Last year, more than 300 million truly wireless earbuds (TWS) were shipped worldwide. While Apple is the leading company in the sector with its AirPods, they cost more than $150.
The leading price point in the market is under $50, with a 36% market share, according to research firm Counterpoint. This is the segment OnePlus wants to dominate with its sub-$40 Nord Buds.
It’s a no-frills release from the company that attempts to give you just the basics of wireless audio — and it pretty much nails it.
I’ve been using these buds for more than a week now, and for their price, I am pleased with them. Here’s what you get for not very much money.
Design and features
The OnePlus Nord Buds are housed in a pill-shaped case. The box itself is strong, and has a lid with a satisfying closing mechanism — you might find yourself fiddling with it for a while just to hear that snap.
However, the case is large and creates a bulge in your pocket. And it’s uncomfortable if you’re carrying your phone or wallet in the same pocket.
The buds themselves are compact and light (4.82 grams each). I found them really comfortable and they fit my ear perfectly. They didn’t fall off when I shook my head or exercised while wearing them.
The Nord Buds have ditched the standard AirPods-like design for a stem that resembles an ice cream stick. Both buds have circular touch buttons with a metallic finish for controlling playback on your phone. Sadly, there’s no way to control volume via the buds, but that’s common among cheaper options like these.
The pair is IP55 certified, so they’ll be sweat and water-resistant — making them safe to use while you work out or run.
It also offers support for Dolby Atmos and fast pairing, but only if you have a OnePlus device. Shucks.
So, what’s it like using the OnePlus Nord Buds?
The short answer is that this is a good value-for-money pair. They could be your backup wireless buds, or a nifty gift on a budget.
The buds have a 12.4mm dynamic driver for sound reproduction, and sound… surprisingly good for the price. Usually, the expectation for under-$40 buds is they’ll just about do the job during casual listening sessions. But the Nord Buds, exceed that expectation with serviceable output.
Sure, they still have a U/V shaped sound curve with accentuated bass and treble like many budget buds. So they’re mostly good for pop or hip-hop. This set just doesn’t do nuanced sound with clear instrument separation or a wide soundstage for a spatial sonic experience. But that’s not what it’s designed for.
You’ll get by just fine listening to podcasts while walking or sitting in a cafe. You’ll be fine listening to automatically generated playlists of popular songs on the go. Just don’t expect to lose yourself in the sonic mastery of the world’s most meticulously mastered records.
The Nord Buds come with four mics — two on each bud — but you might not want to use them for sound recording, as they catch a lot of background noise. The sound quality was passable for calls, but some of my friends complained about my voice echoing when I was outdoors.
Another great feature of this pair is the battery life. OnePlus says the buds have seven hours of listening time, and 30 hours of playback time with a charging case. In my ten days of usage, I haven’t had to plug in the case. Plus, you can quickly juice it up using a USB-C cable, so you can use the same one that powers up your phone. That’s nice to see at this price point.
Who’s it for?
In India, the OnePlus Nord Buds cost Rs.2,799 (~$36). While there are cheaper alternatives available here, I found these to have the best sound in the price range, with impressive battery life to boot.
But anywhere in the world, these buds could be considered a budget pair given their price tag, and you don’t end up losing out on much compared to pricier ones.
If you’ve lost a few costly buds, this is a guilt-free pair. You can just stash these in your bag, so they can come in handy if you forget your primary set of headphones or earphones. Either way, you’re getting one of the best TWS for less than $40.