Dec 16th, 2021

Over the course of the past year, we’ve been seeing a trend in the headphone market. Not only are earbuds getting smaller and more affordable, but they are coming equipped with features that were originally only found in much more expensive options. Take the Nothing Ear (1) as an example. At just $99, the earbuds offer adjustable ANC, a unique design, and great battery life. Then you look over at a company like OnePlus, which has its own offering in the truly wireless earbud space.

Earlier this year, the OnePlus Buds Pro were introduced, bringing a flagship-level earbud experience, without breaking the bank. Sure, the retail price still comes in at $150, and can regularly be found for even less than that. But OnePlus also offers an entry-level set of truly wireless earbuds in the OnePlus Buds Z. These don’t offer any type of noise cancelation to speak of, but are just some solid earbuds to throw in your pocket when you want to listen to some tunes or take a phone call.

Enter the OnePlus Buds Z2. These earbuds offer the best of both worlds, essentially fusing the OnePlus Buds Z and OnePlus Buds Pro together in an affordable package. The Buds Z2 are equipped with ANC, capable of canceling out up to 40dB of sound, along with a dedicated Transparency Mode and a triple microphone array. All of this, for just $99 at launch, which frankly, feels like a steal.

OnePlus Buds Z2 Specifications

  • 11mm Dynamic drivers
  • 40dB Active Noise Cancellation
  • Transparency Mode
  • IP55 (earbuds) / IPX4 (charging case)
  • Triple microphone array
  • USB-C Charging
  • Bluetooth 5.2
  • 38 hours of battery life w/ Flash Charge (5 hours in 10 minutes)
  • Size: 33 x 22.4 x 21.8mm (buds), 73.15 x 36.8 x 29.1mm (case)
  • Weight: 4.5g (buds), 40.5g (case)

OnePlus Buds Z2 Review: What We Like

Admittedly, while I don’t have the best hearing in the world, I am absolutely in love with truly-wireless headphones. It’s why I have a drawer filled with headphones that I’ve either reviewed, or purchased myself, and constantly switch between different ones. So when I got the opportunity to review the Buds Z2, I jumped.

Usually, you can tell the difference between headphones that are priced on either end of the price spectrum. But outside of the case (more on that later), the Buds Z2 feel good and sturdy. Even though they are made from plastic, there isn’t any weird creaking while holding the earbuds in your hands, and they are still light enough that ear fatigue shouldn’t be much of an issue.

Getting the Buds Z2 paired with your phone of choice is as easy as it gets thanks in part to Google Fast Pair. But you’ll want to download the HeyMelody app from the Play Store in order to take full advantage of what’s available. Google Fast Pair has been an absolutely Godsend, as the old days of going through the Bluetooth menu to pair some headphones is long-gone.

From the aforementioned HeyMelody app, you are provided with a few different options. For one, you can easily switch between the different noise modes, with the following choices:

  • Max noise cancellation
  • Noise cancellation
  • Off
  • Transparency

The app has even been updated where you can perform the “Earbud fit test” to ensure that you are using the right-sized ear tips. Speaking of which, OnePlus provides three different options in the box, with the medium tips already installed. And you won’t need to jump through a bunch of hoops to install a software update, as it can be done right from here.

So what about how the Buds Z2 actually perform? To be it plainly, it’s been lovely. The ANC levels are such that it’s still able to dampen the noise coming from using a mechanical keyboard all day. It also has proven to be a frustration with my wife if she is trying to call me from the other room.

The first time I put the Buds Z2 in my ears after pairing them with my Pixel 6 Pro, I was blown away. Not because of the ANC or anything, but just because of how punchy and vibrant the sound was. I was truly blown away and felt like I needed to double-check that I was using the right earbuds.

Regardless of whether I was listening to synth-wave (my latest addiction), or enjoying some Christmas tunes, the Buds Z2 were simply incredible. One more area that I wanted to touch on comes via the charging case. OnePlus continues to blow me away with its charging speeds, and this continues with the Buds Z2. Plugging in for just a few minutes gives you hours of playback, something that I relied on more heavily than I expected to.

OnePlus Buds Z2 Review: What We Don’t

Truthfully, there really wasn’t much about the Buds Z2 that I didn’t enjoy. Having the ability to switch between different noise modes, and update the firmware right from the HeyMelody app is a nice touch. It’s also something I wasn’t expecting from headphones priced at just $99.

My biggest complaints about the OnePlus Buds Z2 has everything to do with the charging case and battery life. For one, we received the Obsidian Black version for review and both the earbuds and charging case are fingerprint magnets. I much prefer the matte finish found on the likes of the OnePlus Buds Pro.

And as for the charging case, it’s just a bit too bulky for my liking. Instead of a vertically oriented case like the Pixel Buds A-Series, OnePlus is using an oblong case. This just isn’t something that I would’ve expected, but it’s just fine for what it does. It’s unfortunately not as pocketable as other earbuds that I’ve tested or used in the past year.

Finally, there’s no wireless charging here. It’s not a surprising omission, but a disappointing one nevertheless. Wireless charging is everywhere, even those super-cheap earbuds that you can snag off of Amazon for $30. Alas, OnePlus is expecting you to rely on its amazingly-fast wired charging instead.

Conclusion

So should you buy the OnePlus Buds Z2 for yourself? If you’re in the market for some new earbuds and don’t want to break the bank, $99 isn’t a steep asking price for a great set of headphones. That’s what makes these so intriguing. For $99, you get about 90% of what you’ll enjoy in headphones that cost at least $50 more.

I’m waiting for my own set of Nothing Ear (1) earbuds to come in, which aim to do much of what the Buds Z2 do. So be sure to keep your eyes peeled for that comparison coming down the pipeline. If you want to grab the Buds Z2 for yourself, they are available starting today from either OnePlus directly or Amazon. But you’ll only be able to pick up the Pearl White version, as the Obsidian Black color that you’ve seen pictured here, won’t be available until next year.

OnePlus Buds Z2 Rating: star_fullstar_fullstar_fullstar_fullstar_25 (4.25 / 5)

The Good

  • Sounds much better than you might expect
  • Customizable ANC
  • Software updates handled through app
  • Long-lasting battery life

The Bad

  • Earbuds and Charging Case are very glossy
  • No wireless charging

The Bottom Line

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