OnePlus Buds Pro 2 review
The OnePlus Buds Pro 2 are the company's second-generation premium wireless earbuds. The first-generation model was a decent attempt and a good overall product for the $149 asking price but was a letdown in terms of audio quality and noise cancellation.
The Buds Pro 2 promise improvement across the board; better audio quality with a new dual-driver system tuned by Dynaudio, improved adaptive noise cancellation, and improved battery life. The new model also includes spatial audio with head tracking, which is all the rage these days.
All of this comes at a slight premium, with the Buds Pro 2 being priced at $179. This places it closer to the more premium competition from Samsung and especially close to the excellent $199 Sony Linkbuds S, which can often be found for as low as $149. That is some serious competition so let's see if OnePlus' latest offering is up to the task.
The OnePlus Buds Pro 2 is aesthetically very similar to its predecessor. Both the case and the earbuds are nearly identical with only side-by-side comparisons revealing the differences. For example, the newer model's case is ever so slightly larger in every dimension. The insides of the lid are scooped out differently and the earbuds are slightly chunkier but otherwise, things look very similar.
However, you are not going to catch me complaining about the design of the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 as the original model had one of the best designs I've seen in this product category. The compact case design with its wonderful matte-finished exterior looked and felt like a small jewelry box with really attractive earbuds inside that had a two-tone finish. The second generation maintains all of that and adds a stunning green color. However, the even more stunning mirror-finished variant of the first-generation model is not being offered, at least for now.
And the build quality is good, too. Everything has a premium finish to it. The hinge of the case is very sturdy and moves smoothly. The supplied ear tips are soft and comfortable.
On that topic, the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 earbuds are very comfortable to wear, more so than their predecessor. They are relatively small and lightweight with a pleasing shape and don't stick out too much from your ears. The stalks are also easy to access for pressing. You can easily wear these for hours without experiencing discomfort.
Rounding off the build quality is IP55 water and dust resistance for the earbuds and IPX4 for the case.
Software and features
The OnePlus Buds Pro 2 lets you access its features either through built-in software on OnePlus phones or through Oppo's HeyMelody app on other smartphones.
While the UI looks different between the two, the features available are mostly the same. In fact, the HeyMelody app is a better solution since it's easier to access whereas the built-in settings on OnePlus phones are buried quite deep within the Bluetooth menu.
Being a premium product, the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 enables quite a few options within these menus. There are the noise canceling settings, which have been expanded over what you found on the original OnePlus Buds Pro. The noise-canceling mode can now be switched between mild, moderate, max, and smart, which is essentially auto whereas the OnePlus Buds Pro only had regular, max, and smart. There is also a personalized noise cancellation option, which adjusts the effect for your specific ear canals and ear tip fit.
The EQ options have also been expanded. The OnePlus Buds Pro shipped with no EQ but inherited them later through a software update. The OnePlus Buds Pro 2 ship with a similar set of presets and a new default Balanced preset, which has been tuned by Dynaudio. You can also create custom presets with a six-band EQ and these get saved onboard the earbuds and carry over to other devices.
There is also a Hi-Res mode, whose function remains a mystery. Even with the feature disabled you can still access LHDC in 24-bit/96kHz and enabling it doesn't change anything. We are yet to receive clarification from OnePlus on what this does exactly.
The OnePlus Buds Pro 2 also has Golden Sound — identified as Audio ID 2.0 in the pre-release press materials — which adjusts the sound to your hearing through a manual calibration process. The process has changed since the OnePlus Buds Pro, where you merely had to answer 'yes' or 'no' to test tones depending on their audibility but with the OnePlus Buds Pro 2, you have to manually adjust a slider till you stop hearing the sound, which is a bit finicky and harder to get right. This test needs to be done in a very quiet environment and if done right, should let you hear sounds that are optimized to your hearing deficiencies, which we all have to some extent.
The OnePlus Buds Pro 2 also supports spatial audio with head tracking. Spatial audio itself is not a special feature of the earbuds as it's now part of Android 13 but head tracking does require dedicated hardware support built into the earbuds, which currently only works with the OnePlus 11. If you pair it with other Android 13 phones, you can only use spatial audio without head tracking and only in specific apps like YouTube and Google TV with surround sound content.
Moving on, the Zen Mode Air feature is back and can play soothing sounds and white noise for you to relax. The Camera-related setting lets you take pictures using the gestures on the earbuds, and finally, the dual connection feature lets you pair and monitor two different devices at the same time.
The OnePlus Buds Pro 2 can also use its motion sensors to detect the head position and provide alerts to move around and adjust your posture. However, this feature was not enabled at the time of writing.
The OnePlus Buds Pro 2 earbuds have a new dual driver design with an 11mm dynamic driver covering 10Hz - 8kHz and a 6mm planar diaphragm tweeter covering 8kHz to 40kHz.
The OnePlus Buds Pro 2 have an aggressively v-shaped sound, with emphasis on low and high frequencies and a dip in the mid-range.
The low-end on the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 hits like a truck carrying bricks, more so than the already generous bass response on the original model. It can be quite boomy and overwhelming at times, not to mention borderline fatiguing at higher volumes.
The mid-range seems deliberately suppressed, which makes the vocals sound fuzzy and muted in the mix. The lower mids in particular are lackluster but the upper mids can be a bit bright and nasal. The timbre is lacking as voices and instruments have a distinct metallic twang to them.
This is brought forth further by the high-end. The dedicated driver adds a lot of shimmer and sizzle to the sound, which sometimes sounds disjointed from the rest of the soundscape. You can hear the tweeter kicking in at around 40% volume, as below that the high-end lacks the aforementioned sizzle. It can sound quite aggressive at times and is especially strong at higher volumes.
The sound does change notably with ANC disabled. The mid-bass sounds a bit leaner and the upper mids sound more prominent, lending to an overall brighter, more open sound. I preferred to turn the ANC off as the earbuds often sounded a lot better that way. Whatever the ANC is doing, it's making the sound worse along the way.
The overall default tonality of the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 is fine for certain genres of music but the aggressive bass and treble can be overbearing at times and the sunken mid-range leaves the sound feeling hollow and claustrophobic. The sound is also very congested in general, and despite the claims of lossless audio sounds distinctly compressed.
The most shocking revelation during this review was that the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 actually sounds notably worse than the original Buds Pro. While I was not quite pleased with the overly bassy sound of the Buds Pro when I reviewed it, the Buds Pro 2 pushes the bass even further while also heightening the highs and crushing the mids.
Going back and forth between the Buds Pro and Buds Pro 2, the Buds Pro were notably more balanced and cleaner sounding of the two, with a much more fleshed-out mid-range and less piercing treble. They also sounded more open and natural compared to the Buds Pro 2, with a less metallic timbre to the vocals.
Doing this back-to-back comparison made me appreciate the original model a lot more, which is probably not something you want to see in a review of the new model. There were times when I had to stop myself from listening to the Buds Pro and switch to the newer model for the purposes of this review because the older one just sounded better even if the Buds Pro 2 isn't necessarily terrible, especially with ANC off. But whenever I had to pick one for personal listening I always grabbed the older model.
Compared to the Sony LinkBuds S, the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 is much more bassy and treble-heavy. To think a Sony product would be the less bass-heavy in comparison is hard to believe but OnePlus has out Sony'd Sony. The LinkBuds S has a much duller, darker sound with a less forceful but still somewhat bassy low-end and a filled-out mid-range. They are quite different so it's hard to pick one since neither is perfect out of the box but it's easier to fix Sony's shortcomings with an EQ while the timbral issues and congestion of the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 have no proper solution.
When paired with a OnePlus 11, the Buds Pro 2 can enable spatial audio with head tracking. While spatial audio is not unique to the Buds Pro 2 as it's now built into Android 13, they do enable head tracking with the onboard six-axis IMU (inertial measurement unit). Also, the spatial audio implementation on the OnePlus 11 is different from the native Android implementation.
For one, the OnePlus 11 spatial audio works with almost any content, not just surround sound sources, which means you can also use it with stereo content. It also works on top of the built-in Dolby Atmos implementation, which is odd since the Dolby Atmos feature already provided spatial audio for stereo and surround sound content.
OnePlus's spatial audio implementation is just poor. It creates a ridiculously large sound field as if you are inside a giant empty warehouse and rarely ever sounds good or natural. It also adds its own metallic timbre to the sound, which makes vocals sound especially robotic on the Buds Pro 2. I personally prefer the more subtle and natural Dolby Atmos effect, especially when fed with content actually mastered in Atmos from apps like Apple Music, in which case you get a more nuanced and curated spatial audio effect instead of OnePlus' cheap 1990s surround sound DSP effect.
Of course, Atmos doesn't yet support head tracking, which is why the OnePlus implementation even needs to exist. The head tracking is, well, lame. I genuinely struggled to comprehend in what situation would this feature be useful or necessary. I suppose it would make sense for a TV where the display is fixed in place and you want to emulate a speaker-like experience on the headphones but with a phone, both the device and your head can move about freely, so there is zero point in anchoring the sound in a random spot in space when the phone can just move away from that spot and the whole charade would fall apart instantly.
Besides, the head tracking doesn't even work well and if you move your head around enough it eventually loses track of where the source device is with respect to your head and now the sound is just coming off slightly from one side instead of the center. And again, it still sounds like you are in an empty warehouse all the while this is happening. This experience is genuinely bad and I do not see any reason to use this feature.
OnePlus is also working with Hans Zimmer to create what I assume would be a demo piece to showcase the spatial audio feature. Zimmer would also be creating a custom EQ profile. Both of these will be coming in the future.
The OnePlus Buds Pro 2 have average microphone performance. In a quiet environment, voices sound a bit muffled and less natural than on something like the LinkBuds S, which has stellar microphone performance for a Bluetooth headset.
In a noisy environment, the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 do a great job of suppressing background noise but the voice quality remains mediocre.
Compared to the original model, the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 doesn't really show much improvement in microphone performance.
The OnePlus Buds Pro 2 has decent noise cancelling performance. It is quite effective at curtailing low frequency noise but less so at the mid and high frequencies. This makes it suitable for air travel where the noise is dominated by low end rumble but not so much for things like loud air conditioners and running taps.
The three levels of ANC are moderately different from one another. Compared to Max, Moderate lets in a bit more of the lower mid-frequency noise and Mild lets in more low and high-frequency noise. If you choose Smart it will almost always pick Moderate, which works fine in most instances as Max isn't dramatically better.
The personalized noise cancellation effectiveness isn't always apparent, especially if you are in only moderately noisy environments. It is more effective on airplanes where the system can analyse the background sound and produce a more effective ANC than if you were to leave it off. The feature does require you to setup manually when you first enable it and the process is quick but can only be done in noisy environments. I did notice audible changes in the calibration on repeat attempts and it's difficult to get the best results every time.
Compared to the original OnePlus Buds Pro, the newer model has a more effective ANC but the difference is only noticeable in very noisy conditions after back to back testing. The older model also has slightly better handling of mid frequencies and doesn't let them in as much as on the newer model. However, the older model had an audible background hiss with ANC enabled, which is not present on the Buds Pro 2.
As mentioned in the audio section, the ANC does notably worsen the audio quality, making it bassier and more congested. I often found myself turning the feature off when listening indoors as the slight increase in noise came with a big improvement in sound quality. This is definitely something OnePlus needs to address as the ANC-on should be the default way to listen to the earbuds and also the mode that sounds the best.
Compared to the LinkBuds S, the ANC on the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 is nowhere as good. The LinkBuds S ANC works incredibly well in basically every situation and has far fewer weak spots in the frequency range than the OnePlus model. If ANC is your priority, then the LinkBuds S is still far and above the best option in this price range.
The transparency mode is fine but sounds a bit muffled with low high frequency detail.
The OnePlus Buds Pro 2 have a respectable latency performance. OnePlus claims 53ms, although this is likely with just OnePlus' own phones with game mode enabled.
When used with a OnePlus 11 with game mode enabled, the latency performance was very good with near-instantaneous responses. Unless you are a serious competitive gamer, you are unlikely to notice or care about the slight delay. With game mode disabled, the latency is noticeable but still decent.
Unfortunately, when tested with non-OnePlus phones with AAC, the latency is terrible. It is poor even with game mode enabled in the HeyMelody app and absolutely atrocious with it disabled.
When tested with a Windows PC, the latency was still noticeably high and was distracting when doing things like watching videos, which don't automatically get synced for the delay on Windows.
The OnePlus Buds Pro 2 supports Bluetooth 5.3 LE and uses SBC, AAC, and LHDC 4.0 codecs. The use of LHDC instead of the more ubiquitous LDAC means a lot fewer phones can actually provide high-resolution audio and have to drop down to using AAC.
OnePlus claims it supports lossless audio with LHDC, which is interesting as this is the first I've heard of LHDC supporting lossless, at least with v4.0. The confusion goes further when the Bluetooth settings under developer settings only let you max out the bitrate to the typical 900kbps, which doesn't seem sufficient for lossless transmission. OnePlus has promised LHDC 5.0 through a future update, which should bring higher resolution 192kHz support.
As with the original Buds Pro, the LHDC bitrate option on the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 is a bit buggy when tested with non-OnePlus phones, as switching between 500kbps and 900kbps does nothing. Also, on OnePlus phones, switching between 48kHz and 96kHz causes the treble performance to become even more sibilant and harsh.
In terms of reliability, the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 had quite a few drops in sound and a bit of crackle and pop to boot. This happens more when manually adjusted to higher bitrates but random drops can happen any time, even if the phone is two feet away from the earbuds in a clear line of sight.
The multi-device pairing feature works fine and I was able to pair the earbuds to two phones at the same time and switch between them with ease.
The OnePlus Buds Pro 2 has a claimed battery life of 9 hours of continuous music playback without ANC and 6 hours with ANC. However, these numbers are only valid when using AAC.
In my testing, I was able to get 6 hours, 34 minutes when using AAC with ANC enabled. That figure dropped to 4 hours 56 minutes when using LHDC with ANC and 7 hours 40 minutes without ANC. The ANC was set to the Moderate mode for these tests and LHDC configuration was left at default settings.
While nowhere close to the claimed figure when using LHDC, the battery life has improved over the previous generation model, which lasted around two and one hour less, respectively, with LHDC and AAC.
The Buds Pro 2 can be charged using a USB-C cable or through a Qi-compatible wireless charger.
Compared to the OnePlus Buds Pro 2, the Sony LinkBuds S is a better product overall while also being cheaper. The audio quality is decent but the ANC is miles better, as is the microphone quality. The original Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro is also a good alternative with good audio quality and decent ANC, and is often available at great discounts these days. Sadly for OnePlus, even the original Buds Pro is a better product than the newer model right now.
There will also be a OnePlus Buds Pro 2R variant, which will be available in India and selected markets. This variant lacks wireless charging and head tracking. It will be available in Misty White and Obsidian Black colors.
The OnePlus Buds Pro 2 is a decent sequel over the original model. It improves in a variety of areas including noise cancellation, battery life, and latency performance. The design, while similar, is also more comfortable while still looking great.
Where the new model does not improve is in the audio quality. The bassier, harsher, and more congested sound is a straight downgrade over the already underwhelming predecessor. The culprit here seems to be the new ANC system, which makes the sound notably worse when enabled. The much hyped spatial audio also doesn't add anything to the experience.
For the price, the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 doesn't feel as compelling as any of its rivals. Aside from the design and comfort, there aren't any standout features here for you to consider and options like the LinkBuds S offer a much better overall package while also having outstanding ANC and microphone performance.
In the end, the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 is only worth considering at a steep discount unless OnePlus is willing to make some major changes through updates.
- 23 Sep 2023
I recently bought these earbuds, they are only ok. After using the earbuds for 2-3 days, I decided to return them in order to buy a better one. Unfortunately, return option doesn't work, neither on the website nor in the mobile app. Weirdly it i...
- 27 Mar 2023
Hello! Could you please compare spatial audio here with spatial audio in Xiaomi Buds 4 Pro It is said that here Dolby Atmos is not yet working for non-Oneplus phones and for as Xiaomi said that LDAC is not compatible with Spatial sound at all but...
- Yaswanth Naidu
- 01 Mar 2023
Sound clarity, in ear comfort, anc matters