OnePlus set a high bar with last year’s release of the Nord Buds, which are generally some of the best budget wireless earbuds on the market. They were priced at an almost suspiciously low $39, but delivered pretty clear sound and a set of features that would be good enough for most users. Despite having more expensive and flashier options, they’ve even become one of my go-to pairs of earbuds.
Now, a bit ahead of the typical yearly release cycle, OnePlus is launching the Nord Buds 2. The new model carries over many traits of the original, but makes a few subtle changes and adds active noise cancellation (ANC) to the equation. However, this comes at a higher price of $59.
OnePlus Nord Buds 2
All the qualities of the original budget-friendly Nord Buds, but now with active noise cancellation. The second generation retains the same design and features while adopting some minor alterations to improve on the original, and all while sticking to a very competitive price.
- Brand: OnePlus
- Battery Life: 5h / 27h (ANC on), 7h / 36h (ANC off)
- Noise Cancellation: Yes
- Mono Listening: Either bud
- Microphones: 2 per bud
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3, OnePlus Fast Pair
- IP rating: IP55 (buds)
- Supported codecs: SBC, AAC
- Charging: USB Type-C
- Driver size: 12.4mm
- Price (MSRP): $59 USD / $85 CAD
- Dimensions: 27.5 x 21.05 x 24.4mm (buds)
- Weight: 4.7g (bud), 37.5g (case)
- Color: Lightning White, Thunder Grey
- Simple attractive design
- Solid battery life
- Very competitive pricing
- Pretty good sound quality
- Case design is clunky
- No aptX support
Price and availability
The OnePlus Nord Buds 2 are priced at $59 USD or $85 CAD. At launch, you’ll be able to pick up a pair directly from OnePlus. Availability on Amazon is expected by mid-April.
Design and hardware
OnePlus opted to keep quite a few things the same between the first and second generation Nord Buds. The newer model retains the same simple design for its pill-shaped stem with a circular touch-sensitive button. In fact, the only change of note is that you can now get them in either Lightning White or Thunder Grey — which looks almost as dark as the Black Slate of the first generation.
The buds seal into the ear pretty well, and they’re imperceptibly lighter than the previous generation, so a bit of vigorous activity doesn’t seem to pose much risk that they might fall out.
The bulb segment that fits into the ear has grown just barely larger, and while it’s nearly impossible to see without a very close inspection, I definitely feel the difference while wearing them. I already found the first generation became somewhat uncomfortable after about 30-45 minutes, but the new model can irritate my ears in as little as 10-15 minutes. Of course, this will vary from one person to the next, and it only matters if you’re planning to wear them for hours at a time rather than 10-20 minutes per stretch.
The case design did get one notable change, suggesting OnePlus is paying close attention to buyers (or reviewers) of the original. The first generation case had distinctly sharp edges, which I believe are likely to wear a prominent outline into the fabric of a pants pocket or bag if it’s held tightly. The newer version rounds out the top and bottom edges, essentially eliminating the risks to your clothes.
However, this change does have one unfortunate side effect. Despite a very thin lid, the older squared-off design still had enough of an edge that it was easy enough to open by pressing against just one side. The newer rounded design is harder to grip and I find that I have to be much more intentional about opening it.
The magnets in the case and earbuds seem to be a little stronger this time around. Like the previous model, I can easily suspend a single bud from the top of the case, and now the new buds like to stick together in some orientations, and they jump into position when they’re dropped into the case. However, the minor size increase mentioned above also makes it possible that they can get stuck in the wrong orientation if they’re dropped in a little too far off-angle. It feels like a nitpicky detail, but you have to be more careful putting the buds away.
Audio and ANC
Given the price point, the original Nord Buds were clear overachievers in the area of audio quality. While I’m sure they were never intended to live up to the standards of very picky listeners, most people would be happy with their sound. The Buds 2 pick up where the originals left off, and actually improve on the only notable weakness of the original: Bass.
OnePlus redesigned the sound chamber, giving the Nord Buds 2 more natural bass and some improved clarity in the midtones. While you’ll still have to open the HeyMelody companion app to either pick a bassier preset or customize your own EQ settings, and then ramp up the new BassWave feature, the Nord Buds 2 can actually give you some of the genuine thump that the original version couldn’t deliver.
Active noise cancellation is the major headlining addition to the Nord Buds 2. While it’s obviously a standard feature in more expensive wireless earbuds, it’s still not too common in models under $80. And like the vast majority of earbuds, ANC in the Nord Buds 2 is only really effective for muting consistent low-frequency sounds that drone on, and might muffle a few higher-pitch frequencies without eliminating them. It’s certainly capable of filtering out the unpleasant fan noise from my NAS, but doesn’t seem to help with much else.
In truth, you can generally leave ANC disabled because there’s quite a bit of natural sound isolation. I wouldn’t compare them directly to ear plugs, but these buds do block quite a bit of sound. To compensate for that, there is also a transparency mode to amplify outside sounds while the ANC tries to remove noise. Unfortunately, the result is extremely airy, producing a persistent white noise like most buds do with transparency mode, but very pronounced. It’s not too much while music is playing, but becomes distracting if the buds are otherwise inactive.
It’s worth noting that I did experience some brief de-syncing and glitchiness during the review period. In most instances, it quickly fixed itself and continued playing, almost as if they were operating in low-latency mode; but I did have to pop them back in the case a couple times to let them reset. In my experience, this is generally a side effect of pre-production firmware and generally should be fixed with an update shortly after launch.
App and features
As you would expect, the companion app is essential for configuring and updating the buds. Modern OnePlus phones come with some built-in support for the company’s earbuds, but may also auto-install an app when they’re first paired, and you can expect to see a few special features integrated into the UI. For all other phones, just install the HeyMelody app (iOS version) from the respective app stores. Of course, you can also pair the buds to any device with Bluetooth without using the app, but you won’t be able to configure them.
The app provides the usual set of customizations to configure multi-tap behaviors (which can be different for each earbud), adjust your EQ, switch ANC modes, and enable a low-latency “Game” mode.
After testing the latency with both my MacBook Pro and my Pixel 7 Pro, I can say that the Game Mode does make some difference in the delay for games and unsynced videos, but not enough that it matters. It feels like it’s still a good half-second behind with the low-latency mode active, enough that voices don’t look right on videos, and game sounds are just always late. It may be possible to improve this with firmware, but I can’t say with certainty.
Battery and charging
Due to a short review deadline and some logistical complications (i.e. FedEx misses a lot of delivery dates), there wasn’t much time to evaluate battery life. However, OnePlus advertises five hours per charge with ANC enabled and seven hours without ANC, and this seems to be pretty consistent with the experience I’ve had up to this point.
The Nord Buds 2 support fast charging via USB-C if you can use it with a charging brick from OnePlus, and it should give you about five hours of play time (with ANC disabled) in only ten minutes of charging.
At $59 for a pair of wireless earbuds with ANC and good audio quality, there aren’t many credible alternatives at a similar price point. However, the Soundcore by Anker Life P3 offers most of the same features and even adds wireless charging and a longer 10 hour life per charge for $10 more.
However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the first generation Nord Buds. While it’s only saving $20 and gives the ANC and a bit of quality for music listeners, I can see a lot of people being perfectly happy with these.
Should you buy them?
Much like the originals, the Nord Buds 2 are a great value for the price of just $59. Sound quality is much closer to the $100-$150 competitors than it should be, and they deliver the features most people need, albeit without a few of the luxuries like multipoint connectivity, in-ear detection, or wireless charging.
My only significant complaint is with an uncomfortable fit, but that’s a personal detail that won’t apply to everybody. Unless you’re looking for a specific feature, audiophile-tier quality, or a different fit, the Nord Buds 2 should probably be in the running for a lot of people.