OnePlus Buds Pro in the test: a surprising amount of “Pro”
With the Buds Pro, OnePlus wants to compete with the multitude of in-ear headphones at the “Pro” level. They offer a lot of good things: ANC, long battery life, stylish design. The third version of the Buds cuts a fine figure for the price.
First there were the Buds, then the Buds Z and now the Buds Pro. With each version, the test results of the OnePlus in-ear headphones got a little bit better. They remained true to their well-known image of the price/performance king and the OnePlus Buds Pro also run under this motto.
They should offer everything that the expensive competition has for around 150 euros: an attractive design, active hybrid noise cancellation (ANC), operation via the headphone handle, wireless charging and much more. The feature list of the OnePlus Buds Pro is long. The question is rather whether they work as well as the competition.
The OnePlus Buds Pro are available in gloss white or matte black, available to buy on oneplus.com and Amazon since August 25th. Direct competitors are currently the Apple AirPod Pro, Nothing ear(1) and Samsung Buds 2.
Just a quick word about the scope of delivery: the headphones are included in the charging case, silicone attachments in three sizes, a USB-A to USB-C charging cable and instructions.
Transducer: 11mm, dynamic
Frequency: 20Hz to 20kHz
Connection: USB Type-C, Qi wireless charging (2W)
Transmission technology: Bluetooth 5.2, A2DP 1.3, AVRCP 1.5, HFP 1.6
Range: 10 meters
Audio codec: AAC, SBC
Special features: Headphones: IP55 (water jets and dust)
Charging case: IPX4 (splash water)
Battery life: With ANC: up to 5 hours
Without ANC: up to 7 hours
Headphones: 2 x 40 mAh lithium-ion battery
Charging case: 520 mAh lithium-ion battery
Weight: Headphones: 4.35 grams
Charging case: 52 grams
Dimensions: headphones: 3.2 × 2.32 cm
Charging case: 6.01 × 4.91 × 2.49 cm
Colour: Matte Black & Glossy White
Premium design & chic charging case
When it came to design, OnePlus took a lot of inspiration from the Apple AirPod Pro. But that’s not a bad thing, because most “Pro” headphones are based on this design. Better well copied than badly invented. Nevertheless, the charging case and the headphones show enough typical OnePlus influences.
The simple charging case is comparatively thin and finished in matt black. There is a status LED, a glossy “OnePlus” lettering and a USB-C port on the case. This makes it look very inconspicuous and stylish, and its small size means it fits in any trouser pocket.
The headphones are – secured with magnets – well divided in the charging case. Their shape is almost identical to the Apple AirPod Pro: a pill-shaped head with a silicone attachment and a small stem. The silicone attachment and the head are in the same matt black as the charging case. The stem has a dark chrome look that magically attracts fingerprints. Nevertheless, the headphones look independent and elegant due to the color scheme.
The headphones have an IP55 certification, which means they are protected against dust (in harmful quantities) and water (water jets from any angle). The charging case, on the other hand, can only withstand splashing water (IPX4). Each earphone weighs a light 4.35 grams. The low weight is still important for wearing comfort.
Modern technology in a slim design
The OnePlus Buds Pro connect to the smartphone via Bluetooth 5.2, even with Fast Pair on modern Android smartphones. This means that the headphones are offered directly for pairing when the charging case is opened. Very convenient.
Dynamic drivers with a diameter of 11 mm are installed, with a specified sensitivity of 98 dB @ 1 kHz. The frequency response is given from 20 to 20,000 Hz. OnePlus smartphones even have Dolby Atmos support. You won’t notice this feature on typical YouTube videos, but you will on Netflix and other video services.
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There is currently no multi-connect or multipoint support. However, OnePlus has announced that it will deliver this function with an OTA. This allows two – or more – devices to be connected to the headphones at the same time and switch automatically depending on the signal. Practical, because a pair of headphones can be used for the computer and the smartphone without annoying manual switching.
The audio codes used in Bluetooth transmission are also important. The OnePlus Buds Pro offer SBC and AAC alongside. There is even a “Low Latency High-Definition Audio Codec” (LHDC) if the smartphone can handle it.
LHDC handles bit rates of 400, 560 and 900 kbit/s. The sampling depth is 24 bits and the sampling rate is 96 kHz. At OnePlus itself, this is currently only the OnePlus 9 series and all subsequent devices. The OnePlus Nord series etc. is not included. During the test phase I used AAC and had no problems with it.
In addition, there is even a “gaming mode” with compatible OnePlus smartphones, which is supposed to reduce the latency to 94 ms. Proprietary codecs such as aptX LL reduce latency to around 60 ms. Still, it’s a big step up from the traditional 160 ms.
Operation via pressure-sensitive areas
The OnePlus Buds Pro are controlled via pressure-sensitive points on the stem. Both headphones are set identically ex works, but can be adjusted individually. By default, single press starts/pauses playback, double press skips one song forward, and three presses skips one track back.
If you hold one of the buttons for about 1 second, you can switch between ANC, normal and transparency. At a duration of 3 seconds, the “Zen Mode Air” is activated, more on that later.
With OnePlus devices, the control can be adjusted directly in the Bluetooth settings, all other smartphones have to use the MyMelody app. There you can only adjust the control by pressing it three times and you can only choose between “Zen Mode Air” and voice assistant.
The built-in app on my OnePlus 8T shows the battery status of the headphones and the charging case, allows firmware updates, adjusting the “Zen Mode Air” and the triple press.
There is also a type of customized equalizer that is to be individually adjusted via a hearing test. The hearing test went through for me, but I couldn’t save the profile due to a bug.
Now to the previously mentioned “Zen Mode Air”. If you press the stems for three seconds, the headphones will play a predetermined track. This is supposed to be calming and relaxing. You can choose from birdsong, meditative sounds, the sound of waves and a campfire with the chirping of crickets. It is interesting that this track is stored on the headphones and does not require an active connection to the smartphone.
Wearing comfort for hours
One positive point right away: the headphones of the OnePlus Buds Pro can be used individually. Since the operation is the same for both stems by default, everything works perfectly.
Unfortunately, switching from stereo output to mono output does not work properly in the middle of a song. A short restart of the playback solves the problem. Also very nice: If only one headphone is used, it automatically switches to transparency mode.
The Apple AirPods popularized the stalk structure in the in-ear area. The OnePlus Buds Pro fit similarly well due to a very similar structure: Pleasantly loose, but still firm without much pressure build-up.
They don’t fall out of my ears even when jogging. But I had to press them into my ear again every 30 minutes. That’s OK. They don’t do well with headbanging or shaking their heads. In sports with strong head movements, caution should be exercised or over-ear headphones should be used straight away.
The wearer identification is very practical for the daily use of the OnePlus Buds Pro. This allows playback to be automatically paused and resumed. Since I can’t see any infrared sensors on the headphones, the detection probably takes place via the (inward-facing) microphones.
If you have headphones in your ear and one in your hand, you can start playback by covering them with your fingers. What exactly is measured is not clear to me. The wearer detection can be deactivated in the settings. It worked without any problems during my test period.
Due to their low weight of 4.35 grams, the OnePlus Buds Pro can be worn comfortably for a long time. I never had the feeling that I had to take them out of my ear for a short time. I’ve experienced something like this several times with bad in-ear headphones.
Good sound and mid-range ANC
The OnePlus Buds Pro deliver good audio quality. Not more but also not less. The bass is strong, but doesn’t cover the mids. The highs are pleasant and otherwise the sound is good. Music has a good stage, voices on the phone or podcast come across clearly. Of course, they don’t come close to really expensive headphones like those from Sennheiser or Bang & Olufsen.
The small headphones can get really (uncomfortably) loud, but they start with a slight hiss. Fortunately, the maximum volume is hardly ever used. In addition, the ANC helps to hide the surroundings, so that the headphones do not have to be set so loud in the first place.
Let’s now come to one of the most important pro functions: Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) or active noise suppression. Noises are detected by microphones and sound waves are generated via the loudspeakers, which attenuate these ambient noises. That is the short and simplified explanation. The advantage is not only that you get less noise when wearing the headphones. You don’t necessarily have to play the headphones at high volumes anymore either, since the environment is more or less quiet. This protects the ears and also the battery.
The current ANC kings are the Sony WF-1000XM4 and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds. Apple’s AirPods Pro are a little below, followed by the OnePlus Buds Pro. The ANC on offer is said to be able to reduce ambient noise by up to 40 dB, which is an above-average value. The OnePlus Buds Pro don’t offer top-class ANC, but they cost significantly less. At the ANC, the motto still applies: “Who pays more, gets more!”.
During a trip with the German train, I was able to test the ANC function extensively. The rattling and noise of the train was excellently filtered out. Even the quiet mumbling of passengers was not a problem. I was still able to hear the screams of children and loud conversations, but they were significantly muffled.
Since it rained heavily that day, I was a bit surprised that the OnePlus Buds Pro converted the rain noise to a slight hissing sound when ANC was activated and no music was playing. As soon as the music started, it was gone again. I noticed something similar with other “brighter” background noises, such as the rustling of leaves or the wind.
The results of the ANC depend heavily on the background noise and the music being listened to. Sometimes it’s worth disabling the ANC. But most of the time it does a good job. In the settings, the ANC can be regulated in three stages: “Noise cancellation”, “Intelligent” and “Maximum noise cancellation”. Unfortunately, so far there is no equalizer to adapt the sound to itself and the music. This can be delivered later with an update.
Long range, good voice quality with room for improvement
In short: the microphones of the OnePlus Buds Pro are good, especially for the price range. However, they sound very slightly tinny and have minimal reverberation, which is generated by intelligently filtering the ambient noise.
OnePlus calls the algorithmic noise cancellation “OnePlus ELEVOC”, but the headphones themselves are said to be built in such a way that they generally suppress wind and ambient noise somewhat. Incidentally, this filtering works surprisingly well: Running water taps and passing cars are filtered out well, if not completely.
I would certainly classify the voice quality in the upper range, but it could be even better. The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 should currently be the benchmark in this category. But the OnePlus Buds Pro don’t have to hide from it.
I was particularly pleased with the long range of the OnePlus Buds Pro, which is specified as 10 meters. I could leave my smartphone in my apartment and take out the garbage or go into the basement.
I was particularly surprised by the latter, since the floor is made of solid reinforced concrete. However, I didn’t have any disconnections. Even during my train ride, although many other passengers were using Bluetooth headphones, I did not have any interruptions or errors in the connection. This is excellent!
Battery lasts as stated, charging is quick
As much as I appreciate the various quick charge functions on smartphones, I love them on headphones. With the fast charging mode called Warp Charge, up to 10 hours of running time should be possible within 10 minutes of charging. The charging case is charged, which in turn charges the headphones.
The official battery life is 5 hours with ANC and there is an additional 23 hours via the charging case. With ANC deactivated, the headphones should last up to 7 hours and the charging case offers an additional 31 hours of runtime. This gives the OnePlus Buds Pro 28 hours with ANC and 38 hours without ANC.
During my testing phase, I mostly used the headphones at medium volume and the ANC was set to “Intelligent”. I was able to get up to 4 hours and 51 minutes with one battery charge. I used AAC as the codec. The specified 5 hours are only just missed. Without ANC activated, they lasted a full 6 hours and 39 minutes on one charge. This is a good value for the small headphones.
The Warp Charge mentioned above does a good job and fully charged the headphones and charging case in just under half an hour. If you have a Qi charging pad or charging station, you can also charge the headphones with it. But then it takes a little longer.
Conclusion: OnePlus Buds Pro
I’ve tried a few cheaper true wireless headphones over the past few years: Apple AirPod Gen 1, Apple AirPod Pro, Soundcore Q35, Huawei FreeLace Pro, Razer Hammerhead, and now the OnePlus Buds Pro.
I like the OnePlus Buds Pro the most when I list them. Although they are not the best in their class in all categories, they don’t make any mistakes and are fairly priced at 150 euros*. The battery life is good at almost 5 hours (active ANC), charging is quick, the ANC is good (enough), the case and the headphones are chic and practical. The slight hissing that some bright noises cause in conjunction with ANC can be improved with an update.
The only thing worth mentioning is that the possible LHDC codec is unfortunately supported by very few smartphones. Thus, the headphones can use a very high-quality audio codec, but in reality hardly any smartphone can.
Otherwise, for the price, I can really recommend the OnePlus Buds Pro to anyone looking for a good Android alternative to the Apple AirPods Pro.