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OnePlus Nord Buds review: Value earbuds deliver big sound

The OnePlus Nord Buds are a budget gem with great audio and versatile connectivity

The OnePlus Nord Buds sitting in the charging case
(Image: © Alex Bracetti/Future)

Tom's Guide Verdict

The $39 OnePlus Nord Buds undercut rivals to deliver impressive performance that's as good as some $100 earbuds.

Pros

  • +

    Rich, customizable sound

  • +

    Useful battery life with powerful quick charging

  • +

    Dependable call quality and connectivity

  • +

    Reliable touch controls

Cons

  • -

    Poor wind noise reduction on calls

  • -

    Bass heavy on some music tracks

OnePlus Nord Buds: Specifications

Colors: Black; white

Battery life (rated): 7 hours; 30 hours (charging case)

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2 (codecs: SBC, AAC)

Water resistance: Yes (IP55 rated)

Size: 1.9 x 0.8 x 0.92 inches (per bud); 2.6 x 1.3 x 1.1 inches (charging case)

Weight: 0.17 ounces (earbuds); 1.47 ounces (charging case)

ANC: No

Releases like the Buds Pro and Buds Z2 show OnePlus is capable of creating some of best wireless earbuds at different price points. The all-new Nord Buds carry that same momentum forward, delivering great multi-platform performance at an incredibly attainable price.

These buds have a 4-mic array with AI noise reduction, 12.4mm titanium drivers, Dolby Atmos support, mobile app compatibility with personalization tools, and proprietary Flash Charge technology. OnePlus mobile users may receive special software perks, but the solid controls, strong audio performance, and sufficient battery life remain consistent across all platforms.

An MSRP this low often presents compromises, which in the Nord Buds case are a limited feature set, middling bass response, and weak wind resistance. Flaws aside, the Nord Buds still offer terrific performance and stand out as one of the best cheap wireless earbuds available.

OnePlus Nord Buds review: Price and availability

  • Low price
  • Currently available in black slate only 

You can purchase the Nord Buds for $39 via online retailers like Amazon (opens in new tab) or directly from the OnePlus website (opens in new tab). Although both black and white color options appear to be available, we can only find the black slate version on sale at the time of writing. Bundled with the earbuds are a charging case, USB-C charging cable, three sets of different sized tips, user guide, warranty, and a Nord emoji sticker.

The Nord Buds enter an oversaturated cheap wireless earbuds market and face noteworthy competition from other low-priced models. Our current favorite is the 1More PistonBuds Pro ($59), which packages effective active noise cancellation (ANC) and hi-res sound into a sleek design. The JLab Go Air Pop ($20) is another reputable option with ample battery life and convincing sound. Those seeking elite performance should consider splurging on category leaders like the AirPods Pro ($249) or Sony WF-1000XM4 ($279).

For all of the latest wireless earbuds sales, bookmark our best headphones deals page.

OnePlus Nord Buds review: Design and comfort

  • Durable build
  • Water and sweat resistant
  • Comfy, secure fit

The Nord Buds won’t win over fashionistas, but the design is unique and appealing enough to withstand any shade thrown by AirPods owners. A protruding silver touch sensor sits on the front, and the oblong stem, while not my favorite, is more eye-catching than the slim designs featured on most Fake AirPods. These buds also share the same metallic finish as the Buds Pro.

Water dripping from the OnePlus Nord Buds

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

The all-plastic frame is durable and won’t break if you step on the buds or drop them from a high distance. IP55 certification keeps them sweat and water-resistant as well.

The OnePlus Nord Buds resting on plaid fabric

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

OnePlus’ charging case is pretty basic. You’re looking at a pill-shaped design with matte finish and few details. There is a tiny LED on the front, pairing button on the back, and airbrushed logo on top. Build quality is subpar, but the lid has a strong magnet that keeps the buds safely stored.

Our reviewer testing the OnePlus Nord Buds' comfort and fit

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Expect comfortable wear for 2-3 hour stretches. Anything longer than that will cause soreness on the concha, though that’s fairly normal for most wireless earbuds. The tips form a tight seal and keep the buds locked in when speed-walking or jogging. An ear tip fit test would have been appreciated, but OnePlus reserves this feature for their other models.

OnePlus Nord Buds review: Controls and digital assistant

  • Responsive touch controls
  • No auto-pause
  • Reliable digital assistance

The touch sensors accept single/multi-tap and long-hold gestures that enable several different controls. These include playback, call management, digital assistance, listening mode activation, and switch device access, which lets you switch between your two most recently connected devices. Input is responsive and the sensors register intended commands accurately. Rarely did they misinterpret a triple tap for a double tap. The companion app allows you to assign commands to different input methods.

The OnePlus Nord Buds touch panel being displayed

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Motion sensors were not added to Nord Buds, so users can’t auto-pause content when removing a bud from their ear.

Customizing the OnePlus Nord Buds touch controls

(Image credit: Alex Bracettti/Future)

Siri, Bixby, and Google Assistant are compatible and work well. The mics demonstrate superb speech recognition, picking up every word and long-winded inquiry with precision. I would have loved to see Google Assistant integration to automatically fire up the AI bot by speaking its wake word phrase (“Hey Google”), but I can't fault OnePlus for omitting from the the Nord Buds at the price.

OnePlus Nord Buds review: Sound quality

  • Balanced sound overall but some music genres are better than others  
  • Bass can overpower certain tracks
  • No aptX support

The Nord Buds sound much better than their low price might suggest. OnePlus’ sound profile delivers clean, often balanced sound. Bass is impactful, but it can come on too strong when listening to certain tracks. Dolby Atmos support is onboard and there’s a customizable EQ with presets for audio personalization.

I loved every thumping sensation produced on Tame Impala’s “New Person, Same Old Mistakes.” The low end knocked hard and offered up impressive reverberation that faded slowly, while the electric guitars and loose drums remained prominent throughout the recording. Unfortunately, the mids took a hit due to the overemphasized low bass energy. Switching the preset over to Serenade enhanced vocal clarity, and Bold provided brighter sound. The trade-off with selecting either preset is that the bass drops a few levels.

Tame Impala's "New Person, Same Old Mistakes" playing on the OnePlus Nord Buds

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Frequencies were better balanced on upbeat tracks like The Bangles’ “Walk Like an Egyptian.” The jingling effects from the tambourines were striking, harmonies were transparent and well layered, and percussion effects had oomph to them. This was one of the few tracks where the Bass preset held its own and brought more prominence to the drums without compromising all other sonic elements, though I still preferred Bold since it gave the whistles a livelier presence. 

Several tracks were played on Apple Music and Spotify across several devices: Google Pixel 6 Pro, Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, iPhone 12, and MacBook Pro. Streaming quality over Bluetooth 5.2 via SBC and AAC was great. Higher bitrate codecs like aptX and LDAC are not supported.

The OnePlus Nord Buds' EQ settings

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Another sound feature available is Gamer Mode, which is designed to decrease latency and improve audio synchronization, while in-game. I played a few levels of Mario Run and noticed very little enhancement to sound effects; attacks and jumps were still off. 

Noise isolation is decent. Adjusting the buds helps minimize the amount of ambient noise entering the soundscape.

OnePlus Nord Buds review: App and special features

  • Useful customization controls
  • Premium OnePlus features are unsupported 

OnePlus and iOS/Android users must download the HeyMelody app to access the Nord Buds’ features. I’ve already touched on the big ones, including control customization, EQ, and Game Mode. What is else there? Not much.

The OnePlus Nord Buds connected to the HeyMelody app

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

All you get are battery level indicators for each bud, firmware updates, and a tutorial for the controls. Basic features like an auto-off timer, music player, and Find My Buds mode are missing. Not even Google’s Find My Device feature is supported, which is surprising since the Buds Z2 supports it.

There are also premium OnePlus features missing such as Audio ID, Earbuds Fit Test, and Zen Mode Air.

OnePlus Nord Buds review: Battery life and charging case

  • 7 hours of playback time
  • 10-minute 'Flash Charge' gives up to 5 hours playback

A full charge gets you 7 hours of playtime. This is close to what OnePlus advertises, even when factoring in high volume and special features. I enjoyed about 3 to 4 days of moderate use (est. 2 hours daily) before having to recharge.

The OnePlus Nord Buds charging case being charged via USB-C cable

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Speaking of which, the Nord Buds come with proprietary Flash Charge technology that speeds up the charging process by generating 5 hours of use on a 10-minute charge (charging case and earbuds combined). The feature isn’t as powerful as the OnePlus Buds Pro’s Warp Charge (10 minutes gets 10 hours playback), but it gets the job done a lot more quickly than most wireless earbuds. 

The charging case holds up to 30 hours.

OnePlus Nord Buds review: Call quality and connectivity

  • A surprisingly good calling headset
  • Bluetooth 5.2 operates smoothly

I’m a fan of the Nord buds call quality. The mics may not block out wind or external sounds as well as OnePlus promises, but you’ll still receive loud, crisp sound on both ends. My wife could make out everything I said when chatting in the backyard or wherever there was minimal background interference. Performance was clearer when taking calls inside the house.

Muffling only occurred in rowdy settings or when caught in gusty conditions. Wind, speeding cars, and landscaping tools were audible, and made my voice go in and out.

A video call being taken on the OnePlus Nord Buds

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Connectivity works well. Range extended up to 45 feet, a higher range than what OnePlus has listed on their website (around 32 feet). This allowed me to roam free in open spaces and walk to the opposite side of the house without audio stuttering. Pairing was quick on iOS/Android devices, though OnePlus users have one-touch Fast Pair to expedite the process.

Multipoint technology (pair to two devices simultaneously) is not supported, but the buds can switch instantly to a second recognized device when enabling the long-touch-and-hold gesture on the buds. Just make sure to assign it in the companion app.

OnePlus Nord Buds review: Verdict

At $39, the Nord Buds are too good to pass up, especially for OnePlus conformists and commuters who desire quality true wireless performance for less. Sound is dynamic and bass heavy at times, but the ability to customize frequencies helps balance things out. The controls work without a hitch, comfort is pleasant, and Fast Charging is clutch for recharging in short time spans.

The short feature set and noise reduction on calls could be better, but the Nord Buds pros outweigh any cons to make this latest OnePlus creation a must-own for budget-conscious earbud users everywhere.

A lifestyle journalist with an affinity for consumer products, Alex has over a decade of experience and has worked with popular publications such as Complex, Thrillist, Men’s Health, Gear Patrol, AskMen, and Hoop Magazine. He currently focuses on audio, reviewing the most coveted headphones in the market for both Tom’s Guide and Laptop Magazine.