OnePlus Buds Pro Review

OnePlus delivers affordable ANC and a water-resistant case

4.0
Excellent

The Bottom Line

The true wireless OnePlus Buds Pro offer a lot of value for the price, with solid active noise cancellation and a water-resistant design that includes both the earpieces and charging case.

MSRP $149.99
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Pros

  • Bass-forward and bright sound signature
  • Good noise cancellation for the price
  • Water-resistant earpieces and case

Cons

  • App lacks EQ
  • Sound signature not for anyone seeking accuracy

OnePlus Buds Pro Specs

Type In-Canal
Wireless Yes
True Wireless Yes
Connection Type Bluetooth
Water/Sweat-Resistant Yes
Active Noise Cancellation Yes

2021 has been a banner year for noise-cancelling true wireless earphones. While just a smattering of high-quality models were available as recently as late 2020, we now have a plethora of attractive—and surprisingly inexpensive—options to choose from. At $149.99, the OnePlus Buds Pro fall on the more affordable end of the spectrum and offer plenty for the price, including a bass-forward sound signature and above-average active noise cancellation (ANC). And in a design decision we hope to see more of, both the earpieces and the charging case are resistant to water, as opposed to just the earbuds. For the best true wireless experience in this price range, we still recommend Anker's Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro earphones, which deliver slightly better ANC along with customizable EQ, but the OnePlus Buds Pro are a compelling alternative if you're looking for a more durable design.

A Water-Resistant Design, Down to the Charging Case

The Buds Pro are available in matte black or glossy white models, with an AirPod-like, stem-based design. The in-ear fit is secure, with three pairs of eartips in small, medium, and large sizes, but no extra fit stabilizers like ear fins. During a sweaty workout, it’s possible these won’t stay in place as well as exercise-focused models, but for everyday wear, they fit just fine.

On-ear touch controls respond to pressure and provide aural feedback when pressed, which is useful because touch-sensitive controls are often easy to misfire. The controls are mirrored, so a single tap on either earbud controls playback and call management, a double tap skips forward a track (or rejects incoming calls), and a triple tap moves backward. You can also adjust the controls in the app to a degree.

OnePlus Buds Pro lifestyle

The earpieces have an IP55 rating. The first 5 means they're strongly protected against dust ingress, but aren't completely dustproof. The second 5 refers to their water-resistance level, and means the earbuds can withstand mild water pressure projected from any direction, but they can’t be submerged. This is a relatively modest water-resistance rating, but most of the noise-cancelling true wireless earphones we’ve tested are only IPX4 (with no stated dust resistance and even less water resistance), so the Buds Pro are actually near the front of the pack in this category. 

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In a surprising move, the case is also water resistant, with an IPX4 rating inside and out. That may not sound like a big deal (as noted above, IPX4 is a modest rating), but this is the first case we’ve tested with an interior that has any level of water resistance whatsoever (the Klispch T5 II True Wireless Sport Earphones come with a completely waterproof charging case, but it only applies to the exterior). You still can't put wet earbuds in the charging docks and expect things to go well, but if the case is open and gets exposed to some misting, it should survive.

OnePlus Buds Pro

In addition, the charging case has an above-average build. Not only is the matte surface easy to grip (we didn’t test the glossy white model), but the lid seems to open with a smoother motion than most models we test. The look is minimalist and cool, with the OnePlus logo etched into the top panel with some shine to stand out from the matte surface. There’s a USB-C port on the rear panel for the included USB-C-to-USB A cable. The cable, interestingly, isn’t black, but has white ends and a red sleeve for the wiring. It looks a little like a White Stripes-themed ensemble when everything is side by side. Internally, the case has a pairing button, and externally, a tiny status LED. 

The HeyMelody app, a proprietary Android/iOS app for OnePlus and Oppo audio devices, offers a clean user interface and firmware updates. There are on-screen buttons for switching between ANC on, ANC off, and Transparency mode. Zen Mode Air is a useful collection of relaxing nature sounds that can be blended with white noise. You can also customize on-ear controls. In addition, there's an Ear Fit Test and an Audio ID feature that's harmless to try, but not necessary for most users—it creates a custom sound signature for you based on a hearing test. For what it's worth, I would’ve preferred a multi-band, customizable EQ instead so I could come up with own sound signature.

Internally, 11mm dynamic drivers deliver a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz, with a 16-ohm impedance. The Buds Pro are compatible with Bluetooth 5.2, and support AAC and SBC Bluetooth codecs, but not AptX.

OnePlus estimates the Buds Pro’s battery life to be roughly five hours with ANC on or seven hours with ANC off, with 23 to 31 hours of charge in the case, depending again on ANC usage. Your results will vary not only with ANC, but with your volume levels.

OnePlus Buds Pro Noise Cancellation and Audio Performance

After we received a “perfect fit” rating from the Ear Fit test in the app, we tested noise cancellation and audio. When it comes to ANC, the circuitry dials back low-frequency rumble (like you’d hear on a plane) effectively, and also does an above-average job with mids. In testing, a recording of a busy restaurant played through near-field monitors at a high volume was tamped down significantly in the lows and mids.

Where the Buds Pro falter a bit is with high-frequency noise reduction. That’s the case with most ANC in-ears, however, but the Buds Pro add an audible high-frequency hiss to the equation (which is also fairly common and not unpleasant; it's more like white noise). And like the similarly priced Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro earphones, the Buds Pro let a thin layer of high frequencies through in any noisy scenario, which can sound like added white noise.

While you can adjust the ANC in the app between three levels, we didn’t notice a major difference between them most of the time. The ANC doesn’t seem to impact audio performance no matter which level you choose (and it shouldn't, but that’s not always the case with affordable noise cancellation).

For audio, on tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the Buds Pro deliver a substantial low-frequency thump. At top, unwise listening levels, the lows don’t distort, and at moderate levels, the bass still sounds robust.

See How We Test Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the Buds Pro’s general sound signature. The drums get some extra thunder to them, but never veer into wildly unnatural territory. Callahan’s baritone vocals get a nice blend of low-mid richness and crisp high-mid detail. The higher-register percussive hits are bright and snappy, and the acoustic strums also have some added high-frequency presence. This is a sculpted mix, with rich, deep lows matched with bright highs. The mids aren’t scooped out, but they're dialed back a bit.

OnePlus Buds Pro

On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives plenty of high-mid presence so its attack retains its punchiness in the mix. The vinyl crackle and hiss usually relegated to background status also take a step forward here, so the highs are certainly not neglected. The lows aren’t either, though—the loop gets some added thump, and the sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with plenty of deep, low power. It’s not like the subwoofer-level low-frequency attack we hear on some seriously bass-boosted models, but the drivers are able to reach down to some of the lowest frequencies and push out added rumble. The vocals on this track are delivered clearly, with plenty of higher-frequency presence, and they manage to avoid sounding overly sibilant.

Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, are crisp and robust in the lows. The lower-register instrumentation takes a step forward without sounding overly boosted, and the higher-register brass, strings, and vocals are bright and detailed through the Buds Pro’s drivers. Is it accurate? Not quite, but the sculpting here suits the recording, and things sound clear, bright, and never wildly unnatural despite the boosting.

The mic offers solid intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone, we could understand every word recorded clearly, with minimal Bluetooth distortion in the mix. The mic signal is also strong, so callers should have no trouble understanding you on a clear connection.

Plenty for the Price

The OnePlus Buds Pro get most of the big things right, with a secure fit, an easy-to-operate design, and a better water-resistance rating than much of the noise-cancelling competition. The ANC itself is good for the price, and the audio performance is bass-forward and scooped, but balanced. We'd really like to see adjustable EQ, especially because the sound signature is so sculpted, but either way, the Buds Pro are a good alternative to the AirPods Pro for $100 less. That said, our favorite pair of noise-cancelling true wireless earphones under $150 remains the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro, which get you better ANC performance and a more adjustable sound signature for $20 less than the OnePlus Buds Pro. For the best noise cancellation in the category, meanwhile, you'll need to spend a lot more on the $280 Sony WF-1000XM4. But if you're looking for the most water-resistant pair of the bunch, OnePlus is the way to go.

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About Tim Gideon

Tim Gideon

Contributing Editor Tim Gideon has been writing for PCMag since 2006. He specializes in reviewing audio products, and is obsessed with headphones, speakers, and recording gear.

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OnePlus Buds Pro