OnePlus Buds Pro Review: Terrific Features, Tunable Sound

OnePlus Buds Pro Review - Fully Loaded ANC Earbuds

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After releasing the excellent $79 half in-ear OnePlus Buds last summer (now just $59), followed by the decent $49 full in-ear OnePlus Buds Z last fall, OnePlus just launched its most stylish and expensive TWS (true wireless stereo) earbuds to date, the $149 full in-ear OnePlus Buds Pro, which crank things up a notch by adding ANC (active noise cancellation) and wireless charging to the standard feature list.

While OnePlus is clearly targeting Apple's $249 AirPods Pro (currently $179 on sale) and Samsung’s brand new $149 Galaxy Buds2, it’s also competing with more affordable, yet quite capable, TWS earbuds with ANC and wireless charging, like Nothing’s $99 ear (1) and TCL’s $99 MoveAudio S600. So where do the OnePlus Buds Pro fit in? Do they sound any good? Are they worth the ambitious $149 price tag? Let’s dig in and find out.

But first, watch our unboxing video of the Glossy White model here:

OnePlus Buds Pro Design

Just like last year’s OnePlus Buds, which were “heavily inspired” by Apple’s original AirPods, the OnePlus Buds Pro obviously harken back to Apple’s AirPods Pro. While the shape is similar -- basically a bulb with a silicone tip and a short, pinchable stem -- the finish is different. Our Glossy White review unit has a matte white bulb and chrome stem, and the Matte Black model has a matte black bulb and smoked chrome stem.

OnePlus Buds Pro 13

Besides matching colored silicone tips, the bulb also features a grille, mics, sensors, and two contacts for charging. The Buds Pro’s case is different from Apple’s and closer in design to Samsung’s. It opens like a makeup compact, but is shaped like a small rectangular pillow, complete with tapered edges. Our Glossy White case is glossy on the outside, but matte on the inside, and the Matte Black case is all matte.

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There’s a multi-color status LED on the front of the case (red for charging, green when charged, white for pairing), and a hinge and USB Type-C port in the back. Inside the case, you’ll find recesses with pogo pins to store and charge each earbud, plus a pairing button. Magnets hold the earbuds securely in place, even if you shake the case with the lid open. The Buds Pro’s case supports Qi-compatible wireless charging too.

In addition, the earbuds are rated IP55 dust and water resistant, while the case is rated IPX4 splash resistant, so OnePlus has got you covered while you’re working out.

OnePlus Buds Pro Comfort & Sound Quality

Unlike the OnePlus Buds which are half in-ear earbuds that you just place in your ear, the OnePlus Buds Pro are full in-ear earbuds with silicone tips that you insert in your ear canal. This design makes ANC a lot easier to implement since it offers some passive noise isolation as well. It also ensures a more secure fit, especially when being active. On the flip side, some people find having silicone tips more invasive and less comfortable.

The Buds Pro are small and light (4.35g each), and come with three silicone tip sizes -- small, medium, and large. We had to use the large tips for ANC to work properly, but unfortunately, this size made them difficult to wear comfortably for more than 2-3 hours at a time. Then again, we often run into this problem with full in-ear earbuds, so this criticism isn’t specific to the Buds Pro. Obviously, your mileage will vary.

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Sound quality is a mixed bag. We prefer a very neutral and flat frequency response, like what you’d get from studio headphones. However, the Buds Pro are bass heavy by design, just like the OnePlus Buds Z. There’s also a dip in the mid-range, and the highs roll off quickly. While the cheaper OnePlus Buds sound great without any adjustments, some folks may not happy with the way the OnePlus Buds Pro sound out of the box but you can still dial things in.

Fortunately, OnePlus provides an app that lets you tweak the audio (in earbud) just enough to fix the default sound signature. While there is no EQ in the app, the OnePlus Audio ID feature allows you to adjust the Buds Pro’s sound profile. It’s basically a hearing test designed to tailor the audio to your own hearing characteristics. By pretending to hear quiet bass test tones when we didn’t, we tricked the app into lowering the bass response.

OnePlus Buds Pro 08

We did the reverse for the mids and highs, pretending not to hear the quieter test tones, which tricked the app into boosting those frequencies. Check out the table below for the sequence of “yes” and “no” responses we used to improve the Buds Pro’s audio performance. We found the resulting sound is definitely more pleasant -- particularly the mids -- though we never fully tamed the bass, and the highs are sometimes harsh once corrected. Your ears, however, may lean toward the out of the box configuration of course, since this is all subjective really. 

Regardless, it’s likely that the highs roll off by design because the 11mm drivers can’t reproduce those frequencies properly without getting harsh. Regardless of our tweaks, the Buds Pro never sounded quite as neutral as the cheaper OnePlus Buds, or TCL’s MoveAudio S600. On the flip side, OnePlus do a really nice job with soundstage and imaging. Here the Buds Pro match the original OnePlus Buds, and best Nothing’s ear (1).

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Most neutral OnePlus Audio ID settings

Calls sounded pretty clear on both ends in our tests, even in noisy environments. The Buds Pro’s 3-mic setup also handles wind noise quite well.

OnePlus Buds Pro Connectivity & Battery Life

We used the OnePlus Buds Pro with Google’s brand new Pixel 5a and OnePlus’ very own Nord 2 and didn’t experience any connectivity issues. The earbuds also worked just fine with our iPhone 11. Pairing is as easy as flipping the case open near a OnePlus phone then following the instructions. You can also press and hold the pairing button for 2s to pair manually, or install the OnePlus HeyMelody app and follow the instructions.

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OnePlus claims the Buds Pro will last up to 5 hours (earbuds) and 28 hours (earbuds + 4.6 case refills) with ANC enabled and 7h / 38h with ANC disabled. In our tests, we managed to listen to music for about 4 hours with ANC enabled, and recharge the earbuds with the case about four times from a full charge. That’s perfectly acceptable, and matches both OnePlus’ numbers, and what the competition delivers.

The Buds Pro support 7.5W (5V, 1.5A) wired “Warp” charging -- providing 10 hours of use from a 10-minute charge -- plus 2W Qi-compatible wireless charging.

OnePlus Buds Pro Features & Software

Controlling the OnePlus Buds Pro involves pinching / squeezing the stems, and is rewarded by a satisfying “click” sound. Pinch once briefly on either earbud for play / pause, or to answer / hang-up a call. Squeeze twice on either earbud to skip to the next song. The triple pinch is programmable for each earbud. It defaults to skipping to the previous song, but can be set (in the app) to activate your favorite voice assistant.

A long squeeze (2s) of either earbud lets you switch between ANC and transparency modes. Pinch even longer (3s+) on either earbud to activate Zen Mode Air, a mode that plays one of five calming nature sounds stored in the earbuds. You can change this sound in the app; Summer Seashore is our favorite. By default, music playback automatically pauses when you remove one of the earbuds, but this can also be set in the app.

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Built-in app on OnePlus phones

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OnePlus HeyMelody app for Android
 

Speaking of the app, it’s baked into the firmware of most OnePlus handsets, and accessible in the Bluetooth menu on these phones. But it’s also called OnePlus HeyMelody, and is available in the Play Store for other Android devices, and in the App Store for iOS users. As you’d expect, the app lets you update the firmware, change various settings, and tweak the audio (in earbud) using the aforementioned OnePlus Audio ID feature.

The app also includes an earbud fit test, making it easy to pick the right silicone tip size. Unfortunately, the app is a little buggy. It sometimes fails to connect to the earbuds and often reports the case battery level to be 0% when it’s, in fact, not %0. Making things worse, the app also randomly disables the OnePlus Audio ID feature, so you have to enable it again manually to enjoy your preferred sound profile.

ANC works reasonably well -- on par with Nothing’s ear (1), but worse than TCL’s MoveAudio S600. Then again, none of these earbuds match the level (or pricing) of the ANC provided by Sony’s outstanding $279 WF-1000XM4 TWS earbuds, or by the best ANC headphones on the market today. Set your expectations accordingly. You get three levels of ANC on the Buds Pro -- faint, smart, and extreme -- but the difference is subtle at best.

Overall, this is a robust feature set, but we find the squeeze / pinch controls slightly unintuitive, and lacking in terms of customization. For example, there’s no way to control volume other than reaching for your phone. The app itself also desperately needs a proper EQ. Hacking the OnePlus Audio ID feature like we did isn’t the right way to tweak the audio, nor is dialing your phone's main EQ settings really. Zen Mode Air is pretty cool, though, and we’d love more sound choices.

OnePlus Buds Pro Pricing & Verdict

In the end, the OnePlus Buds Pro might a hard sell for $149. We certainly like the stylish design, and most people will find them comfortable enough to wear for several hours. Connectivity is solid, battery life meets expectations, and ANC gets the job done. The Buds Pro also pack a nice set of features -- including wireless charging and iOS support -- plus some fun extras, like Zen Mode Air.

However, at $149, the Buds Pro simply didn't sound good enough out of the box for us to flat out recommend to everyone, not when Nothing’s ear (1) and TCL’s MoveAudio S600 sound more neutral, and offer similar features (like ANC and wireless charging) for just $99. Yes, you can use OnePlus Audio ID to tweak the audio, but it might not be convenient for some. Add the Buds Pro’s unintuitive controls to the mix, and things get even murkier.

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Hopefully, OnePlus will make the Buds Pro significantly more competitive by lowering the price to $99 and adding EQ functionality (in earbud) to the app. We’d be all over that. Regardless, the OnePlus Buds Pro (Glossy White and Matte Black) will be available on September 1 for $149 from OnePlus in the US and Canada. The Buds Pro are also coming to a bunch of countries in Europe and Asia, details TBD.

Editor's Update, 8/23/21 - 9:20 AM: Like Myriam, I also found the OnePlus Buds Pro to have muted mids and bass that was too heavy out of the box. However, I found in working with the Buds Pro app and my phone's main EQ settings, I was fairly quickly able to tune the acoustics of these ANC buds, such that I was enjoying satisfying sound with just a few minutes of tweaking, with more natural mids, and tighter more balanced bass response. I would agree that the Buds Pro definitely needed more tuning out of the box than the standard OnePlus Buds, which sound great at their defaults and are an excellent value. However, I really like the Buds Pro acoustically after a bit of careful tuning and think they're a solid value at their MSRP, though I agree there may be better ANC earbud values out there today. Then again, OnePlus does tend to put up deals earlier and more often than most, so keep an eye out for potential discounts down the road. It's also worth mentioning that OnePlus does a pretty good job with updating and tuning product performance post launch, so firmware and software updates could improve default acoustics in the future as well. Regardless, as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or in this case the ear. I think the Buds Pro can sound great for most ears, with just a tweak or two.
approved hh
 hot  not
  • Stylish design
  • Decent sound once tuned
  • Competitive battery life
  • Reliable connectivity
  • Competent ANC
  • Wireless charging
  • Questionable Value
  • Too bass heavy out-of-the-box
  • No proper in-earbud EQ
  • Unintuitive controls
  • Buggy app


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