These Are Killer Wireless Earbuds
By Rashmi Goel
The Nord Buds serve as OnePlus's first audio product within the Nord series and are also the cheapest truly wireless earbuds available to date. Nord Buds are OnePlus's most basic offering, without active noise cancellation, wireless charge, fancy codecs, or in-ear detection. It does offer a few things, however, including an IP55 rating, fast charging, and four microphones with AI noise reduction. The device comes in an unusual and intriguing design. Nord series from OnePlus is targeted at consumers who seek a more affordable version of the company's products. The product offers a balance of premium and budget features. In terms of some of the features of the Nord Buds, OnePlus gets it right.
Nord Buds from OnePlus delivers impressive audio quality. The TWS earbuds will not disappoint you in any way when they are first opened. Nevertheless, if you wish to exert more control over your viewing experience, you will be able to change your EQ settings at any time. Designed in a subtle manner, these earbuds fit perfectly in your ears, and the stems don't protrude beyond them. They also feature an excellent microphone. In spite of that, we could have had a better design for the case.
Price & Availability
You can purchase the OnePlus Nord Buds on Amazon and the company's online store for $39 each. It comes in two colors - Black Slate and White Marble. It's wise to choose the former over the latter if you don't like smudge-prone devices or the latter is a fingerprint magnet.
Design And Comfort
With clean, flat sides and geometric shapes, the Nord Buds from OnePlus possess a contemporary design. Despite the usual pill shape, this case has flat sides and sharp edges that give it a distinctive appearance. There are no panel gaps on the case surface, and the lid is made with tight tolerances. Furthermore, even the pairing button on the back is flush with the surface and is barely visible at first glance. Continuing in the trend of flat, pill-shaped stems, the earbuds feature the same design. A concave, mirror-like area on the outer surface serves as a capacitive touch surface for playing back gestures. Each stem does not exceed two inches in length.
There is a more organic design on the inner ear portion of the earbuds that moves away from the geometric edges. This product features the new oval-shaped ear tips which OnePlus has been using since the launch of its OnePlus Buds Pro. The small size and light weight of Nord Buds make them easy to wear for long periods of time without placing undue pressure on the ear. It is important that you handle them with care as their small size makes them a bit fiddly, especially with large fingers. Considering the price, the earbuds and case are excellently constructed and finished. Furthermore, the earbuds are IP55 rated for dust and water resistance and feature nano-coating to prevent corrosion.
There is native support for the Nord Buds on the OnePlus devices. A pairing dialog will automatically appear when the case is opened near the phone, similar to AirPods. Further customization options for the earbuds can be found in the Bluetooth settings, although this menu is buried deep and difficult to find, similar to the AirPods. On devices other than OnePlus, users would need to download the Oppo HeyMelody app, which would then present the same options as those built into OnePlus devices. Nevertheless, the iOS app was not updated to support the Nord Buds at the time of publication.
There are limited options available with the Nord Buds. A single or double-tap can be used to trigger the play/pause, previous or next track, or voice assistant behavior of the touch sensors on the earbuds. The gesture can also be disabled if you do not wish to receive accidental touches. To switch between the current and previously paired device, you can also enable the long-press and hold gesture. There is currently no way to assign volume control to any of the gestures, so you will have to adjust it each time from the phone. There is also a feature for finding my earphones and the ability to update the firmware. Sound Master EQ is a new feature for Nord Buds.
The software includes four presets - Balanced (Default), Bold, Serenade, and Bass - as well as an option to create additional custom, presets using a 6-band EQ. Any modifications you make at this point, including creating and naming new custom presets, will be stored on the earbuds and transferred to any new devices you pair with them. This product only supports SBC and AAC codecs. Despite their support for Bluetooth 5.2, they do not support multi-device pairing. To achieve this, you can pair two devices separately and use the aforementioned feature to quickly switch between the two. Nord Buds do not feature in-ear detection, which is a noticeable omission. Therefore, when you insert or remove the earbuds from your ear, there is no automatic play/pause
Nord Buds from OnePlus feature an aggressively bass-boosted sound with muted upper mid-range and treble frequencies. There is an overemphasis on the middle and upper bass regions of the bass spectrum, which tends to obscure the entire sound spectrum. There is little distinction in the quality of bass here; you just get a lot of it and it is most often sloppy and muddy. There is a pleasant tone to the lower mid-range, however, it is sometimes overwhelmed by the bass response. Similarly, the earbuds' dull high-end response damages the upper midrange. Throughout, the treble is muffled and muddled, creating a cloudy presentation for both vocals and instruments. There is a distinct bass-forward nature to the music, resulting in a dark and one-dimensional tone. As an added bonus, the Nord Buds suffer from a deficient treble response, which is not something we have seen in other recent OnePlus audio products. However, the Sound Master EQ presets are able to compensate for this. Preset 'Bold' significantly improves tuning. Although the top-end is a little spicy and the mid-range is recessed, overall it sounds significantly better as it successfully drops the bass to a nominal level. Picking this preset is for most users an easy approach to improving the overall sound of these earbuds.
Compared to the Bold preset, the Serenade preset lowers the treble a bit and boosts the upper midrange, which results in a more nasal and honky sound. Nord Buds' drivers have a tendency to sound nasally in the upper mids and metallic in the highs, which is evident in this preset. Bass increases the bass further and brings the mids back a bit, which makes it even less pleasant to listen to than the default Balanced preset. One of the nice things about this method is that you do not have to use either of these. Through a bit of tinkering, I was able to obtain a preset that I was most satisfied with. A six-band EQ can only do so much, and nothing can be done to improve the timbre or resolution of the speakers, which remain substandard.
Surprisingly, the microphone quality of the OnePlus Nord Buds is quite good. The voice sounds more natural and full-bodied when it is recorded in a quiet environment. The ambient noise reduction algorithm produces some noise, but it is not distracting. Although the voice quality in noisy environments may not be as good as in quieter environments, it is acceptable. It is challenging for the earbuds to keep the voice intelligible in extremely noisy environments. It is designed to keep the background noise to an absolute minimum.
The Nord Buds offer good performance in terms of latency when watching videos. A small delay occurs when the video is first started, but it quickly syncs and remains so. For competitive multiplayer gaming, however, you should still purchase earbuds with wires.
Connectivity was reliable with the Nord Buds. The sound quality was never interrupted or disconnected unexpectedly.
It is important to note that the Nord Buds do not have an active noise cancellation feature. The ear tips, however, block a good deal of ambient noise passively, making it easy to concentrate on the audio being played except in extremely loud environments.
A full charge of the OnePlus Nord Buds is said to provide 7 hours of battery life for the earbuds. My testing yielded 6 hours, and 52 minutes, which is very close to the claimed figure. Furthermore, OnePlus claims that a full charge from 0% would result in 5 hours of playtime. The amount of time I obtained in my testing was only 2 hours, 57 minutes, which is a reasonable amount of time, but nowhere close to the stated amount
OnePlus Nord Buds perform well right out of the box and are easy to use. However, some tweaks are necessary in order to get the best performance out of the buds. Furthermore, it features flagship-level charging technology and offers a good battery life. The earbuds look excellent, even though the case could have been better designed. The earbuds fit comfortably in the ear, providing passive noise cancellation. The company offers a Dolby Atmos experience at budget prices, but Nord smartphone users are not included.