OnePlus touts itself as ‘the flagship killer,’ with devices that can hold their own against the top brands in the market for a much lesser price point than average. Like how the OnePlus 10T smartphone gives incredible flagship features at a smaller price, the OnePlus Nord Buds 2 slides into the very same flagship-killing category with ease, peddling a stylish exterior and a gateway into audio users may not have known possible for their budget.
First Impressions Count
The OnePlus Nord Buds 2 comes in a small box with everything you need to get set up. I received the Lightning White colourway of the Nord Buds 2, but they come in Thunder Gray as well. I love the top silver contrast with the white base on the charging case; it gives it just a little more of a premium flair that makes a statement. A small USB Type C to USB 2.0 is included for charging, and like the original Nord Buds, these do not come with a charging base. Lastly, a very thin instruction manual provides literally every function the buds can utilize. Oh, and they also come with S, M, and L ear tips for a more tailored fit. OnePlus thought of everything.
First off, the Nord Buds 2 feel incredibly comfortable. I was able to sit down with them for hours on end without ear fatigue. While its predecessor, The Nord Buds, were also comfortable, the Nord Buds 2 can really stick around for the long haul and feel like a true upgrade. The clean Lightning White colourway also doesn’t appear to get dirty easily, as I’ve used these for a couple of weeks and discolouration hasn’t happened. A nice addition to a device that has staying power.
The OnePlus Nord Buds 2 have an astounding battery life. While using them, the buds operated for approximately 6 hours continuously without returning to the case (ANC was active the whole time). The case, on the other hand, was able to charge the buds fully 4 times (and a 60% charge after the fourth) without needing to be plugged in after 100% battery. The Nord Buds 2 can last far longer than the wearer on any given day, and the battery life can get the user through most weeks without needing to be charged.
When using the Buds 2 with my OnePlus Nord N20 5G phone, there are MANY functions that come equipped for OnePlus compatibility. With a OnePlus device, the Nord Buds 2 don’t even need to be manually paired. You just need to open the device and go to the Bluetooth settings and connect it seamlessly. When using an iPhone, or a non-OnePlus device, pairing is still simple via Bluetooth with just a button press. There is also the major inclusion of Dolby Atmos sound and a notable Dirac Audio Tuner while using the Nord Buds 2 with OnePlus devices, but it is noticeably MIA when not paired with OnePlus devices. This is a huge letdown for iOS or other Android users.
Due to the unavailability of software updates on the OnePlus Nord N20 5G smartphone, I had to download the HeyMelody app—also detailed in the instruction manual—to access advanced features. This app also functions as a speed-running-paced tutorial for the bud functions, which is a nice touch for new users or repeat offenders who need a crash course. This app also double functions as an update hub for the Buds 2 firmware. There is an audio EQ for those that like to tinker with audio settings to get the just right amount of bass and treble, and it allows users to hotkey the earbud functions differently.
There is a huge flaw with the app functionality, though. On my iPhone 14 Pro, I was unable to pair the earbuds to the app. The Nord Buds 2 worked incredibly for music listening and phone call functions, but the Buds would just refuse to pair to the app. Without reliance on the app, the smart functionality with the earbuds doesn’t work, and users can’t determine the battery life for the device or mess with EQ settings, which just make these wireless headphones for iOS.
A Hands-Free Dream
The OnePlus Nord Buds 2 feel like they were made to use for phone calls. Whether walking during massive wind gusts, or at the gym, the person on the other line could not tell what I was doing during phone calls. The voice clarity is also something to take note of since normally I have issues hearing people through earbuds while on the phone, but the Nord Buds 2 transmits voice crystal clear. This may be due to the ANC function doing such a good job at muddling the background noise, or the efficient dual-mic design that cooperatively works to cancel outside noise while delivering clarity through the call receiver.
“Gaming with the Nord Buds 2 is a blast, especially for those who need to be quiet during nighttime raids, as the audio has virtually no bleed outside the headphones.”
Speaking of ANC, although the Nord Buds 2 did indeed include ANC this time (which may be why they increased $20 in price), it’s not to the level of complete noise cancellation. It definitely does enough to make music listening more enjoyable, but the ANC capabilities on the Buds 2 don’t completely shutter noise. The Nord Buds 2 also includes IP55 sweat and water resistance, which is a godsend for those that need it for gusty winds and rain. I had the best Buds when marching through rainy days without any interference or damage. Sweat resistance is also a must for those that go running or hit the weight room. The Nord Buds 2 can hang for these gruelling sessions for hours, and there was no fear of them slipping out of my ears when going for a personal record (PR).
The Nord Buds 2 can also connect to the Nintendo Switch and Steam Deck seamlessly. This is excellent for those who use wireless buds for gaming. I was able to play Elden Ring quietly while utilizing the OnePlus Nord Buds 2 on the Steam Deck, and adventuring through The Lands Between this way felt very portable. There is a notable ‘Game Mode’ switch on the HeyMelody app, but it didn’t seem to do much for me. Gaming with the Nord Buds 2 is a blast, especially for those who need to be quiet during nighttime raids, as the audio has virtually no bleed outside the headphones. Not disturbing others while blasting the new Metallica 72 Seasons album feels good, even though public air guitar is always frowned upon.
The OnePlus Nord Buds 2 are a notable improvement over their predecessor. The inclusion of ANC is a good one as it helps music and phone call clarity immensely. The Dolby Atmos and Dirac audio functions are awesome additions, but they’re lost outside the OnePlus ecosystem of devices which may make other OS users look elsewhere. The OnePlus Nord Buds 2 are an easy recommendation for those who simply need new wireless headphones with an excellent sound signature, but headphones that are compatible with basically everything that has Bluetooth.