OnePlus Buds Z2 Review: Solid ANC Earbuds For Under $100


OnePlus Buds Z2 - A Decent Effort, Overshadowed At This Competitive Price Point

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Since OnePlus introduced the original and excellent OnePlus Buds ($79) a year and a half ago, the company has launched two more pairs of TWS (true wireless) earbuds – the affordable ($49) OnePlus Buds Z, and the higher end ($149) OnePlus Buds Pro with ANC and wireless charging. Today we’re taking a listen to OnePlus’ fourth set of earbuds, the brand new OnePlus Buds Z2 ($99), which feature ANC but lack wireless charging.

Basically, the OnePlus Buds Z2 are to the Buds Pro what the Buds Z were to the original OnePus Buds – lower specced, but also more affordable. So, what are these new TWS earbuds like? How do they differ from their higher-end predecessors? Is the $50 saving worth it? Read our full review to find out...

But first, don't miss our unboxing video of the Obsidian Black version here:

OnePlus Buds Z2 Design

The OnePlus Buds Z2 are available in Pearl White or Obsidian Black and are stored and charged in a pill-shaped plastic case that's virtually identical to the Buds Z's case from last year. It's shiny on the outside, matte on the inside, and features a multi-colored status LED in front, plus a USB Type-C connector and a pairing button on the back. Magnets hold the earbuds firmly inside the case.

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If the Buds Z2 look familiar, it's because they are almost identical to last year's Buds Z. The circular touch areas sport the same spun finish, the silicone tips are identical and come in the same three sizes, and the charging contacts are located in the heads of the earbuds, just like before. Otherwise, the Buds Z2 have slightly shorter stems, weigh a bit less (4.5g), and now boast three microphones for ANC.

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While the Buds Z2 don’t support wireless charging, the earbuds are IP55 water and dust resistant, and the case is IPX4 splash resistant.

OnePlus Buds Z2 Comfort & Sound Quality

We found the OnePlus Buds Z2 comfortable enough to wear even for longer periods of time. Silicone tips usually provide a consistent fit, and with three sizes to choose from (small, medium, and large), these earbuds will accommodate a variety of ear sizes and shapes. That being said, we mostly received an “average” result in the fit test offered by the OnePlus HeyMelody app – using both medium and large tips, no less.

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On the plus side, this imperfect fit didn’t seem to negatively impact ANC performance or the listening experience. The Buds Z2 sound fine overall, but we prefer a more neutral presentation – the kind of flat frequency response typical of studio headphones and professional IEMs (in-ear monitors) – and these 11mm drivers are too bass heavy for our tastes. But if that’s your jam, you’ll feel right at home with the Buds Z2.

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While imaging and soundstage are decent, the mids and highs are a little thin, and lack the depth and detail of the original OnePlus Buds. Beyond the prominent (but clean) bass, we think that out-of-the-box, the Buds Z2 sound more balanced than the fancier Buds Pro. The ANC works reasonably well too and is on par with other sub-$200 TWS earbuds. Sony’s WF-1000MX4 earbuds ($279) remain the ANC champion, though.

As for call quality, the Buds Z2 sounded pretty clear on both ends of the conversation, even with noise in the background.

OnePlus Buds Z2 Connectivity & Battery Life

We tested the OnePlus Buds Z2 with the Google Pixel 6 Pro, the OnePlus Nord 2, and the iPhone 11, and we didn’t have any issues. These earbuds are automatically detected by OnePlus phones (just flip the case open), but you’ll probably want to install the OnePlus HeyMelody app on other Android handsets and iOS devices. Alternatively, simply press the pairing button for two seconds to pair manually.

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Battery life is on par with the competition, and in-line with OnePlus’ claims – 5 hours (earbuds only) and 27 hours (earbuds plus 4.2 case refills) with ANC enabled, and 7h / 38h without. We played music for about 4 hours (ANC turned on), and recharged the earbuds fully about four times before the case ran out of juice. The status LED in front conveniently lights up red for charging, green when charged, and white for pairing.

The Buds Z2 support 7.5W “fast” charging (5V / 1.5A). A full charge takes about 90 minutes, and 10-minute charge nets 5 hours of use.

OnePlus Buds Z2 Features & Software

Besides packing ANC, the OnePlus Buds Z will automatically pause music playback when removed, and include programmable touch areas on each earbud. By default, simply tap once for play / pause (or to answer / hang-up a call), twice for the next track, and three times for the previous track. Tapping and holding switches between ANC and transparency modes, while tapping and holding longer cycles between paired devices.

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OnePlus HeyMelody app main screen

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OnePlus HeyMelody app controls screen
 

To change these default controls, run the fit test, or update the Buds Z2’s firmware, you’ll have to install the OnePlus HeyMelody app (Android and iOS), or use any recent OnePlus phone, which comes with the same functionality baked into the Bluetooth settings. While the app is intuitive, it lacks a few important features, like a way to disable wear detection (auto-pausing when removing the earbuds), or even EQ presets.

These missing software features are particularly annoying when the $49 Buds Air 2 TWS earbuds with ANC from OnePlus’ sister brand Realme include them.

OnePlus Buds Z2 Pricing & Verdict

Ultimately, the OnePlus Buds Z2 are exactly what you’d expect – a scaled-down, more affordable version of the OnePlus Buds Pro. Despite being a little bass heavy for our tastes, they sound decent, are comfortable to wear, and offer competitive ANC and solid battery life. While they are missing some software features that are available on competing (sometimes cheaper) earbuds, the Buds Z2’s unfortunately also inherit one of the Buds Pro’s biggest drawbacks – a questionable value.

In the same price bracket, $99 can get you TCL’s superb MoveAudio S600 and Nothing’s funky Ear (1), which both sound better out of the box, and both offer ANC along with wireless charging. As such, it’s hard for us to recommend the Buds Z2 -- as competent as they are -- over these competitors at this price point. So let’s hope that OnePlus adds those missing software features sometime soon, and perhaps lowers the price tag a bit before the holidays. Because as more affordable TWS earbuds go, the Buds Z2 are a pretty solid starting point.

Hot Hardware Approved Award
 hot  not
  • Decent sound
  • Competitive ANC
  • Reliable connectivity
  • Solid battery life
  • Questionable value
  • A little bass-heavy
  • No in-app EQ presets
  • No wireless charging

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