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OnePlus Nord Buds Review: A Compact and Affordable TWS

When OnePlus introduced the Nord in 2020, it was the company’s first smartphone outside of its core range, and was priced considerably lower than its main number-series models. The Nord smartphone range has grown considerably since then, and has now been extended to include audio products. Among the company’s many recent launches is the OnePlus Nord Buds true wireless headset.

Priced officially at Rs. 2,999, but available for Rs. 2,799 at the time of this review, the OnePlus Nord Buds is the company’s most affordable true wireless headset right now. As with Nord-branded smartphones, this too is an affordable and more basic true wireless headset compared to the better equipped OnePlus Buds Z2 and OnePlus Buds Pro. There are no fancy features such as active noise cancellation, but this pair of true wireless earphones promises good sound and long battery life. Is this the best true wireless headset under Rs. 3,000 that you can buy right now? Find out in this review.

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The earpieces of the OnePlus Nord Buds have a fresh design, with large and tactile touch areas for controls

 

Interesting new design, fast charging on the OnePlus Nord Buds

OnePlus’ design language for its true wireless earphones has been fairly consistent thus far, featuring curves around the earpieces; rounded, slim stems; and charging cases devoid of sharp lines. The OnePlus Nord Buds goes in a completely different direction with notably larger stems on the earpieces, and large, distinct touch areas for controls. The charging case is also boxier, with sharp edges and flat surfaces for the bottom and top.

Available in two colours, Black Slate and White Marble, the OnePlus Nord Buds is quite unique-looking, with the mirror-like touch-sensitive areas on each earpiece grabbing the most attention. The earphones have an in-canal fit, customisable using replaceable silicone ear tips in different sizes. Although the earpieces have a glossy finish, they look neat, and the white unit I had didn’t attract much grime or dust.

Three pairs of ear tips of different sizes are included in the box, along with a short USB Type-A to Type-C charging cable. The earpieces are IP55 rated for dust and water resistance. The charging case has a large OnePlus logo on the top while the USB Type-C port for charging and the pairing button are at the back. There’s a single LED indicator on the front. I found the shape and size of the case a made it a little inconvenient to keep comfortably in my pocket.

Touch controls on the OnePlus Nord Buds are fairly convenient and easy to use, thanks to the large, tactile touch-sensitive areas on the earpieces. These are customisable through the HeyMelody app, and it’s possible to control playback, invoke the default voice assistant on your smartphone, and quickly switch between the last two paired devices, all with touch gestures. The app also shows the battery levels of the earpieces and charging case, and lets you switch between four equaliser presets and update the firmware on the earphones.

At the time of my review, only the HeyMelody app on Android supported the OnePlus Nord Buds; the iOS version did not detect these earphones even when paired. The Nord Buds are said to support OnePlus Fast Pair, and you should be able to see all the settings and customisation options for the earphones directly within the Bluetooth menu on supported OnePlus smartphones, without any need for the app. However, this didn’t work on my OnePlus 9 (Review). I had to pair the earphones normally, and the Bluetooth menu only showed basic pairing options, like with any regular Bluetooth headset. I’m hoping this is fixed with a software update.

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There is no ANC on the OnePlus Nord Buds, but the in-canal fit offers decent passive noise isolation

 

The OnePlus Nord Buds have 12.4mm dynamic drivers, and support Dolby Atmos sound on select OnePlus devices (OnePlus 7 or higher, but not the Nord series). For connectivity, the earphones use Bluetooth 5.2 with support for the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs. There are two microphones per earpiece, and there’s AI noise reduction for improved voice clarity on calls.

Battery life of the OnePlus Nord Buds is very good for the price, with the earpieces running for around five hours on a single charge at moderate volume levels and the case providing a little over three additional charges for a total runtime of 20-21 hours per charge cycle. Fast charging means you should get five hours of listening with 10 minutes of charging, and it took around 25 minutes to fully charge the case and earpieces.

Good sound, useful quick switch mode on the OnePlus Nord Buds

Although many would consider the OnePlus Buds Z2 to be the successor to the OnePlus Buds Z, the OnePlus Nord Buds better fits that role. While there are features such as fast charging and Dolby Atmos support, the core experience is focused on delivering good sound quality, and for its price, I think OnePlus has got this right.

Starting with Hot Like Dimes by Pretty Lights, the big drivers of the Nord Buds immediately showcased impressive volume capabilities. Even at around the 50 percent volume level, these earphones delivered a loud, immersive listening experience, aided well by the in-canal fit that provided good noise isolation. The bass-friendly sonic signature made for plenty of thump and drive in this electronic sample-based track, particularly the start of the track which had an impressive atmospheric feel.

Despite the aggression in the lows, the OnePlus Nord Buds never pushed too much, thanks to careful tuning that improves on what the similarly positioned OnePlus Buds Z offered. That said, the mid-range and highs felt just a bit held back compared to the lows. Listening to Wherever You Go by The Avalanches, the vocals and soft elements were clean and enjoyable to listen to, but the strong bass in the beats in the middle of the track definitely captured my attention more than anything else.

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Battery life on the OnePlus Nord Buds is very good, and there’s also fast charging

 

The OnePlus Nord Buds falls a bit short when it comes to detail. Although the sound is entirely comfortable and easy to listen to even at low volumes, it isn’t as revealing and cohesive as the Oppo Enco Air 2 Pro which costs just a bit more at Rs. 3,499 and also features active noise cancellation. The Nord Buds will suit popular genres well, but buyers looking for a bit more nuance and tonality in the sound won’t be particularly impressed.

Dolby Atmos support on OnePlus smartphones seemed to make a small difference in the soundstage when playing supported tracks in Apple Music, but the effect felt a bit unnatural, and I preferred the sound without this. The Quick Switch feature worked well when I had to switch between my iPhone and the OnePlus 9 or laptop. It works practically as well as multi-point connectivity, if you can handle a wait of around three seconds to complete each switch.

Connectivity on the OnePlus Nord Buds was stable and hassle-free in my experience, with the earphones working without trouble at distances of up to 4m from the source device. Call quality was also decent, both indoors and outdoors, but I found that I needed to increase the volume a bit when I received or placed calls, and then had to quickly drop the volume again for music.

Verdict

OnePlus has managed to establish its Nord sub-brand with affordable, value-for-money smartphones, and the first Nord-branded audio product sticks to that philosophy. The OnePlus Nord Buds headset offers a reasonable amount of performance for under Rs. 3,000, including a good design, decent sound quality, and useful features such as fast charging and Quick Switch.

That said, the lack of active noise cancellation on the OnePlus Nord Buds does put it at a disadvantage compared to the competition, particularly the very good Oppo Enco Air 2 Pro which retails for just a bit more at Rs. 3,499. If you’re a OnePlus fan or want a punchy, fun-sounding pair of earphones for less than Rs. 3,000 and can manage without ANC, this is a worthwhile pick.



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