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OnePlus Nord Buds review: Cheap price, rich sound

OnePlus' most affordable wireless earbuds live up to the 'Nord' name.

OnePlus Nord Buds
(Image: © Alex Dobie / Android Central)

Our Verdict

Provided you don't need active noise cancellation, OnePlus's first Nord-branded earbuds are easy to recommend — especially if you already own a OnePlus or Oppo phone.

For

  • Great audio quality
  • Quick, easy pairing
  • Comfortable fit with extra tips included
  • Fast charging and decent battery life

Against

  • No ANC
  • Awkward, boxy case shape
  • No wireless charging
  • No volume gestures

The original OnePlus Nord aimed to deliver "pretty much everything you need" from a smartphone. Although it lacked some of the more eye-catching features of expensive rivals, it packed an incredible bang for a relatively modest buck.

OnePlus says it's taken the same approach to the Nord Buds, its cheapest true wireless earbuds yet. The company hasn't chased value-add features like wireless charging or active noise cancellation, but instead focuses on the essentials — decent audio quality at a competitive price. These use the same drivers as the premium OnePlus Buds Pro, only packaged into an unassuming pair of buds that sells for around half the price, while also offering the bonus of a sweat-resistant IP55 rating.

You'll want to look elsewhere if you need powerful active noise cancellation or more convenient charging options. But for everyone else, the Nord Buds are easily among the best cheap wireless earbuds.

OnePlus Nord Buds: Pricing and availability

OnePlus Nord Buds

(Image credit: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

The OnePlus Buds Pro launch on May 24, 2022 via OnePlus' own online storefront, as well as a variety of as yet unannounced partners. They'll be available in most European countries, as well as India, Hong Kong, China, Canada and the U.S. and come in two color options: black and white.

In the UK, the OnePlus buds Pro will sell for £49. In India, they'll cost you ₹2,799. We'll update this review with U.S. pricing when it's confirmed.

OnePlus Nord Buds: What's good

OnePlus Nord Buds

(Image credit: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

The OnePlus Nord Buds feature a minimalist design inside and out. The pill-shaped case is clad in matte plastic, while the buds themselves sport a two-tone pattern that gives them a more modern look than the Buds Z2, which featured longer stems. The design of both case and buds is a no-nonsense affair, with USB-C charging on the rear next to a pairing button, and a charging LED on the front edge.

I've found the fit of the Nord Buds to be comfortable even for longer periods, using the medium-sized tips preinstalled with the buds. (Small and large sizes are also bundled.) And the buds themselves are lightweight enough, with a sufficiently tight fit to stay put while running (and sweating) without slipping. While most true wireless earbuds will stand up to a bit of sweat without issue, the Nord Buds boast the extra peace of mind of an IP55 rating for water and sweat resistance.

As for audio quality, the Nord Buds produce a fairly balanced sound, though like other OnePlus earbuds they do tend to emphasize bass and percussion more than many competitors. Regardless, whether I was listening to YouTube videos, podcasts, or music, I was happy with the audio quality of the Nord Buds — these buds punch well above their weight. I noticed no distortion even at high volume levels, likely thanks to their use of the same 12.4mm drivers found in the premium OnePlus Buds Pro. Meanwhile, for compatible content, the Nord Buds also include Dolby Atmos support for simulated 3D audio effects.

The Nord Buds are managed using the HeyMelody app common to all Oppo and OnePlus audio gear. Despite the dismal review score, the app worked fine on the couple of non-OnePlus Android phones I tested it with, allowing me to change settings and update the firmware. If you're using the Nord Buds with a OnePlus or Oppo phone, this functionality is baked into the Bluetooth menu, so there's no need to download a standalone app.

OnePlus Nord Buds software

(Image credit: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

Also exclusive to OnePlus phones is the low-latency gaming mode, which aims to knock response times down as low as 94ms. (I couldn't really notice this feature's effect at all while testing the Nord Buds with OnePlus's new Nord 2T, but maybe your reflexes are quicker than mine.)

OnePlus owners can also take advantage of the fast pairing option by opening an unpaired set of Nord Buds.

I was also pleasantly surprised with the battery life offered by the Nord Buds, getting longevity broadly in line with the seven hours of usage quoted by OnePlus for a single charge. After a 40-minute run followed by a 20-minute walk with the buds playing at maximum volume, I typically got down to 90%. After a couple more hours of listening at home, I hit the 60% mark.

I've rarely found modern wireless earbuds to be slow to charge, but OnePlus nevertheless impresses with the Nord Buds' recharge speeds. A few minutes of juice from any decent USB power source is enough to get you out of the danger zone and back to your content. OnePlus quotes an official charge time of 10 minutes for 5 hours use, or a total of 30 hours from a single charge of the case. That kind of longevity means you can easily go away for a weekend without worrying about running out of juice.

OnePlus Nord Buds: What's not good

OnePlus Nord Buds

(Image credit: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

Firstly, if you're looking for active noise cancellation — which, admittedly, you don't necessarily expect at this price point — you'll be disappointed. The Nord Buds' "AI noise cancellation" is no match for the noise-eliminating power of true ANC.

Same deal with wireless charging — this added convenience is rare at the £50/$50 price point in 2022.

While I have no issues with the way the Nord Buds look — in fact, I even prefer them to OnePlus' earlier earbuds designs — the shape of the charging case is slightly problematic. While its size is roughly the same as the Buds Z2, the boxy proportions makes it more conspicuous in a pocket than most true wireless earbuds. It's not a huge issue, but it's definitely a thing with these buds. By comparison, Nothing's ear(1) case, with its flatter design, fits more naturally in a pocket.

Like the Buds Z2, I'm also slightly disappointed that OnePlus wasn't able to include volume gestures in the Nord Buds, likely due to a more basic capacitive touch sensor being used in this cheaper model. The only gestures available to program are for single, double and triple taps, or long presses.

OnePlus Nord Buds: The competition

OnePlus Nord Buds

(Image credit: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

At around the $50 mark, Creative's Outlier Air 3 buds rank among the Nord Buds' main competition. While these also lack noise cancellation and come with a similarly bulky case, they do boast wireless charging support for more convenient top-ups, as well as up to 10 hours of battery life.

Buyers in the UK might also want to consider Huawei's FreeBuds Pro, which have a standard retail price of around £100, but are routinely discounted well below that. For music, I prefer the sound produced by the Nord Buds to Huawei's offering, but the FreeBuds are able to offer ANC (with a decent transparency mode to boot) and Qi wireless charging. The FreeBuds Pro are also able to maintain simultaneous connections to two devices, a feature missing from OnePlus and most other manufacturers' buds. 

OnePlus Nord Buds: Should you buy them?

OnePlus Nord Buds

(Image credit: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

You should buy this if ... 

  • You're on a budget
  • You want good audio quality with a particular focus on bass 
  • You don't care about active noise cancellation
  • You already have a OnePlus phone

You shouldn't buy this if ... 

  • You need a case that doesn't stick out in your pocket
  • You're going to be listening in a lot of loud, noisy areas
  • You want tight digital assistant integration
  • You can afford to spend £100 or more on wireless earbuds 

If you've got a OnePlus phone and want good-sounding true wireless earbuds without breaking the bank, the Nord Buds are easy to recommend. Provided active noise cancellation isn't a concern, these earbuds sound just as good as many at twice their price. And your OnePlus phone will benefit from a handful of exclusive features that sweeten the deal.

There are better, more expensive options if ANC or wireless charging are must-have features — but, just like the phones that kicked off the series, the Nord Buds get the basics right, and at a price that's tough to beat.

Alex was with Android Central for over a decade, producing written and video content for the site, and served as global Executive Editor from 2016 to 2022.