Despite its shortcomings, a worthy successor to the Buds Z – Technology News, Firstpost

Price: €4,999

Rating: 4/5

The OnePlus Buds Z were a great pair of cheap TWS earphones and one of the best options under Rs 3,000. A few months ago, OnePlus launched its flagship product in the segment, the Buds Pro for a 10K rupee. Needless to say, there was a huge price difference between the two, and it was only a matter of time before the company introduced something in the middle to fill the gap.

Say hello to the OnePlus Buds Z2 which looks a lot like its predecessor but borrows some key features from its premium sibling, such as active noise cancellation (ANC). Let’s see how it performs and if it is worth spending almost Rs 5,000 on it.

Buttons Z2 just in case

OnePlus Buds Z2: design and comfort (8/10)

The OnePlus Buds Z2 looks almost identical to the Buds Z – both the case and the earbuds. We got to review the black variant with a glossy piano finish on the buttons, and the same finish goes for the capsule-shaped charging case. You will need to wipe the product from time to time as the smudge attracts. The build quality is quite solid, yet the buds weigh only 4.6 grams each. The case weighs about 42 grams and has a battery of 520 mAh. You get a charging status LED on the front and a USB-C port on the back for charging.

There are circular zones on the back of the earbuds above the stems for touch gestures. Like its predecessor, the Buds Z2 is dust and splash proof IP55, but now even the charging case is IPX4 moisture resistant. The earbuds have silicone tips that sit just right in the ear canals and provide decent passive noise isolation, and the earbuds are comfortable to wear for hours on end. They do not fall out of the ear during a workout or jogging. Two more pairs of earbuds are included in the bundle in case the pre-installed medium earbuds don’t fit properly.

OnePlus Buds Z2: features and specifications (8/10)

Each earplug has an 11mm dynamic driver to handle all frequency ranges. They are equipped with three microphones each for calling and noise reduction. You also have wear-detection sensors that pause the audio when you take an earpiece out of the ear and resume it when you put it back in the ear. The sensitivity of touch input is perfect and you get a soft beep every time you tap it so you know how many taps it has registered (single, double, triple).

Unlike previous OnePlus TWS buttons, you get a lot more flexibility with the touch controls here. You may reconfigure single tap, double tap, and triple tap gestures for the left and right earbuds. You can assign play/pause, next/previous track, voice assistant or nothing for each of these gestures. However, you cannot assign a volume control to it. Press and hold for a second to cycle through the ANC modes: noise reduction, maximum noise reduction, ANC off and transparency. You can choose two or more options to switch between.

The earbuds can be configured using the OnePlus Buds app on OnePlus phones (OnePlus 6 or later) or the HeyMelody app on non-OnePlus phones. HeyMelody is also available on iOS. While you can configure the controls, there is no way to change the sound profile as in the case of certain Realme or Soundcore products. The OnePlus Buds Z2 is compatible with Bluetooth 5.2 and supports SBC and AAC audio codecs, but not Qualcomm’s aptX. Features like Dolby Atmos compliance and low latency modes only work with select OnePlus phones.

OnePlus Buds Z2: performance (7.5/10)

The wireless range is good and the connection remains strong 10 meters with no obstruction between the source and the listener, and more than half of that with a concrete wall in between. The OnePlus Buds Z2 can get loud enough around 50% volume, and even outdoors they are perfectly audible at 60% loudness. The sound profile here is clearly V-shaped, which means that the bass and treble are boosted. Although the audiophiles cringe for that, such a profile is popular with the masses.

There’s an abundance of bass here, and while it’s fairly tight, it negatively impacts the mids. There is noticeable auditory masking in bass-heavy tracks at the lower end of the midrange spectrum. Vocal clarity is generally good, but can sound a bit dull in such songs. To balance the extra bass, the treble is also boosted. The highs are sharp with lots of sparkle, but they could have been more tempered. Sometimes they sound a bit hissing and you can hear the extra hiss, but not to the extent that the listener gets tired.

The overall detail in sound is decent and the soundstage is quite broad for the segment. Even if you’re not using a OnePlus phone, the latency is low enough when watching videos with no noticeable lag between the video and audio. All said and done, the OnePlus Buds Z2 produces an enjoyable sound output that works in the most common music genres such as Pop, EDM or Bollywood where you don’t have a complex medley of instruments.

The Buds Z2 has two ANC profiles – Normal and Max, and honestly I couldn’t detect any difference in performance between the two. Probably something for the company to look at in the next firmware update. That said, the ANC does a good job of reducing various low-frequency noises like the hum of a fan or outdoor traffic noises. It doesn’t raise the bar in the segment, but sets the standard for a sub-5K pair of TWS earbuds. The Transparency mode is pretty good here and sounds a lot more natural.

USB-C port

OnePlus Buds Z2: call quality (8/10)

The call quality on the OnePlus Buds Z2 is good. The person on the line could hear me clearly for most parts when I was both in and out. The wind noise cancellation here is actually better than the one on the more expensive OnePlus Buds Pro. Traffic and other environmental noises were also suppressed reasonably well, if not completely. So not a bad option to call this.


OnePlus Buds Z2: battery life (8.5/10)

The battery backup on the OnePlus Buds Z2 is one of its strong points. With ANC on full-time, the buttons lasted a little over four and a half hours at 50 to 60% loudness. And with ANC off half the time, I could get them closer to six hours. The case can charge the earbuds four more times, giving a total battery backup time of between 23 and 30 hours, depending on your ANC usage. That’s an excellent battery backup.

The Buds Z2 also supports fast charging, and a 10-minute charge gives you nearly 2 hours of playtime for the buttons with ANC enabled and about 5 hours for the buttons and case combined. The case and earbuds can be fully charged in less than an hour. The battery level of each earbud and that of the charging case is visible in the OnePlus Buds and HeyMelody apps.

OnePlus Buds Z2: price and verdict

The OnePlus Buds Z2 costs Rs 4,999 with a one-year warranty. For that price you get a pair of TWS earbuds with enjoyable sound reproduction, decent ANC and very good battery backup, making it a strong competitor in the segment. As for competition around the 5K mark, you get some options like the Soundcore Liberty 2 and Lypertek Levi with similar battery backup and better sound quality, but both lack features like ANC and touch controls.

Oppo Enco W51 is another option in the sub-5K segment with ANC and with a very different sound profile (brighter and low on bass) for those who prefer that. But battery backup is much lower and the limited controls on the buttons might put a few off. All things considered, the OnePlus Buds Z2 is a worthy successor to the Buds Z and fairly easily recommended under Rs 5,000.

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