OnePlus Buds Pro Review: Getting into the Premium TWS League

A promising Pro debut

by: - Last updated on: September 12th, 2021
Key Takeaways
  • The OnePlus Buds Pro are the brand’s first TWS targeted at a more premium segment, after the more budget-friendly Buds and Buds Z.
  • The buds come with different levels of ANC, fast charging, and very good sound quality, as well as a number of smart features.
  • At Rs 9,990, they go up against some tough competition, including the likes of the Galaxy Buds Live, the Enco X, and the AirPods 2, but have enough to stand tall against such rivals.

It might not make as many waves as its phones, but OnePlus’ rise in the TWS segment in India has been nothing short of dramatic. At the beginning of 2020, the brand had no offerings in the Indian TWS market. Instead, it launched two TWS in 2020, and those took it to the number two slot in the market, ahead of the likes of Samsung, Apple, Xiaomi, Realme, Oppo, Sony, and a few others. While both these TWS were launched in the budget segment, with one priced at Rs 4,999 and another at Rs 2,999, the brand has now decided to move up the price ladder. Hence, its latest TWS, the OnePlus Buds Pro, are very much a premium offering.

oneplus buds pro review

Them premium looks

They do wear that premium tag well in terms of both design and specs. The squoval (square with slightly oval corners) case in which they come might seem a little routine, although the “OnePlus” embossed on it does glow gently in the light. The buds themselves look stylish with shiny metallic stems that protrude from the buds, giving them the – the white ones have metal-colored sticks that stand out from the white buds, while the black ones have the same metallic sheen but in a much darker shade that blends in with the color of the black buds.

The buds and case are made of plastic, but both are sturdy and rather interestingly, while the buds have an IP55 rating making them dust and sweat-resistant, the case too has an IPX4 water resistance rating (a rarity in the segment). In addition, there are different tip sizes in the box and a USB Type-C cable for charging.

The buds look a little like the AirPods Pro, which is not a bad thing, really. And we would recommend the black ones over the white ones. They are more subtle. Those preferring a bit more bling would like the white ones better – its case also has a slightly more ceramic-like feel to it as compared to the matte one of the black unit.

Buds with smarts – them Pro feels

Get them into action, and one cannot help but notice the number of “smart” features that OnePlus has packed into them. You can use them with OnePlus devices without downloading an additional app (you would need to download the Hey Melody app for other devices) – you will be able to see the earphones in the Headphones setting under Bluetooth when you pair the devices. Pairing is simple on all the platforms – you switch on Bluetooth on the device, press the button within the case, and then pick the Buds Pro from the available devices.

heymelody app

It is as you are setting up the Buds that the special features start hitting you. You get the option of trying out a test to see if the Buds fit – and it is detailed enough to tell you if a particular bud needs to be slightly adjusted or a different ear tip needs to be tried. Then there is a special audio profile that can be created for you by making you take a very basic listening test – what OnePlus calls a OnePlus Audio ID. It claims to optimize the earbuds as per your hearing and give them a sound boost of sorts. We could not actually tell the difference before and after the profile was created, but perhaps there was something subtle in there.

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Active noise cancellation gets some brains too. You have three levels – Faint, Extreme, and Smart. Smart, as you might have guessed, tries to gauge external noise and then adjust the ANC accordingly. Shades of Jabra, who have done some stellar work in this regard. You also get ear detection where the music pauses when you remove one of the buds. There is a transparency mode to let you hear what’s happening around you as well. And you can find the buds by making them ring if you have misplaced them in a reasonably close range or see where they were when they went out of range.

A few misses, but this is OnePlus…lookout for updates!

All of which is pretty brainy stuff. There are a few misses, though. The most obvious is multi-point connectivity which would have allowed us to connect to two devices at the same time and switch between them. There is also, oddly enough, no equalizer or even basic frequency boost settings on the app. And while there are plenty of controls on the Buds themselves, there is no way to control the volume without actually going to the device playing the music – again, a bit of a downer. Mind you, this is a OnePus product, so we would not rule out these features coming to the device via an update – multi-point connectivity is evidently on the cards and could be called “Dual Connection.”

Speaking of updates, they can be delivered via the app across platforms and directly to OnePlus devices, which is quite something when you consider that some TWS tend to favor certain brands (generally their own) in the update department.

A very sound investment

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Two 11 mm drivers handle the sound on the OnePlus Buds Pro. And well, these earbuds do sound good. There is a slight, but very noticeable, stress on bass, but it is never overwhelming. No, it will not appeal to bass heads, who like to feel the rumble in their ears – it is definitely not as prominent as on the Sony XB 700 TWS or the Jabra Elite series, but you can sense the beats just being a tad heavier. Thankfully, it never compromises the overall sound of the OnePlus Buds Pro. If you love underground and dance music, these will sound just perfect for you and are also great for watching shows that have explosions aplenty (watch The Avengers series). Gaming does have a touch of latency, with the sound coming just a little after the action onscreen, but then that is the Achilles of most TWS.

All in all, the OnePlus Buds Pro have excellent mainstream sound. There is slight stress on the bass, but you will hear vocals and sharper instruments clearly as well, although not as well as on the more balanced Sennheiser Momentum Free. It is not a very different sound signature, but it is a very popular one. Rock and classical music purists might find the trebles (sharper sounds) not as prominent as they would like, but even they would love the gentle boom of the drums and the clear vocals.

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The Buds Pro come with Dolby Atmos support, but that is only with select OnePlus phones. So while the effect is good when watching shows and videos, it is nowhere in the league of Apple’s spatial audio implementation. Interestingly, there is no support for aptX and LDAC formats, but we do not see too many folks missing them, given the level of audio quality they are getting. Incidentally, it delivers impressively high volumes – we think hearing them at around seventy percent should suffice for most users, unless you really want the sound to hammer your eardrums (sometimes you do, and it is okay!).

A very white noise sound investment too – very Zen (sorry, Asus)

Its audio signature might be very mainstream, but there is one audio feature on the OnePlus Buds Pro that we have not seen on any other TWS. That is the Zen Mode Air. Just as OnePlus devices have a Zen mode that let you disconnect from the world and get some peace, the Buds Pro have a Zen Mode Air that lets you listen to what many call white noise, or in simpler terms, sounds that actually soothe the senses.

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You can get them from the Hey Melody app or from the OnePlus headphone settings, and even save the one you prefer to the buds so that you can invoke it the next time you are feeling a little tired and need simple sounds to soothe your frayed nerves. Current options include a very chirpy Morning Sunrise, a very Zen-ny Meditation that is actually an instrumental track, a slightly water-infused Summer Seashore, a crackling wood and sparks laden Nighttime Camping, and a quietly peaceful Iceland. We would have liked to see that all-time favorite, Rainfall, somewhere in the mix, but all accounts are adding more sounds. Of course, once again, this is OnePlus – there will be updates! Still, this is a terrific addition to the TWS and one that we wish other brands picked up, too – right now, many of us rely on third-party apps for those relaxing white noise moments.

Killing the sound (the ANC factor), and good call handling too

One of the most talked-about features of the OnePlus Buds Pro is active noise cancellation (ANC). As we mentioned earlier, the buds come with three levels of ANC. And well, they all work decently, without exactly delivering anything jaw-dropping. Faint lets a few more external sounds drift in and is perhaps the middle ground between ANC and the Transparency mode (which actually slightly enhances external sounds, letting you hear what is going on around you).

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We suspect most folks will be using the Extreme mode as it actually does block out a fair bit of sound – the traffic noise gets dulled, cafes become quieter (apart from the odd clash of cutlery), and if you are at home, the sounds of the ceiling fan and air conditioners recede. The Smart mode seems a little underwhelming, to be honest, and not as impressive as what we have seen on some Jabra devices. We could not really spot any adjustment in ANC levels. Perhaps it was too subtle to catch. We just ended up keeping the ANC set to Extreme as that was the most effective.

In terms of overall performance, this is not quite AirPods Pro or Sony and BOSE level TWS ANC, but it is impressive and on par and at times seems even better than what we saw (heard, rather) on our current sub-Rs 10,000 TWS favorite, the Oppo Enco X.

Call quality, which can be a bit of a stumbling block on TWS, is very good as well, with the people to whom we talked having no issues hearing us at all. However, background noises did seem a little lower, even when we got calls from our colleagues using the buds in noisy conditions.

Decent battery

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Battery life on the OnePlus Buds Pro is reasonable enough. You get about four to five hours on the buds themselves with ANC on (add another hour or so if you turn off the ANC – and you can, the snug fit keeps out a lot of noise). The case adds about four recharges with ANC on and about five or six if you keep ANC off – the official figures are 28 hours with ANC and 38 hours without for the buds and case combined. And those are good numbers. A single charge should be able to get you through close to a week of normal usage.

There is support for Warp Charge and Qi-certified wireless charging – ten minutes charge off a OnePlus Warp charger could get you 5-6 hours of audio at moderate volume levels, and in a neat trick, you can actually the buds wireless by placing them on the back of your OnePlus 9 Pro after activating reverse charging on the phone – mind you, it is horribly slow, so we would recommend sticking to charging over the wire.

Surprisingly complex controls

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If there is one area where the OnePlus Buds Pro lose out a little, it is on their interface. You control the buds by pressing their stems – or rather pressing what seemed to be a hidden button on them. Unfortunately, it is bang in the middle of the stem, so pressing the base will not help – just press the stem in the middle, and you will get a beep to know your command has been registered.

The command system itself does take a little getting used to – one pinch (what OnePlus prefers to call presses) to pause or resume playing, two pinches to move to the next track, three pinches to the previous track, a pinch and hold for one second to switch between noise canceling and transparency mode and pinch and hold for three seconds to invoke the Zen Air mode.

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You do get used to it, but honestly, we found the pinching system to be a little more complicated than the simple tap and swipe on other buds -you end up having to use two fingers rather than one. The lack of customization options also was a little disappointing – there is no way to customize one of the commands to summon Google Assistant or Siri (in fact, the only command you can customize is the triple pinch which you can change from going to the previous track to the next track). We also missed the option to increase or decrease volume from the buds themselves.

And ironically, while OnePlus devices come with their own app for the OnePlus Buds pro, finding that app can be a challenge – it is under Bluetooth, and no, you cannot create a separate shortcut for it on the phone but will have to go to settings every time you need to tweak them. Oddly enough, using the Buds through the Hey Melody seems easier, as you connect the Buds and just open the app! It is a rather odd situation coming from a brand known for keeping its interfaces clean and simple, and we are sure that it will get better in the coming days (hey, OnePlus, updates!).

A promising premium league debut

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So should you be getting the OnePlus Buds Pro? For their price of Rs 9,990, they are a formidable proposition, with very good sound that often has just the right stress on bass. Throw in very decent ANC and battery life into the mix, and we can see folks getting very tempted by these, especially those who already possess OnePlus devices (and that is a large number).

However, there is competition around – Samsung’s eccentric (bean) shaped but excellent Galaxy Buds Live are available at a lower price and also bring ANC to the table. And if the pristine sound is a priority, then the original Sennheiser Momentum TWS are also now available at a price in the vicinity of the Buds Pro. There is also the little matter of the Oppo Enco X, which some might feel actually have better overall audio quality (they certainly handle higher frequencies and higher-pitched sounds better). Lurking in the range are also the TWS OG, the AirPods 2, which might not have the sort of features the OnePlus Buds Pro have but remain iconic, and the Lords of Functionality for the iOS crowd.

But the very fact that the OnePlus Buds Pro can be mentioned in the same league as these tells you something about how good they are. Of course, they are not perfect (indeed, what is?) and have a few eccentricities, but the OnePlus Buds Pro belong right up in the premium league of TWS.

Pros
  • Good sound quality (just the right stress on bass)
  • Good ANC
  • Very good call quality
  • Water resistance for buds AND case
  • Zen Mode Air
Cons
  • Slightly fiddly UI
  • No multi-point connectivity
  • No volume control on buds
  • No virtual assistant support
Review Overview
Looks & Appearance
Sound
Interface
Battery
Price
SUMMARY

At Rs 9,990, OnePlus Buds Pro go up against some tough competition, including the likes of the Galaxy Buds Live, the Enco X, and the AirPods 2, but have enough to stand tall against such rivals.

3.9

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