OnePlus Buds Z review

OnePlus made its much-anticipated entry into the real wireless audio segment earlier this year with the OnePlus Buds. While inexpensive and very good looking, I didn’t find the company’s first true wireless earbuds convincing enough in my review to recommend some of the excellent competitive options that are also available. Interestingly, the company’s second true wireless headset is already in place, and it seems to address many of the concerns surrounding its more expensive counterpart.

Price at Rs. 2,999 that OnePlus Buds Z. offers a new design and fit, while keeping some of the features and specifications of the more expensive Buds, including AAC Bluetooth codec support, USB Type-C fast charge, and more. Is this the best pair of true wireless earbuds for less than Rs. 3,000? Find out in our review.

A correct fit in the channel for better noise isolation on the OnePlus Buds Z.

While the OnePlus Buds have a more contemporary, stylish design and outer-ear fit, the OnePlus Buds Z looks a bit more traditional. The design is quite familiar as the earbuds look very similar to those on the OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2 and Bullets Wireless Z. These include the bulge of the housings, the fit in the channel, and the glossy texture on the outside.

The OnePlus Buds Z comes in two colors, white and gray, which goes wrong with the rather interesting north blue option (seen on the OnePlus Buds). Although there is nothing wrong with the colors OnePlus chose, I found them a bit plain and boring. The company has chosen safer and more subdued color options for its affordable true wireless headset.

The charging case is pill-shaped, the earphones are recessed horizontally, similar to the Huawei FreeBuds 3i. As with the Huawei headset, I found this arrangement a bit confusing, and although the headphones snap into place magnetically, it’s a bit more difficult and less intuitive to use than vertically oriented charging cases. There is an indicator light on the front and a Type C USB charging port and pairing button on the back.

The outside of the OnePlus Buds Z earbuds are touch sensitive for controls that can be adjusted directly via the OxygenOS Bluetooth settings when using a OnePlus smartphone. Only the double tap function on each earbud can be used and can be set to play / pause music, skip tracks or invoke the standard voice assistant on your smartphone, leaving you with less control over the earbuds. No other combinations of taps or gestures are used on the OnePlus Buds Z.

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The OnePlus Buds Z has limited controls without being able to adjust the volume of the earphones

There is also wear detection so that music will automatically play or pause when the headphones are put on or taken off. As with the OnePlus Buds, this cannot be turned off.

You can check the battery status of the earbuds and charging case, and make them ring loudly if you can’t find them, through your OnePlus smartphone’s Bluetooth settings, or even if you’re using Google’s Fast Pair protocol on a non-OnePlus device use Android phone.

Interestingly, there’s now an app for Android called HeyMelody that lets you view the battery level, adjust controls, and update the OnePlus Buds Z’s firmware. While a bit basic, its core functionality worked fine for me on a Google Pixel 3a XL (review).

The OnePlus Buds Z earbuds use bluetooth 5 for connectivity and support bluetooth codecs SBC and AAC. The earbuds have dynamic 10mm drivers and are rated IP55 for dust and water resistance. The sales package contains three pairs of silicone earbuds in different sizes and a USB-C type charging cable. Dolby Atmos is supported on some compatible OnePlus smartphones, but there is no multipoint connection or quick-switch function, as is the case with some other OnePlus wireless headsets is.

The battery life of the OnePlus Buds Z is not quite as good as the more expensive Buds, but sufficient given the price of the headset. I was able to get more than four hours of mixed use on the earbuds, plus three more full charges from the case, for a total battery life of about 17 hours per charge cycle. Fast charging is supported, with an indication of 3 hours of listening time from 10 minutes of charging time.

Good sound on the OnePlus Buds Z.

OnePlus’ first attempt to develop real wireless headphones was not perfect, thanks to the often too short bass-heavy tuning. With the OnePlus Buds Z, the sound quality is significantly improved. This is in part due to the fit in the canal, which ensures proper noise isolation and targeted sound. However, this also applies to the fact that the AAC bluetooth codec is supported on this Rs. 3,000 pairs of real wireless headphones.

Although the acoustic signature can be described as “safe”, the OnePlus Buds Z makes a commendable contribution to the reproduction of sufficient details and precision in the sound. As a result, even this U-shaped sound signature feels fun and enjoyable. While I had the Buds Z connected to my OnePlus smartphone for much of the test, I also tried it with other devices, including an iPad mini (2019), a MacBook Air, and a Google Pixel 3a XL.

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The sound quality of the OnePlus Buds Z is impressive for the price thanks to the AAC codec support and the right fit in the channel

Starting with The Whistle Song by Netsky on Tidal, I was impressed with how captivating the sound of OnePlus Buds Z was. The heavy rumble of the lower end on this drum-n-bass track sounded clean and refined, while the few words and faint details of the instruments felt present and clean. The precision that the fit in the canal offers, combined with the strong low end, made for a healthy and immersive listening experience that I haven’t found in any other true wireless headphone at this price point.

Listeners to popular genres will especially like the bass, which is strong and punchy but not quite as intrusive as the OnePlus Buds. I really liked this refined approach to bass as it allowed the midrange and highs to come through even on tracks with a powerful bass attack like Du What U Du from Yoshimoto on Tidal Masters. While the OnePlus Buds Z is an affordable headset, it can bring out nuances in high-resolution audio, giving this beat-driven track a noticeable advantage in the lows without too much obvious distortion.

Interestingly, Dolby Atmos is also supported when used with a OnePlus smartphone, and I was able to try this out with Dolby Atmos Music on Tidal. When listening to a live version of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama, the soundstage was vastly wider and more detailed, with the cheering of the crowd particularly clear. The soundstage wasn’t quite as luxurious with normal music streams, but it was still impressive.

I switched to compressed streams with Spotify and played My Mind’s Made Up by Kraak and Smaak. The sound was instantly louder, but there was a noticeable drop in definition and detail, with the bass feeling a bit more imposing and rumbling. Even so, the sound was still impressive and there was a lot of detail to be heard. The OnePlus Buds Z was definitely not as detailed as the slightly more expensive JVC HA-A10T, but it managed to produce an all-round pleasant sound that was easy to hear for hours.

oneplus buds z review case OnePlus OnePlus Buds Z.

The battery compartment supports fast charging via USB type C.

What is particularly impressive about the OnePlus Buds Z is the ability to keep up with fast tracks and sound good with all genres. When the headphones heard Brasstrack’s modern jazz cover from All Of The Lights and Misread from Kings of Convenience, they managed to capture the mood of both tracks, with the “safe” sound signature keeping both of them capable. There was a lot of detail to be heard while the right elements – Brasstrack’s saxophone riffs on the first track and Erlend Oye’s vocals on the second – were allowed to shine through.

There’s no active noise cancellation on the OnePlus Buds Z, but there is ambient noise cancellation that improves voice quality for those on the other side of calls. This seemed to work fine on my tests, and I generally had no call quality issues. The Bluetooth connectivity was also quite stable for me, as the headphones worked well at a distance of up to 3 m from the paired device with a direct line of sight.

judgment

When it comes to gadgets and technology, the second time is often the appeal, especially when brands are trying to break into new product segments. The OnePlus Buds Z is a good example of this. it costs Rs. 2,000 less than the OnePlus Buds, but is objectively better in almost every way. From the fit, to the comfort, to the sound, this is an excellent pair of true wireless earbuds for the price.