If you can live with a few quirks, and manage to get the right fit, then the OnePlus Nord Buds 2 (at ₹2,999) is a sound investment. The Nord Buds 2 are the latest addition to the affordable audio accessory lineup from OnePlus. The Nord series is designed to bring in new users to OnePlus’ ever-growing ecosystem, which also includes a recently launched Android tablet.
With a moderate price bump from its predecessor and the addition of Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), are the Nord Buds 2 a winner in the budget segment? Let’s find out.
For True Wireless Stereo (TWS) earbuds to stand any chance of doing well, they have to be comfortable. Earbuds have become an integral part of our lives as we go from listening to music to attending online meetings. OnePlus may not have tinkered with the design of the Nord Buds 2 and that’s not a bad thing. They’re as comfortable as their predecessor. They may be basic looking and made out of plastic, but they fit well and don’t fall out.
The stems have a matte finish and there’s a glossy disk for the touch controls. There are a couple of ear tips in the box to suit every kind of ear out there.
The pill-shaped case has a good build quality to it with curved edges that make it easier to carry around. The case is fairly easy to open and it closes with a satisfying click. The one downside is that the case isn’t very pocket friendly as it bulges out. The buds weigh just 4.7 grams each. The Nord Buds 2 comes with an IP55 rating, good for water and dust resistance.
Overall, the sleek and minimalist look gets a thumbs up, not just from me, but from several people whom I’ve shown the Nord Buds 2 to.
Other than fit, it is the sound quality that matters most to consumers. The Nord Buds 2 come with upgraded 12.4 mm drivers and a sound chamber that lets in more bass. Personally, I’m not a fan of too much bass, but I know many people out there that are. The new BassWave algorithm allows for deeper bass and clearer vocals. The combination of the two is well-balanced.
During a three-hour session that included my regular playlists (from Miles Davis to Franz Ferdinand and from Diljit Dosanjh to Amit Trivedi) and podcasts, I noticed that the Nord Buds 2 sounds very similar to Jabra Elite 4. That’s a compliment in the best way possible.
Credit where credit is due. The moment you play the first track with the Nord Buds 2, you’re welcome with a complete soundstage and clear vocals (even at 80 percent volume). Where the Nord Buds 2 falter is with respect to instrument separation. Take Five, Dave Brubeck’s eternal jazz song just falls flat. Some portions of the song are extremely quiet and some are overpowering and you fail to recognise a couple of instruments.
On the other hand, some pop songs (Lonely Boy by Black Keys and Little Talks by Of Monsters And Men) shine through as the main instruments popped and the vocals were crystal clear.
The Nord Buds 2 are best suited to audio-video content and work calls. The voice, on both sides of the call, sounded clear and without any distortion. Just turn on the ‘Bold’ preset in the Hey Melody app and enjoy an uninterrupted viewing experience. The Nord Buds 2 will be your daily companion, as long as you aren’t listening to the greats of jazz.
One area of improvement vis-a-vis its predecessor is the addition of active noise cancellation or ANC with up to 25 dB. The Nord Buds 2 also have a transparency mode that lets outside noise in so you can hear a little bit of your surroundings. Unfortunately, during my testing, I didn’t notice much difference, if any, between the two modes. Having ANC on didn’t really make my surroundings any bit quieter. The ANC did drown out the traffic noise a little further away but did nothing to help quieten the noisy conversations in, say, a cafe.
The glossy disk is good for touch controls. The usual single tap, double tap and more features are present. One would have hoped that, like other stem-like buds, OnePlus would have included squeeze controls. Alas, maybe in the next edition.
OnePlus has a five hours per charge estimate (with ANC on) and an additional 22 hours with the case. Without ANC, those numbers improve to seven and 29 hours, respectively. Five hours is about what I got, and that’s strictly okay.
Since ANC isn’t that useful, the seven hours of battery life is enough to get me through a day of work.
I really liked the OnePlus Buds 2 Pro (OnePlus’ flagship pair of TWS earbuds), and the Nord Buds 2 continue that legacy as they offer a good upgrade from its predecessor. They offer pretty good sound, add in ANC, and keep the price affordable. If you have a OnePlus phone, these will suit you even better as they get Dolby Atmos support, Dirac audio tuning and seamless connectivity.
If your budget is strictly ₹3,000, then the Nord Buds 2 are probably the best out there. If you can stretch your budget by just ₹2,000, you’ll also find some compelling options from the competition.
Sahil Bhalla is a Delhi-based journalist.