OnePlus Nord Buds review: quality and comfort for only $40?!

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You just expect a pair of $40 truly wireless earbuds to sound bad. Or at least not quite excellent. After testing quite a few, we think this is a reasonable assumption.

The new $40 OnePlus Nord Buds are anything but bad. In fact, they exceed expectations so much with both sound quality and comfort that we can say it right away: buy a pair! Whether it’s for yourself or a gift, you won’t regret spending all $40 on these little buds.

Of course, there are a few things to keep in mind: these aren’t your Hi-Res, active noise canceling, award-winning sound-type earbuds. you should not expect That a lot from dirt cheap wireless headphones! What you should expect is a good balance between price and features, and with these reasonable expectations in mind let’s dive into the review.

Nord Buds Specifications Summary:

Battery life: 7 o’clock (buttons), 30 o’clock (case)

Price: $39 in the US | £49 in the UK | €49 in Europe

Weight: 4.82 g (buttons), 41.7 g (box)

Driver: 12.4mm

microphones: 2 per button

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2

Functions: IP55 (buttons), USB-C port

Look, weight and feeling

The Nord Buds may be cheap, but have a refreshingly simple and elegant design that, if we had to compare it to anything, would be a dash of Bauhaus. You have a standard shiny element that goes into your ear, while the stem is very short and comes in a slim, pill-shaped shape.

The buds are generally very small and weigh next to nothing at just 0.17 ounces (4.82 g), which certainly helps with comfort.

The Nord Buds belong to the type of headphones with rubber tips that go in your ears (instead of sitting On your ear like the original AirPods). This gives you a better seal and some form of passive isolation from outside noise. They come with standard medium tips, but you can also swap out small and large tips for a good fit for different ear shapes. We know some people who absolutely abhor this in-ear type of earbuds (you know who you are), but if you don’t mind this type of earbuds, the Nord Buds will probably fit you very comfortably.

I’ve also tried walking and running lightly with the Nord Buds and wasn’t worried about them falling out, and you’re IP55 certified so they don’t suffer from a bit of sweat either.

What’s in the box:

  • buttons
  • charging case
  • Small and big tips
  • USB-A to USB-C cable
  • Sticker

The charging case also comes in the form of a pillow, just like the buttons. It’s a lightweight box, but a bit bigger than others, so it’s certainly not the most comfortable thing to carry in jeans pockets, which is a shame. The design of the charging case is pretty sleek: there’s an LED light indicator on the front, then a USB-C port on the back, and next to it an almost invisible pairing button.

Sound and call quality

On the first listen I was surprised to hear a good amount of bass that didn’t fall flat even at higher volumes, a typical weakness of most cheaper tops. They don’t go to the other extreme either: some cheap tops emphasize too much bass to hide the lack of clarity in the mids and highs. The Nord Buds, on the other hand, have a clean and clear sound across the entire frequency range, a feature you’d expect from much more expensive headphones.

Sound purists will soon notice that the bass is a little more prominent than ideal, but we doubt the average listener would mind. Those who are more picky about sound quality have an EQ to fine-tune everything (we recommend turning the bass down a notch and probably raising the mids a little bit).

Those who are more picky about sound quality will also notice the lack of an aptX codec.

If you plan on using it for calls and video conferencing, you should know that you have 2 microphones in each button. We tested the call quality over a cellular network and you could certainly feel a bit of a drop compared to a telephone mic, but your callers should still be able to hear you fairly well.

Number one: latency

There is a little lag you notice when watching videos of people talking

Our biggest issue with the Nord Buds has to be the latency. If you watch a lot of talking head videos on YouTube, you will notice a slight delay between the speech on the screen and the moment the audio enters your ears. It’s a small thing, but noticeable.

We tested the headphones on a OnePlus phone, another phone brand, as well as a laptop and we saw that on all three devices.

Features and App

Speaking of using the Nord Buds with different devices, of course these work with just about any device with Bluetooth connectivity, but you get a few extra features when you use them with a OnePlus phone.

The first is the ease of pairing with that neat AirPods-inspired splash screen that allows you to easily pair the earbuds the first time and glimpse the charge levels of the earbuds and case when used later. Then you also get the app where you can change the default controls and also choose between a few sound presets, or just go all manual with the built-in equalizer.

Speaking of controls, you tap the circle in the top part of the stem to pause and switch tracks. The default settings are as follows: tap once for play/pause, twice for the next song, tap three for previous song, and you also have a long tap that lets you quickly switch between paired devices. The cool thing is that you can set your custom controls for each action for each earbud, so a double tap on the left earbud may do something different than a double tap on the right. And if you happen to be using a third-party phone, you’ll need to download the free HeyMelody app which will still allow you to get updates and customize the experience with OnePlus and Oppo wireless headphones.

The number one missing feature in cheap buds, including the Nord Buds, is active noise cancellation. Remember, though, that having earplugs still helps to passively isolate outside noise, and my colleague couldn’t hear me at all while wearing the Nord Buds in our shared office space. However, if you want active noise-cancelling technology, you can get it on the $150 Nord Buds Pro (which I’ve used and love for the past few months), cutting out real outside noise, but at nearly four times the price.

Summary and final verdict

If you’re not looking for the very best sound quality in a pair of truly wireless earbuds, you should probably get the OnePlus Nord Buds. They last a long time and sound good, not only in the context of their $40 price, they sound good, period. It helps that the design is as sleek and elegant as it gets, and you get excellent battery life and convenient USB-C charging.

However, if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like in-ear earbuds, you should know that these are… well, in-ear earbuds. If you’re going to be using these to watch talking head videos or do any sort of music/video editing, you should probably also be aware of the latency issue and get more expensive headphones. For everything else, the Nord Buds are great. Keep them in mind, even if you don’t need a pair right now, these would make a perfect gift too!

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