These $59 noise-cancelling earbuds are a total bargain
OnePlus Nord Buds 2: Specifications
Price: $59 / £69 / AU$TBC
Colors: Black, white
Battery life (rated): 5 hours (ANC on); 7 hours (ANC off); 27 hours (charging case with ANC on); 36 hours (charging case with ANC off)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3 (codec support: SBC, AAC)
Water resistance: Yes (IP55)
Size: 1 x 0.8 x 0.9 inches (per bud); 2.6 x 1.1 x 1.3 inches (charging case)
Weight: 0.16 ounces (per bud); 1.32 ounces (charging case)
The OnePlus Nord Buds 2 follow the successful OnePlus Nord Buds, which were one of the best cheap wireless earbuds for their bold sound, dependable connectivity, and ridiculously powerful quick charging for just $39.
This next-gen model carry over many of their predecessor’s hallmarks, while incorporating active noise cancellation (ANC) and sound-enhancing features (Dolby Atmos, Dirac Tuner) into the mix for just $20 more. Although the feature-laden spec is undeniably impressive, the touch accuracy seems to have skipped the upgrade list and has similar issues to their older sibling.
Nevertheless, there aren't too many sub-$60 wireless earbuds as well equipped as the Nord Buds 2, and they're an enticing purchase for budget-conscious consumers. Although they're mostly agnostic about platform, the extra feature support when connected to OnePlus devices is very worthwhile.
Great audio that sounds even better with OnePlus devices
The original Nord Buds had a satisfying bass-forward sound profile that could get overpowering on certain tracks. OnePlus tweaked the Nord Buds 2’s frequency range to keep bass dominant, while extending mids and highs for better-balanced sound. However, the listening experience differs based on your media player.
Let’s start with iOS/macOS and Android devices. The Nord Buds 2’s warm presence was instantly noticeable on bass-centric records. Apple Music and Spotify tracks performed similarly and kept music energetic, though some mids and most highs were subdued. Switching over to hi-res streaming services like Tidal showcased the Nord Buds 2’s audio versatility. Clarity and frequency range were improved. Despite lacking advanced codecs like aptX and LDAC, these buds support AAC and SBC and provide steady streaming on all devices.
The HeyMelody app comes with a few sound personalization features like a custom EQ with 4 preprogrammed presets and BassWave — a OnePlus technology that dynamically adjusts bass, clarity, and fidelity. Each of these was useful, but I was most drawn to BassWave since it enhanced the low end on bass-heavy bangers like the Gorillaz’s “Feel Good Inc.” and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” Details were transparent and the midrange was crisp, especially on The Rolling Stones’ “Dancing with Mr. D,” where Mick Jagger’s feral wails shined and veiled background vocals came through more clearly.
As good as these buds sounded on the iPhone and the Android devices I tried, they sounded even better when paired with my OnePlus 11 phone, thanks to exclusive features that are tied to the OnePlus ecosystem. These include Dolby Atmos, Dirac Audio Tuner, and spatial audio.
Dolby Atmos amplifies sonic characteristics in different ways. Listeners can choose between 8 presets that are split between two profiles: Environment or Scenario. Environment gives music an airy presence and works well for automatically adjusting sound when indoors or commuting. Meanwhile, Scenario offers sound options for different media (Movie, Gaming, Music), as well as a Smart preset that optimizes sound based on the scenario.
The spatial audio support blew me away once I turned it on. The widened soundstage made all content feel more immersive. Head tracking isn’t supported on these buds, but the Nord Buds 2 did a stellar job of producing lively sound on each channel. High-range vocals gave me goosebumps and gunfire sequences placed me behind the barrel of every shooter (watch a John Wick movie to hear for yourself).
It’s just a shame that this level of sound can only be experienced on OnePlus devices.
Solid noise cancellation, but not the strongest at the price
Are the Nord Buds 2 some of the best noise-cancelling earbuds out there? No. I’d rank other inexpensive models above them, such as the 1More PistonBuds Pro and Donner DoBuds One. That doesn’t mean you won’t get solid noise reduction from these long stemmers.
Most of my ANC testing time was spent indoors, though I did take the buds outside on occasion. Any chatter around the house was silent, along with household appliances and the humming noises from my centralized AC unit. Most of the construction taking place outside of my balcony didn’t bother me much either; buzzing effects never affected the soundscape. High-frequency sounds (e.g., crying babies, firetruck horns) were distracting and broke my concentration.
Transparency came in handy for ambient listening. The feature was effective enough to hear vocals and external sounds loudly and clearly. Mic placement was on point despite the quirky design with a thick, long stem, which I found unattractive.
One benefit of the bulky frame with IP55 certification is stronger protection from scuffs, scratches, and moisture damage. Small details like the reflective touch panels are appreciated as well. At the same time, these positives aren’t enough to beautify Nord Buds 2. On top of that, the touch controls have a latency issue, taking 1-2 seconds to register input and execute intended commands.
Oddly enough, the large design isn’t cumbersome when fitted in the ear. I wore the Nord Buds 2 for 3-hour stretches daily before fatigue set in. Fit was decent as the buds remained stable when maneuvering around the house. The charging case has a sleek pill-shaped design, but the flimsy lid makes it feel cheap.
Serviceable battery life with powerful charging
Up to 5 hours battery life with ANC enabled isn’t much to brag about. Neither is 7 hours with ANC off. Still, these are respectable playtimes that fall within the AirPods Pro range (5 to 7 hours). The five extra charges (27 to 36 hours) provided by the charging case help extend battery life to get you through the workweek.
OnePlus’ fast charging makes you completely forget about the Nord Buds 2’s battery life, generating 5 hours of listening time on a 10-minute charge. That isn’t a typo. For comparison, a 5-minute quick charge on the AirPods Pro 2 equates to 1 hour of use. The caveat is that you need a 5VDC 0.9A adapter (or higher). Either way, that’s a charging solution most of us would beg for on all true wireless models.
OnePlus Nord Buds 2 review: Verdict
Audio performance is enough to put the $59 Nord Buds 2 on your radar. Their soundstage is dynamic and engaging, feeding listeners boom-filled lows and crisp mids that stand out on hi-res music tracks. The presets in the HeyMelody app are well engineered, plus the BassWave feature adds plenty of oomph to bass without compromising frequency range.
It’s just unfortunate that in order to experience the Nord Buds 2’s elite sound quality, you'll need a OnePlus smartphone. Dolby Atmos and spatial audio drastically improve sound and are two major features that would make these buds a top seller had they been compatible with non-OnePlus devices.
Complaints about the bulky design and flaky touch controls are also noted, though they’re forgivable when factoring in the low price. Compromises have been made at the price, of course, but the solid performance across all mobile platforms makes them a worthwhile pickup if you desire good sound and ANC for a third of the price of many of the best wireless earbuds out there.