Just expect a $40 pair of truly wireless earbuds to sound bad. Or at least not quite excellent. After trying a few of them, we think it’s a fair assumption.
The new $40 OnePlus Nord Buds, however, are anything but bad. In fact, they exceed expectations in both sound quality and comfort, so we can tell you right away: get a pair! Whether it’s for yourself or as a gift, you won’t regret spending the $40 on these tiny buds.
Nord Buds Spec Summary:
Battery duration: 7 hours (buds), 30 hours (case)
Price: $39 in the US | £49 in the UK | €49 in Europe
Weight: 4.82 g (buds), 41.7 g (box)
Microphones: 2 per cocoon
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
Characteristic: IP55 (headphones), USB-C port
Look, weigh and feel
The Nord Buds may be cheap, but they have a refreshingly simple and elegant design that, if we were to compare it to anything, it would be a touch of Bauhaus. It has a standard shiny element that sits on the ear, while the stem is very short and has a slim, lozenge-like shape.
The Nord Buds belong to the type of earphones with rubber tips that go in your ears (instead of sitting in your ear like the original AirPods). This gives you a better seal and some form of passive isolation from outside noise. They ship with standard medium sized tips attached, but small and large tips can also be interchanged for a proper fit for various ear shapes. We know some people who absolutely abhor these types of in-ear headphones (you know who that is), but if you don’t mind these types of headphones, the Nord Buds are likely to fit you very comfortably.
I also tried walking and light running with the Nord Buds and I wasn’t worried about them falling off, plus they’re IP55 certified so they don’t bother with sweat either.
- charging case
- Small and large size tips.
- USB-A to USB-C cable
The charging case also comes in the form of a pillow, just like the earphones. It’s a lightweight box, but a bit larger than others so it’s definitely not the most comfortable thing to carry in jeans pockets, which is a shame. The design of the charging case is pretty clean: there’s an LED indicator light on the front and then a USB-C port on the back and next to it a nearly invisible pairing button.
Sound and call quality
Listening to it for the first time, I was surprised to hear a good amount of bass that did not fail even at higher volumes, a typical weakness of most cheaper headphones. They also don’t go to the other extreme: some cheap headphones overemphasize the bass to hide the lack of clarity in the mids and highs. The Nord Buds, on the other hand, have clean, crisp sound across the entire frequency range, a feature you’d expect from much more expensive earphones.
Those who are more demanding about sound quality will also notice the lack of an aptX codec.
If you plan to use them for calls and video conferences, you should know that you have 2 microphones on each button. We tested call quality over a cellular network and you could definitely feel a bit of a drop compared to a phone microphone, but callers could still hear you pretty well.
Problem number one: latency
There is a bit of lag that you notice when watching videos of people talking
Our number one issue with the Nord Buds has to be latency. If you watch a lot of talking head videos on YouTube, you’ll notice a slight delay between the speech on the screen and the moment the audio reaches your ears. It is something slight, but noticeable.
We tested the headphones on a OnePlus phone, a different phone brand, as well as a laptop and saw it on all three devices.
Features and application
Speaking of using the Nord Buds with multiple devices, these will, of course, work with just about any device with Bluetooth connectivity, but you do get a few extra features if you use them with a OnePlus phone.
The first is the ease of pairing with that sleek AirPods-inspired home screen that lets you easily pair the earbuds the first time and take a look at the charge levels of the earbuds and case on later use. Then you also get the app where you can change the default controls and also select from some sound presets, or just go all manual with the built in equalizer.
The number one feature missing from cheap headphones, including the Nord Buds, is active noise cancellation. Still, don’t forget that having in-ear headphones still helps passively isolate outside noise, and my co-worker couldn’t hear me at all while using the Nord Buds in our shared office space. If you want active noise cancellation tech, though, you can get it in the $150 Nord Buds Pro (which I’ve been using and loving for the past few months), and it really cuts through outside noise, but at nearly four times the price.
If you’re not looking for the best sound quality in a truly wireless pair of earbuds, you should probably buy the OnePlus Nord Buds. They last a long time and they sound good, not just in the context of their $40 price tag, they sound good, period. It helps that the design is as clean and sleek as possible, and that you get great battery life and convenient USB-C charging.
However, if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like in-ear headphones, you should know that these are… well, in-ear headphones. Also, if you’ll be using them to watch talking head videos or do some music/video editing, you should probably also be aware of the latency issue and get higher-end headphones. Otherwise, the Nord Buds are great. Keep them in mind, even if you don’t need a pair right now, they would make a perfect gift too!