OnePlus Buds Pro review: small earbuds, small price, big sound

OnePlus Buds Pro Review UK Price

OnePlus’ top-tier wireless earbuds, Buds Pro, are a stellar achievement (Image: ONEPLUS • EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

When OnePlus announced its first pair of wireless earbuds, the OnePlus Buds, they seemed too good to be true. These ‘buds arrived with a sleek AirPods-like design and many of the clever software implementations we were only accustomed to seeing on pricier solutions. But OnePlus Buds cost a fraction of the price of the Pixel Buds and AirPods.

Unfortunately, when we tested these competitively priced earbuds, we weren’t blown away. While the colossal 30-hour battery life was great, each the one-size-fits-all design was a little chunky for our liking — and felt uncomfortable in our ears, especially when taking advantage of that sensational battery life with a long listening session.

As such, we approached the announcement of the OnePlus Buds Pro with more trepidation.

On paper, OnePlus was promising the impossible again – a premium hardware design, great sound, active noise-cancellation, and an impossibly competitive price tag. But we’re pleased to report that, this time around, OnePlus has met every single one of our expectations.

OnePlus Buds Pro are a brilliant pair of wireless earbuds.

First up, the design has improved dramatically compared with the original non-Pro pair, which are still available to buy from OnePlus. While those ‘buds looked to the original Apple AirPods for inspiration, these new models are undoubtedly inspired by the AirPods Pro.

That means you’ll find a much shorter microphone stem extending from each of the earbuds, which looks better and ensures the ‘buds are much more compact. Thankfully, OnePlus has worked hard to ensure that the beam-forming microphones are still able to pick up your voice when making calls from the earbuds.

That said, OnePlus Buds Pro don’t hold a candle to the AirPods when it comes to cutting out wind, rain, or traffic noise on a call. However, they sound good enough. And if you’re making Zoom and Microsoft Teams calls from the relative quiet of the home office, they sound superb.

OnePlus Buds Pro arrive in a choice of two colours – white or black. While the latter is a departure from the AirPods Pro, which remain stubbornly white, it would be nice to see the Design Department at OnePlus let off the lease a little more. Samsung has tested out some exciting colour options with its buds, and it would’ve been nice to see more personality from OnePlus here – especially since the Shenzhen-based company has become a master at launching gorgeous, colour-morphing cases for their smartphones.

In fact, that’s a criticism that can be levelled at every aspect of the OnePlus Buds Pro design. Sure, they look good but that’s only because we’re fans of the AirPods Pro design.

Other companies, like Samsung and Google, are trying something genuinely different with their rival earbuds. Apple remains firmly at the top of the best-seller list when it comes to wireless earbuds, but the compact and sleek new designs coming from Samsung and Google make its AirPods look comparatively outdated. It would’ve been nice to see OnePlus try something new and original.

OnePlus Buds Pro arrive with a choice of interchangeable rubber tips, so you can find the ideal fit for the inside of your ear. Trust us, this decision alone makes a huge difference compared with the first-generation OnePlus Buds. While those relied on a one-size-fits-all approach, the seal achieved by these new tips is miles better. If you own an Android handset from another manufacturer or an iPhone, you’ll need to download an app to manage the settings of your OnePlus Buds Pro.

OnePlus Buds Pro review UK Price

Buds Pro are smaller, more compact and look great in your ears (Image: ONEPLUS)

To make matters more confusing, the best app is HeyMelody, which isn’t even listed amongst the apps developed by OnePlus in the Google Play Store. This allows you to tweak a number of settings, but it also includes a helpful test to check whether you’re using the correct tips for your ears and whether it has created a good seal.

Once you’ve got the correct fit for your ears, everything immediately sounds much better …and that’s before you turn on the active noise cancellation.

Active noise-cancellation, which uses microphones around the ‘buds to detect low-frequency noise and neutralise it before it reaches your ear, can be pretty hit or miss at this price point. Fortunately, OnePlus has nailed it.

Of course, these diddy ‘buds can’t eliminate every noise around you. Sudden noises, especially high-pitched sounds like the doorbell, the ding of a text message or the ping of the microwave, still manage to cut through and interrupt your track. However, the constant, low-rumbling sounds that can be particularly annoying — the trundle of the train tracks beneath your carriage, the hum of the photocopier behind your desk — completely vanish.

Active noise-cancellation can be pretty hit or miss at this price point. Fortunately, OnePlus has nailed it

Unfortunately, we haven’t flown anywhere since March 2020 (for obvious reasons), so we haven’t been able to pit the active noise-cancellation in the OnePlus Buds Pro against the rumble of a jet engine. But based on what we’ve seen from these wireless earbuds on terra firma, we have no doubt they’d perform admirably.

Thankfully, if you don’t want to be completely isolated from what is going on around you, helpful when you’re listening for a tannoy announcement at the departure gate or walking home at night, OnePlus has fitted its new ‘buds with a transparency mode. This is designed to let the outside world in through the earbuds, so you don’t have to bother taking them off.

It works pretty well, but everything sounds a little processed and artificial. For short bursts – like ordering a coffee with a barista – it works well enough, but for longer stints, we’d recommend popping the Buds Pro in your pocket instead.

The smaller design of the OnePlus Buds Pro means the carry case is also more compact than its predecessor. The matte plastic box now has a TicTac-like design that will fit easily into any bag, jean pocket, or yoga pants. In total, OnePlus says you’ll manage around 38-hours of listening time with the OnePlus Buds Pro inside the carry case before you’ll need to recharge it. That estimate tallies with our experience using the Buds Pro. Each earbud lasts around 5 hours with active noise-cancellation on, or 7 hours without.

OnePlus Buds Pro review UK Price

10 minutes with the charging cable will give the Buds Pro enough juice for 10-hours of listening (Image: ONEPLUS )

When it’s time to recharge the Buds Pro, OnePlus has cleverly fitted the case with its trademark Warp Charge fast-charging technology. While this is already useful with its smartphones – refilling your battery with enough power to last the day after just 20 minutes plugged into the wall – it’s arguably even more wondrous with wireless earbuds.

While we recharge our smartphone religiously every night, it’s easier to forget about wireless earbuds. Since these ‘buds last more than a day, it’s easy to fall out of a routine – leaving them weeks without a proper charge. If that happens with the Buds Pro, 10 minutes on charge before you dash out of the house will leave you with 10 hours of listening time.

That’s a killer feature for anyone as forgetful as us.

If you’re already out of the house and the OnePlus Buds Pro are running low, the Shenzhen-based company has a clever solution for that too. The carry case is compatible with Qi wireless charging, so you’ll be able to place the case on any charging mat fitted into the tables at your local coffee shop or fast-food restaurant. Better yet, some OnePlus, Samsung and Huawei handsets can sacrifice some of their own charge to wirelessly top-up the Buds from the back of their case. It’s not something you’ll need often, but it can get you out of a bind.

OnePlus Buds automatically pause your music or podcast when you take one ‘bud out of your ear, which is still a brilliant feature for any wireless earbuds. They’re also rated IP55, so they’ll easily be able to survive a sweaty workout at the gym or being caught in the rain.

OnePlus has included a Zen Mode with its earbuds. This builds on a similar feature found inside its handsets and plays a constant white noise through the ‘buds, ostensibly to help you relax. It’s pretty awful and the first time we accidentally triggered the constant hiss (a long press on the stems) we thought we’d broken the earbuds. With any luck, Zen Mode will be ditched in a future software update.

OnePlus Buds Pro review UK Price

OnePlus only offers its high-end Buds Pro in either glossy white, or matte black colour options (Image: ONEPLUS)

Our only real nitpick with the OnePlus Buds Pro is that the experience of using these ‘buds is so much better when combined with a OnePlus-branded smartphone. This is something we’ve seen from Google and Samsung too. However, it seems like a real missed opportunity.

OnePlus Buds Pro are a phenomenal pair of wireless earbuds and could’ve easily become the go-to recommendation for all Android users. However, the fact that only OnePlus owners will be able to enjoy the clever instant-pairing when opening the carry case near to their smartphone for the first time (everyone else needs to dig into the Settings menu, manually start the pairing process and find the Buds Pro in the long list of devices around them) or change the settings without the help of a standalone app from the Play Store is a shame.

It’s difficult to say how much of that is due to the fact that only OnePlus can code these options into its own smartphone’s operating system, or how much it is due to the fact that it wants to create a better experience for its most brand-loyal customers.

As we’ve mentioned above, AirPods offer a fairly shoddy experience on Android and Pixel Buds owners with a OnePlus phone miss out on a number of features too, so OnePlus isn’t doing anything out of the ordinary here. But its earbuds are so good, we wish they could be our go-to recommendation for all Android owners.

OnePlus Buds Pro review UK Price

There are a number of customisation options for the Buds Pro, which are handled in a standalone app (Image: ONEPLUS )

OnePlus Buds Pro review: Final Verdict

  • Pros: Great Sound, Amazing Battery Life, Active Noise-Cancellation Does A Good Job Of Cutting Out The Sounds Of The Commute, Fast Charging Is A Killer Feature, Nice Design
  • Cons: More Colours Would’ve Been Nice, Using A Standalone App To Manage All Of The Settings, Instant Pairing Not Available On Non-OnePlus Android Phones

At £139, the OnePlus Buds Pro are a real bargain. The compact design makes them easy to carry around with you, and the mammoth 38-hour battery life with the charging case means you’ll be able to use them on a commute every day and only worry about plugging them in at the weekend. If you do get caught short, the Warp fast-charging is incredibly useful.

Although we wish the superb designers at OnePlus were allowed to stray a little further from the blueprint laid out by the best-selling AirPods Pro, and that OnePlus Buds Pro offered the same slick software integrations on every Android phone – not just its own, these are both minor nitpicks.

If you’ve got an Android smartphone in your pocket and are looking for an equivalent to the AirPods you’ll see in every iPhone owners’ ears, look no further than the OnePlus Buds Pro.


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