No stranger to budget earbuds OnePlus has had reasonable success for a non-traditional headphone company and it only keeps strengthening its position.
This year alone they have had three different models or wireless earbuds and the Buds Z is their second true wireless outing, even cheaper than the Buds that were launched alongside the Nord smartphone. It comes in a pill-shaped case that is of good quality overall and the buds themselves are similar to the AirPods in their stem-wearing design. Although, unlike the Buds, this time OnePlus has opted for silicon tips which make for a better fit and with their ultra-lightweight of just 4.3g, they also can stay in your ears for much longer without complain. If you’re the active and sweaty ones, they also stay in your ears whether you’re doing the jumping jacks or cartwheels, while being sloshed around in your sweat, thanks to its IP55 rating.
Sound of fury
Using 10mm drivers a number of “sound enhancing” technologies, the Buds Z might be affordable, but they certainly aren’t cheap looking or sounding. The polished CD-like endcaps on the earbuds give it a premium feel and the fit instantly lets you know that this might be a start to a promising relationship. Using Dirac Audio Tuner, it manages to serve up a powerful, punchy sound that is full-bodied without overshadowing the rest of the frequency spectrum. Good Vibes by the Dark Circle Factory is delivered with verve and enthusiasm that makes this percussion-heavy track play to its full potential. Even at high volumes, it doesn’t lose composure but you will admittedly get a wider range of controls by using it with an Android device and especially a OnePlus. Sound quality through an iPhone was just as good but if you like tweaking your sound more than DJ wale babu, you’re better off with Android. Having said that, I personally couldn’t hear much different with most of the sound modes barring the EQ but that’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with the Buds Z. It’s more about the electronics. Dolby Atmos is supported too if you have a newer generation device and watching Extraction on Netflix was a fun experience with the requisite impact provided by the blazing guns and close combat. The silicon tips, which are provided in different sizes, make a rather close seal with your skin and cut out a lot of ambient noise, making it almost as quiet as an active noise cancellation model! So if you don’t like the “underwater” feeling while your music is paused or on a phone call, you might want to get a demo before you commit. The low-latency helps in keeping things synced at the right pace and IP55 certification means you can even use them in the bubble bath, as long as your head stays above the water!
Battery life is as expected, with about 4-5 hours on a single charge, with support for a quick 10min top-up for another go at a movie. Overall, with the case, you should get 3 whole charges, bringing the runtime to 20hrs, which is reasonable if not benchmark setting. Call quality through the twin microphones per bud was good for the listener on the other side, but I could hear my own voice echo way too much to be able to focus on the conversation.
For under ₹3000, the OnePlus Buds Z provide the best possible sound signature most people will ever need from a budget true wireless. It may sound a bit heavy-handed with classical and acoustic music, but as I said, for most of us looking to rock out over The Weeknd, the Buds Z give no reason to crib. They do have some features that are more about filling up marketing material rather than your expectations, like the basic touch controls that work just to skip tracks on either of the earbuds (no configuration) and the Dolby Atmos support that doesn’t do anything special over the normal sound. But, if you want a no-nonsense, fun-sounding in-ear with a penchant to punch above its weight, the Buds Z are a sure bet.