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OnePlus Buds Pro 2 review: Buy these for the bassy sound, not the connectivity

oneplus-buds-pro-2-red-background.jpg

pros and cons

Pros

  • High-end look and feel
  • Solid ANC quality
  • Spatial Audio is as immersive as it sounds
  • Long-lasting battery life with fast-charging
Cons

  • Software and connectivity issues
  • Transparency mode is just decent
  • Works best with a OnePlus phone

more buying choices

The original OnePlus Buds Pro were fantastic. ZDNET tested the wireless OnePlus Buds Pro earbuds nearly two years ago, praising OnePlus’ first attempt at pro-grade headphones for their impressively clear-sounding audio and comfortable fit and finish. Now, the company is back with a sequel: the OnePlus Buds Pro 2

This time, OnePlus tapped Danish audio company Dynaudio to bring a pair of 11mm and 6mm drivers into the mix, which the company says up the ante in the bass department. These are also some of the first wireless earbuds to support Google’s version of Spatial Audio. With that, there’s a $30 upcharge, bringing the Buds Pro 2 up to $179 from the original’s $149. 

So, two years after the original OnePlus Buds Pro, how do the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 fare? More importantly, are they worth the new price tag? Let’s dive in.

Specifications

Weight

Earbuds: 4.9 g, Case: 47.3 g

Frequency response

10Hz – 40KHz

Sound unit

11mm and 6mm dynamic driver

Battery

Up to 9 hours per charge, total of 39 hours with the case

Connectivity

Bluetooth 5.3 LE Audio and Google Fast Pair

Durability

IP55 water resistance

Colors

Obsidian Black and Arbor Green


How do they look and fit?

When it comes to the design, the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 take an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach, with a nearly identical appearance to the original — and I’m not complaining. The matte black, glossy-stemmed buds that we received for testing have a high-end look and feel, and even the case looks more like a jewelry box than a typical charging capsule. 

The OnePlus Buds Pro 2 in black, held up in their case

June Wan/ZDNET

And while I’m usually picky about silicone ear tips, these were pleasantly comfortable. The silicone tips — coming in small, medium, and large sizes — are soft and uniform, fitting seamlessly with the earbuds’ minimal design. Opting for the small tips, I was pleased that they managed to remain in my ear and didn’t call for constant readjustment. I even found the Buds Pro 2 comfortable enough to wear all day, from work to my walk to the gym — fighting the sweat and pressure that builds up throughout the day.

Also: Bowers & Wilkins’ Pi7 S2 are music to my ears, but there’s a catch

My colleague June Wan tested the earbuds, too, but with the medium and large ear tips instead. From what he’s told me, the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 feel just like the first-gen model. They’re lightweight, the stemmed design keeps the buds in place without needing to be shoved into your ears, and the case is just as pocketable as the original. His only call-out with the Buds Pro 2 is the matte treatment that OnePlus is using this time around. At times, the smooth case can feel too slippery to open as you’re walking. And if you plan on tossing the case into a backpack, expect there to be micro scratches when you take it out. 

How do they sound?

I’ve been testing the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 with my iPhone using Oppo’s HeyMelody app and, before you cancel me, June’s been testing them with his OnePlus 11. Phew. 

As I’ve been putting the viral “playing Mario Kart music to focus” trend to the test, these headphones did a perfect job of highlighting the bright pops from sharper instruments like electric guitars while producing an ample amount of bass to keep the spirits high. Clearly, I got a lot of focusing done. 

OnePlus 11 with the Hey Melody app opened.

The HeyMelody app lets you adjust the noise control and other gesture functions.

June Wan/ZDNET

June had a similar experience when listening to music from his OnePlus 11. Bass is definitely the focus of the Buds Pro 2, and the headphones are tuned just enough to balance the thumping effect with the music. Another neat addition to the Buds Pro 2 is the built-in equalizer in the HeyMelody app, which now lets you customize your own frequency levels for a more personalized listening experience. There are presets too that you can choose from, like Bold, Serenade, and, oddly enough, Bass.

Also: Best noise-canceling earbuds and how they work

He also tested the OnePlus Buds Pro 2’s Spatial Audio feature, meant for when you’re watching surround-sound movies or just want a more immersive music session, and it worked as intended: Instruments and vocals adaptively change positions and distances as you swivel your head around, creating a more realistic output. Obviously, you’ll have to dig through Spotify’s and Apple Music’s catalogs for songs that support Spatial Audio before you can experience it in full.

OnePlus Buds Pro 2 next to the OnePlus 11

June Wan/ZDNET

On the flip side, OnePlus’ transparent mode isn’t quite… transparent. Rather, it does this weird thing of making external noises sound like they’re underwater. It’s slightly disorienting rather than helpful, and I ended up having to completely remove my earbuds to engage in or even hear a conversation.

Also: Want spatial audio for half the price of AirPods Pro? Try 1More

Lastly, we both experienced connectivity issues with the OnePlus Buds Pro 2, which leads us to believe that the unit we received was possibly defective. For example, the left earbud would randomly disconnect at times, causing any form of playback to pause abruptly. Then, there were moments when a laptop or phone just wouldn’t pair with the earbuds, even though OnePlus promotes them with multi-device connectivity. Expect an update here when we test a second pair. 

Battery life and charging

Fortunately, the OnePlus Buds Pro 2’s charging and battery life are not as inconsistent. The sleek charging case can top up via USB-C or wirelessly and provides the earbuds with up 39 hours of power per cycle. As someone who milks their battery life until the last possible second, I’m appreciative that the case features superfast charging, capable of adding 3 hours of playing time with only a 10-minute charge. 

Also: This foldable wireless charging stand is a multitasker’s dream accessory

As for their endurance, I’ve had no issues using the earbuds day in and day out. They last me from my morning commute to my lunch break and from post-lunch to my commute home, which is fantastic.

Bottom line

Here’s the thing, while the OnePlus Buds 2 Pro have a luxurious look and feel, I’ve found it difficult to justify their $179 price due to the underwhelming transparency mode and connectivity issues — if that turns out to be a consistent liability. And the reality is, off the top of my head, I can think of five earbuds that are cheaper and deliver around the same, if not better, sound quality, and that don’t have the same software hiccups.

So, why should you buy the OnePlus Buds Pro 2? I’d recommend them if you’re an Android user who can take advantage of the built-in Spatial Audio feature, and want earbuds that sound great without needing to be pressed into your ears to fit securely. Otherwise, I’d look at the below alternatives for a better bang for your buck.

Alternatives to consider


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