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OnePlus Nord Buds
May 19, 2022
Case: 67.9 x 35.5 x 28.7 mm
Earbud: 27.8 x 20.7 x 23.5 mm
Smartphone maker OnePus has been dabbling in audio for a few years, with a variety of wired and wireless earbuds. Now the company is back with its newest, and cheapest true wireless product yet. The OnePlus Nord Buds is a very simple product, with few extra features or options, and a straightforward design.
We spent a week with the Nord Buds to see if the low price is enough to make it stand out.
Editor’s note: this review was published on October 12, 2022, and is the first version of the article. Updates will follow as the market changes.
People looking for a cheap pair of wireless earbuds will appreciate the simple experience the Nord Buds provides. The IP55 rating may also appeal to the more outdoorsy crowd.
What’s it like to use OnePlus Nord Buds?
The OnePlus Nord Buds is about as simple as a pair of cheap true wireless earbuds can get. This isn’t the most striking product on the market—it’s made almost entirely of matte black plastic, and the only physical design flourish is the glossy plastic disc on the side of each earbud. There are barely got any extra frills or features to note. However, simplicity has plenty of upsides.
Actually using the OnePlus Nord Buds is pretty easy. The earbuds feature the typical silicone tips, and the wide-stemmed design makes it easy to seat them in your ear. The stems mean you may have a little trouble putting on and taking off a mask from time to time, but they’re short enough that I don’t find it too common an issue. At about 4.8g per bud, these are lightweight and wearing them for extended sessions is comfortable.
While there are no stabilizing fins or wingtips, these OnePlus buds feel pretty secure. If you get a decent fit (and there are multiple ear tip sizes to help with that), this could do just fine for activities like running. The earbuds are also IP55 rated, so water and sweat shouldn’t pose any sort of issue.
How do you control the OnePlus Nord Buds?
Controlling the OnePlus Nord Buds is a pretty much bog standard experience for a pair of true wireless earbuds. The glossy panel on the sides of each bud is touch sensitive and you can control the Nord Buds with a series of taps. There are no real customization options in the HeyMelody app, only the ability to turn off the single, double, or triple tap ability, as well as activate the press and hold function for device switching, so what you see is what you get:
|Input||Tap||Double Tap||Triple Tap||Tap and Hold|
|Tap and Hold|
Should you use the HeyMelody app for the OnePlus Nord Buds?
You should install OnePlus’ HeyMelody app (iOS/Android), if only to receive firmware updates. The app asks for a lot of data collection permission right off the bat, and if that makes you uncomfortable, it may be nice to hear this is a pretty basic piece of software. There’s a simple EQ, with presets and the ability to set a custom profile, battery readings, and the ability to shut off controls as I mentioned before, and that’s about it.
At the start of the review period, a firmware update was available, which added Game Mode for lower latency and reduced audio-visual lag. It works, though noticeable lag wasn’t a factor during my time with the earbuds to begin with.
How does the OnePlus Nord Buds connect?
The OnePlus Nord Buds is a pretty basic pair of wireless earbuds, so it makes sense the connectivity options would be similarly standard. There’s no Google Fast Pair or H2-enabled quick pairing on Apple devices, so you pair it the old fashioned way whether you’re on iOS or Android. The earbuds connect using Bluetooth 5.2 and support the SBC and AAC audio codecs. It’s a shame that earbuds from a company that makes Android phones doesn’t feature a codec higher bitrate audio on Android devices like aptX—AAC can still be a little unreliable outside Apple’s ecosystem, even though it’s certainly improved over time. Basically, this is the minimum level of connectivity to have and not feel seriously out of date.
This is pretty straightforward stuff.
- Open the Nord Buds charging case without removing the buds.
- Hold the button on the back of the case down until the LED light on the front turns white and begins pulsing.
- Find the “OnePlus Nord Buds” in your device’s Bluetooth settings page, and pair.
- Remove the buds and start listening!
How long does the OnePlus Nord Buds battery last?
OnePlus claims the Nord Buds can last up to 7 hours on a single charge, and in our testing we found it comes close to that. With constant music playback, peaking at 75dB(SPL), the OnePlus Nord Buds lasted 6 hours, 27 minutes on a single charge, just over 30 minutes shy of what’s advertised. If you listen to music on the quiet side, you may well get past the 7-hour mark. According to OnePlus the charging case contains enough juice for an additional 23 hours of listening, and nothing during the review period has called that into question.
The Nord Buds can also do quick charging, and 10 minutes with the case plugged in will net you 5 hours of playback time. Unfortunately, there’s no wireless charging support, but after all, this is a $40 USD pair of wireless earbuds. Battery performance like this is decent, but not spectacular for true wireless earbuds—don’t expect to outlast a pair of AirPods or set a high watermark for sustainable product development.
How well does the OnePlus Nord Buds block out noise?
The OnePlus Nord Buds doesn’t feature active noise cancelling, so the only thing separating the noise inside your ears from the noise outside your ears is the earbuds’ passive isolation performance. What you get is a pretty average degree of high-end noise being blocked. It will cut the severity of exterior sounds like the clattering of dishes or chatter of people in a cafe, but not enough to block any of it out entirely. You won’t mistake these for open-back headphones, but you’re also not going to miss any doorbells—at least, not unless you turn the volume up very high (please don’t, noise-induced hearing loss is no joke).
How does the OnePlus Nord Buds sound?
The OnePlus Nord Buds feature a sound profile that’s pretty common for wireless earbuds. While the earbuds boost bass pretty notably up to around 100Hz, the earbuds’ frequency response otherwise sticks pretty close to our in-house preference curve, with minor intermittent dips in the mid and high range.
Lows, mids, and highs
Listening to a song like Words and Guitar by Sleater Kinney and Courtney Barnett sounds very nice coming through the OnePlus Nord Buds. The increased bass response makes the bass guitar come through a little more prominently than it otherwise would, but not enough to muscle out other sounds in the song. In fact, all the instruments sound clear and distinct, as do the vocals.
However, while simpler four- or five-piece band arrangements sound nice, tracks with more layered production can start to sound a little indistinct. In Viva Las Vengeance by Panic! At The Disco, the rumble of bass guitar starts to drown out the piano as the song builds in intensity, and pretty much just the attack of the drums is audible. The loudest parts of the song still sound plenty audible, but you lose a lot of detail in busier mixes with the Nord Buds.
Can you use the OnePlus Nord Buds for phone calls?
It still has some of the muffling that’s typical of this product category, but the OnePlus Nord Buds microphone actually sounds pretty good. Deeper voices sound loud and clear, and there’s no issue with sibilance sounding exceptionally piercing. However, the microphone does virtually nothing whatsoever to reject environmental noise, and while the sound of wind doesn’t blow everything out, the processing it applies to avoid this results in voices becoming seriously muffled and indistinct.
Basically, if you’re at home or walking in a quiet place, this will do quite nicely for phone calls. If you’re in not-so-ideal conditions, you better make it quick. Check out our simulated office and windy samples to see what I mean:
OnePlus Nord Buds microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
OnePlus Nord Buds microphone demo (Office conditions):
OnePlus Nord Buds microphone demo (Windy conditions):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Should you buy the OnePlus Nord Buds?
If you’re on the hunt for a bargain pair of true wireless earbuds, the OnePlus Nord Buds could be the right move. It sounds alright, it’s comfortable, and its battery performance is decent. The mediocre isolation and lack of ANC is a bummer if you’re on the hunt for a commute or gym companion, as the rumble of traffic and grunting of weightlifters will come through pretty easily. However, for under $40 USD, it’s hard to justify getting too nit-picky.
How does the OnePlus Nord Buds compare to the Anker Soundcore Life A1?
There aren’t a lot of worthwhile options under $50 USD in the true wireless space, but the Anker Soundcore Life A1 is one of the best. It’s a little more expensive than the Nord Buds, at $49.99 USD, but it supports wireless charging and it has an IPX7 rating. This means it’s not dust resistant like the Nord Buds, but it can safely handle total submersion in water, which is a big step up. The battery life is also superior, at over 8 hours on a single charge.
The sound profile here is very similar to that of the OnePlus earbuds, as is isolation performance and microphone quality. Basically, if you’re more concerned about the wetness of where you’re listening, this might be worth picking up over the Nord Buds, but you shouldn’t notice a big overall difference in experience with either.
What should you get instead of the OnePlus Nord Buds?
Apart from the Anker earbuds mentioned above, there aren’t comparably competent earbuds at a similar price to the OnePlus Nord Buds—at least not from companies other than OnePlus. If keeping costs as low as possible is your primary goal, it might be worth considering some wired earbuds. For instance, the Moondrop Chu is a little over half the price of the Nord Buds and it sounds much better—arguably it sounds better than earbuds that cost 10 times the price, even. Plus, it’s wired, so you’ll never run out of charge.
If something wireless is a must, you may need to look a little higher for some reasonable options. The Nothing Ear 1 goes for under $100 USD, and it sounds very nice, it has (admittedly so-so) active noise cancelling. The 1More ComfoBuds Mini also goes $99 USD, and it’s super comfortable, portable, and features excellent ANC. The sound can get a little wonky when you turn ANC on, but not necessarily in an unpleasant way.
Frequently asked questions
No, but you can pair the OnePlus Nord Buds to two devices at once. Device switching isn’t automatic—you need to press and hold the on-ear touch panel to do it (once you’ve turned the control on in the HeyMelody app).