What can a company do in 2021 to set itself apart from other wireless earbuds? The near-ubiquity of decent hardware has made answering this question extremely difficult. Over the last year or so, I’ve probably tested around ten different sets of buds, and they’ve all been really nice. Nura and Nothing are pioneering new approaches to the category, but for hardware manufacturers who also sell handsets, being the greatest pair of headphones for a given device is sometimes enough?
Between the two universes, OnePlus exists in a void. Of course, the firm makes its own phones, but it doesn’t sell nearly as many as Samsung and Apple. The OnePlus Buds Pro, fittingly, walks that line, acting like a decent set of buds that work well with OnePlus’ own smartphones while also including a few — at the very least — unique extras that help them stand out in a crowded field. To this time, OnePlus’ work in the category has been average at best, and outright bad at worst.
After a tethered foray into the space, I was underwhelmed when the company eventually entered the totally wireless category last year. The under-$100 price tag was appealing, but they overall felt like a set that may have flown three or four years ago, when the options were much more limited. Thankfully, the Pros are superior in almost every way. That must be a comfort for the company, given one of its co-founders released his own new headphones less than a month after they released theirs. The gadget costs $150, which is $50, more than the Ear (1) and its regular buds. Taking a larger look at the present scene, it’s a reasonable price for what you’re getting here.
It’s worth noting that I tested the headphones with a non-OnePlus Android phone as well as an iPhone for this review. That necessitates the usage of the HeyMelody OnePlus/Oppo app, which is, to put it bluntly, inadequate. However, it accomplishes its goal thanks to a few essential aspects. There’s a fit test to ensure a proper seal, as well as a OnePlus Audio ID, which allows you to customize your sound profile.
The latter is a primitive version of what Nura offers with an old-school sound test that asks if you can hear the playback as you go through a series of tones. It’s a pain in the neck, but it pays off in the end.
When I was done, the outcome was a lot fuller and richer. Beyond that, there isn’t much in the way of EQ modification. That said, aside from an over-reliance on bass, I don’t have anything to complain about in terms of sound. The noise cancellation, which can be regulated via the app or the stems of the headphones, is also effective. Meanwhile, a long (three-second) click of the stems brings up one of the buds’ most distinctive features: Zen Mode Air. In an era when every tech company is thinking about mindfulness, it’s a clever if unneeded addition?