For a brand that started out making budget flagship phones, OnePlus has gone out of its way with its latest flagship earbuds, and the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 are different from typical true wireless stereo earbuds in more ways than one. At $179, they’re not exactly affordable, but they stand out with a set of perks that need to be experienced before ruling them out against established brands like Apple, Sony, and Bose.
Not much has changed on the surface. But OnePlus has made improvements in areas that matter. Noise cancelation gets a boost, Android 13’s head-tracking and quick pairing tricks have arrived, and some meaningful personalization tools have been added to the mix. Here is a comprehensive overview of what OnePlus’s best earbuds offer.
Clean Looks, Great Fit
The design is reminiscent of OnePlus’ first-gen Pro earbuds, but that’s not a bad thing. Yes, the AirPods Pro inspiration is apparent, but the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 earbuds look good. Combining a matte black finish and a silvery luster on the stem gives them an unmistakable aesthetic character. More importantly, they are comfortable. They remained tightly in place when using the earbuds during a morning run and while skipping rope.
There was some sound leakage, and the fit wasn’t as tight as expected for noise cancelation, but that’s likely because of the wrong ear tips. A few friends who tried the earbuds out found them to be a great fit, though. Some trial-and-error might be required with the different ear tip sizes available to find the best ear canal seal. OnePlus lends a hand with an Earbuds Test that lets users pick the best ear tip size to provide the tightest noise isolation. The case is light, but the understated matte finish gives it a more premium look.
A Whole Lotta Nifty Tricks
There’s a lot to unpack in the features department. To start, users will appreciate Google’s Fast Pair system. The Android device remembers the first time you pair the earbuds, so the next time you open the case near the phone, it automatically shows an on-screen prompt with a pairing request. There’s no need to fiddle with Bluetooth settings and get your earbuds to enter pairing mode. Apple has been offering this convenience with the AirPods for a while, and it’s great to see Android users finally getting a taste of this feature. It works like a charm on the OnePlus Buds Pro 2. Another neat feature is dual-device connectivity. The earbuds seamlessly switch between two devices to handle calls and control audio output, among other tasks.
The pinch and squeeze controls work reliably for playback controls and switching between listening modes, but there is no gesture for volume control. Instead, users will need their phones to make volume changes. Another pet peeve with touch controls on the stem is that these gestures are hit-or-miss when wearing a cap that covers your ears. On the other hand, touch gestures on the pea-shaped Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro work quite well in such a scenario. The earbuds can also be a remote shutter to take pictures with a paired OnePlus phone’s camera by double-tapping the stem.
OnePlus has baked all the core controls and custom tuning options inside the Settings app, but only if you’re using a OnePlus phone. For phones made by other brands, including Apple, you need to download the Hey Melody app. However, there are a few sacrifices here. Hi-Res audio mode, Spatial Audio, Find My Earbuds, and camera shutter is only available if paired to a recently-launched OnePlus phone (read: OnePlus 11) and not on any other brand phone with the Hey Melody app installed on it. Ecosystem locking is a problem, but everyone is doing it.
Another feature is Zen Mode Air, which streams soothing white noise into your ears. There are five tunes by default, and they come in handy for falling asleep. Interestingly, the Zen Mode tunes are stored on the earbuds instead of your connected phone.
Lively Audio & Surround Sound Cover-Up
Coming to audio quality, the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 are bass-forward earbuds. The focus on low frequencies is evident when listening to a song with the default settings. Fans of bass-boosted beats will love the low-frequency rumble. Thankfully, the earbuds don’t go overboard with the low-frequency thump, and users can still enjoy the instrumental notes in a track. The latter is made possible due to the dual-driver architecture.
The flagship earbuds have a 11mm main driver and a 6mm planar driver. Instrumental tracks heavy on synthetic vocals and beats get an overt metallic tremble, but the saving grace is that the audio doesn’t get shrill and unpleasant. Percussion instruments, however, feel a tad sharper and overtly edgy. There are a couple of software-side annoyances too. A noticeable second or two of lag occurs when switching between flat and spatial audio. And enabling or disabling Hi-Res mode disconnects Bluetooth and pairs the earbuds again.
Audio customization includes preset options like bass, bold, crisp, and serenade. And yes, a custom EQ lets users tune the audio output to their liking. The OnePlus Buds Pro 2 can handle LHDC audio codecs. Unfortunately, there’s no LDAC support, even though the companion app does list it as an option. OnePlus also created Golden Sound, which makes an ear canal profile using sound waves of different frequencies to get an idea of auditory sensitivity and adjust sound output accordingly. The test takes a while, with a canal scan and hearing analysis. But the result actually makes a difference and gives the listening experience a real lift.
There are three levels of noise cancelation available that users can choose between based on ambient noise. Even after using a $350 pair of earbuds and the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 were pleasantly surprising. The noise cancelation was decent when using them at the highest level on trains, cabs, and a flight. Compared to the AirPods Pro, the Apple earbuds offer more stereo-esque noise isolation with broader spatial coverage and more noise isolation, while the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 take a more directional approach to cancel the frequencies. If someone listens to loud music on a phone or laptop nearby, the noise is toned down, and users will only hear a faint tune. Transparency mode is just about fine and gets the job done.
With ANC enabled, the OnePlus Buds lasted a little more than 5.5 hours, with battery life dropping by 10 to 15 percent with hi-res audio and spatial audio with head tracking enabled. Thankfully, wireless charging is part of the parcel and is useful with a phone that supports reverse wireless charging like the Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Spatial Audio delivers treble-heavy sound, which is good or bad, depending on the tracks users prefer to listen to. It’s best to keep Spatial Audio disabled with soulful music focusing on smooth vocals and mellow background tunes. That’s because the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 raise the volume noticeably to create a 360-degree soundscape, which leads to distortion. However, with instrumental beats, Spatial Audio is worth using, separating each audio component of the track into a directional sonic element. However, keep the volume below 80 percent because things quickly get overpowering after that with Spatial Audio enabled.
While it is very track-dependent, many won’t want to go back from the immersive sensation of Spatial Audio. The head-tracking aspect of Spatial Audio definitely works too, and the shifting audio channel is evident when moving the head around. The directional channel separation is on point, and the sound of a moving object smoothly shifting its axial distribution is noticeable. However, it’s not quite as smooth as Apple’s implementation with the AirPods Pro, where directional adjustments appear to happen in real-time, while the OnePlus Buds 2 Pro have a slight delay.
Why Should You Consider The OnePlus Buds Pro 2?
The OnePlus Buds Pro 2 are a solid pair of true wireless earbuds. The sound quality is excellent, and spatial audio adds a bit of oomph to their sonic appeal. The noise cancelation has room for improvement, and some algorithmic audio balancing could do wonders for the earbuds. However, there are a few added perks that really help the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 stand out. Zen Mode Air is a neat addition. Google Fast Pair is convenient, and hardware-level audio personalization is welcome. OnePlus will soon add a new feature that relies on the onboard six-axis inertial sensor to alert users about posture correction when slouching. It will also send sedentary reminders when they’ve been sitting for too long.
These are all meaningful features that aren’t available on many TWS earbuds. Dual-device connectivity is a severely underrated perk, and there aren’t any mic clarity issues. The OnePlus Buds Pro 2 are a solid pair of earbuds that might not be cheap, but offer more than cheaper alternatives. The only way to surpass the OnePlus offering is to go up the price ladder with the likes of the AirPods Pro 2, Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, and the Sony WF-1000XM4, which offer more refined audio and better noise cancelation. However, if you have a OnePlus smartphone, splurging on the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 is definitely worth it.
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