I’ve finally got to spend a few days with the OnePlus Buds Z, and they’re astonishingly great.
These low-cost buds are surprisingly comfortable, offer a fun sound profile and come in a charging case that features roughly the same size and design as the one included with Samsung’s Galaxy Buds+.
After falling for the OnePlus buds back in July, I wasn’t sure how a lower-cost model could top the already budget-minded OnePlus Buds, but these new buds from the company have me eating those words.
While on paper the $70 Buds Z may seem worse than the $109 OnePlus Buds (which currently are on sale for $80), they’re super comparable in practice, so it really comes down to what set feels better in your ears.
So how do they compare?
The OnePlus Buds Z look very similar to the older Buds, but this time OnePlus went with a silicone ear tip instead of the hard plastic AirPods-like design. The Buds Z include the standard small, medium and large removable silicon tips. I found that the tip coupled with the shape of the plastic fit in my ear a lot better than the regular Buds.
The new earbuds also use 10mm drivers to produce sound, and in my experience, it’s very comparable, if not better than the 13mm drivers featured in OnePlus’ regular Buds. The only advantage that the Buds Z have is that since they have silicone tips, they block out a lot more background noise, which provides additional bass and clearer music in my testing.
The charging cases are a little different from one another, but the new one is a little taller and longer, plus it has a glossy finish. Unfortunately, it doesn’t pack as much battery, with the charging case only featuring a maximum of 20 hours of playback. The OnePlus Buds could do 30 hours, which at this point are their most significant advantage.
The earbud portion of the Buds Z can last for around five hours of audio playback. This isn’t awful, but it’s not as great as the seven hours I could get with the older Buds.
When it comes down to it, I think I like the sound more on the new Buds Z with the sound isolation tips, so if I was buying a pair, that’s what I would go with. If you’re the type of person who hates silicone tips, the older Buds still offer a lot of value and great sound.
The pros and cons
When it comes down to it, I can forgive a lot of the shortcomings of the Buds Z since they sound so awesome.
OnePlus uses sound enhancement tech it calls ‘Bass Boost’ in both of its earbuds, and it works especially well here with the sound isolation tips. Music features a clear and detailed range, and with my smartphone’s volume at about four quarters, I couldn’t hear anything around me.
There’s no way to disable Bass Boost, but this feature will make you very happy if you like punchy music. That’s not to say the Bass is overpowering because it’s quite balanced, but audiophiles should look elsewhere.
OnePlus also included an IP55 rating this time, meaning that these buds are sweat, dust and splashproof.
The Buds Z can be fast charged, with OnePlus rating them for three hours of playback off of a 10-minute charge. This isn’t really that outstanding, but it should help in a pinch if you forget to charge your buds before you walk home from work.
One issue with OnePlus headphones is that up until now, you lost out on some features if you didn’t use them with a OnePlus phone. That’s been remedied now with a new app called HeyMelody that lets any Android phone customize the touch panels and update the Buds and Buds Z.
It should be noted that these earbuds feature Bluetooth 5.0 and Android Fast Pair for easy connection to Android devices. These earbuds do work fine on iOS, but they’ll never get updates unless you connect them to an Android device, and both the touchpads will only skip to the next song.
If I were buying a new pair of earbuds today, the OnePlus Buds Z would be a pretty appealing option. I’ve used a wide variety of lower-cost wireless earbuds, and they often sound dull and flat, which isn’t a problem with the latest Buds from OnePlus.