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OnePlus Nord Buds TWS review: True wireless headphones with Dolby Atmos at an unbeatable price?

Review: OnePlus Nord Buds
Review: OnePlus Nord Buds
The Nord Buds denotes OnePlus' plans to expand its audio segment with affordable wireless in-ear headphones. Despite the low price of under US$ 50 (RRP), the True Wireless headphones inherit some features of the OnePlus Buds Pro flagship, such as AI noise cancellation and a special coating.

So far, OnePlus has limited its Nord label to affordable smartphones such as the Nord CE 2 5G or the Nord 2. With the Nord Buds, the Chinese manufacturer is now expanding its portfolio for the first time to include a new product category, namely true wireless headphones.

For the Nord Buds, OnePlus has transferred the previous philosophy of its Nord label to the TWS segment. As far as well-equipped audio products go, buyers should opt for the OnePlus headphones thanks to the affordable price - the recommended retail price is US$ 39.99. The Nord Buds come equipped with dynamic 12.4mm titanium drivers, Dolby Atmos and AI-supported noise cancellation.

Review: OnePlus Nord Buds
Headphone type In-Ear
Konnektivität Bluetooth 5.2
Lautsprecher 12.4mm driver, dynamic, 20 - 20,000 Hz
Audio codecs SBC, AAC
Charging port USB Type-C
Wireless charging Not supported
Weight (per earbud) 4.8 g
Weight (charging case) 42.7 g
Microphones 2 Microphones per earbud
Included in delivery Headphones, charging case, silicone ear pads (S, M, L), documentation, safety and warranty card, USB charging cable (type C)
Preis (RRP) US$ 39.99

Workmanship & Ergonomics: OnePlus Nord Buds with metalic coating

OnePlus North Buds only available in one color
OnePlus North Buds only available in one color

The Buds Pro appear to be available in one color only, namely black. The design is characterized by straight, flat "stems" with a matte black finish and circular, shiny touch-sensitive surfaces. The latter have been treated with the "vacuum metallisation technology" of the OnePlus Buds Pro to create a metallic look, even though the body of the headphones is made entirely of plastic. Whether you like the look of the Buds Nord or not is a matter of taste, but the design is at least unique.  

Overall, we like the workmanship of the OnePlus headphones. The Buds Nord seal very well when worn and a suitable fit can be found with the various attachments included in delivery. The low weight (4.8 g each) also ensures pleasant wearing comfort. In everyday life, the True Wireless headphones are hardly noticeable, even during prolonged use. 

The OnePlus TWS headhpones are IP55 certified and thus protected against rain or sweat. However, damage caused by liquids and dust is not covered by the Chinese manufacturer's warranty, and a protection standard for the case of the Buds Nord appears to be lacking. The workmanship of the charging case is good and the lid is securely closed by a magnet. On the other hand, the case, including the USB-C port, is a bit bulky and is not really ergonomically shaped.  

Review: OnePlus Nord Buds
Review: OnePlus Nord Buds
Review: OnePlus Nord Buds
Review: OnePlus Nord Buds

Equipment & Operation: OnePlus TWS with Dolby Atmos

The OnePlus Buds North support tap gestures.
The OnePlus Buds North support tap gestures.

The OnePlus TWS offer neither active noise cancellation nor a transparency mode. Operation is overall quite simple: To change a song, the touch-sensitive surfaces on the outside of the headphone stems can be used. Calls can be stopped and resumed with a tap gesture - individual customization via a companion app is possible. An equalizer and 4 sound profiles are also available in the official HeyMelody app. 

Like the Buds Z2, the Buds Nord can be easily paired with a OnePlus smartphone as new headphones upon opening the charging case. Pairing with an external player is done via Bluetooth 5.2 and OnePlus Fast Pair. For users of other smartphone manufacturers, the HeyMelody app is required, which is available for download on Google Play and in the iOS App Store.

Unfortunately, the OnePlus TWS headphones do not have a wearer recognition feature that automatically stops music or film playback when the headphones are removed from the ear - this is where theChinese manufacturer is making cuts. Dolby Atmos is also only guaranteed via OnePlus smartphones, but all users can enjoy the mono mode so that both the left and right in-ear can be used independently.

Review: OnePlus Nord Buds
Review: OnePlus Nord Buds
Review: OnePlus Nord Buds
Review: OnePlus Nord Buds
Review: OnePlus Nord Buds

Voice Quality: Nord Buds with 2 microphones

The True Wireless headphones from OnePlus can also be used as a headset without any problems.
The True Wireless headphones from OnePlus can also be used as a headset without any problems.

The Nord Buds do not support ANC, but AI-supported algorithms and the two built-in microphones are intended to filter out unwanted background noise during phone calls by means of noise suppression. 

In our test calls, the OnePlus TWS gave good and loud voice output, at least in quiet environments. The Nord Buds also perform well when conversing in a room atmosphere, providing neutral voice reproduction.

Background noise, such as street noise, is minimized somewhat, but intrusive noise quickly overwhelms the microphones. Moreover, the headphones become increasingly noisy in windy conditions so that understanding is very poor. A longer phone call on the bike is thus not recommended.

Sound Quality: OnePlus Nord Buds with AAC

Low latency and Dolby Atmos only possible with current OnePlus smartphones
Low latency and Dolby Atmos only possible with current OnePlus smartphones

What is true for phone calls is equally true for music playback - wind noise should be avoided with the Nord Buds, as this can be very intrusive. The OnePlus TWS headphones make use of large 12.4 millimeter dynamic drivers, which promise a frequency response of 20 to 20,000 Hz for media playback. The drivers are also coated with titanium. 

According to manufacturer specifications, the audio codecs SBC and AAC are supported. We used the latter in our review because the cheap TWS headphones unfortunately do not offer more Bluetooth codecs. Similar to Dolby Atmos, the advertised low latency of 94ms is only possible with current OnePlus-Smartphones and only available in ProGamer mode. We used a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 for the playback of video content. Even with a non OnePlus smartphone, the latency is sufficient to watch films properly with the Nord Buds. However, if you look closely, you'll notice that sound and image are slightly out of sync.

Let's move on to the most important feature of TWS headphones: the sound quality. Overall, the OnePlus headphones offer a solid sound experience - no more, no less. Music that flows through the Nord Buds seems relatively flat and we hear an audible hissing at maximum volume. The low frequencies in particular are not very pronounced so that there is a lack of treble in many music genres, even under the "Bass" profile . Under "Balanced", we felt that the bass produced was also lacking. Lastly, we would have liked a little more clarity in the highs, which come across as rather shrill.

Battery Life: Good stamina with the OnePlus TWS

Review: OnePlus Nord Buds

The Nord Buds each have a 41 mAh battery. As a quick charge feature, the manufacturer states that when it is completely drained, only 10 minutes of charging is needed for audio playback of up to 5 hours.

According to further manufacturer specifcations, the TWS headphones offer a battery life of up to 30 hours, which is made possible via the supplied charging case. Without this, up to 7 hours of playback is possible. We recorded a very similar runtime of 7 to 7.5 hours at a volume of around 75 percent and continuous music playback. 

The charging case of the TWS headphones, which can be charged via the USB-C port but not wirelessly, has a capacity of 480 mAh and signals the charging status of the battery with a colored status LED. 

In our tests, a full charge of the Buds Pro requires about 40 percent of the case's energy storage. This means that around 2.5, perhaps even 3 charging cycles, are possible in everyday use so that the runtime of up to 30 hours specified by OnePlus is unlikely in everyday use.

Verdict on the OnePlus Nord Buds

Review: OnePlus Nord Buds. Review device provided by OnePlus Germany.
Review: OnePlus Nord Buds. Review device provided by OnePlus Germany.

The Nord Buds offer impressive workmanship, long runtimes and a very affordable price. Outstanding sound quality is certainly not to be expected at an RRP of US$ 39.99, but the wireless in-ears do not sound bad. Then again, a somewhat fuller and more nuanced sound quality would have been desirable. Moroever, the Nord Buds lack some features compared to other TWS in this price range, such as the Honor Earbuds 2 Lite.

The OnePlus TWS headphones do not have active noise cancellation, transparency mode or wearer recognition. Voice quality via the dual microphones is good in itself, but background noise is hardly filtered out and wind noise is clearly perceived, which makes intelligible phone calls in a loud, windy environment practically impossible.

The Nord Buds are certainly an interesting choice for OnePlus users. However, we would have liked a slightly better sound because that is the core competence of TWS in the absence of ANC and Audio ID. 

Other minor shortcomings include the exclusivity of Dolby Atmos, Dolby's spatial audio technology, and low latencies for current OnePlus smartphones. Lastly, we would have liked a little more boldness in the selection of colors.  

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > OnePlus Nord Buds TWS review: True wireless headphones with Dolby Atmos at an unbeatable price?
Marcus Herbrich, 2022-05-29 (Update: 2022-05-30)