- Quite comfortable
- Sound great
- Long lasting battery
- $150 CAD is a fair price
- No way to locate when missing
- Touch pads can be annoying
- Not as budget friendly as predecessor
- Charging case feels cheap
OnePlus has outdone itself with the new OnePlus Buds Z2, a $159 set of earbuds that sound great, last a long time and offer compelling noise-cancelling, all while costing less than many competitors.
OnePlus has been impressing me with its low-cost earbuds since the release of the original OnePlus Buds a few years ago. I’ve found that more-or-less OnePlus earbuds have been great at giving a decently expansive soundscape with detailed music. The OnePlus Buds Z2 carries that touch forward while still packing in some higher-end features like active noise-cancelling.
A few small things are missing that I’d love to see the company add to these buds from the OnePlus Buds Pros. However, for the fair price of the OnePlus Buds Z2, I can forgive the missing components.
Surround sound on a budget
The number one reason to get the OnePlus Buds Z2 is the sound quality. I love the richness that OnePlus packed into these little buds. Compared to the similarly priced Galaxy Buds 2, I find the 11-inch drivers on the OnePlus Buds Z2 packs a stronger bass punch, sharper vocals and a more immersive listening experience.
Like the Apple AirPods and numerous other earbuds to have come out, the OnePlus Buds Z support Dolby Atmos surround sound. To get this effect during music playback, you need to subscribe to Apple or Amazon Music. In practice, it can help make music sound even more enveloping by artificially widening the soundstage.
All of that said and done, it’s a nice add-on, but until other companies figure out how to mimic Apple’s head-tracking tech, no one is going to come close to the subtle immersive of AirPods. This is getting into the nitty-gritty since not many songs support Dolby Atmos, but if you want to try out the newest music feature, the AirPods do it a little better.
OnePlus also leverages some active noise cancellation to help isolate the music you’re listening to by blocking out background sounds. As with most earbuds, it’s not as strong as on wireless headphones, but it does help make the music feel more present by pushing other sounds more into the background. OnePlus has two levels of noise-cancelling and a transparency mode. I found myself using the full mode the most, but having a slightly less aggressive version to ratchet down to is nice.
As with most wireless earbuds in 2022, you can enable other features and control the noise-cancelling modes.
On a OnePlus phone, these are built into the device, but everyone else will need to get an app called HeyMelody (iOS/Android). You can also use this app to change how the touch controls work. Beyond basic play/pause, you can also set up a feature that allows you to hold down on the buds for three seconds to switch to another nearby device that you’ve previously connected with.
While this isn’t as seamless as AirPods or even the new update to the OnePlus Buds Pro, it’s nice to see this feature built-in. And when it works, it makes jumping from a device like a phone to a computer and back again a little easier.
OnePlus’ website says that there is a feature to help locate the buds when they’re lost, but I couldn’t find it in the iOS or OnePlus versions of the earbuds companion app. Nor did the earbuds appear in the Google Find My Devices app like the original OnePlus Buds Z did.
Comfortable and long-lasting buds
One of the things I’m glad OnePlus didn’t change about the new OnePlus Buds Z2 compared to the originals is the ultra-comfortable design.
The new earbuds are light, and they sit in my ears with the medium ear tips (small and large also included) quite snugly. Since they’re so light they also don’t wobble much in your ears, and even wearing them for hours on end isn’t a chore. Even the ear tips are made from a pleasant feeling silicon, so they don’t feel as slimy in my ears like other earbuds I’ve tried.
If you’re wearing them for hours, you also don’t have to worry about battery life either. On their own, the buds last for five hours with noise cancellation enabled and up to seven with it turned off. Once you add the case into the mix, they’ll last for between 27-38 hours, depending on the number of calls you make and the noise-cancellation you use.
The snug fit also makes them great for being active since both the case and buds have subtle waterproofing. The buds are IP55 rated, so they should be ok to use in the rain. The case is only IPx4 rated, so it may be able to take some small splashes, but I’d do my best to tuck it away if it’s getting wet outside. Something that shouldn’t be too hard given its small size.
It all comes down to this
While I was disappointed at first that these buds cost almost twice as much as the original OnePlus Buds Z, I’m walking away from this review still pretty impressed.
Compared to the competitors, the long-lasting battery, clean sound and comfortable weight make them some of my favourite buds leading into 2022. However, if you want something ultra-tiny, the Galaxy Buds 2 are still decent buds and cost similarly. Between the two, though, I’d choose the OnePlus Buds.
At this price, I would have loved to see OnePlus bring Zen Mode, the stem controls and new seamless switching from the Buds Pro to the Buds Z2, but if you’re only after good sound quality for a decent value, the OnePlus Buds Z are the better option.
Overall, for $150 CAD, and even cheaper right now with a $20 off sale, I don’t think there are many better options. The only real choice is ‘Pearl White’ or ‘Obsidian Black.’