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.
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)
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 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.
- charging case
- Small and big tips
- USB-A to USB-C cable
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.
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.
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.
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!