With OnePlus not releasing a new smartphone flagship in the second half of 2021, I can at least take a look at the firm’s OnePlus Buds Pro wireless earbuds. Or a listen. You get the idea.
This is good timing for me: I’ve been struggling to find a good pair of earbuds for the gym, something that offers a bit more (active or passive) noise canceling than the Google Pixel Buds A-Series which I otherwise really liked, and something that’s not as expensive as the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds that I use while traveling. The Goldilocks pair of earbuds, if you will.
These things are subjective, of course: we all hear differently, and our ears are physically different, meaning that an earbud that fits comfortably in my ear may not do so for you and vice versa. But the OnePlus Buds Pro earbuds seem to fit the bill, though I should point out that they’re no better and no worse than the $40 EarFun Free 2 wireless earbuds I’ve been using recently. And that’s kind of the problem: The OnePlus Buds Pro cost $150, and they are obviously more of a premium product. They’re about the same price as a pair of Samsung Galaxy Buds2, and less expensive than the Galaxy Buds Pro.
OnePlus says the Buds Pro have “adaptive noise cancelation,” which is technically hybrid active noise cancelation (ANC). Whatever, it’s among the weakest ANC I’ve yet experienced. For me, that’s good in theory, as I want something that’s just a step above passive noise cancelation, so I can ignore the music and other noise in the gym while still being aware of those around me and hearing the content I’m listening to. But I wouldn’t rely on these earbuds for traveling.
More problematic, I’m not sure I can rely on them at the gym either. Even with its adaptive noise cancelation capabilities, the OnePlus Buds Pro don’t block any more noise than do the passive EarFun Free 2s. And worse, that noise cancelation doesn’t always work: if you don’t have a complete seal on both earbuds, the noise cancelation turns off. And that happens to me regularly.
Tied to that issue is one that is perhaps specific to me: I can’t find an earbud tip—OnePlus includes three sets in the box—that fits me well enough to prevent the noise cancelation from stopping. I’ve never had that issue before, but OnePlus could solve it by simply providing a switch in the mobile app you use to manage these things that forces noise cancelation to stay on. Ah well.
But then I’ve never needed to try different earbud tips either. With my previous Samsung earbuds, the Bose unit, the Pixel Buds A-Series, and the EarFun Free 2s, the default tips always worked fine. These are the only buds that have ever caused an issue. I have to think it’s partially because of poor in-ear detection, and not the tips. It’s frustrating either way.
Assuming you don’t experience this problem—again, all ears are different—the OnePlus Buds Pro are a handsome and premium-looking product, and the sound quality and battery life are both decent: OnePlus reports that you should see 5-7 hours of battery life depending on noise cancelation usage, and that seems exactly right. But the case charges the buds, too, of course, providing overall battery life of 28 to 38 hours. And the case supports both Warp Charge (OnePlus fast charging) wired and Qi wireless charging. You can get 10 hours of juice with just 10 minutes of wired charging. Nice.
The configurability is nice, too. You have to use an app called HeyMelody to manage the buds—unless you have a OnePlus handset, in which case the same interface is built into Settings—which is a bit odd, but it does the trick. You can configure multiple controls, as you interface with the buds using their metal stems, and it supports quick squeeze, double-squeeze, triple-squeeze, squeeze and hold, and long touch and hold gestures; the only thing missing is the ability to control the volume right on the buds.
I’m also a big fan of the unique Zen Mode Air feature, which uses yet another gesture—squeeze and hold for three seconds—to trigger one of five white noise environments when you want to relax or meditate. The default, Warm Sunrise, is my favorite, but others, like Meditation, Summer Seashore, Nighttime Camping, and Iceland can be previewed in the app and then downloaded (one at a time) to the buds. I only wish there was a rain choice.
Also unique is a OnePlus Audio ID feature in which you (laboriously) use the Buds Pro to basically take a hearing test so that they are customized to your particular hearing. This is useful for anyone, but if you, say, don’t hear as well in one ear or whatever, I could see it making a big difference. What’s missing in all this is any kind of manual treble or bass controls, let alone a custom EQ. I suspect the Audio ID feature is meant to replace that, but it’s a bit time-consuming.
The OnePlus Buds Pro are decent overall, but the experience is even better if you have a OnePlus handset. There, you’ll get much easier pairing: just open the case and a flyout display at the bottom of the phone’s screen will connect to the two. The OnePlus Buds Pro also support Dolby Atmos, but only on recent (OnePlus 7 and newer) OnePlus headsets. And they support OnePlus’s unique gaming features by offering super low latency audio playback when your OnePlus handset is in Pro Gaming mode.
The OnePlus Buds Pro are available in Glossy White, which I received, and Matte Black, and I think it’s fair to say that OnePlus has achieved an Apple level of build quality with both the case and the buds themselves. The earbuds are IP55 rated for dust and water/sweat resistance, and the case is IPX4 rated for water resistance.
Tagged with OnePlus, OnePlus Buds Pro