OnePlus Buds Pro full review
OnePlus may be a phone company first and foremost, but for the last few years the company has been building a surprisingly strong line of audio gear - and the high-end OnePlus Buds Pro are no exception.
It helps that these do what the best OnePlus products do: deliver specs and features comparable to flagships from the likes of Apple or Samsung, while hitting a price – £139/$149 – that's actually closer to their entry models.
These aren’t quite perfect – the sound quality and noise cancellation are both good, but won’t quite match the best of the best – but for the price you couldn’t really ask for much more.
Design and build
- AirPods Pro-style design
- Comfortable fit
- Slim charging case
For better or worse, true wireless earbuds don’t tend to vary too much in design, and these are no exception.
Available in white or black, the Buds Pro are fairly traditional stemmed earbuds. The combination of a shorter, angled stem and silicone tips mean these pretty clearly echo Apple’s AirPods Pro, though OnePlus has put its stamp on the design with a glossy chrome finish to the stems.
These stems are also how you control the buds – not with touch gestures, but by squeezing each stem. It takes a little getting used to, but controls are responsive once you’ve got the hang of it, and it’s a neat solution to avoid accidental touches.
At just over 4g the buds are lightweight, and combined with the choice of three sizes of tips it’s fairly easy to find a comfortable fit that you should be happy to wear even for longer listening sessions.
The charging case is also impressively slim and lightweight – just 52g. The thin, flat design means that the case has a larger footprint than some, but will slide comfortably into a pocket. One downside is that the case is made of a glossy plastic that does scratch fairly easily, but the same is true for most headphones I’ve tested.
It helps that both the headphones and case have some water-resistance. The buds themselves are IP55 rated, for both dust and water-resistance, while the case is a more modest IPX4 – meaning that it has some water-resistance but not dust. Even so, it’s unusual for headphones to have any IP rating for the charging case, so this is a clear win for OnePlus.
- Solid sound
- Average ANC
The Buds Pro sound about how you’d expect from buds this price. That’s no bad thing – but does slightly put the lie to the company’s efforts to position these as rivals to the top headphones on the market, which tend to cost more – but sound better for it.
The 11mm dynamic drivers are at the larger end of what you’ll find in true wireless buds, which should in theory help the Buds Pro beat the best on bass.
In practice, the bass performance is mixed. On ‘Out of Sight’ by Run the Jewels there’s a satisfyingly thumping percussive element, but on ‘Guided by Angels’ by Amyl and the Sniffers the bassline gets lost in the mix when it should be leading the way.
The problem in part is muddled mids, which mean the bassiest bass can hold its own, but the closer it gets to the middle of sound profile the more it gets over-powered.
Overall, the sound profile isn’t bad – it's just a little unbalanced. Dance and hip hop tend to sound great, and punchy pop works too. It’s mostly rock and alternative that suffer, with the tight soundscape leaving different instruments with little space to breathe.
The Buds Pro also feature active noise cancellation, in addition to the passive noise isolation provided by the silicone tips. This is fine. ANC remains an area where you almost always get what you pay for, meaning the tech here is better than on cheaper rivals but can’t match the best.
The implementation here does a decent job of tuning out droning or repetitive sounds, but can’t keep up with more variable sounds or higher frequencies. It’s an improvement on not having ANC at all, but I still caught myself wondering at times whether I had the ANC turned on or not, even at max strength – a clear sign that this isn’t quite the blanket of silence that other buds offer.
You also have the option of a transparency mode, which uses the buds’ microphones to amplify external noise. It helps in environments where you may want to hear your surroundings better, but isn’t quite powerful enough to enable comfortable conversations with the earbuds in.
- Fit and audio tests
- Customisable controls
The OnePlus Buds Pro can be controlled from your phone in two ways: if you own a recent OnePlus phone then it will have its own audio app; if you don’t then you’ll need to download the HeyMelody app, which doesn’t actually bear any OnePlus branding but is the official software for audio gear from both OnePlus and Oppo now.
It’s a fairly straightforward app, but there are some handy features. For one, there are two short tests to help optimise the buds’ sound: a fit test that uses the external mic to check you’ve picked the right eartips to minimise sound leaking; and an ‘audio ID’ test that takes a few minutes and checks your personal hearing range to optimise the headphones’ audio profile.
The fit test is unlikely to tell you anything you don’t know – the headphones have to be fairly ill-fitting to trigger a failure – but the audio ID EQ shift is noticeable - and you get the option to turn it back off if you find you prefer the sound before. What you don’t get is a fully customisable EQ, unfortunately, so your sonic options are slightly limited.
You can also use the app to set the level of your noise cancellation, including a ‘smart’ mode that will adjust ANC level automatically, though I found this patchy.
Finally, the app allows you to tweak the earbuds controls. You’re only permitted to change the ‘triple squeeze’ and ‘squeeze and hold’ controls, which is essentially a question of deciding if you want a quick control to access a voice assistant or not, and which ANC/transparency modes you want the long squeeze to cycle through.
One final oddity is Zen Mode Air: squeeze the stems for three seconds and instead of music the buds will play white noise – useful for working perhaps, or even for falling asleep to (though dedicated sleep buds like the Amazfit ZenBuds will be better for that). There’s a handful of different soundscapes to pick from, ranging from ‘Warm sunrise’ to the rather cryptic ‘Iceland’.
Battery and charging
- 5 hours battery life with ANC
- 28 hours including the case
- Wireless charging
Battery life is another strong suit for the Buds Pro, though you probably can find better elsewhere.
The buds themselves have respectable longevity, with up to five hours’ battery life if you use ANC, and up to seven if you don’t.
Throw in the case and you get up to 28 hours with ANC or 38 hours without – arguably a more impressive number, and certainly more than most rivals.
It helps that charging is impressive. The case supports wireless Qi charging, and there’s also fast charging over USB-C, with ten minutes of wired charging returning ten hours of playback time.
Price and availability
There’s tougher competition from other quarters though. Not only from established audio and tech brands, but also from OnePlus’s own past.
Former co-founder Carl Pei has since launched new brand Nothing, and that company’s first product – the Nothing Ear (1) true wireless buds – deliver similar features and sound quality to the OnePlus Buds Pro for just £99/$99. I found them to be fairly buggy in my review though, so if you can afford the price difference I’d probably recommend the OnePlus instead.
The OnePlus Buds Pro tick all the boxes on paper, with premium features like ANC and wireless charging that other brands often charge much more for, with impressive battery life to boot.
In practice they don’t quite live up to the promise with audio quality and ANC that’s merely good, but never great, so these aren’t true cut-price AirPods Pro.
Still, at this price point you’ll struggle to find as good a balance of specs and features anywhere else.
OnePlus Buds Pro: Specs
- 11mm dynamic drivers
- Smart active noise cancellation
- IP55 (buds)
- IPX4 (case)
- Bluetooth 5.2
- Wireless Qi charging
- Up to 5 hours' battery with ANC
- Up to 28 hours' battery total with ANC
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