo’s HeyMelody app

OnePlus, which we all know has merged with Oppo, relies on the “HeyMelody” app for additional controls for the Buds Pro. In this app, you can toggle between smart and maximum ANC levels, perform sound customization via Hear-ID, and customize the earbuds’ operation to your liking. You can also download firmware updates here and load them onto the earbuds.

While I think about the optimization performed via Hear-ID, it is a very neat experience. The only thing that is sorely missing from the app would be an equalizer. Having an equalizer would be perfect, as sound optimization only tests your hearing abilities and does not take your musical preference into account. The app will play sounds in different frequencies and at different volumes, asking when you are no longer able to hear a sound.

This results in a frequency range map of sounds that your ear can perceive at different volumes. When individually tailored, the earbuds will then amplify the segments that are difficult to hear for you. As my ears perform flawlessly according to my ear doctor, the earbuds hopefully didn’t have much adjustments to make. The sound quality, which I’ll get into in a moment, still remains very balanced.

If you’re using a OnePlus smartphone, you don’t need to install the app. This is an added advantage and convenience that comes with a more visually appealing connection via a tiny pop-up window. That’s the benefit of using products within the one ecosystem!

TL;DR: I’m not a big fan of the Hey Melody app, as it lacks features compared to the class leader Soundcore. The missing equalizer is a thorn in my…er, ear! However, I find that operating the earbuds is relatively stress-free.

Sound, telephony & ANC: Neutral ruins the world

Each earbud of the OnePlus Buds Pro contains a membrane driver which sports a diameter of 11mm.
They cover a frequency range from 20 hertz to 20 kilohertz and reach a maximum volume of 98 decibels according to the specifications sheet. Tuning is specially tailored to your ear and cannot be customized. The ANC will dynamically adjust itself to the surrounding environment in real-time, and there’s also a transparency mode!

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What I liked:

  • ANC worked well at maximum level
  • Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity
  • Sound is nicely balanced and thus offers good performance across genres
  • Precise bass
  • High maximum volume

What I disliked:

  • No equalizer support
  • LHDC codec is rarely supported
  • No multi-pairing

It goes without saying that this pair of in-ear Bluetooth earbuds also has its work cut out to convince the wearer in terms of sound quality. Using one word, I would describe the sound delivered by the OnePlus Buds Pro as “balanced”. This is because there is no particular tendency towards any frequency range. Seeing how I like to switch between various musical genres, such performance suits me very well.

As the sound quality attracted me throughout the review, not only in the first album of Busta Rhymes, I also enjoyed chilling out to the discography of Element of Crime, which has always sounded pretty much the same. Kanye West’s latest disappointment “Donda” couldn’t be saved by these earbuds though. I strolled around in public while headbanging with hard Gojira riffs pumped to my ears without missing a beat. The flexible performance level is welcome, but it could also be the earbuds’ undoing.

NextPit OnePlus Buds Pro speaker
These two contact points charge the headphones when they’re in the case. / © NextPit

For those who only listen to bass-heavy music, these earbuds might not pack enough punch. Don’t get me wrong – the bass performance is more than adequate to my ears, but you can’t add additional tubas and double basses to the digital orchestra in the earbuds. Because as I mentioned earlier, the equalizer is missing, which you could have used to adjust the sound to your preferences.

I also have some criticism reserved for the list of supported Bluetooth codecs. Apart from the common denominators SBC and AAC, only LHDC is on board as a high-quality codec. While this is excellent from a technical point of view and is certainly fun to take advantage of with the right music streaming service, unfortunately, it is not found at all on Apple products and is a rather rare find on Android devices. Even OnePlus’ very own lineup of mid-range smartphones from the Nord family is unable to handle the codec. Rather than being a reason to buy a OnePlus 9 Pro, it’s more of a reason not to purchase the earbuds. OnePlus must have shot themselves in the leg in this department. 

ANC

You’ll hear less of verbal missiles launched this way with the earbuds, as they come with active noise cancellation. This is supposed to make your environment quieter by a maximum of 40 decibels according to the manufacturer. With ANC enabled, I was at least able to block out the sounds of hands on the foreheads of countless readers who have just read the lame introduction of this paragraph.

Compared to my other experiences, the ANC is good. It’s more effective than that of the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro but still had some way to go before being able to hold a candle to the class leader, the Sony WF-1000XM4. However, I turned off the smart mode that allowed the earbuds to adjust the ANC strength automatically. Unlike the aforementioned Sony earbuds, this one proved to be too arbitrary for my liking, or at least it felt as though it failed to work properly when enabled. I never knew exactly just how much the ANC was drowning out my environment at any given time.

Before you drown in more of my puns, I would like to continue being transparent with you. That’s right, the OnePlus Buds Pro also comes with a transparency mode and it actually does a decent job of making you think that you don’t even have the earbuds in your ear. It does leave a funny effect, but unfortunately, you cannot control the degree of audio transparency. 

NextPit OnePlus Buds Pro headphones Headphones
OnePlus includes three different sizes for the silicone plugs. / © NextPit

In transparency mode, the earbuds tend to provide some rather loud feedback. At least, that has happened to me several times throughout the review duration. Each time that happened, I was not wearing them in my ear, but the loud beeping was clearly audible even without having worn the earbuds. As to what caused the feedback, I really do not know even though I tried to recreate several possible scenarios. Nevertheless, I do not want to leave the issue unmentioned.

To calm down after this shock, I took advantage of OnePlus’ Zen Mode (little joke). This will play one of the included five scenarios, which conjure up sounds of a beautiful and soothing environment on your ear. Although OnePlus calls these modes “white noise”, there is, unfortunately, no classic white noise. Still, it is quite a charming feature, don’t you think so?

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Telephony

Call quality was excellent, so here is a quick word about its telephony performance. I review headphones all the time, and I’ve become almost impudent by not switching to my smartphone when the quality is poor. The OnePlus Buds Pro were the only headphones to date where callers on the other end of the line praised the sound quality of the earbuds. I have also not yet experienced any poor sound quality during my phone calls throughout the review using the Buds Pro. Excellent!

TL;DR: Again, it’s the lack of an equalizer that gives the earbuds a black eye on an otherwise flawless resume. Even though NextPit reader René H. rightly pointed out that there are equalizer apps to fall back upon in my Beats Studio Buds review, integrated equalizers are always much better. The ANC is of decent quality for $149.99, and making calls with the earbuds is really fun!

Battery & Quick-Charging: Don’t lie, OnePlus!

We know that OnePlus offers quick-charging on smartphones like the OnePlus Nord 2, so the advertising claim that you’d end up with 10 hours of listening time in just 10 minutes of charging with the Buds Pro sounded promising. Unfortunately, this is not true.
Quick-charging of the case might happen here in 10 minutes, but the earbuds themselves require up to another 2 hours for a full charge.
Even then, the earbuds can last a maximum of 7 hours of listening time.

What I liked:

  • Quick-charging is fast despite being misleading
  • Wireless charging supported
  • 38 hours of charge in the extremely compact case

What I disliked:

  • Only 5 hours of battery life with ANC enabled

With active music playback, the OnePlus Buds Pro achieves a maximum playback time of 7 hours. With ANC enabled, this figure drops to 5 hours, which is below average compared to other models. Hence, OnePlus’ promise with the aforementioned quick-charging is certainly a welcome addition.

The earbuds version of Warp Charge was supposed to deliver “10 hours of listening time” in just 10 minutes of charging. What’s sobering is that while the charging case gets 10 more hours of juice in just 10 minutes, you still need to place the earbuds in the case for another 2 hours in order to continue your audio adventure. Charging the earbuds for 10 minutes will just provide you with another two hours of listening time.

NextPit OnePlus Buds Pro case
Since the case is very flat, inserting them takes a little getting used to / © NextPit

Wireless charging is also on board, and OnePlus relies on the Qi wireless charging standard for this. This flexibility in charging lets you settle on wireless chargers or smartphones that support reverse wireless charging.

TL;DR: When it comes to battery life, the earbuds don’t exactly knock my socks off. Even the tiny Beats Studio Buds offers at least a full day’s battery life with ANC disabled. It is almost charming that OnePlus is so self-confident and rated this pair of earbuds 10 out of 10 points on their homepage in terms of battery life.

OnePlus Buds Pro technical specifications

Technical specifications

Feature OnePlus Buds Pro
Size 60.1 x 49 x 24.9 mm (case) | 32 x 23.2 mm (earbud)
Weight 52 grams (Case) | 4.35 grams (earbud)
Driver 11 mm membrane driver (dynamic)
Frequency response Max. 20 – 20,000 Hz
Bluetooth Bluetooth 5.2
ANC Yes, dynamic
Bluetooth codecs SCB, AAC, LHDC
Battery life Up to 7 hours (ANC off) | Up to 5 hours (ANC on)
Battery life via charging case 48 hours (without ANC)
Features Wear recognition, Zen mode, Transparency mode
Colors Matte black (review unit) | Glossy white
Price $149.99

Conclusion

In my opinion, the balanced sound including Hear-ID should easily make it to the top of the list of what the OnePlus Buds Pro are good at. Its design and the wearing comfort also made positive impressions on me. Controls achieved via squeezing the earbud stem also convinced me, with diversity in control options. Controlling the volume by swiping is too fiddly IMHO.

I do have to criticize OnePlus for the confusing or even misleading information concerning quick charging. While the battery life itself is not too shabby, there are true-wireless earbuds that last longer for the same price. I also don’t like the preference of its own ecosystem, especially since not even all OnePlus phones are compatible with the High-Quality codec included.

At a recommended retail price of $149.99, you would do well picking up the OnePlus Buds Pro. These are earbuds that can compete with much more expensive models in terms of sound quality and ANC. Therefore, the OnePlus Buds Pro clearly get my recommendation when it comes to ANC earbuds.

If you’re looking for alternatives that offer a bit more features and a bit more sound quality, I would like to refer you to my list of best in-ear Bluetooth earbuds with ANC.



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