With its first audio product in the Nord line, the OnePlus Nord Buds is the company’s first truly wireless earbuds and also its most affordable one to date. These Nord Buds start at $39 and are designed to be a cheap earbud set for people on a budget.
OnePlus’ Nord Buds have a contemporary appearance with geometric shapes and flat sides. The charging case resembles the normal pill shape with its distinctive flat sides and sharp edges.
Matte finish is achieved by having minimal gaps between the panels and tight tolerances. You can barely see it at first glance, but the pairing button is flush with the surface.
With flat, pill-shaped stems, the earbuds keep the trend going. A concave, mirror-like area on the outer side acts as a capacitive touch surface for playback gestures. It has short stems that measure around an inch in length.
Inside the earbuds, a more organic design takes over sharp geometric lines. OnePlus has been using oval-shaped ear tips for all of its recent products since the OnePlus Buds Pro.
Nord Buds are small, lightweight, and comfortable to wear for extended periods without putting undue strain on your ears. Despite their small size, though, they can be a bit fiddly to handle, especially if you have large fingers.
It is surprising how good the finish and build quality of both the earphones and the case is for the price they are. A nano-coated finish protects the earbuds from corrosion and is IP55-rated for dust and water resistance.
OnePlus phones support Nord Buds natively. When you open the case near the phone, the pairing dialog will automatically appear, like with AirPods. Additionally, Bluetooth settings let you customize the earbuds, but they’re buried deep and hard to find, just like the AirPods.
You have to download the Oppo HeyMelody app on Android and iOS if you don’t have a OnePlus phone. This app has the same options as the one on OnePlus phones.
Nord Buds come with limited options. Tapping the earbuds single, double, or triple will change the behavior for playing/ pausing, changing tracks, and using the voice assistant. For those who do not want accidental touches, you can disable the gesture. Long touches and holds can also be used to switch between the currently paired device and an earlier one. The volume control is not assigned to any of the gestures, and you have to adjust it manually every time by phone.
Nord Buds come with Sound Master EQ, a new feature. You have the option of creating additional custom presets by using a 6-band EQ in conjunction with the four default presets – Balanced (Default), Bold, Serenade, and Bass. You can name and create new custom presets on the earbuds that will be saved on them and can be transferred to any device with which you pair them.
Nord Buds only supports AAC and SBC codecs. Although they support Bluetooth 5.2, they do not support the multi-device pairing. To switch back and forth between two devices, you can pair them separately and then use the aforementioned option.
Nord Buds lack in-ear detection, which is one of the main omissions. In other words, an automatic play or pause won’t occur when you insert or remove the earbuds.
Nord Buds’ sound is aggressively bass-boosted, while midrange and treble are muted.
A predominant midrange and upper bass region dominates the bass spectrum, which tends to overshadow the rest of the sound spectrum. The bass here is not of exceptional quality; it’s mostly sloppy and muddy, with a lot of it.
There’s a nice mellow tone to the lower mid-range, but the bass overwhelms the tone. The earbuds’ high-end response is dull, so the upper mids get truncated. A mushy treble performance creates an overall cloudy presentation of vocals and instrumentals. Tonally, the overall effect is dark and one-dimensional with a strong bass emphasis.
It is a good thing that the Sound Master EQ presets help. A big part of the tuning is fixed by the ‘Bold’ preset. The top-end is somewhat spicy and the mid-range is recessed but overall, it sounds much better since the bass is cut to nominal levels. These earbuds can be easily adjusted to sound better by using this preset for most users.
By contrast, the Serenade preset provides a bit of a nasal and honky sound by bolstering upper mids instead of treble. This preset accentuates the sense of nasality and metallicity in the upper mids of the Nord Buds. Compared to the default Balanced preset, the Bass preset increases the bass even more and brings back the mids a little, which results in an even less pleasant listening experience than the Balanced preset.
It’s good to know you can make your own instead of using either of these. You can only do so much with EQ. The timbre and resolution of the drivers, which remain subpar, can’t be improved by a six-band EQ, either.
Surprisingly, the Nord Buds’ microphone is quite good. Voices sound more natural and full-bodied when recorded in a quiet environment. The ambient noise reduction algorithm messes up the audio a little, but it doesn’t disrupt the audio too much.
Even in noisy environments, the voice quality is reasonable. The earbuds are unable to preserve the sound of voices in extremely noisy environments. There is minimal background noise.
The Nord Buds have good performance in terms of latency when viewing a video. When watching a video for the first time, there’s a bit of lag, but it syncs quickly and stays that way. It is okay for casual games, but if you want to compete in multiplayer gaming, you should get wired earbuds.
Connectivity is reliable with the Nord Buds. The sound never interrupted or disconnected unexpectedly.
Nord Buds do not feature active noise cancellation. It is easy to focus on the audio when using these ear tips since the ear tips passively block quite a bit of ambient noise, except when very loud environments are present.
According to OnePlus, a full charge will provide 7 hours of battery life for the Nord Buds. After 10 minutes of charging, OnePlus claims that you can play for 5 hours.