OnePlus had some stellar buds with the OnePlus Buds Z last year, and with the Buds Pro earlier this year, so when the Buds Z2 came across my desk, I was pretty excited, they had the same 11mm drivers, as the Buds Pro, and they also came with ANC, should be a winner right? Well, with the pricing we got, maybe not so much.
- Strong Bass
- Actually has ANC
- Connectivity is simple and strong
- Bass prevalent above all else
- Pricier than it should be
- ANC is weaker and broader
OnePlus have a new set of entry-level/mid-tier earbuds, how do they sound, are they remotely comparable to the Buds Pro released a few months ago? Are they worth the price and is the ANC worth a damn, those are the questions we are here to answer?
- 4.5g per earbuds
- 40mAh battery per earbud
- 42g for the charging case
- 520mAh battery in the case
- USB-C with fast charging
- 10-minute charge for 5 hours of use
- 11mm dynamic drivers
- Frequency range 20hz-20Khz
- Bluetooth 5.2
- 40dBa active noise reduction
- 7 hours battery life with ANC off
- 5 hours battery life with ANC on
Audio & Use
I’ve actually been using the OnePlus Buds Pro for the last few months, so I’m pretty familiar with how these drivers can sound, and whilst the Buds Z2 are good, they’re obviously not on the same playing field as earbuds from the same company that cost 40-50% more. But the OnePlus Buds Z2 are clearly aiming for a very specific audience with the default tuning and EQ of the Z2, mid-bass and the bass in general, is wildly overpowered, which makes some tracks (Rob Dougan’s Clubbed to Death comes to mind) really come to life, but with some more, acoustic or orchestral tracks feels very out of place. If you listen to a lot more Avicii than Taylor Swift, these might be more for you.
With the mids and highs I wish there was more to report than they’re here and they’re okay, to be very clear, they do not sound bad, but for £100 there are other earbuds that do this part of the frequency range better by default, more neutral and lets the users decide if they want to go for more bass or tune the high end to be more sparkly.
The Z2s are also able to get incredibly loud, I’d almost argue too loud for safe listening practices. Modern phones tend to stop you from going too high and make you select higher volumes if you understand the risks, but in most cases, 40-50% volume on the Z2s was the higher end of comfortable for me, so keep that in mind.
Next, up is the Active noise cancelling, which is very nice to have, I’m pretty close to not recommending any earbuds that do not have it. Whilst the implementation of ANC on the Buds Z2 feels more like a filter pass rather than what the Buds Pro or the Huawei FreeBuds Pro do. If you are not a fan of the “aeroplane compression” effect, where it feels like there is some sort of vacuum removing noise, you will not like the ANC on these, even with the variable option in the settings.
The case is one of my least favourite parts of the Buds Z2, and one of the few things I would say is genuinely bad about these. Whereas the buds pro and other have moved to a smaller flatter case, the Buds Z2 are like an enlarged pill form factor, very noticeable in your hand, pockets and desk, very annoying and makes me want to carry them around less, it’s sad but the Case is, in my opinion just as important as the fit of the buds themselves. You could have the most comfortable and best sounding buds ever, but if keeping them on me or in my pocket is a pain, I’ll stop bringing them with me.
Lastly, I want to talk about settings and control. If you use a OnePlus phone, you do not need a separate app to control the Buds Z2, there are options inside the BlueTooth menu that allow you to change the ANC options, check for updates, take the earbud fit test to make sure they’re in your ears properly, this is cool. However, if you don’t use a OnePlus phone there is an app called “Hey Melody” that you need to download and it works like every other earbud app and is just a more stylised version of the settings that appear in the OnePlus Settings. It’s important to note that the Buds Z2 also incorporate Google Fast Pair so the first time you open the case a notification will pop up on a nearby phone saying “OnePlus Buds Z2 near you, connect?” and once you click connect, it all works as it should neat, more earbuds should come with this.
So I really like the OnePlus Buds Z2 for the most part, but at £99 MSRP, they’re pricing themselves out of the market, these sound good and have ANC, but so do many others that cost between £50 and £80, I do like the software features, this is something that a lot of earbud companies fail at, but take the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pros, currently on sale for £70, I would take those over these, I prefer the size and fit.
If OnePlus were able to keep the price of the Buds Z2 around the price of the original Buds Z I think these would be a near knockout, but at the current price, not so much, sadly.