OnePlus Z2 Buds review: Hitting the sweet spot

There’s a wonderful thing that happens in the world of consumer tech when manufacturers put out both a budget and a premium version.

Sooner or later, we get something in the Goldilocks zone boasting both excellent features and a reasonable price point.

It happened with Apple, in the case of the AirPods 3 and now it’s time for Chinese brand OnePlus to do the same.

The company already makes the excellent OnePlus Buds Pro and experimented with budget buds before that. Now it’s just revealed the OnePlus Buds Z2.

These are a being positioned as an entry-level pair of wireless earphones, but they strike me as almost mid-tier.

The asking price is £99 and for that you get active noise cancellation, water resistance and a 38-hour battery life. It’s an attractive proposition.

The OnePlus Buds Z2 come in a glossy, oval-shaped charging case and are available in either Obsidian Black or Pearl White. Silicone tips are fitted to the eartip which automatically makes them more comfortable in my opinion than the basic plastic ones.

I’m not enamoured by the design and much prefer the smaller, curvier look of the OnePlus Buds Pro.

But, I can appreciate the practicalities of the design. It’s much easier to grip wireless buds when there’s a stem as opposed to a small jelly-bean type design. Also, it means the mic is positioned nearer to your mouth to better pick up your voice during a call.

Regardless of how they look, when it comes to earbuds it’s the sound that matters.

And thankfully, the sound produced is top notch because OnePlus has simply carried over the 11mm drivers with Dolby Atmos support straight from the OnePlus Buds Pro.

The Buds Z2 don’t favour any one sound profile over the other – so I didn’t experience thumping bass or particularly elevated vocals. Listening through a range of genres, the processing (at least to my ears) was evenly distributed. If anything, it was a slightly cooler audio experience. By which I mean the content wasn’t wrapped in that hard-to-define fuzziness around the edges that can often produce an overly warm and richer tone.

The particular benefit for listening, though, is the on-board active noise cancellation.

Each earbud features a three-mic setup that actively filters out noise levels of up to 40dB as needed. They also employ noise reduction algorithms and, thanks to the silicone tips, are a snug enough fit to protect your ears from noise seeping either in or out.

The Buds Z2 also support Dolby Atmos for virtual 360-degree sound. Obviously, you’ll need to be watching content that also supports Dolby Atmos to use it. Sadly, a white-noise focus feature I loved on the OnePlus Buds Pro: Zen Mode, hasn’t made it to the Buds Z2.

But there is Transparency mode, which lets the outside world in. Very useful if you’re out for a run or cycle and want some audio accompanyment without blocking out the rest of the world. It also means you can keep the Z2 Buds in and converse with other people although please don’t do that.

There’s ample amounts of battery life to be had with the Z2 Buds as well as a fast-charging solution to keep them topped up. OnePlus states you get up to 38 hours on a full charge and, when connected via USB-C, 10 minutes of charging will get you five hours of listening time.

During testing I could not, unfortunately, sit for 38 hours straight listening to music to find out if the claim is accurate. However, I found the Buds Z2 lasted a full four days of intermittent listening before needing to be charged up.

A small note on the case at this point. It’s nothing remarkable – the standard charging container for a pair of wireless earbuds – but it does have strong little magnets inside that pull the Z2 Buds into their charging grooves. It makes getting them out and putting them away again a very simple, straightforward process.

OnePlus (or Android in general) users will also benefit from the fast pairing introduced from Android 6.0. This worked seamlessly for me the minute I put the Buds Z2 in my ears.

Finally, the fact these headphones are IP55-rated water resistant (the case merits IPX4) which means they’ll survive being outside in the rain, if not falling into a nearby lake. Sure enough, I took them out for a run in the rain and they survived unscathed.

If you’re looking at whether or not to buy a new pair of wireless earbuds then the Buds Z2 are an attractive option if you’re on a budget. I much prefer the OnePlus Buds Pro and, if you can stretch to it, are worth upgrading to. But there’s nothing inherently wrong with this latest effort from OnePlus.

Thanks to the better design and addition of ANC these are much better than the original OnePlus Buds and pretty much hit the sweet spot in terms of price, performance and practicality.

OnePlus Buds Z2: the details

Water resistance helps if you want to use the Buds Z2 for exercise (OnePlus)

Name: OnePlus Buds Z2

Price: £99

What’s good:

  • Active noise cancellation
  • Budget price
  • Improved design

What’s bad:

  • Glossy case is a dust magnet
  • No Zen Mode

Where can I buy them? They aren’t available until December 20, but when they launch, you’ll be able to buy them at the official OnePlus website.

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