The OnePlus Buds Z2 work best with OnePlus phones, but they’re not totally off-limits for everybody else. It will help if you like your tunes served with plenty of bass, though.
- Decent battery life
- Responsive controls
- Effective ANC
- Overly bassy sound
- No EQ
- No wireless charging
- Basic design
- App-controlled ANCHead to the HeyMelody app to control noise cancelling modes
- Dolby Atmos support on OnePlus phonesCan play Dolby Atmos spatial audio
- Customisable touch controlsControls can be changed in app
Having made its name with affordable phones with high-end specs, OnePlus has branched out. While its equally affordable smartwatch and the branded bum bag (that’s a fanny pack to our North American friends) is a tough sell on either side of the pond, the OnePlus Buds Z2 are a very tempting proposition.
Priced at just £100, with active noise-cancelling and Dolby Atmos support when connected to a compatible OnePlus phone, do the Buds Z2 have enough about them to stand out from similarly priced alternatives?
- Secure, comfortable fit
- Two colours available
- Compact case
The Buds Z2 aare available in Obsidian Black or Pearl White. Choose the latter and they won’t stand out among all the other AirPod-alikes, but there’s still plenty to like about the design, even if it’s pretty basic.
The stems are fairly short, with a decent-sized, touch-sensitive panel where they meet the bud. They also fit well in the ears and are comfortable to wear, with three pairs of tips included in the box to cater for different sizes of lughole. However, despite IP55 waterproofing, the Buds Z2 lack the security of units such as the Beats Fit Pro, if you’re looking for a pair to wear while working out.
The glossy, pill-shaped case that the Buds Z2 live in is nice and compact, if not the smallest you can get, but it will still fit in a pocket alongside your wallet. The buds themselves are held in tight-fitting slots, with magnets to help them find their way in and stay secure; but they remain easy to get in and out.
At the end of the day, the Buds Z2 aren’t going to win any design awards, but there’s nothing divisive or off-putting here that needs to be considered before taking the plunge.
- Active noise-cancelling
- Touch controls
- No EQ
Not surprisingly, the OnePlus Buds Z2 are designed to work best with OnePlus phones, but owning one isn’t a requirement. Using an iPhone, they connected quickly without fuss, with the free HeyMelody app used to access the more advanced features. This includes a handy fit test to ensure you’ve got the right tips attached, and battery indicators for both buds and the case (although you need to have at least one inside with the lid open for the latter to appear).
The touch controls are the same no matter which bud you prod, making it easier to remember what’s what – but if you want to change them, there’s a menu in the app that allows you to choose different commands for the left and right buds. With a combination of taps, touches and holds you can control playback and calls, cycle through the various noise-cancelling modes, and switch between connected devices. They’ll also pause automatically whenever you take one out.
The single-, double- and triple-tap commands are nice and responsive, with audio feedback to confirm that each touch has registered. However, the longer touch-and-hold can take a little while to master. Fortunately, there’s a fairly long two-second difference between the standard touch-and-hold and long touch-and-hold, so it’s difficult to get those two mixed up.
There are three ANC modes: max, standard and transparency. The difference between the first two isn’t hugely noticeable, but both keep distractions to a minimum, and even the passive isolation offered when it’s turned off completely is decent.
Transparency lets in a bit too much train chat and makes music sound a little thin, so it’s something you’d want to turn on and off as required, rather than leaving it on at all times. Nevertheless, it’s effective if you need to maintain a higher level of awareness of what’s going on around you. Where the Buds Z2 can struggle is on the London Underground, where the ANC algorithm sometimes caused some rather odd aural sensations.
If you do pair these buds with a OnePlus phone, it’s possible to access all the features without needing to download the HeyMelody app, plus certain models also get Dolby Atmos support and a low-latency mode for gaming. Android users will still need the app, but do benefit from Fast Pair support.
With the ANC turned on, OnePlus claims a battery life of five hours from the Buds Z2 and 27 extra hours in the case, which compares favourably with Apple’s far more expensive AirPods Pro. Turn the ANC off and that jumps to seven and 38 hours respectively. These numbers seem broadly accurate to us, and we used them regularly over the course of a few weeks without having to plug in the USB-C cable. Unfortunately, there’s no support for wireless charging.
When that time does come they’ll take about 90 minutes to recharge fully, but OnePlus’s Fast Charge tech means unplugging after just 10 minutes will give you five hours of ANC-enabled play time. If the buds die but there’s some juice left in the case, sticking them inside for 10 minutes will get you two hours of playback. In short, battery anxiety shouldn’t be an issue if you own a pair of Buds Z2.
- Bass-leaning performance
- Good volume
If you like music that relies on a lot of bass, you’ll like what you hear with the OnePlus Buds Z2 in your ears.
Play Earthgang’s Meditate or Big Boi’s Kill Jill with the volume up too high, and it can feel like the Buds Z2 could shake your brain loose in your skull. There’s rarely any hint of distortion, so that often makes these buds fun to listen to. However, for tracks that don’t lean so heavily on bass, the bottom end can end up stealing the show somewhat, particularly at higher volumes. For tracks that are all about the mid-range, it means things can sometimes sound a bit flat and one-dimensional.
This wouldn’t be an issue if there was an EQ within the app that allowed you to tone it down, but you’re stuck with the way they’ve been tuned. As such, the Buds Z2 will suit some tastes perfectly, but it’s worth doing a little audit of your favourite genres before deciding to splash your cash.
There are microphones on each bud to pick up your voice and cancel out any unwanted background noise. We had no complaints when making calls, although there was some inconsistency when listening to callers coming through from the other end, with occasional, brief drops in fidelity – but nothing too catastrophic.
In general, Bluetooth performance proved solid, with no noteworthy dropouts to interrupt your listening.
Should you buy it?
If you have a OnePlus phone Not only do you get system-level operation rather than having to download the HeyMelody app, OnePlus owners are the only ones who can unlock the Buds Z2’s Dolby Atmos support.
If you don’t like a lot of bass These aren’t the only buds at this price to favour a bass-heavy approach, but if that doesn’t match the contents of your favourite playlists, then you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.
It’s hardly surprising that the OnePlus Buds Z2 work best with OnePlus phones – the clue’s in the name – but if you’re looking for a pair of true wireless earphones with noise-cancelling, they’re one of the more affordable options out there.
The issue is the sheer number of alternatives. Competition at this price is fierce, so unless you’re the kind of person who would wear a OnePlus bum bag, you can get more accomplished audio performance elsewhere.
How we test
We test every headphones we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
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Tested for three weeks
Tested with real world use
Tested with music streaming services
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The Z2 can stream over Bluetooth in SBC and AAC, which are supported by Android and iOS devices.
There’s no wireless charging, just normal charging through the USB-C connection (which supports fast charging).