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OnePlus Buds Pro review: The Pros outweigh the cons

Andy White
15 Sep 2021
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
139
inc VAT

Though designed for use with OnePlus phones, there’s a lot to like about the OnePlus Buds Pro regardless of which handset you use

Pros 
Extremely comfortable
Decent noise cancellation
Solid battery life and fast charging
Cons 
Limited touch control customisation
OnePlus phone-exclusive features
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OnePlus may be late to the noise-cancelling earbuds party but it certainly didn’t miss the naming convention memo. The OnePlus Buds Pro follow a familiar industry formula by taking the name of a pair of existing earbuds (in this case, the OnePlus Buds) and adding noise cancellation along with the word “Pro” to create a new in-ear offering.

The lack of an original name aside, the OnePlus Buds Pro are impressive earbuds, combining smart noise-cancelling technology, decent audio quality, a comfortable, water-resistant build and some neat features.

Their mass appeal is limited by the fact that a couple of those features can only be accessed on certain smartphones but, for a first crack at this type of earphone, OnePlus has done rather well.

OnePlus Buds Pro review: Price, design and battery life

The OnePlus Buds Pro cost £139, which is reasonable for a pair of noise-cancelling earbuds offering a comprehensive suite of features.

They’re available in either “glossy white” or “matte black” and have short stems that give them more than a passing resemblance to the AirPods Pro. Fortunately, a two-tone design that sees those stems coated in a reflective silver finish does just enough to differentiate them from other Apple imitators.

OnePlus says the buds themselves offer up to five hours of audio playback with active noise cancellation on and seven with it off, while total battery life, including charging from the case, is stated at 28 hours with ANC on and 38 hours if you don’t use it all.

Those are solid figures and they proved pretty much spot on during my testing. I used them for between one and two hours every day and they lasted just under a fortnight before needing to be topped up, which can be done via the case’s USB-C port or by using a Qi wireless charger.

OnePlus’ “Warp charge” technology sees a ten-minute top-up charge of the case provide up to ten hours of additional use, a figure unmatched by any other buds I’ve tested.

When it comes to build quality and design, the Buds Pro are hard to fault. They’re lightweight, at just over 4g apiece, don’t protrude too far when in your ears and stay in place admirably during exercise. They’re also well protected against dust and water thanks to an IP55 rating, which means they prevent the ingress of most dust particles and can withstand water jets from any direction.

I found the fit particularly comfortable. Three sizes of silicone eartips are included in the box, and, using the largest size, I was able to listen to music for hours on end without the slightest discomfort. The headphones are also supplied with a USB-A to USB-C charging cable.

OnePlus Buds Pro review: Connectivity and features

In terms of wireless connectivity, the OnePlus Buds Pro operate over Bluetooth 5.2 and support three audio codecs: SBC, AAC and LHDC (Low latency High Definition Codec). The latter is particularly appealing as it facilitates hi-res audio streaming, but support for it is currently limited to a small number of devices from Chinese manufacturers, including OnePlus, Xiaomi and Oppo.

Only the latest entries into OnePlus’ smartphone lineup currently support LHDC – the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro – although the company says phones that receive an update to OxygenOS 12 this year will also be able to take advantage of LHDC’s faster data transfer and 96kHz sample rate.

Codecs aside, there are a few other ways in which your OnePlus Buds Pro experience will differ depending on which smartphone you’re using them with.

Most significant is support for Dolby Atmos and a low latency “Pro Gaming Mode” that OnePlus says reduces lag to just 94ms between video and audio. Both are inclusions only those with a OnePlus phone will benefit from.

Accessing the Buds Pro’s various settings and features is also handled slightly differently depending on whether you’re using a OnePlus device or not. OnePlus phone owners simply need to enter their phone’s settings to customise their experience, while iOS and Android users need to download the Hey Melody app to do so.

The app is the same one used by Oppo earbuds such as the Enco Air (OnePlus and Oppo are both subsidiaries of BBK Electronics). It’s easy to navigate and offers most of the core features you’d expect from an earphone companion app. It enables you to check battery life, update firmware, switch between the three noise control modes, select your level of ANC and customise the touch controls.

There are also a couple of leftfield options, including “OnePlus Audio ID”, which lets you take a hearing test and create a sound profile that boosts audio based on how well you hear certain frequencies and volumes.

“Zen Mode Air”, meanwhile, lets you choose from a series of audio clips, designed to help you relax. There are five here, plucked from the Oppo Relax app, and all are suitably calming. You need to download your chosen clip to the buds and only one can be stored on them at a time, but having a way to escape into a relaxing headspace in an instant is a thoughtful inclusion. It’s clearly something OnePlus wants you to use regularly, too, as the mode has its own shortcut built into the Buds Pro’s touch controls.

Those controls are executed via a squeeze of the stem of either earbud; by default, a single pinch plays or pauses your audio, a double squeeze skips you forward to the next track and a triple squeeze takes you back a track. Squeezing and holding either stem for one second switches between noise-cancelling modes, while squeezing and holding for three seconds engages Zen Mode Air.

The controls are responsive enough, but I did experience a few niggling issues. If you take one or both of the buds out of your ear by grabbing the stem, which is the most natural way to remove them, you’re liable to switch ANC profiles in doing so.

Those with big fingers might also find executing the commands a touch fiddly. Customisation options are limited, too. You can choose to assign a voice assistant to a triple pinch on either bud and select which ANC settings to swap between by squeezing and holding, but that’s your lot.

READ NEXT: The best true wireless earbuds

OnePlus Buds Pro review: Audio and ANC performance

The sound quality delivered by the OnePlus Buds Pro’s 11mm dynamic drivers will divide opinion as the sound signature is a little light in the area most important to mainstream consumers: bass.

Those seeking robust, impactful low-end reproduction will find the Buds Pro fall a little short of their expectations but, despite that, the earbuds are an enjoyable listen. The reserved low-end frequencies give the mid-range and trebles plenty of room to express themselves, and there’s a decent amount of detail and clarity on show.

The numerous instruments on Gustav Holst’s Jupiter were clearly distinguishable from one another, and the dynamics of the arrangement were handled well. The Buds Pro kept up with the frantic changes in pace and volume, while the iconic, stirring string sections carried all the weight required of such an emotive piece of music.

Where some earbuds might be able to make up for a lack of bass weight via EQ settings, the OnePlus Buds Pro offer no such solution. Instead, what you get is OnePlus Audio ID: a feature designed to sculpt the default sound profile to your hearing requirements.

The process involves taking a hearing test that plays a series of beeps through your left and right earbuds. These vary in volume and frequency, and you have to state whether you can hear them or not. Once you’ve completed the test, you’re provided with a graphic detailing how well you hear frequencies ranging from low to very high and, based on these results, the earbuds boost the frequency where needed.

I created a few different profiles in different environments (the test is affected by the amount of environmental noise around you) and played around with the test to see how the outcomes were affected.

READ NEXT: Our favourite headphones for every budget

The profiles the app created did change based on the answers I provided during the test and the level of ambient sound. However, in every case, the differences were negligible. I actually preferred the unaltered sound profile to the one created when I sat in silence and answered each question accurately.

When it comes to active noise cancellation, the OnePlus Buds Pro offer three levels: “noise cancellation”, “smart” and “max”. With max noise cancellation engaged, the OnePlus Buds Pro do a good job at reducing background noise. They’re not as effective as the Bose QC Earbuds or Sony WF-1000XM4 but, at almost half the price, the noise cancellation is decent.

Smart mode automatically adjusts the level of noise cancellation based on how noisy your current environment is. It’s certainly not as clever as the WF-1000XM4’s adaptive sound control, but I was able to pick up on subtle shifts when moving from quiet to loud environments and vice versa. For the most part, however, I stuck with max noise cancellation as I preferred the more consistent sound reduction.

In addition to the noise-cancelling modes, the OnePlus Buds also have a transparency mode. This enhances ambient sound levels effectively without making them sound too artificial, which is also a plus.

OnePlus Buds Pro review: Should you buy them?

In the Buds Pro, OnePlus has a pair of true wireless earbuds capable of convincing its smartphone owners of keeping things in the family.

If you own a recent OnePlus handset and can take advantage of the Buds Pro’s support for Dolby Atmos, Pro Gaming Mode and the LHDC codec, you’ll struggle to find better all-round earbuds for the money.

Even without those features, though, sound quality, noise cancellation and in-ear comfort are on a par with similarly priced options, making the OnePlus Buds Pro a decent choice, whatever smartphone you happen to own.

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