OnePlus Nord Buds review: Easy on the pocket, big on sound

There is no shortage of budget headphones under the price of Rs. 3,000. The segment, although heavily populated, has become quite monotonous, with products offering similar features but different form factors. OnePlus’ new Nord Buds are the cheapest true wireless (TWS) stereo earbuds it offers and are around the same price range as the Realme Buds Air 2, JBL Wave 2 and Jabra Elite 2.

With a unique waterproof design and large 12.4mm drivers, the OnePlus Nord Buds are big on sound, but are they good enough to recommend in this saturated market? Let’s find out.

The OnePlus Nord Buds follow the typical hardware design that has become standard. The outer battery case is oval in shape, with perfectly flat sides. The buds themselves are also flat and oval except for the part that sits in your ear canal. The buds have short sticks that don’t stick to your jawline and help with proper weight distribution. The touch surface is located in a small circular area in the form of a metallic protrusion. I’m not a big fan of simplified touch surfaces, as it makes me extremely insecure about my touch inputs.

But this design is actually brilliant – the different texture and a slight dimple add to the predictability of my entries. The small stem is also extremely functional and helps to take advantage of the buds not only when removing them from the case, but also when removing or inserting them into your ears.

My only design complaint is the weight of the case and the sharpness of its edges. On several occasions, I sat a little too hard in a chair with the case in my pocket, and the sharp edges hit me in places they weren’t supposed to. Men, be careful!

The magnets in the case are perfectly sticky (yeah, that’s a thing now). They won’t let go of the buds even if you invert the case and shake it hard, but they’re not stuck so tightly that you’ll have trouble pulling them out. Also, the bud fit is sticky, again in a good way. They sit securely in your ear canal, even when you eat or sweat profusely after physical activity.

Aesthetically speaking, these aren’t the prettiest buds out there and they can be polarizing for people. I like the functional design rather than the trendy one; I think it’s a breath of fresh air, but a lot of my friends weren’t really convinced. I received the white variant, although there is also a black variant up for grabs. I’m not a fan of white headphones in general, and the white color of these chunky headphones pops a bit too much.

The Nord Buds are also IP55 certified for water and dust resistance. I put this to the test by showering with the buds, and although I was very careful with the whole act, they survived the abuse. I don’t recommend you take them in the shower, but if you do go out in the rain sometimes, you’ll be fine.

Dynamic 12.4mm titanium drivers power the Nord Buds. Along with that, you also get four mics for noise cancellation in calls. Be warned, these are only for calls, so there’s no active noise cancellation here. The soundstage is remarkably large for TWS headphones for this price, and the overall sound signature is warm. Supported codecs include SBC and AAC, so there are no advanced Bluetooth codecs here. While it’s acceptable at this price point, I would have liked to see at least Qualcomm AptX support.

Nonetheless, it’s a great accompaniment for those who enjoy listening to fast, bass-heavy songs. I threw a bunch of songs from different genres on it to try and test them as broadly as possible.

Songs by new independent Pakistani artists such as Abdul Hannan, Rovalio and Towers and EDM songs by Deadmau5 and Flemming Bassedow sounded lively, although there was a bit of clipping when the volume was turned up. Songs with elaborate guitar parts sometimes lacked mid frequencies to bring out the solos, but the rock music sounded nice on those.

Live music with multiple instruments was the area where headphones couldn’t keep up. These buds struggle to give you a sense of separation between instruments, but again, for the price, you can’t expect much.

The lack of active noise cancellation may be a bummer for some, as the Realme Buds Q2 offer this with a few hundred premium rupees, but it’s with a trade-off in sound quality. Passive noise isolation via the silicone gel tips is decent, and it does a good job of keeping ambient noise and street rumble at bay.

The mic quality is okay in quiet conditions, but as soon as you turn on your ceiling fan or step out into an area with street noise, you’ll hear the recipient of your call complaining. It’s no fun repeating yourself a hundred times to the person on the other end of the call, then resorting to your phone’s mic to sound better. The implementation of the noise isolation of the four AI microphones for calls could have been better.

The Nord Buds charging case houses a 480mAh battery, while each of the individual buds have 41mAh batteries. The claimed battery life is 7 hours, and I found it to be pretty perfect. I spent an entire working week without charging the case while using the buds for about 4-5 hours a day. Charging them is also very convenient. I juiced about 4 hours of juice just charging for 10 minutes. The case heats up a bit while charging, and it takes about 50 minutes to fully charge.

Coming from the OnePlus product line, Nord Buds app support is built into OnePlus phones. Not only that, even Realme, Iqoo, and Vivo phones with Dolby Atmos offer the same functionality, so you don’t need to separately install an app on those phones to access some additional features and controls.

But when it comes to other manufacturers, such as Samsung and Xiaomi, you’ll need to get the HeyMelody app from Google Play. Although the app is extremely basic, it does allow you to change each earbud’s gesture controls and EQ settings – that’s it! So you can totally do the whole life of the headphones without ever using the app. The equalizer gives you control of six frequency bands, so it’s well detailed. I also like the ability to change the gestures as it gives you control over how you want to use the buds.

Bluetooth pairing is quick, and the range is also satisfactory. I was able to go up to two full rooms from the smartphone at home before I started having jerky playback. The connection was also stable when traveling on the metro and shared bikes.

The low latency of 94ms is also useful when gaming and when watching movies and TV series. It ensures that audio and video playback is synchronized.

However, there is no multi-device switching, which is hugely disappointing as BT 5.2 supports it.

The OnePlus Nord Buds offer a unique hardware design and the right set of features including good build, big sound, IP55 certification, low latency and affordable price. The corners cut to get here, like not having ANC, might be overlooked given its price, but I was disappointed in the quality of the mic. If you need something with ANC, try the Realme Buds Q2. Alternatively, you could try the Jabra Elite 2 which recently got a price cut and offers slightly better sound despite lacking ANC. I wish there were headphones in this range with great mics that I could recommend, but there aren’t any at the moment.

OnePlus Nord headphones


OnePlus Nord headphones

What’s good?

  • 12.4mm Drivers
  • Waterproof and dustproof
  • Easy pairing
  • unique design

What is bad?

  • High Volume Audio Clips
  • No ANC
  • No cross-device pairing

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