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OnePlus Buds Pro 2 : Introducing spatial audio to the world of Android

If you want a stem design or access to spatial audio and cross-device compatibility, then the Buds Pro 2 are for you

The Buds Pro 2 are lightweight and pocketable
The Buds Pro 2 are lightweight and pocketable

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Since the launch of the original OnePlus Buds Pro in July 2021, Bluetooth audio has gone from a luxury to a necessity for smartphone users—for the 3.5mm headphone jack is almost non-existent today.

Even before unboxing, the new OnePlus Buds Pro 2 true wireless stereo headphones have one major advantage up their sleeve: spatial audio. They are being served up as an Android rival to the Apple AirPods Pro.

There’s one more advantage. The Buds Pro 2 have an app for both Android and iOS, making them truly cross-platform.

OnePlus has opted for the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach. The Buds Pro 2 feature a design similar to their predecessor, with minor adjustments. They are lightweight and the flat design of the case makes them extremely pocketable. The earbuds have IP55 water-resistance rating, the case comes with IPX4 rating.

Thanks to a more compact design and a cheaper price point, these go toe-to-toe with Apple’s AirPods Pro.

Top-notch comfort

While sitting at the desk or when out riding my bicycle, the Buds Pro 2 stayed in my ears like no others. They are, in my opinion, the comfiest stem-design earbuds (I have tried a few, like the Oppo Enco X2) right now. Thanks to a swerving car, I nearly fell off my bicycle, yet the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 didn’t budge. The case comes with three sizes of ear tips.

The case is made of sturdy matte plastic, with a USB-C port at the back. OnePlus has found a way to add wireless charging, a feature missing on their flagship OnePlus 11 5G smartphone. The earbuds come in “Obsidian Black” and “Arbor Green”.

The Buds Pro 2 also feature squeeze controls, fairly easy to operate once you get used to them. The swipe gestures on the stem are missing, though, so the volume can’t be controlled via the buds.

Spatial audio

Have you experienced immersive, 360-degree sound? That’s exactly what spatial audio is. It places “audio objects” in 3D space and allows them to move with the listener. Essentially, it is an enhanced virtual surround sound, creating the illusion of sound from multiple audio sources.

To experience spatial audio, the Buds Pro 2 have to be paired with a OnePlus 11 device. A smart move on OnePlus’ part is that the Buds Pro 2’s spatial audio isn’t limited to its own devices, unlike Apple. Using the HeyMelody app by Oppo, one can experience the feature on any other Android smartphone or tablet. This feature is not available at launch.

Once spatial audio is turned on, you will notice the sound coming from a farther distance. The sound signature is more elaborate but the tuning is wanting. OnePlus seems to have intentionally boosted the sound signature compared to the standard stereo output in a bid to get people to switch. Apple has done a far better job with tuning.

There’s the standard spatial audio setting and an option for head tracking. Using a custom inertial measurement unit, combined with a gyroscope, a magnetometer and an accelerometer, OnePlus can track actual head movements. It simulates a concert/live performance ambience that changes as your head moves.

For now, spatial audio works best when watching movies, not while listening to songs (it alters the bass a little too much). It’s more effective on Apple’s iPhone, since the tuning is more refined. With the AirPods Pro, spatial audio is extremely precise, even with the slightest of movements. I tried watching YouTube videos on my OnePlus 11 and iPhone 14 and the latter was a far better experience.

Another downside of the Buds Pro 2 is that if you happen to move the phone away from the centre of your view, it can mute an earbud.

Sound quality

Overall, the Buds Pro 2 have a good sound, albeit a little warmer (emphasis on bass and harsher tones removed). Using Spotify and Apple Music on both the OnePlus 11 and iPhone 14 (with the same settings), I noticed that I got a stronger bass, slightly clearer vocals and a wider soundstage on the iPhone.

The ANC is where the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 suffer the most. They failed to drown out the noise in a Metro station. I have heard much better ANC in other similarly priced earbuds. On the other hand, the transparency mode is much better, offering a clear balance between outside noise and the music.

Worth the price tag?

I didn’t touch upon battery life and charging because that’s what OnePlus has excelled at since Day 1. The Buds Pro 2 last for over seven hours on a single charge.

Along with spatial audio (while watching movies), that’s where these buds excel. Their audio is also pretty good overall and they have more bass than the AirPods Pro.

Dynaudio has done a good job of bringing the Buds Pro 2 alive and one genuinely enjoys listening to much on them, especially if you are a fan of the punchy bass. The Buds Pro 2 are lightweight, pocketable, comfortable to wear and offer cross-device compatibility.

But the Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Pro, Google Pixel Buds Pro, Apple AirPods Pro and Sony’s WF-1000XM4 all offer much better ANC, greater overall sound tuning and similar, if not better, battery life. Sony and Apple’s offerings are a little on the higher side. The Buds Pro 2 cost 11,999.

OnePlus has its work cut out. If you want a stem design, have a OnePlus smartphone or want access to spatial audio and cross-device compatibility, the Buds Pro 2 are for you. Otherwise, look elsewhere.

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