We live in extraordinary times. It’s now much harder to find bad wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation (ANC) that cost between $100-200 than good ones.
Almost any reputable brand now sells wireless earbuds within this price range that are either as good or better than AirPods Pro. Aside from Apple-specialties like spatial audio, hands-free Siri, and better iOS connectivity that (still) make AirPods Pro attractive, there are so many more affordable options to pick from like the OnePlus Buds Pro.
Priced at $150, the OnePlus Buds Pro compete hard with AirPods Pro ($250), Galaxy Buds Pro ($200), Galaxy Buds 2 ($150). Unless you have a strong aversion to its AirPods Pro-ish design (squeezable stem and all) or can’t live without features like spatial audio (in which case AirPods alternatives aren’t even a consideration), the OnePlus Buds Pro are a kick-ass pair of wireless earbuds.
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OnePlus makes good products, but lately, it’s felt like the tech brand, which is now even more integrated with sibling Oppo, has lowered its quality bar substantially in pursuit of global expansion and building out a wider ecosystem of devices.
The budget and mid-range Nord phones come to mind. So do the OnePlus Buds and Buds Z wireless earbuds (the latter was such a snooze I never reviewed them). And, who can forget the OnePlus Watch, which while not as terrible as many reviewers made it out to be, was average at best.
The OnePlus Buds Pro feel like a return to a higher standard for OnePlus earbuds. They’re the first earbuds since the OnePlus Bullets Wireless released many years ago that feel like they offer more value than the sticker price.
Light as a feather
It’s pretty obvious that the OnePlus Buds Pro are inspired by the AirPods Pro. If you dislike the stem design, there are tons of other solid ANC wireless earbuds to get instead: Amazon Echo Buds 2, Galaxy Buds Pro, or Galaxy Buds 2.
I’ve long come to terms with the stem design and in the matte black (also comes in glossy white), I think the OnePlus Buds Pro look handsome and stealthy. The matte black plastic has held up in over a week’s use, but I can’t say I’m not concerned it might show visible scratches with more use. The stems aren’t just for show. Just like AirPods Pro, you can squeeze them — a single squeeze for play/pause, double-squeeze to skip a song, and triple-squeeze to return to previous song. A slightly longer squeeze switches between noise cancellation and transparency modes.
The OnePlus Buds Pro are unbelievably comfortable.
More importantly, the OnePlus Buds Pro are unbelievably comfortable — arguably the most comfortable wireless earbuds I’ve ever used. They’re so light — each earbud weighs 4.35 grams — that I sometimes forgot they were in my ear even after I stopped playing music. In comparison, an AirPods Pro bud weighs 5.4 grams, Nothing Ear (1) bud is 4.7 grams, Galaxy Buds Pro bud is 6.3 grams, and Galaxy Buds 2 bud weighs 5 grams. Some wireless earbuds like the Master & Dynamic MW08 can be slightly uncomfortable for hours of wear — this is why some wireless earbuds like AirPods Pro have vents to equalize discomfort — but I never felt any pressure in my ears or head with OnePlus Buds Pro.
If comfort is at the top of your list, the OnePlus Buds Pro is way up there; including the pre-installed ear tips, there are two additional ear tip sizes in the box. Definitely use the earbud fit test with the HeyMelody app (iOS or non-OnePlus Android devices) or the OnePlus Buds app (OnePlus phones) to ensure you’re using the right size ear tip for each ear.
And the charging case: it’s barely larger than an AirPods Pro case. A+.
My biggest criticism of the sound quality on the OnePlus Buds Pro is that they can go overboard with the bass. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if you’re a bass head. All I’m saying is you’re going to hear the fuzz in songs like “Need To Know” by Doja Cat or The Weeknd’s “In Your Eyes” especially at louder volume levels. (Don’t judge me. It’s Hot Vax Summer out here!)
Generally, the strong bass profile on the OnePlus Buds Pro doesn’t bother me. There’s good clarity in the mids and highs that vocal-strong tracks or orchestral symphonies come through with lots of definition. AirPods Pro and Galaxy Buds 2 produce slightly wider dynamic range in my opinion, but OnePlus Buds Pro sound nearly as good.
I’d have no complaints about the bass sound if only there was an EQ within the HeyMelody or OnePlus Buds app. But alas, there’s no feature in the app. Hey, OnePlus, wink wink!
Like AirPods Pro or Galaxy Buds 2, the OnePlus Buds Pro come with active noise cancellation. I didn’t have expectations for best-in-class ANC that would dethrone the Sony WF-1000XM4, but I gotta say, the ANC on the OnePlus Buds Pro is quite good for the money. I’ve used wireless earbuds that cost twice or three times as much (*cough* $400 Bowers & Wilkins PI7) *cough*) with weaker ANC. The ANC blocks out just about as much noise as AirPods Pro or Galaxy Buds Pro/Buds 2. At around 50 percent volume I couldn’t hear a spinning fan that was 10 feet away from me. At 75 percent volume, the noisy traffic on a busy intersection in Queens, New York was virtually silenced. Just like any other ANC wireless earbuds, the OnePlus Buds Pro won’t block out everything, especially loud sounds at close range, but they block out plenty.
There are three levels of ANC (faint, smart, and extreme) for the OnePlus Buds Pro that are all self-explanatory, except maybe the “smart” mode, which really means adaptive. When set to “smart” the earbuds control the amount of ANC based on the sound in the environment. I didn’t feel smart mode did much so I mostly turned up the ANC to extreme for maximum sound blockage.
As for Transparency, the mode that mixes music with ambient sound, it’s one of the better implementations I’ve experienced on non-AirPods Pro wireless earbuds. Ambient sound doesn’t sound staticky or tinny like on some other wireless earbuds, though you can still hear the strong bass from music. Microphone performance is excellent as well. My colleagues and family said I sounded just like I normally do with my AirPods Pro — nice and clear.
There’s a “Zen Mode Air” feature that activates when you hold either of the earbuds’ stem for three seconds. You’ll know the mode is on when you hear birds chirping around. Don’t like the default birds? You can change it to other white noise like the sound of waves or a flickering fire in the woods or a gentle meditative melody within the HeyMelody app. While I never used the feature, it’s a nice bonus if you want it.
A single charge gets you 5 hours of listening time with ANC (28 hours with the case) turned on and 7 hours with ANC turned off (38 hours with the case). For continuous listening, this is right in line with Galaxy Buds Pro, Galaxy Buds 2, and Echo Buds 2 and 30 minutes more than AirPods Pro.
At volume lower than 50 percent, I’m definitely stretching battery life to at least 6 hours of ANC listening time. Not that battery anxiety was ever a concern. A 10-minute charge in an outlet gets up to 10 hours of listening time.
I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but the OnePlus Buds Pro really are almost as good as AirPods Pro. The Apple stuff it’s missing (spatial audio, hands-free Siri, etc.), OnePlus makes up with its own offerings like Zen Mode Air, Dolby Atmos support, and 94ms “Pro Gaming” mode synchronization to minimize lag when gaming. The OnePlus Buds Pro are also IP55 dust and sweat-resistant and the charging case is IPX4 water-resistant and supports wireless charging.
The few complaints I have are relatively minor: heavy bass at higher volumes, no EQ in the apps, and no support for Google Fast Pair for non-OnePlus phones. Everything else? Terrific for $150 wireless earbuds. If you’ve got a OnePlus phone, the OnePlus Buds Pro are a no-brainer. It’s no surprise that OnePlus wireless earbuds work best with OnePlus Buds. If you’re on Android, these are strong contenders to the Galaxy Buds 2. iOS users… you either live within Apple’s walls or break out and save yourself a good chunk of money.