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OnePlus Buds Pro 2
What we like
What we don't like
OnePlus Buds Pro 2
Ever since OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei left the company to form Nothing, OnePlus has struggled to find its stride. The side-by-side release of the OnePlus 11 and Buds Pro 2 has us thinking the old OnePlus might just be back. The OnePlus Buds Pro 2 combine cutting-edge hardware and software with a significantly lower price than the competition. With Android 13 supporting Spatial Audio, the earbuds have all the ingredients to take on the AirPods Pro. How do they actually perform? Find out in our OnePlus Buds Pro 2 review.
Update, May 26, 2023: Addressed a new firmware update and ensured all information is current.
What you need to know about the OnePlus Buds Pro 2
- OnePlus Buds Pro 2: $179 / £179 / €179
OnePlus announced the Buds Pro 2 in February 2023, a year and a half after the original OnePlus Buds Pro. The OnePlus Buds Pro are a bit more expensive than their predecessors, but that expense affords a more expansive feature set.
A near facsimile of the original Buds Pro, the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 share the same stemmed design and clamshell charging case. As before, the Buds Pro 2 earbuds are IP55-rated to resist dust and water, while the case retains the same IPX4 rating. Save for the new color palette, most of the changes take place under the hood.
The Buds Pro 2 are the company’s first earbuds to support Spatial Audio on Android 13. Like Apple Spatial Audio, Sony 360 Reality Audio, or Samsung 360 Audio, this is just Google’s take on object-based 360-degree sound. To separate the Buds Pro 2 from other earbuds with Spatial Audio, OnePlus teamed up with Hans Zimmer — yes, the film composer who orchestrated the score for Dune and The Lion King. Together, they created an exclusive EQ profile meant to elevate the Spatial Audio experience. At the time of this writing, Spatial Audio is only available to users that pair their buds with a OnePlus 11 phone. OnePlus has promised that eventually, anyone with a phone running Android 13 or later can enjoy immersive, multi-channel playback from sources like YouTube and Disney Plus.
OnePlus didn’t expend all of its resources on Spatial Audio alone. No, the Buds Pro 2 promise improved noise canceling compared to the Buds Pro, along with the newfound ability to create a custom EQ in the HeyMelody app (available for Android and iOS). With up to 48dB of noise cancelation, you’re getting the best ANC the company offers. As with any noise canceling earbuds, the performance is wholly dependent on how well the earbuds fit. Understanding that not everyone can easily achieve a good fit, OnePlus integrated an ear tip fit test into the HeyMelody app.
The Buds Pro 2 are the first OnePlus earbuds with Spatial Audio support.
We see an all-around connectivity improvement to the Buds Pro 2. These earbuds use Bluetooth 5.3 for greater connection stability and power efficiency compared to earlier versions of Bluetooth 5. Any device can enjoy reliable high-quality audio due to the four Bluetooth codec options (SBC, AAC, LDHC, and LC3). Like the original OnePlus Buds Pro, the Buds Pro 2 don’t support direct voice access to Google Assistant or Siri. Still, you can access your preferred voice assistant by double- or triple-clicking either earbud stem.
OnePlus is known for its fast charging, and the Buds Pro 2 share the same highly efficient charging rates as the Buds Pro. A 10-minute charge of the case and earbuds provides 10 hours of battery life, which is remarkable for any true wireless earbuds case. Standalone battery life is one hour longer than the Buds Pro 2 at six hours with ANC on.
The OnePlus Buds Pro 2 are available from OnePlus and Amazon. We expect more third parties will sell the earbuds as time passes. Listeners can choose between two colors: Eternal Green and Titan Black.
The Buds Pro 2’s Spatial Audio support puts them in tight competition with other flagship noise canceling earbuds. Spatial Audio with head tracking on the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 has an immediate and smooth effect. The earbuds’ inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensor, gyroscope, accelerometer, and magnetometer communicate quickly with the OnePlus 11.
Further, the spatial audio effect sounds great with compatible video content. I tested the feature using the ec-3 codec for a Dolby 5.1 teaser trailer for the movie Interstellar, and it vastly improved the experience, truly emulating a theater-like experience. The effect is particularly impressive at 1:30 when the score crescendos.
OnePlus’ noise canceling sufficiently quiets low and midrange frequencies. Train car noise become quieter with ANC enabled. When testing the Buds Pro 2’s ability to cancel noise in a controlled environment, I used the tracks Locomotive Train Sounds and Railway Express. I played the tracks through the Massdrop x Sennheiser HD6XX while the OnePlus Buds 2 Pro were in my ears. Under these conditions, the Buds Pro 2 made the train sounds significantly quieter and less distracting.
The buds support mono playback, which is great for commuting if you want to temporarily hear the world around you. Meanwhile, when I removed both earbuds, it immediately puased playback. Likewise, inserting them resumed playback with a minor delay. Thankfully, the buds will only resume playback when the sensors touch your skin; it won’t resume if you just place the earbuds in a pocket.
The OnePlus Buds Pro 2 are earbuds that can do just about anything at a great price.
Although the design is AirPods-like, OnePlus uses a reflective finish on each stem to differentiate the Buds Pro 2 from more basic AirPods competitors. I appreciated the ergonomic fit and interchangeable ear tips. The returning pinch-to-control command system we saw on the OnePlus Buds Pro is also easier to use with gloves than earbuds that use standard touch controls. This control method makes the Buds Pro 2 great for anyone who likes to listen to their tunes while experiencing all four seasons.
The water-resistant buds and case are another weather-friendly feature. Neither an unexpected rainstorm nor a sandstorm (however unlikely) will damage the Buds Pro 2, thanks to their IP55 dust- and water-resistant build. The case has an IPX4 rating, so I didn’t have to be precious about exposing it to some drizzles, either.
OnePlus’ HeyMelody app has come a long way since its inception, and the user experience is similar across operating systems. Google’s Spatial Audio is the only feature iPhone owners or people using outdated Android phones will permanently miss out on. Otherwise, everyone can access multipoint connectivity and the ear tip fit test. You get more advanced features, too, like a custom EQ module, personalized noise canceling, and “Golden Sound” optimization. This latter mode performs a hearing test to create a smart EQ tuned to your hearing abilities. Per my test, its effect primarily touches high frequencies. With the Golden Sound EQ enabled, I could perceive more harmonic detail than without it. On March 15, 2023, OnePlus released a firmware update (169.169.xxx) to improve the Buds Pro 2 and 2R sound quality.
Our favorite thing about the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 is the $179 price tag. These earbuds can do everything and cost much less than the competition. Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro 2 earbuds are the next most affordable competitor, and their original retail price is $229 — $50 more than OnePlus’ earbuds. We must give it to OnePlus: its earbuds can do almost anything. However, the execution isn’t always the most polished…
What’s not so good?
Although the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 are great value, they’re not quite a home run. While the Spatial Audio effect sounds great for video content, its performance varies across music streaming services. When I listened through Amazon Music Unlimited with Dolby Atmos, the effect was subtle and lowered the volume a bit, but when I listened in Apple Music, the audio quality tanked.
I went back and forth listening to the song You’re on Your Own, Kid by Taylor Swift in Apple Music and Amazon Music using the OnePlus 11 and the Buds Pro 2 alongside an iPhone 12 Mini with the AirPods Pro (2nd generation). Dolby Atmos was active in both music services. In the Apple Music environment, enabling Spatial Audio on the Buds Pro 2 significantly increased the volume. This volume boost occurred when using fixed mode or head tracking mode. What’s more, Swift’s vocals sounded hollow relative to when I disabled Spatial Audio. On the other hand, Apple’s implementation decreased the volume when engaging Spatial Audio in Apple Music. We’ve reached out to OnePlus to try to resolve this issue and will update this article when we hear back.
As addressed earlier, the ANC has its limits. Unfortunately, these earbuds don’t do much to cancel or block out upper-midrange and high frequencies. This high-frequency attenuation seems unchanged from the Buds Pro, which was one of our main complaints then too. Keyboard sounds and kitchen clanging make it through the earbuds, so listeners who work in noisy environments may need earbuds with more powerful ANC.
Transparency mode is a different side of the ANC coin, and OnePlus’ implementation could be improved too. With the Buds Pro 2’s transparency mode enabled, I noticed a boost to low frequencies. Ambient droning noises occasionally sounded as loud as important sounds like speech. When considering transparency mode, I usually opted for mono listening or refrained from wearing the earbuds altogether.
The OnePlus Buds Pro 2's spatial audio effect sometimes distracts from the listening experience, rather than enhancing it.
The Hi-Res audio moniker is another thorn in our side. Even though the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 are billed as Hi-Res earbuds, we know Bluetooth currently doesn’t have the bandwidth to support that much data throughput without compression. Other “Hi-Res” codecs, like LDAC, aren’t actually Hi-Res either, so it’s not just LHDC (which many non-OnePlus Android phones don’t support, regardless). This doesn’t mean the Buds Pro 2 sound bad — quite the contrary. LHDC and other “Hi-Res” audio codecs still transmit plenty of data, they just end up intelligently cutting high-frequency bands because humans can’t perceive them anyway. If you want wireless headphones that support lossless Bluetooth audio, you’ll need earbuds and a handset that support aptX Lossless.
Although this is a minor complaint, I wish the Buds Pro 2 featured volume touch controls. Listeners can customize the standard playback and listening modes from the HeyMelody app, but that’s it. Instead of swiping on the stems, I had to reach for my phone. This feels pretty dated, as most wireless earbuds support onboard volume controls.
Finally, the microphone quality also left me wanting more. When speaking from a quiet environment, voice transmission was good, but it failed to isolate my voice from background noise like keyboard clacking, as heard in the demo below.
OnePlus Buds Pro 2 microphone demo (Non-standardized):
How does the microphone sound to you?
OnePlus Buds Pro 2 specs
|OnePlus Buds Pro 2|
Personalized spatial audio with head tracking
Yes, support is limited to OnePlus 11 at launch but more Android 13 phones will support it later
Earbuds (ANC on, AAC): 6 hours
Earbuds and case (ANC on, AAC): 25 hours
Earbuds (ANC off, AAC): 9 hours
Earbuds and case (ANC off, AAC): 39 hours
Charging case and earbuds (ANC off, AAC): 10 minutes for 10 hours
Earbuds only (ANC off, AAC): 10 minutes for 3 hours
$179 / £179
OnePlus Buds Pro 2 review: The verdict
Undercutting the competition at $179 with plenty of flagship features, the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 are great earbuds for any Android phone owner. With good enough noise canceling and the option to customize the sound to your liking, OnePlus has nailed the fundamentals. Modern flourishes like the earbud fit test and Golden Sound mode further tailor the listening experience to each wearer’s hearing sensitivities.
Yet with all that glitters about the OnePlus Buds Pro 2, it’s not all gold. noise canceling, while better than the original Buds Pro, can’t compare to other company flagships like the Sony WF-1000XM4 ($278 at Amazon). Moreover, the transparency mode isn’t nearly as impressive as Samsung’s ambient aware or Apple’s Adaptive Transparency mode. Listeners who wanted pleasant spatial audio, may feel it’s little more than a party trick. And those who came to the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 seeking Hi-Res Bluetooth audio won’t find it. Again, Bluetooth lacks the bandwidth to support that much data without compression.
The OnePlus Buds Pro 2 bring flagship features at a mid-tier price.
Although the Buds Pro 2 are the company’s hero audio product, their price puts them in direct competition with mid-tier alternatives like the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 ($99 at Amazon). We recommend Samsung phone owners consider the Buds 2, which feature good noise canceling, an array of Galaxy-exclusive features, and a less bass-heavy sound to boot. Notably, the Galaxy Buds 2 are less durable (IPX2) than the Buds Pro 2 (IP55), but they’re still fine for exercise. The Galaxy Buds 2 originally retailed for $149, but dip below $100 every now and then. For even better noise canceling and battery life, we recommend the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro ($179 at Amazon) for Samsung users.
By design, it’s clear the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 are AirPods competitors. Any iPhone owner considering these should just get the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) ($199 at Amazon) instead. With the AirPods Pro (2nd gen), you get a similar feature set, but it’s specifically designed for the Apple experience. You also get smart features like battery optimization and hands-free Siri. I prefer how the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) fit and find the pressure relief vents more effective, mitigating the clogged ear feeling you can get when ANC is on.
To give Google’s Spatial Audio a spin on another device, check out the Google Pixel Buds Pro ($199 at Amazon). Spatial Audio aside, the Pixel Buds Pro fit comfortably and have very good noise canceling. You get a similarly bassy sound and can customize the EQ, as long as you have a phone with Android 10 or later. The hands-free, built-in Google Assistant feature is useful, and multipoint connectivity kept me tuned into all necessary devices. The Pixel Buds Pro tend to be a bit pricier, so you might want to wait for a discount.
Finally, if you’re an athlete looking to stretch your budget, we recommend the Beats Fit Pro ($159 at Amazon). These are among my favorite workout earbuds simply because they fit so well. Whether running, climbing, or cycling, the buds stay secure. Although Apple owns Beats, the Fit Pro works nearly as well on Android as iOS. The only exception is a lack of Apple Spatial Audio support when the Fit Pro are paired with an Android phone. For an MSRP of $199, the Fit Pro aren’t the most economical choice for workout buds, but they are great for exercise and daily use.
Top OnePlus Buds Pro 2 questions and answers
According to OnePlus’ official product page, “Spatial Audio is supported on OnePlus 11 on launch, and will be supported by more models in the near future.” During my testing, I also used the Buds Pro 2 with a Google Pixel 6 running Android 13, and Spatial Audio did not appear as an option.
Although the Buds Pro 2 have an IP55 dust- and water-resistant rating, they can’t withstand a dip in the pool.
You can use the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 for working out, because they fit well and have a durable build.
Yes, the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 are worth buying, especially if you want earbuds with a comprehensive feature set that cost less than the competition. The noise canceling is still quite good, especially for the price, and we love that any OS works with the HeyMelody custom EQ module. Although the Spatial Audio performance isn’t as impressive as Apple’s, you can expect it to improve with time.