OnePlus has been expanding its lineup of budget-friendly devices over the past few years, and one of its latest offerings are the OnePlus Nord Buds. Priced at just $39.99, these wireless earbuds aim to offer a premium listening experience for a fraction of the price of more expensive options on the market, including the company’s own OnePlus Buds Pro and OnePlus Buds Z2.
We’ve been testing the new Nord Buds for just under two weeks to see if they can deliver on that goal, and to determine where OnePlus made cuts to drop the price down. Spoiler alert: These buds are really good — even if they’re a bit basic.
What we liked
A design that’s simple, comfortable and water-resistant
The OnePlus Nord Buds aren’t necessarily the flashiest earbuds on the market. Their stems are chunky and angular, they’re made almost entirely of plastic and the silicon tips tend to get caught in your ear because they aren’t as smooth as what’s found on more premium offerings. However, the buds are very comfortable to wear. They sit pretty deep inside your ears, but it helps to create a seal to block out external noise.
We especially appreciated the weight of the Nord Buds. At just 0.17 ounces, the Nord Buds are the kind of earbuds you’ll barely notice you’re wearing after a while. And we should know — we rocked them for multiple hours on end writing this review, and we never grew uncomfortable wearing them.
Another big advantage to the Nord Buds is their IP55 rating. This means that the buds will be safe against light douses of water, whether it be rain or sweat. And yes, we worked out in these earbuds, and while they’re not designed for it, they’re perfectly serviceable assuming you won’t be doing any crazy cardio routines.
Surprisingly good audio quality
OnePlus opted for large 12.4mm titanium drivers on the Nord Buds, giving them plenty of room for sounds to air out. The company also said it paid special attention to the bass to ensure the buds add that extra oomph consumers are looking for. What’s more, the buds also ship with Dolby Atmos support for better overall quality.
We started off with the coastal country sounds of Brian Kelley and his latest single, “Whatever Floats Your Boat.” The soundstage he presents with acoustic guitars and airy drums played well over the Nord Bud’s drivers. Then, we switched over to hip-hop with Logic’s latest release, “Therapy Music.” His vocals were clear and had some definition to them, while the boom bap beat was punchy and full. We also tried some oldies like The Hollies’ “Bus Stop,” which sounded clear and pleasant albeit a bit lacking in the mids.
These earbuds, while solid, do come with a few shortcomings. Mid and high frequencies are a bit pitchy and empty-feeling, while some songs (particularly more complex productions) lose their definition quickly. For example, when listening to Justin Bieber’s “Honest,” there were a few instruments that got lost on the Nord Buds that you can clearly hear on more expensive earbuds.
However, that’s the story with a lot of budget earbuds. Oftentimes, they don’t come with a massive soundstage that can highlight the most complex of productions, and that’s perfectly fine when considering their price. We even compared them to some of those more expensive earbuds like Google’s Pixel Buds A-Series and Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2, and we found that their sound quality wasn’t all that different, which was impressive to say the least.
Really solid battery life
OnePlus touts up to seven hours of stamina with the Nord Buds as well as an additional 23 hours with the included case. We found this mostly to be true. The buds typically lasted between six and seven hours on a full charge during our testing, while the case supplied roughly another three charges. There are some wireless earbuds on the market that fall well behind these stats, so it’s great to see OnePlus able to deliver on its promises.
Recharging the earbuds is as simple as it gets, since your only option is to use a USB-C cable. OnePlus notes that there is a form of fast charging on the Nord Buds that can supply a five-hour charge in just 10 minutes. In our testing, we were getting closer to four hours of battery life than five, but it’s still handy in a pinch.
Unfortunately, these earbuds don’t come with wireless charging. But barring exceptions like the EarFun Air, that’s to be expected at this price point.
What we didn’t like
Very basic controls with not a lot of ‘smarts’
At $39.99, OnePlus had to make some cuts to drive down costs, and one area where that’s prevalent is intelligence. Modern earbuds can do all sorts of things like automatically pause your music when one earbud is removed, quickly access voice assistants with a hot word, use head tracking for spatial audio or offer active noise cancellation (ANC) for a more isolated listening experience.
None of those features are on the Nord Buds. Instead, OnePlus offers two very basic “smart” features: multi-device support and fast paring.
The former isn’t implemented in the same way as most wireless earbuds, where you can start playing content on another device and the earbuds intelligently know to switch over. Instead, you have to manually tap and hold either bud to switch to a previously paired device. It’s kind of tedious, but it works fine.
The latter, meanwhile, only works under certain circumstances since it uses OnePlus’ proprietary fast pairing system rather than something like Google Fast Pair. You’ll have to have a OnePlus phone or the HeyMelody app installed on your non-OnePlus Android phone for it to work. That’s not a huge deal since it greatly simplifies the setup process of the earbuds, but it does mean you’re left to dive into Bluetooth settings on any other device (including iPhones and laptops) in order to pair them.
OnePlus also included touch controls on the Nord Buds. A single tap plays and pauses music, a double tap skips the current track, a triple tap can skip to the previous track and a long press lets you switch between devices. They all worked fine in our testing, although it seemed to take a second or two longer for our taps to register compared to other earbuds on the market.
Settings for the Nord Buds can be found in the Bluetooth section of the Settings app on OnePlus phones, or the HeyMelody app on other devices. There aren’t a ton of customization options available, with a handful of tweaks available for the touch controls and EQ. Still, it’s nice that OnePlus offers some versatility with the earbuds.
The case is bulky
The case included with the Nord Buds is clunky, to say the least. It’s a bit taller than you might think, and it feels a lot more substantial than something like Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 or Apple’s latest AirPods. OnePlus also decided to square off the edges, making it feel far too boxy to comfortably carry around in a pocket. You’re almost forced to carry them in some external carryall.
Decent microphone performance, but wind mitigation needs work
There are two microphones on each Nord Bud to make it easier for them to pick up your voice, and we found that they’re perfectly serviceable. No, they aren’t up to snuff with more expensive offerings, but they generally work fine for video chats and phone calls.
Speaking of which, OnePlus included AI-powered noise reduction for phone calls that helps to reduce external noise. It seems to work well, as callers noted they could hear my voice clearly while I stood on a loud street corner, but the tech fell apart quickly when the wind picked up. So if you’re in a particularly windy environment, it might be best to move somewhere else to make a call.
The OnePlus Nord Buds are some of the best wireless earbuds you can get for under $50, aligning with many of the same features as the EarFun Air, our pick for the best budget earbuds you can get. With solid sound quality, great battery life and a straightforward setup experience (at least for Android users), there’s not a lot to dislike.
Are they a bit basic? Yes, but where they shine are in the essentials. If you want flashy high-end features, you’ll have to shop for more premium offerings like the Pixel Buds A-Series, Galaxy Buds 2 or even OnePlus’ own Buds Z2. The EarFun Air still have the overall edge, thanks to wireless charging and slightly longer battery life, but they’re a little pricier, often selling for $49.99 to $59.99.
That being said, if you strictly value sound quality and battery life — and especially if you’re on Android — the Nord Buds are well worth their low $39.99 price tag.
How it compares to other wireless earbuds we tested
|Weight||0.16 ounces||0.19 ounces||0.18 ounces||0.16 ounces|
|Battery life (rated)||7 hours (earbuds only), 30 hours (with case)||7 hours (earbuds only), 35 hours (with case)||5 hours (earbuds only), 24 hours (with case)||7 hours (earbuds only), 38 hours (with case)|
|Active noise cancellation||No||No||No||Yes|
|Colors||Black Slate, White Marble||Black, White||Clearly White, Dark Olive||Obsidian Black, Pearl White|