OnePlus has stormed up from relative obscurity to being one of the best smartphone (opens in new tab) manufacturers in the world in just a few short years, but now it’s taking a crack at the best headphones (opens in new tab) market with the OnePlus Buds.
Now we know what you’re thinking. “But TTR, those are clearly a pair of Apple Airpods”.and we can forgive you for thinking that. OnePlus has clearly been caught copying from Apple’s homework when it came time to design its own pair of headphones, but given the popularity of Airpods, we can hardly blame it.
Thankfully, the OnePlus Buds are more than just a cheap imitation, offering great sound quality to go along with the sleek, minimalist styling. You also get OnePlus quality battery life with the OnePlus Buds, so these things will keep on trucking long after most other headphones have conked out. Throw in the bargain price and these things seem too good to be true, so what’s the catch? Is there a catch?
Kind of, but whether it bothers you depends entirely on the size and shape of your ears.
OnePlus Buds review: Design
- Hard plastic shell
- Airpods inspiration is obvious
It’s easy to see where OnePlus got its inspiration from when you look at the OnePlus Buds as they look almost identical to a pair of Apple Airpods. They have a hard plastic shell as opposed to softer, interchangeable earbud sleeves. While this gives them a certain sense of style and durability, it’s also the first major weakness of the OnePlus Buds.
Hard plastic headphones can’t change shape or mold themselves to your ear, so they either fit or they don’t. In our time with the OnePlus Buds we found that while they felt comfortable and fit into our ears, it was an extremely loose fit. Any exercise or jostling would cause them to fall out, which means the OnePlus Buds won’t be suitable for anyone looking for workout headphones.
It’s not just the hard plastic shell that draws Apple comparisons though, almost everything about the OnePlus Buds design seeks to ape the extremely popular Airpods. They come in a stunning white color (as well as Gray and Nord Blue, which matches the color of the OnePlus Nord), complete with a matching charge case that looks hauntingly similar to the Airpod case design.
That’s not to say any of this is a bad thing, of course. But it’s clear where OnePlus’s inspirations came from, and where they’re aiming the OnePlus Buds. But for a company famed for its innovation, we’re a little saddened to see them chasing Apple so hard here. We actually think the OnePlus Buds look far better in Nord Blue, which is vibrant and offbeat… just like the OnePlus we love.
OnePlus Buds review: Performance
- Good sound quality
- Mediocre noise cancelling
Looking the part is all well and good, but how the OnePlus Buds stack up against Airpods in the sound department is what really matters. We put the OnePlus Buds through their paces with a variety of tracks to see how they stacked up.
The OnePlus Buds features 13.4mm dynamic drivers with support for Dolby Atmos and Dirac Audio Tuner. Generally we were impressed with the sound quality of the OnePlus Buds, especially considering the price range.
When listening to Muse’s Knights of Cydonia, the distorted guitar and haunting vocals came through beautifully, with clear definition between the numerous overlaid instruments and vocal elements. To test out the base, we leant on a classic with Seven Nation Army by White Stripes.
Here we found that the OnePlus Buds did a decent job with bass, but lacked a little of the punch that really brings this song to life. This is likely due to the hard plastic design, which means you don’t get a good seal between the earphones and your ears. For the same reason, the noise cancelling isn’t great. Perhaps that’s why OnePlus rather shrewdly called it Noise Reduction here.
Generally we’d say that the OnePlus Buds offer comparable performance to Apple Airpods. The Airpods maybe edge things out on the bass front, but could just be because they offered a better fit for our ears than the slightly chunkier OnePlus Buds.
The OnePlus Buds come with touch controls that you can activate either by double tapping the buds, or by holding your finger against one of them for a few seconds. By default the double taps skips to the next song, while the long press swaps your Bluetooth connection between devices. That last one seems like a weird addition, but it works instantly and we were able to swap the headphones connection between our laptop and smartphone instantly.
OnePlus Buds review: Battery life
- 30 hours total battery life
- Warp charge
OnePlus smartphones like the OnePlus 8 (opens in new tab) have always had excellent battery life and charging capabilities, and we’re thrilled to see that legacy transfer over to the OnePlus Buds.
The OnePlus Buds have a total battery life of 30 hours on a single charge, with seven hours of battery in the buds themselves and a further three full charges in the charging case. This comfortably sails past the Apple Airpods and Apple Airpods Pro (opens in new tab), both of which top out at around 24 hours of battery life.
What’s more, OnePlus has brought over its Warp Charge technology to the OnePlus Buds, so ten minutes of charging offers ten hours of listening time. Considering how often we're about to head out and we find our headphones are out of charge, this feature is a life saver.
OnePlus Buds review: Price
The OnePlus Buds have an an MSRP of $79.00 (£79 in the UK), which puts them significantly under the price of the competition - Apple Airpods cost $159, so you’re saving 50% of the cost for an incredibly similar pair of headphones in terms of styling and audio output.
Should you buy the OnePlus Buds?
At the wrong price point, we’d have struggled to recommend the OnePlus Buds but with an aggressive price of just $79, we think these are a steal… providing they fit your ears. The OnePlus Buds look great, offer decent audio quality and have excellent battery life.
The noise cancelling is a little lackluster though and the rigid design means we’d highly recommend trying a pair out before you buy them to make sure they fit. We’ll probably just glue ours in - we can’t see any reason that might be a bad idea.