Home Tech OnePlus Buds Pro Review: The Mid-Range Pro

OnePlus Buds Pro Review: The Mid-Range Pro


Although OnePlus has been making audio products for a long time now, the company was a bit late to the true wireless game, having launched the OnePlus Buds in September 2020. Although it looks good and has some premium features such as fast charging and Dolby Atmos support, the OnePlus Buds falls a bit short when it comes to sound quality. It wasn’t a very good first effort for the company, which has, in the past, successfully used marketing ingenuity and a community-driven approach to build itself from a small enthusiast brand into a major player in the global smartphone and audio business.

Following the not-so-great OnePlus Buds and the considerably better and more affordable OnePlus Buds Z is the third true wireless headset from the company: the OnePlus Buds Pro. Priced at Rs. 9,990 in India, the OnePlus Buds Pro is the company’s most advanced pair of true wireless earphones yet, with active noise cancellation, wireless charging, and premium design. But just how good are these earphones, especially when it comes to sound quality? Find out in this review.

Pressure-sensitive controls, active noise cancellation on the OnePlus Buds Pro

OnePlus’ earlier audio products have stuck to a common design language, and it’s possible to see the similarities in the way the earphones look across the wireless and true wireless product ranges. With the OnePlus Buds Pro, things have changed significantly; the earpieces and charging case look quite unlike the company’s older products, and more like the recently launched Oppo Enco X.

This isn’t particularly surprising, given OnePlus’ recent official merger with Oppo, which is expected to lead to common product development and deeper integration. However, there aren’t all that many similarities, and the OnePlus Buds Pro does have a lot of fresh design input. You can see this across the earpieces and charging case, including the matte-gloss combination of finishes and the round casings. The earpieces weigh 4.35g each, while the charging case weighs 52g.

The earpiece casings have a neat matte black finish, while the stems have a glossy dark grey finish. Interestingly, the earpieces have no logos or markings, apart from the ‘L’ and ‘R’ to signify which earpiece goes where. It’s a sophisticated look and is far superior to what you might expect from a pair of true wireless earphones priced below Rs. 10,000. Unlike the OnePlus Buds, the OnePlus Buds Pro earpieces have a proper in-canal fit to ensure isolation for the active noise cancellation to be effective.

The glossy stems of the earpieces are touch-sensitive, but not in the traditional sense. Instead of detecting simple taps and swipes, the controls work the same way as on the Apple AirPods Pro – you have to squeeze the stems of the earpieces. This also creates a soft clicking sound in the earphones to give the impression of pressing a physical button. It’s implemented well, and is a far better and more precise way to control the earphones than the common touch controls I’ve tried on many other true wireless earphones.

Play/ pause (single-press), next track (double-press), and call controls are fixed and can’t be changed, but the triple-press and long-press controls can be modified through the Bluetooth settings on a supported OnePlus smartphone, or through the HeyMelody app on other Android or iOS smartphones.

The charging case of the OnePlus Buds Pro looks a bit plain and ordinary on the outside, but it feels well-made and isn’t very large despite having a 520mAh battery. A OnePlus logo is etched onto the top, an indicator light is at the front just below the lid, and the back has a USB Type-C port for charging. Interestingly, the earpieces are IP55 rated for dust and water resistance, and the case is also IPX4 rated for water resistance.

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Dolby Atmos is supported on the OnePlus Buds Pro, but only when paired with a supported OnePlus smartphone

 

There’s also Qi wireless charging support for the case. The inside has the pairing button and perfectly shaped grooves for the earpieces to sit snugly in place. Although not exceptional, I didn’t really have any complaints with the case since it is pocketable and gets the job done.

Adjustable ANC, decent battery life on the OnePlus Buds Pro

Like earlier OnePlus true wireless headsets, the Buds Pro works best with supported OnePlus smartphones – Dolby Atmos and the low-latency gaming mode work only on select models. Multi-point connectivity and quick switching between paired devices aren’t supported on the Buds Pro, but OnePlus Fast Pair does work to quickly pair with compatible devices.

When paired with a compatible OnePlus smartphone, settings for the OnePlus Buds Pro are accessible through the Bluetooth menu. For users of other smartphones (Android and iOS), the HeyMelody app offers the same level of functionality, albeit with a completely different presentation. That said, the app has improved considerably, is now quite well put-together, and gives plenty of control over the specifics of the earphones.

You can use either of these two methods to customise the controls, conduct earbud fit and Audio ID personalisation tests, toggle the in-ear detection setting, and update the firmware. It’s also possible to switch between active noise cancellation and transparency modes, and set the intensity level of the ANC between normal, maximum, or an adaptable ‘smart’ setting which adjusts itself based on your surroundings. The Audio ID personalisation test created a rather strange equaliser setting for me that ruined the sonic signature; the OnePlus Buds Pro were best used with this disabled.

In terms of specifications, the OnePlus Buds Pro is decent enough for the price. There is Bluetooth 5.2 for connectivity, with support for the SBC, AAC, and LHDC Bluetooth codecs. The earphones have 11mm dynamic drivers, a frequency response range of 20-20,000Hz, and three microphones on each earpiece for ANC and voice calls. Three pairs of ear tips and a charging cable are included in the sales package.

Battery life on the OnePlus Buds Pro is decent. The 40mAh batteries in the earpieces provide a little under five hours of listening with ANC on and the AAC Bluetooth codec in operation, at moderate volumes. The charging case added a little over three additional charges, for a total battery life of around 20 hours per charge cycle. Although not exceptional, these figures are pretty good for the price and feature set of the OnePlus Buds Pro.

Tight bass, fun sound on the OnePlus Buds Pro

Although they may not be as technically advanced as similarly priced options such as the Oppo Enco X, the OnePlus Buds Pro get the core experience on point, with a generous helping of fun added. The earphones have 11mm dynamic drivers – unlike the dual-driver setup of the Oppo Enco X – but make up for this with excellent tuning and optimisation for the AAC Bluetooth codec. Although there is detail and clean sound across the frequency range, it’s the low-end grunt that made this pair of earphones so enjoyable for me.

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While the Matte Black colour variant looks nice, the OnePlus Buds Pro are also available in Glossy White

 

While the LHDC Bluetooth codec is supported by the OnePlus Buds Pro, it is oddly not yet supported on OnePlus smartphones, and general compatibility is limited to just a few devices from a handful of brands for now. As such, the AAC Bluetooth codec is what comes into play most often here, and delivers very good sound quality. I wasn’t able to test these earphones with the LHDC Bluetooth codec, but I did thoroughly test them with a OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren Edition and an iPhone 12 mini, listening to Dolby Atmos tracks on Apple Music as well.

There is plenty to like about the sonic signature of the OnePlus Buds Pro, but what stands out is the bass. Listening to Let’s Groove by Earth, Wind & Fire, the sub-bass was attacking, refined, and incredibly tight. Despite the aggression and drive in the lows, at no point did it eat into the rest of the frequency range; the percussion-driven beats of this disco track held strong on their own without eating into the soulful vocals and detail.

This ability to attack in a clean, calculated manner was particularly audible when listening to Because I’m Me by The Avalanches. This cheerful sample-based electronic track sounded detailed and lively on the OnePlus Buds Pro, with the earphones offering a sense of energy and fun that injected new life into the music. While there’s plenty to hear and pay attention to, including the spacious soundstage and faint bits of detail, the defining characteristic of the sound is again undoubtedly the low-end grunt, which adds fun to any track.

Based on price and feature sets, the OnePlus Buds Pro competes with the Oppo Enco X, which has been my top pick in this price segment up until now. Listening to Sunny by Boney M on both headsets, indeed the dual-driver setup on the Oppo Enco X delivered more detail and better imaging, but the well-tuned dynamic drivers of the OnePlus Buds Pro actually sounded more fun thanks to the powerful yet refined nature of the low-end.

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The charging case of the OnePlus Buds Pro has a 520mAh battery, good for three additional charges of the earpieces

 

Purists and those looking for detail and balance in the sound may prefer the Oppo Enco X, but the OnePlus Buds Pro has something entirely different to offer: character and style. For listeners of fast-paced electronic tracks, the Buds Pro serves up a strong helping of fun and power, while making even slower and more nuanced tracks sound decent. These earphones are also very loud, and are able to handle high volumes without any noticeable deterioration in the sound.

A rather interesting feature of the OnePlus Buds Pro is Zen Mode Air, which lets you use the earphones to listen to any of five ‘white noise’ clips of calming nature sounds. It is activated by pressing and holding the stem for three seconds; this stops playback and turns on the active sound clip saved to the earpieces. The sounds are quite soothing, and could come in handy for users who need help to fall asleep or who just want a break from noisy surroundings.

Active noise cancellation on the OnePlus Buds Pro is very effective in indoor and urban outdoor environments. For a pair of low-cost true wireless earphones, ANC performance matches up to what you’d expect from mid-range and high-end options such as the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro and Jabra Elite 85t. It’s useful in most situations, whether to make it easier to hear music, dialogue in videos and audiobooks, or even to just soften things a bit in the home.

Although there are two levels of intensity, I could barely tell the difference when either was active. A third ‘smart’ mode which allows the earphones to adapt to their surroundings was a bit awkward, as it changed the ANC level rather abruptly. The transparency mode doesn’t offer a very natural-sounding hear-through, but it isn’t jarring, and does allow for voices to be heard clearly.

Call and connection quality are decent enough on the OnePlus Buds Pro. I didn’t face any issues when using the headset to have conversations on the phone, and connectivity was stable at distances of up to 4.5m between the earphones and smartphone at home.

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The 11mm dynamic drivers of the OnePlus Buds Pro are well tuned, and produce a fun, energetic sound

 

Verdict

OnePlus has come a long way since the launch of the OnePlus Buds in mid-2020, and the Buds Pro is the company’s most impressive true wireless headset yet. It offers decent design, and useful features such as wireless charging, active noise cancellation, and Zen Mode Air. More importantly, the sound quality is unashamedly fun, and so the OnePlus Buds Pro is among my top recommendations for less than Rs. 10,000.

The entire feature set will need a OnePlus smartphone to use, but the Buds Pro does work well even with other devices. Even though the OnePlus Buds Pro is priced considerably higher than options from competing brands with similar features, it’s still a value-for-money offering that gives strong competition to most mid-range and high-end true wireless headsets.

There are some small drawbacks, such as the plain-looking charging case, awkward ‘Smart’ mode for active noise cancellation, and the fact that key features such as Dolby Atmos and low-latency gaming mode only work with OnePlus smartphones. However, these aren’t significant in comparison to the pros; this is the most fun-sounding pair of true wireless earphones you can buy on a mid-range budget, with the features to go with it.


Can Nothing Ear 1 — the first product from OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei’s new outfit — be an AirPods killer? We discussed this and more on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.



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