Excellent battery life
Audio quality isn't quite best in class
Buttons are fiddly
Wireless earphones are so commonplace we hardly give them a second thought. Now that headphone jacks are a rare bird, smartphone manufacturers across the board want a branded pair in their portfolios. OnePlus first launched the Wireless Bullets back in 2018 and updated them in the OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2 in 2019. This year, OnePlus is getting into the affordable headphones game with the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z.
When we reviewed last year’s OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2, we found the sound quality to be excellent and the quick-charging function to be particularly useful.
Can the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z set a similar benchmark in the affordable headset segment? Let’s find out in the Android Authority OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z review.
OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z review: How’s the design?
What you make of the design of the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z really comes down to your opinion on neckband-style earphones. I’m not the biggest fan, but there are certain advantages to being able to hang your earphones around your neck when you are not using them. And hey, you don’t have to worry about losing an earbud either.
The design is, for the most part, identical to the second-generation OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2 with a few compromises on materials. The Wireless Z exchanges all the metal bits from the OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2 for plastic. This isn’t a huge compromise given the difference in pricing.
The design accents from last year’s model have been toned down a bit, though it can still be difficult to tell the two apart from a distance. This goes doubly so if you’re sporting the black variant. The OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z also come in a blue and oatmeal colorway.
The construction of the Bullets Wireless Z is fairly straightforward. A rubber band wraps around the back of your neck and two plastic stalks form the ends. The right side includes a power button that doubles up for pairing and switching between two paired devices. The USB-C charging port is also located here.
The buttons on the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z are a bit fiddly, but the construction and quality of the cables is excellent.
An in-line remote is included in on the left. I found the buttons a bit too fiddly to use, just like on the OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2. This is one area where the company would have done well to make improvements.
OnePlus did an excellent job with the earbuds themselves. The earphones fit perfectly in my ear canals. The selection of included silicone tips is top notch, as is the quality of the cabling.
Additionally, the earphones are magnetic and the headset automatically switches off when you snap the pair together. Very convenient.
The OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z are IP55 rated, so you can take them for a run without worrying about sweat or rain.
Finally, the earphones are water resistant. The OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z are IP55 rated, so you can take them out for a run without worrying about sweat or a bit of rain.
Unlike last year’s model, OnePlus is not including a carrying case with the Wireless Z.
How do the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z sound?
The OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z might look like the higher-end Bullets Wireless 2, but there are substantial differences in the audio stack. The Bullets Wireless Z employs a single 9.2mm driver, compared to the two drivers of the Wireless 2. This has an obvious impact on sound reproduction.
The overall sound signature of the Bullets Wireless Z can be defined as laid-back, by which I mean warm, unexciting and non-fatiguing. These are the type of earphones you’d keep in all day long for listening to music as you work or do chores around the house.
Guitar heavy tracks lack bite as the reduced highs take the edge of the treble response.
The reduced highs are perceptible in instrument-driven tracks. Listening to guitar virtuoso Angel Vivaldi’s Adrenaline, the lack of bite on the guitar section was obvious. It lacked impact and was just a bit too far back in the sound stage.
Mids are a bit recessed too, as is often the case with earphones. Vocals come across clear enough, and it was a pleasure listening to Leon Bridges crooning on the stellar Texas Sun. Unfortunately, the lack of treble emphasis really held back the guitar work from shining through.
Finally, the lows have a low-end rumble but lack punch. Now, I’m not a fan of bloated bass, but listening to the latest album by Run The Jewels, the music simply lacked the visceral slam that the group’s hip-hop beats are known for. The unfocused bass of the Wireless Z can get fatiguing in the absence of overall volume and slam.
The reproduction of auditory space isn’t the most realistic: the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z make it sound like you’ve got speakers placed right next to your ears. This is a departure from the Bullets Wireless 2, which managed a reasonably expansive soundstage with a sense of depth. That said, the Wireless Z weren’t too bad and things like panning audio from the left to right channels were fluid. You could easily pinpoint instruments within the limited soundscape.
The OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z skip high-fidelity codecs such as aptX and aptX HD. Instead, you will have to make do with SBC and AAC. I don’t think that’s a huge loss. If all you do is listen to streaming music, you’ll be fine here.
I went in expecting a consumer-friendly sound signature, with extreme bass emphasis, but OnePlus appears to have dialed back things a bit too much. The Wireless Z are not bad-sounding earphones, but they don’t leave a memorable impression.
Is the microphone any good?
I tested voice calls both on my phone and with my MacBook. The microphone quality was perfectly adequate with both. Volume was on the quieter side when calling via Zoom and Google Meet, but the clarity was great. The OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z should suffice for anyone planning to make a lot of calls.
How’s battery life?
The OnePlus Bullets Z takes a big step forward with battery life. The earphones promise to deliver 20 hours on a single charge. In my experience they matched, and even exceeded, the rated battery life at times.
20 hours of battery life is fantastic and a 10-minute topoff delivers 10 hours of playback.
These wouldn’t be OnePlus products if they didn’t support Warp Charge. The fact that the Bullets Wireless Z can ingest 10 hours of playback time in a quick 10-minute charge is incredible. This came in very handy. It takes just under an hour to fully charge the earphones.
OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z review: Should you buy them?
If audio quality is your primary criterion for buying a new pair of earphones, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z wouldn’t be my first choice. In fact, I’d recommend sticking to wired options for that. What the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z offer is a consistent, reliable experience.
The audio quality is good enough to satisfy undemanding users with its bass-boost and dialed-back highs. Battery life is exemplary and build quality is rock solid. Additional niceties, such as support for quick switching between paired devices and water resistance, make the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z quite a value proposition. I’d have no qualms in recommending these to anyone looking for a reliable and affordable pair of Bluetooth earphones.