OnePlus Buds Pro 2 review: Iffy performance drags down otherwise nice earbuds

Sometimes “pretty good” isn’t good enough.

That’s the case with OnePlus’ new flagship earbuds, the OnePlus Buds Pro 2. These $180 headphones do a lot of the things you’d expect from a pair of earbuds at this price point: their sound quality is more than acceptable, they offer plenty of customization options, and the battery life is really impressive.

However, Bluetooth bugs and inferior active noise cancellation compared to rivals like Apple Beats Fit Pro Keep the Buds Pro 2 away from size. Anyone who buys these will probably be satisfied, but you can do better without dropping a lot more money.

A little facelift

OnePlus Buds Pro 2 earbuds on a solid color background.

The new buds.
Credit: Kyle Cobian/Mashable

OnePlus Buds Pro 1 earbuds against a gray background.

And the old ones.
Credit: OnePlus

If for some reason you skipped that 2021 OnePlus Buds Pro Based on her looks, I have bad news for you: nothing has changed in this department.

Aside from a very slight size reduction and a new “Arbor Green” colorway, the Buds Pro 2 look pretty much identical to the previous model. That is, they look like off-brand AirPods Prowith a slightly egg-shaped body, silicone ear tips, and an elongated stem that protrudes down from the back of the body.

There are no significant changes to the charging case either. It retains the vaguely rectangular shape (with rounded corners) from last time, and as far as I can tell it’s exactly the same size as before.

OnePlus Buds Pro 2 stems

The touch-sensitive stems are back.
Credit: Kyle Cobian/Mashable

OnePlus also kept the same touch-sensitive stems as last time. Instead of a simple press, you actually to squeeze the trunk to control playback. Single press pauses and plays, double press skips forward, triple press goes back a track, and so on. A long press will also toggle between ANC and Transparency modes in case you need to order food or something without removing your earbuds.

To be clear, I have no problem with that. Looking sleek and unassuming, the OnePlus Buds Pro lived up to the “Pro” nomenclature. It also means they are just as comfortable as before. I wore these for several hours at a time with no problems.

If someone sees you wearing it on the street, they might just think you have black or green AirPods Pro. You would be wrong, of course, but who cares? Let people think what they want.


Another thing that hasn’t changed much since the previous OnePlus Buds Pro incarnation is the configuration of the earbuds. It’s super simple on a OnePlus phone: just pop open the earbud case next to the phone, connect using OnePlus’ quick pair feature, and you’ll find customization options in the Bluetooth section of the phone’s settings menu.

It’s a little more problematic on iPhone and Android, but not by much. All you have to do is download the HeyMelody app from the app store(Opens in a new tab) or Load game(Opens in a new tab) and you’re good to go.

Heymelody app on iPhone

The HeyMelody app works perfectly on the iPhone.
Photo credit: HeyMelody

It’s to OnePlus’ credit that there’s an excellent amount of feature parity across devices in this aspect. iOS and Android users can adjust ANC levels, create their own sound equalizer settings and perform an ear fit test to ensure the earbuds are worn correctly. This is also where you can customize touch controls and perform firmware updates.

A big returning feature from last time is a quick listening test you can take, after which the earbuds create a custom audio profile to suit your ears. It doesn’t make a dramatic difference, but just like last time, I found the music sounded a few better after I’ve done that.

OnePlus hearing test

My hearing values.
Photo credit: HeyMelody

As for features specific to OnePlus phones, there aren’t many. There is a new one spatial audio Feature similar to what Apple introduced a few years ago. In theory, this should make music sound like it’s surrounding you, rather than just beaming into your ears. This works with the little test tone in Buds Pro’s settings menu, but I didn’t find it had much effect outside of it. Of course, your mileage may vary as it can vary from song to song and app to app.

Aside from that, OnePlus phone users can enjoy “Hi-Res Audio” which is said to deliver higher audio quality at the expense of battery life and latency. Again, I didn’t notice much of a difference with this feature, but it might work better for you. You can also use a OnePlus phone to locate the earbuds if they’re lost, which is a nice touch and a pretty decent selling point for entering the OnePlus ecosystem if you really like those earbuds.

Insanely inconsistent Bluetooth connectivity

Unfortunately, the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 run into trouble when you rate their performance. Since this is the most important part of any pair of earbuds, this is a pretty big bummer.

Let me start with the positive things. Sound quality is above average here, with bass that kicks acceptably hard and an overall sound profile that doesn’t drown out more subtle instruments in dense compositions unless you turn the volume up too high. You shouldn’t do that anyway if you value being able to hear.

Like last time, I used Sturgill Simpson’s “Call to Arms” as test material. Aside from being a damn hot banger, it has a lot going for it instrumentally as well. OnePlus Buds Pro 2 do a good job of conveying everything the song is trying to convey. I really have no complaints about the raw sound quality.

OnePlus Buds Pro 2

These are just not consistent enough.
Credit: Kyle Cobian/Mashable

The noise-cancellation is… fine. Even with the ANC set to maximum, a bit too much noise gets in when you’re walking down a busy Brooklyn street, for example. This is a particularly tough stress test, but the Beats Fit Pro easily passes it. OnePlus doesn’t fare quite as well, but for the most part it gets the job done.

Unfortunately, I had a really hard time getting the earbuds to work consistently. Bluetooth interference was one firmly problem in my test. The Buds Pro 2 work well in a static environment like a bedroom or office, but things change when you take them with you. In my experience, everyday activities like taking the subway or walking down busy streets can create so much Bluetooth interference that whatever you’re trying to hear becomes essentially inaudible.

Of course, I understand that not everyone lives in New York City. Unless you deal with urban density on a daily basis, you may not encounter this problem. All I can say is that in my experience, the Buds Pro 2 weren’t always up to the task when I wanted to take them from home.

With all that said, I’d like to point out that you can get around six hours of listening time from the Buds Pro 2 with ANC switched on. That’s pretty sweet.

A tough sell

There are many things to like about the OnePlus Buds Pro 2. Their sound quality is great enough and ANC works most of the time. They are comfortable to wear for hours and look pretty cool. Additionally, you get a variety of cool app-based features with plenty of parity across OnePlus and non-OnePlus devices.

It’s just a shame they don’t perform very well in crowded environments, at least not at the time of writing. Maybe a firmware update can fix that, but for now these bad guys are a bit hard to recommend given the competition. For just $20 more, the Beats Fit Pro outperforms the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 in almost every way. The same goes for Google’s Pixel Buds Proif you’re looking for something a little more Android-centric.

If OnePlus negotiates the price down a bit (perhaps into the $150 range), that could be a different conversation. However, as of today, it is better to buy another pair of earphones. OnePlus Buds Pro 2 review: Iffy performance drags down otherwise nice earbuds

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