OnePlus Nord Buds 2 Review: Cheap Buds To Beat

  • Great value for price
  • Active Noise Cancellation
  • Solid sound and ANC
  • Decent hear through
  • Connectivity issues
  • Some case foibles

If you're on the hunt for a good pair of true wireless headphones or TWS, you are about to sail some treacherous waters. You can trip and fall in a random direction and there is a really good chance you'll land on a different pair of TWS. So many different TWS try to copy arguably the most popular brand out there – AirPods. That's not a terrible strategy, but it's not particularly attractive either. Of course, that is subjective.

OnePlus has two sets of wireless earbuds on the market — the premium OnePlus Buds Pro 2 and now the OnePlus Nord Buds 2. OnePlus Nord is the brand's budget lineup, and these buds follow that tradition — at least when it comes to the price tag. In reality, and in practical use these buds are punching way above their weight class, and they're really much better than they have any right to be.

There are still some missing features an audiophile or tech nerd might want, but overall, it's hard to argue with the offering here. I've been using the OnePlus Nord Buds 2 for about a week and a half, provided by OnePlus, and this is my full review.

The upgrades

As the name suggests, these buds are the second generation of OnePlus Nord Buds, and there are some notable differences. The design is largely the same including the pill-shaped charging case and the large stems that extend down from your ears. You get the same seven hours of playback time and an additional 30 hours with the case, totaling 36 hours overall. You also get the same five hours of usage after just 10 minutes of charging and the same IP55 Dust and water resistance.

But the two biggest changes here are in the addition of Active Noise Cancellation, and the price. For the latter, you'll pay an extra $20 at $59 which elevates the OnePlus Nord Buds out of "cheap" territory and into "reasonable" territory. But when you consider the former addition, ANC, that's certainly an acceptable compromise. So let's dive in here and talk about the overall experience.

Average across the board

What you're left with, at this price point, is a pretty average set of earbuds. They don't sound amazing — at $59.99, one can hardly expect them to. The Active Noise Cancellation is not amazing — you get the idea. But the point is, for what these buds cost, they're pretty average, which is a good thing. You get very solid sound from songs like Lindsey Sitrling's "Roundtable Rival" (if you haven't picked up on it by now, this is my go-to song for testing earbuds) where the bass gets just enough thump to be noticed. Songs like Anthrax's "Only" sound a bit flat, except for the bass.

Of course, the equalizer can do a lot of heavy lifting in this department. There's a preset called "Bold" which helps to lift a lot of the mids and treble while keeping the bass around the same neighborhood. The app doesn't show you what these settings are, which is a bit unfortunate, but my guess is it punches up the neighborhood of the 4k to 8k frequencies and the 16k just a bit less. It was easily my preferred EQ setting during my review period.

This is great, but a headphone shouldn't have to rely on an equalizer to carry them. Then again these are $60 TWS earbuds, so it's in line with expectations. In case you hadn't noticed, this is something of a theme throughout the review.

Introducing ANC

Active noise cancellation is new to this generation of OnePlus Nord earbuds, which is a lovely addition. Active noise cancellation is not unheard of at this price point. Companies like Earfun (a real company; I'm not making that name up) ship decent ANC earbuds for about half this price typically. Earfun has durability concerns for sure, so you get what you pay for. Let's move on.

The Active Noise Cancellation on these buds is also pretty good, but not amazing. It will drown out the noise from an open car window, but the ANC easily gets overwhelmed by the wind in that same window. Fortunately, if you close the window a bit, the ANC recovers pretty quickly. Often on other buds, when ANC gets drowned out, you need to turn it off and on to reactivate it. The OnePlus Buds 2 are smart enough to bring it back on its own, once you remove the offending wind of course. That being said, better ANC would not have that overwhelming problem.

One other note I noticed regarding ANC is when you activate and deactivate it, the earbuds beep to indicate that change of state, but that beep actually drowns out the audio briefly, so you can miss some detail in the audio. That's a bit off-putting. I'd rather just hear the tone and the music at the same time. It's not a big deal, but a note for the future.

Hey! Melody is here!

On the OnePlus Buds Pro 2, the settings can be found buried in the Bluetooth settings of a OnePlus phone. If you don't have a OnePlus phone, you need to download an app called HeyMelody, which is a sort of white-label app used for a lot of generic earbuds. The OnePlus Nord Buds 2 don't have that tight integration, meaning it's HeyMelody or bust. 

On the OnePlus Buds Pro 2, I dinged OnePlus for using this app. For this set of buds, I don't mind as much, though I think it's weak because the integration isn't there. That being said, I would argue that OnePlus should develop its own app for the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 (for non-OnePlus devices), and while they're at it, make it compatible with the OnePlus Nord Buds as well. But for this price, I'm much more forgiving.

The HeyMelody app does what you'd expect. It allows you to adjust what taps do for earbud controls, show battery status, update firmware, and control the aforementioned EG. It's a pretty standard app, with nothing particularly special about it, and it's a necessary compromise since (obviously) not everyone in the world will use a OnePlus phone. 

Connectivity is questionable

The main problem I ran into is one that I don't often talk about when discussing earbuds — connectivity. So, let's start off by putting things into perspective; I have a stupid job. My job requires me to use a wide variety of devices including phones, tablets, and laptops, all of which you could reasonably be expected to connect your earbuds to. When I had to move these buds between devices, they would not connect unless I reset them first. 

Even if the buds hadn't reconnected to the previous device (because I turned off Bluetooth) they would not connect to the next device until I pushed the reset button. This happened for multiple devices in all three categories, so near as I could tell it wasn't the devices, it was the buds.

Now, let's put that into perspective. Is this a huge problem for the average person? Not as much, but potentially, yes. Your everyday, average person can be expected to have a phone, a tablet, and a computer, and these buds will not move smoothly between them. 

But if a normal person only wanted these buds for one phone and only switch every 27 months (statistically speaking) then there's no problem here at all. It's not that big of a deal, but in my life, which is admittedly complicated and niche, it was annoying.

Case and non-touch

The case for the OnePlus Nord Buds 2 is fairly big and a tad bulky. Putting that into perspective, I mean bulky for a set of earbuds. It's a bit on the thick side. It's not a major deal breaker, especially considering the 36 hours of battery the case holds. The case also doesn't have wireless charging, which is a bit of a bummer, but not the worst thing in the world at this price point.

The buds can at times be hard to put into the case. The space for the buds has a circular cutout for the main part of the earbud, and another for the silicon ear tip, resulting in a sort of figure-eight for each bud. The narrow part of the figure eight is almost wide enough to accommodate the round part of the bud, but not quite so much as to actually allow it so a few times pulling out and putting the buds back in, the bud got wedged in that area.

Finally, the stems that stick down from the ear are wide and flat and not touch-sensitive, which to me seems like a missed opportunity. OnePlus could have done something with that space; perhaps it could have used it as a secondary touch surface for volume controls with the Nothing Ear (1). Again, for this price point, I won't harp too much on this, but it's still worth mentioning.

Wrapping it all up

For the price, which is $59 in the OnePlus store online, it's hard to find a major fault with these earbuds. They're not amazing, but at this price, they don't need to be. While I will miss the lower price point of the original OnePlus Nord Buds, the addition of Active Noise Cancellation, and six additional hours of listening time, the extra $20 is worth it, even if it is a 50% increase. There's just a lot more to like here. 

As for sound, they are not the latest and greatest, like the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, the Sony WF-1000XM3s earbuds, or even the Nothing Ear (2) — and believe me that last point is a good thing — but they undercut all of those on the price. You can pick up two sets of these buds for the price of (or less than the price of) any of those others. If you're not an audiophile (and let's face it, you're not buying Bluetooth earbuds if you are) the sound from these buds is perfectly acceptable, and with some EQ tweaking borders on good. You get all of that for under $60, and that's good enough.