OnePlus Buds Pro review: Good is not good enough
“The OnePlus Buds Pro are good-sounding earbuds with some usability hang-ups. Add to that their price, and there are better options out there.”
- Great sound
- Nice look/finish
- Solid ANC
- IP55 water and sweat resistance
- Wireless charging
- Fast pairing with OnePlus phones
- Too expensive
- Slippery to handle
- Settings are hard to find
- Some controls are not customizable
- In-ear detection is unreliable
OnePlus started off as a solid phone brand, but soon after started delving into other areas of tech, like audio. Just this past fall, OnePlus launched the OnePlus Buds Pro, but Digital Trends never got a chance to test them out. So, when OnePlus launched a new color for the Buds Pro alongside the OnePlus 10 Pro, I jumped at the chance to take them for a spin. I’ve been using them for the past four weeks, first with my OnePlus 10 Pro, and then with my Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.
Before we get into how the buds sound, I need to talk about this color. It’s called Radiant Silver and it is very pretty and highly reflective (and a bit of a fingerprint/dirt magnet), but it’s also like holding a bar of soap. I have never had an earbuds case slide itself off my desk before these buds. The buds themselves are covered in the same finish and it makes them slippery and difficult to hold. The thing is, there is just no reason for it. This is the very definition of form over function and it did not make me a fan early on.
Of course, this is not the only finish the buds come in. You can also get them in Glossy White and Matte Black. I’d recommend those. The Radiant Silver part doesn’t make the buds uncomfortable, but they are slippery when you’re trying to put them in your ears. I so have sausages for fingers, so your mileage may vary.
From there, the buds are a fairly typical AirPods Pro clone with stems that stick down from your ear and silicone tips for noise isolation. The buds also have active noise cancellation (ANC) and ambient sound, which lets you hear what’s going on around you. The silicone tips do a great job of isolating sound and the ANC is pretty good. It’s not the best I’ve used, nor is the ambient sound usable for anything more than a short conversation at the drive-through.
The earbuds connect to your OnePlus phone almost supernaturally. Just open the case near a OnePlus phone and you’re prompted to pair. From there, we run into a little bit of a hiccup that is equal parts cool and annoying. The awesome part is that when you’re using a OnePlus phone, the settings for the earbuds are actually part of the operating system of the phone. There’s no app for the buds. You access the settings through your phone’s Bluetooth control panel.
The bad part is that there is basically no discoverability for this feature anywhere. You get a quick pop-up when they pair, but that’s it. It’s not in the packaging, on the phone, nor even on the internet. I Googled for an hour looking for how to find the settings. Finally, I just guessed and stumbled upon it.
If you’re on a non-OnePlus phone, there is an app you need to install called HeyMelody. For those who are not familiar, this is a third-party app that headphone makers can integrate with if they don’t want to make an app on their own. That’s fair. But it makes it hard to use unless you’re familiar enough with the audio landscape to download it and, frankly, at the $150 price point, a headphone maker should probably make its own app.
Speaking of which, once you get inside the settings for the OnePlus Buds Pro, you cannot change some of the controls on the buds. When you go into the app, you’re prompted to set up actions for when you squeeze, double squeeze, triple squeeze, and squeeze and hold the stems on the buds, but you’re only allowed to change two of those. When you try to tap the action for a single squeeze and a double squeeze, you are informed with a small dialogue that those settings cannot be changed. It seems like it shouldn’t even be listed as an option?
The buds do give you the option to set up a sound profile that is unique to your ears. The three-minute test plays a series of tones of varying loudness into each of your ears to determine your hearing threshold. Once that’s complete, it builds a sound profile for you that fills out the sound on the earbuds. I admit, I’m not nearly enough of an audiophile to notice much of a difference in the sound, but it’s neat tech that every earbud should have, but few do.
Speaking of features every set of earbuds should have, these buds also have in-ear detection that automatically pauses your media when you remove them from your ears. It was here I ran into periodic difficulty. Sometimes when I put the earbuds in, my podcasts would refuse to play until I pressed play on my phone. Other times, the ANC would just not kick in. It took me a while to figure out that for some reason the earbuds weren’t sensing being in my ears. When I took them out and replaced them, they started working again. I can’t say I have any idea what the difference in placement was — they felt the same — but every now and then, they just decided they didn’t want to work. I soon figured out that if I could squeeze the stem and hear a click, they were placed properly. If not, I had to try again.
Overall, I would rate the sound quality as quite good.
As for how they sound, most of my earbud listening comes in the form of podcasts, and they do fine with those. The active noise cancellation works great and allows me to significantly lower the volume of what I’m listening to for better hearing health. That’s what noise cancellation is supposed to do. Speaking of podcasts and the spoken word, the buds work great for phone calls and Zoom/Team meetings. Callers said we came through clearly.
For music, I have a few tracks I typically use to test that out. I always start off with Roundtable Rival by Lindsey Sterling. This violin dubstep track gives you a broad range of sounds, from deep bass to shrill highs. The Buds Pro handle that song great. Call of Cthulu by Metallica is another standby song that covers a broad range, as is Thunderstruck by 2Cellos. The Buds Pro handle those songs well, with just a little bit of muddiness around the midtones. That’s not surprising considering the 11mm drivers that really drive the bass. Overall, I would rate the sound quality as quite good.
The OnePlus buds are good true wireless earbuds — and that would be fantastic if almost every other company in the world didn’t also have good true wireless earbuds.
Battery life is also quite good. OnePlus rates them at 37 hours of total battery life, with seven hours on a single charge. That seems consistent with my testing. The charging case supports OnePlus’ warp charging system, and the company claims that 10 minutes of charging with a 5V 1.5A charger will give the case an extra 10 hours of battery. The case also supports Qi wireless charging, which is a plus. As another added bonus, the buds are IP55 dust and sweat/water-resistant, and the case even offers IPX4 water protection — a rarity in the wireless earbuds world.
The OnePlus Buds Pro are available from OnePlus.com, Amazon, and other retail outlets for $150. They are available now.
Overall, the OnePlus buds are good true wireless earbuds — and that would be fantastic if almost every other company in the world didn’t also have true wireless earbuds. The fact is, competition is fierce in this category and one move that OnePlus made to differentiate itself — integrating into the OnePlus phone’s software — actually just hurts the user experience.
Plus, while more of the earbud-wearing world navigates their buds with taps and swipes, OnePlus went with squeezes, which are not ideal. Indeed, while OnePlus takes design and usability cues from iOS (squeezes versus taps, integrating settings into the OS), on an Android phone, it comes off as confusing. Whether or not these things are “better” is subjective.
Then there’s the price. If these were priced at closer to $100, they would be a good buy. At $150, there is simply too much competition to be taken seriously.
Is there a better alternative?
Yes. Up and down the price spectrum, you can find earbuds that are as good or better. Some examples include the Soundcore Liberty 3 Pros, which are great for a little less money. The 1More Colorbuds 2 are solid competitors at that $99 price point. My personal favorites of late are the more expensive (but better in basically every way) Technic EAH-AZ60s.
How long will they last?
My main concern in terms of durability is the possibility of losing them. They have sweat resistance, so you don’t have to worry about damaging them on a job or even in the rain. They feel sturdy and durable, but the darn things keep throwing themselves off my desk. Put them on a mouse pad, and you’ll be OK.
Should you buy them?
If you’re a hardcore OnePlus fan, you probably stopped reading this article five minutes ago and ordered them. For everyone else, no. These are fine earbuds, but they just don’t offer anything useful above and beyond the rest of the field, plus they cost too much.