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OnePlus Nord Buds review: Middle of the road budget earbuds

Andy White
19 May 2022
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
49
inc VAT

The Nord Buds are a decent choice for certain OnePlus phone owners, but those outside of the OnePlus ecosystem miss out on key features

Pros 
Comfortable fit
Impressive mic quality
IP55 rated
Cons 
Chunky design
Key features are OnePlus exclusive
Limited touch controls
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The OnePlus Nord Buds are the Chinese manufacturer’s first Nord-branded headphones and its cheapest true wireless earbuds to date.

They’ve launched alongside two new budget OnePlus smartphones – the Nord 2T 5G and Nord CE 2 Lite – and, at first glance, seem like an ideal pairing for those handsets. However, to take advantage of one of their best features, Dolby Atmos support, you’ll need a OnePlus 7 phone or above.

If you do happen to own one of the company’s more premium devices, the Nord Buds are affordable true wireless earbuds worth considering. Call quality is impressive, sound quality is reasonable after a bit of EQ tweaking and they’re extremely comfortable, too. But those qualities alone are unlikely to convince many people outside of the OnePlus ecosystem to buy them ahead of similarly priced alternatives.

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OnePlus Nord Buds review: What do you get for the money?

The OnePlus Nord Buds are available in Black Slate and White Marble and cost £49. That’s an attractive price, but their feature set is rather limited when compared with many of the options on our best cheap wireless earbuds roundup.

There’s no active noise cancellation or transparency mode, no wireless charging case and the buds won’t automatically pause when taken out of your ears, either. These are things we’ve become accustomed to seeing offered by affordable true wireless options, so their absence here leaves the Nord Buds feeling a little lacking on the feature front.

What you do get is a pair of earbuds that operate over Bluetooth 5.2 and support the AAC codec. As mentioned previously, there’s support for Dolby Atmos on compatible smartphones and OnePlus users get access to a low-latency game mode as well.

The buds are rated IP55 for dust and water resistance, which is perfectly adequate for just about any outdoors activity, and battery life is solid at seven hours in-ear and 30 hours total including the charging case.

The buds are lightweight at 4.8g apiece, while the USB-C charging case is relatively compact and can be easily slipped into a trouser pocket. Touch control discs adorn the top of the Nord Buds’ short, flat stems, and these can be used to play or pause audio, skip tracks, hail your voice assistant and switch between paired devices.

Companion app support comes in the form of Hey Melody, which is available on both Android and iOS, though the buds aren’t currently supported by the latter. It’s unclear whether compatibility with the iOS app will follow at a later date, but as it stands, iPhone users miss out on a handful of EQ presets, the ability to create their own EQ, and touch control customisation options.

OnePlus Nord Buds review: What do we like about them?

The Nord Buds are very comfortable to wear for long periods. You get three pairs of eartips in the box and, as usual, the largest pair fitted me best. The in-ear seal proved effective enough to block out a bit of external noise but I was most impressed by how cosily the buds sat in my ears. Their housings matched the shape of my ear cavities very nicely and the tips put next to no pressure on my ear canals.

Microphone quality is another of their stronger suits: they house two mics in each earbud and I was taken aback by how clear I sounded on calls and voice recordings. This is generally an area of weakness for cheap earbuds, so the clarity with which the Nord Buds communicate voices is highly commendable.

They also possess superior dust and water resistance to many of their competitors. IP55 means that dust is unable to get into them in sufficient quantity to affect their operation and water jets from any direction will have no harmful effect on them. This makes the Nord Buds a decent pick for exercise and their workout credentials are strengthened by a comfortable and stable fit.

Touch controls proved very responsive, which is always appreciated, and the fact that they’re confined to a very specific section of the earbud stems means you’ll never accidentally trigger them if adjusting the buds in your ears.

OnePlus Nord Buds review: What could be better?

Though I was particularly taken by how the Nord Buds felt in my ears, I wasn’t as enamoured by how they looked. The flattened stems are uninteresting and the reflective silver touch panels reveal the Nord Buds for the budget option they are.

The default sound profile (Balanced) is also a little too warm for my tastes. It leaves music sounding rather woolly and this isn’t helped by a relatively narrow soundstage. Fortunately, things can be improved by jumping into the EQ settings in the Hey Melody app.

I was able to achieve a reasonably engaging sound experience by dropping the 65Hz and 250Hz bands down a few decibels in the six-band graphic equaliser. iPhone users are out of luck, however, as they’ll be stuck with the default EQ. They’ll also be locked out of touch control customisation, though given the limited number of features available on the buds, your options here are pretty limited anyway.

One thing I would like to have seen is the ability to increase and decrease volume using touch controls. A long touch and hold on the buds can be used to switch between the two most recently connected devices and this action would have been perfect for volume adjustment

The final, and most impactful, issue with the Nord Buds is that you’re only going to get the best out of them if you own a OnePlus smartphone. Dolby Atmos is a pretty big draw but device support is limited to its more premium devices, while the Pro Gaming Mode, which boasts latency of just 94ms, is another OnePlus exclusive.

Buy now from OnePlus


OnePlus Nord Buds review: Should you buy them?

It makes sense for OnePlus to double down on its ecosystem by including features you can only access if you own one of its smartphones. Apple and Samsung have been doing the same for years and it’s done them no harm whatsoever.

If you do own a phone capable of taking advantage of those system-specific features, the Nord Buds are the cheapest way to do so and have enough going for them to convince you to part with £50.

But surprisingly, neither of the Nord-branded budget smartphones they’ve launched with support Atmos, so they’re not quite as perfect a match for those devices as they seem. And if you’re not on Android, you can give them a hard pass, as you’ll be unable to access the Hey Melody app to customise their lacklustre default sound profile.

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