It’s not often that you unbox a product and it just works as advertised. The OnePlus Nord Buds 2r is the latest ‘budget’ True Wireless Stereo (TWS) earbuds from the house of Chinese consumer electronics manufacturer OnePlus. They remind you of the OnePlus Nord Buds 2 that launched just a few months ago.
Priced at ₹2,199, the OnePlus Nord Buds 2r is one of the most cost-efficient TWS earbuds from OnePlus. It comes with 12.4mm large Extra Large Drivers, Dolby Atmos support, dual microphones, long battery life and more.
The OnePlus Nord Buds 2r don’t claim to set the audio world on fire. Audiophiles look away! The Nord Buds 2r don’t come with active noise cancellation (ANC) like some of the more expensive earbuds on the market and neither can the stems be used to adjust the volume. They are through and through budget earbuds, but one of the best value-for-money buds on the market today.
The OnePlus Nord Buds 2r are available in Deep Grey (on sale on 5 July) and the Triple Blue variant (on sale on 15 July). The Nord Buds 2r will retail for ₹2,199.
If you’re a fan of wireless earbuds with stems and are on a strict budget, then look no further. After unboxing them, and charging them to 100 percent, I took them for a spin across Delhi. I walked to the metro station, travelled to Connaught Place (the centre of India’s capital, New Delhi), and encountered many noisy people gossiping away. In between all of that, I attended a meeting (a Microsoft Teams briefing), made some voice calls, watched YouTube videos, listened to podcasts and more.
The Nord Buds 2r fit like a dream. Yes, they aren’t the comfiest earbuds out there by a mile, but for the price, there is nothing like them. I didn’t have to change the ear tips for a better fit, but in case you do, OnePlus has bundled a few different sizes in the box.
The earbuds give the impression that they’d fall out even for a second. I ran up the stairs upon exiting the metro and the earbuds didn’t even budge. After four hours of constant usage, and sitting at a cafe, my ears weren’t tired.
The Nord Buds 2r aren’t going to blow you away with insane audio quality. Instead, they will just get the job done. Whether you’re listening to Coke Studio, jazz, or just your favorite podcast, the Nord Buds 2r will spit out a pleasing sound into your ear canals. Nitty gritty aside, ₹2,199 is a fantastic price for the OnePlus Buds 2r.
Thanks to the 12.4mm Extra Large Drivers, the finer details are brought out. No, you won’t be able to piece out each and every instrument while listening to Dave Brubeck’s famous jazz song Take Five, but it gives you more of a live concert feel than the competitors’ earbuds do. The instruments sound richer even though there is some distortion between them. Sitting at a cafe in Khan Market, Coke Studio’s Kattey (by Ram Sampath, Bhanvati Devi & Hard Kaur) came up next on my playlist. Hard Kaur’s rap powered through the neighbouring table having an intense conversation on various startups.
Switch over to podcasts and you’ll have a blast. Everyone’s voice is clear (a few words might get missed) and the background sounds can be heard if listening intently.
To my surprise, the earbuds also worked like a charm for group meetings. My own and others’ voices were crystal clear. Just don’t turn the volume to full. At full volumes, voices begin to crackle and it is really loud. These could easily be “throw in your office bag and forget” earbuds.
One word: HeyMelody. The accompanying app for the OnePlus Nord Buds 2r is pretty much useless. For starters, while you can see the battery life for each individual earbud, you can’t see the battery life of the case. In fact, there is no LED indicator on the case indicating the battery life. There’s basically no way to tell. There’s no support on the HeyMelody app for these buds on iOS devices.
Secondly, the Sound Master EQ section is ineffective. There are three ‘recommended’ EQs - Balanced (which is the default), Bass and Bold (which is the featured option) - but I couldn’t tell much of a difference. I started to play Linkin Park’s In The End. Switching between Balanced and Bass modes, I couldn’t tell any difference. Bold mode just made the sound seem further away. It was like it was running away from your ears rather than filling them up. There’s also a Custom mode where you can adjust the equaliser to your preferences, but again, I didn’t find it useful at all.
Being stem earbuds, the Nord Buds 2r aren’t particularly small. Still, I think the case is a little bit bulky. The case also easily attracts scratches.
One small note is that the bass on the OnePlus Nord Buds 2r isn’t really anything to write home about. I’m saying this despite OnePlus including 12.4mm Extra Large Drivers to boost the bass experience.
According to OnePlus, the Nord Buds 2r are rated for 8 hours of playback after a single full charge. Couple in the charging case and you get a total of 38 hours of use. Theoretically, this means that you can easily last a workday - and then some - without having to charge the earbuds.
In my testing, I routinely got over seven hours of playback. I never got to the magical eight hours, but still, pretty good for a budget pair of TWS earbuds.
If you own a OnePlus smartphone from the last couple of years, then you’ll get one added benefit with the Nord Buds 2r. That advantage is of Dolby Atmos or Dirac Audio Tuner. Both of them work in tandem to optimise the audio output and create a multidimensional, more immersive surround sound experience. That works best when watching OTT content.
While I have said that the OnePlus Nord Buds 2r “work like a charm”, there is one issue here. You can get active noise cancellation (though it really isn’t great as I had written in my review) on OnePlus’ own earbuds if you are just willing to pay a couple of hundred rupees extra. OnePlus, like Xiaomi of the past, is blurring the lines by launching models that are of similar specifications and differ in pricing by a negligible amount.
The OnePlus Nord Buds 2 are retailing on Amazon for just ₹2,999. That’s only ₹800 more than the OnePlus Nord Buds 2r.
The OnePlus Nord Buds 2r are now the defacto TWS earbuds in the under ₹2,500 segment. You can close your eyes and buy them. They are lightweight and comfortable without any bells and whistles. They are miles better than the competitors’ - Noise, boAt and others - earbuds. Just know what the Nord Buds 2r are for, and you’re good to go.
It doesn’t pretend to be premium. Instead, it just gets the job done. It does have some downsides (lack of iOS support, no ANC, no volume controls on the stem) as I mentioned above, but none of them is a dealbreaker.
Sahil Bhalla is a Delhi-based journalist. He tweets @IMSahilBhalla