The final act in what seems to be the bargain of the year event!
Wired but wireless? I don’t get it either. Who would’ve thought that it would even become a category on its own - wireless headsets with wires dangling alongside your face, reminding you that a shave is due soon. The OnePlus Bullets Wireless are part of this growing community that differentiate themselves from the “true” wireless models by a) being cheaper and b) always ready to be worn by residing in the shadows of your chins. The original Bullets were a bargain and these Wireless avatars might just reset the expectations yet again. Here’s why…
Within the elaborate packaging, you get a red squishy carry case that comfortably stores the DASH-charge compatible USB-C cable and of course, the Bullets Wireless fit in there too. It’s a magnetic case that doesn’t water-seal the contents but is quirky enough to be the butt of many jokes or pull off a Scandinavian swag. Two extra pairs of ear tips and fins are provided for to fit every kind of ear, so whether you’re a Rahman or a Yoda, you too can enjoy the perks of going Wireless!
The wireless earphones themselves don’t look any different from others in the category. Not visually, at least. The neck band is made from flexible plastic and rests easy but the dangly wire ends seem a bit too long and take some adjustment so that they don’t keep rubbing against your face. A battery pack and the Bluetooth module sit on either side while an in-line remote/mic is also situated on the left wire. The left and right earpieces are not marked boldly so you either rely on habit to assess that the left side is the one where the in-line remote sits or simply squint to read the etched L/R on the connecting piece of the wire on the earplug. These are minor quibbles though and like all things OnePlus, once you keep the price tag in mind, you tend to discount a lot of the insignificant irritants.
The comfort itself on the earbuds is very high indeed with the inclusion of the ear hook. They are almost impossible to dethrone from your ears, even under rigorous workouts and most of the time I couldn’t even feel them sitting snug in my ears, except for the amount of passive noise cancellation they offer. The biggest party trick here is the magnetic back on the earbuds that enables them to latch on to each other and pause your music in the process. It’s also a convenient way of letting them hang around your neck the entire day without ever losing them or hunting for them when you feel like a tune or two. Another claim to fame and also a slight touch of genius is bringing their famed DASH charge to these earphones. So you get 5 hours of play time with only 10 minutes of charge using the same charger as your OP6. Pretty nifty!
For its asking price, especially as an add-on to a smartphone, you don’t expect it to change the way you think about an entire category of product, but the Bullets Wireless does just that. From the moment you first fit them into your ears for a snug, vice-like grip to the moment you hit Play on your device, they keep surprising. Playing Trinity by OX7GEN instantly proves that they have solid rhythm-keeping abilities, which means their timing is impeccable. The bass lines are played back with detail and resolution, not just the thick heft that many others in the price range pass off as a fake punch. Proper fitting is key to getting the best sound out of any in-ear design and the Bullets Wireless are no exception to that rule of physics. Even a slight air gap will make the sound thin and uninspired but get it right and instantly you’re transported to another dimension. Nica Libres at dusk by Ben Howard is a great example of a complex composition captured with a beautifully nuanced recording and the Bullets keep the multitude of instruments perfectly weighted in the soundstage, never letting one overpower the other. The sense of airiness goes a long way in eliminating listening fatigue while the balanced tonality proves that OnePlus has put in serious work behind this design compared to their last outing.
The 9.2mm drivers and the Energy Tube certainly play their part by digging out detail, providing the drive to sustain R&B and Classical music too, without muddying the sound caused by internal reflections within the earbud housing. The Energy Tube acts like a back wave absorbing device, ensuring you’re only hearing the clear, direct output from the drivers and not the delayed signal that smears harmonics and detail. Towing the Line is another great track for this test by Ben Howard which has a parallel vocal track which is beautifully deciphered by the Bullets Wireless in a frankly shocking display of prowess at this price point. From the Weeknd to Bach, it continued to show the same vigour and delicacy where required, firmly establishing itself as the new king of the hill.
The claimed 10 hours and some minutes will obviously not hold true under everyday use conditions. Between calling, music and standby, I felt the need to charge every 6-7 hours but the inclusion of DASH charge means you never really notice the downtime unless you get cut off in the middle of a movie. Play them at full bore listening to System of a Down and sure, you will feel a hit in the play time, but overall, it’s comparable with the category forerunners.
It’s asking price of less than ₹4000 is truly shocking when you consider the scale of performance on show here. It’s a well built, well-engineered product that is cheap as chips when you compare it to the Beats X and even undercuts the Jabra Elite, getting my vote as the “wired” wireless earphones to buy this season. There are a few niggles like the long-ish cord, lack of battery status indicator and non-resuming of play when you un-latch the two earbuds from their magnetic bond but one listen to its smooth, natural music delivery and you forget everything else. After all, isn’t sound quality all that matters in a pair of earphones?