The new OnePlus Buds Z2 include ANC and a host of extra features for a bargain basement price
- Very comfortable
- ANC and transparency modes
- Autopausing works well
- Small selection of eartips
- No EQ adjustment in app
It might be an odd time to launch a new product just as everyone is finishing their Christmas shopping, but OnePlus is presumably hoping to capitalise on a last-minute spending splurge with its new OnePlus Buds Z2 earphones.
Not that you need to splash out much. At £99 per pair, they’re very reasonably priced and, as is typical for OnePlus, you get plenty of features for your money as well.
OnePlus Buds Z2 review: What do you get for the money?
The main thing that catches the eye is that they come with active noise cancelling, which is a new feature added to the Buds Z range. The previous offering, although cheap, missed out. The price has risen as a result, of course – from £55 to £99 – but this is still a very good price for a pair of competent earphones with ANC.
That’s not the only useful feature, either. The OnePlus Buds Z2 also have a transparency mode, so you can stay aware of your surroundings, and you simply hold your finger to the touch surface on the right earbud to turn it on. There’s support for Dolby Atmos (although only on OnePlus phones), plus IP55 dust- and water-resistance on the earbuds and an IPX4 rating for the charging case.
Rounding off the specifications is auto-pausing, which is a feature that’s not guaranteed in earbuds at this price, and it works reliably, too, pausing audio when you remove one or both earbuds and resuming playback when you pop them back in. Add in instant pairing via Google Fast Pair and you have an impressively well-equipped pair of headphones for the money.
OnePlus Buds Z2 review: What do we like?
Pretty much everything about the OnePlus Buds Z2 hits the spot. They’re comfortable to wear for long periods, the noise cancellation is effective and general sound quality is excellent.
The Buds’ 11mm drivers don’t deliver the most muscular bass but the overall sound profile is balanced and refined with decent instrument separation and plenty of detail. If I had to complain about anything, however, it’s that there’s a tiny bit of sibilance when you crank up the volume, but it’s far less apparent at moderate volume. Generally, the OnePlus Z2 are a pleasing listen, especially given the low price.
The ANC works reasonably well, cutting out the worst mid-and low-frequency ambient noise, so you can keep listening to your music and podcasts when it gets noisy. As with most in-ear ANC headphones, they don’t do as well at cutting down on high-frequency sounds, such as keyboard clatter, and they can’t compete with the level of noise reduction on offer from market-leading premium headphones such as the Sony WH-1000XM4 or the Apple AirPods Max. However, they do a pretty good job all the same.
Battery life is very impressive given the small size of the charging case. With 40mAh batteries in each earbud and a 520mAh cell in the case, you’re getting a total of 38 hours of listening (with ANC disabled) away from the mains, which is a good chunk better than the 24 hours on offer from the rival Beats Studio Buds.
OnePlus Buds Z2 review: How could they be improved?
Ideally, I’d like a broader selection of ear tips to choose from. Although I usually find that the medium tips suit my ears the best, I had to move up to the largest size with the Buds Z2, which means that anyone with larger lugs will almost certainly have trouble getting a proper seal.
I’m not a huge fan of the way the earbuds look, either. They stick out a bit too much for my liking and the glossy finish on the charging case looks like it’ll scuff up unattractively in short order.
Lastly, although you can adjust the level of noise-cancelling and customise the touch controls via OnePlus’ HeyMelody app, there are no EQ controls, so if you prefer your music to sound a little more bassy or you like to accentuate the vocal frequencies because you listen to a lot of podcasts, you’re bang out of luck.
OnePlus Buds Z2 review: Should I buy them?
Despite these failings, there’s still plenty to like about the OnePlus Buds Z2 and, in some ways, they’re a better bet than our current favourites at this price: the Beats Studio Buds. They have better battery life, better dust- and water-resistance, and they have auto pausing where the Beats have none.
It all comes down to sound quality at the end of the day, though, and here the OnePlus Buds aren’t quite a match for the Beats. Still, there isn’t anything drastically wrong with the way they sound and overall, the Buds Z2’s extra features do make them a highly tempting alternative.