OnePlus Buds 3 Review


The newly launched OnePlus Buds 3 appears as a brand-new product line since OnePlus never launched a Buds 2 truly wireless earphones. Technically, these are closer to the Nord Buds Z2 both in terms of features and in terms of price, so you can say that these buds are the spiritual successors to the Buds Z2. However, their pricing places them just below the premium OnePlus Buds Pro 2 in the OnePlus audio range. OnePlus, with its new Buds 3 truly wireless earphones, claims to deliver premium features at a lower price point. I’ve been using them for a couple of weeks, and here’s why I think they are an excellent choice at Rs. 5,499 in India.

OnePlus Buds 3 Review: Design and Features

The design of the OnePlus Buds 3 case appears identical to the OnePlus Buds Pro 2. Pick it up, and you will notice that it’s a bit chunky compared to the latter, and that’s down to the bigger case battery. The case has a plastic finish and does not feel as premium as the Buds Pro 2’s case, but this is fine as it also retails for half its price. Its thicker overall dimensions also make it easier to open the case when accessing the earphones, letting me confidently open and close it with one hand.

The OnePlus Buds 3 has a very comfortable fit with a grippy semi-chrome finish

 

The earbuds are available in two finishes, Splendid Blue and Metallic Gray. I received the Splendid Blue earbuds for review, and they have a nice chrome finish around the stalks with the blue plastic casing exposed closer to the silicon tips. These chromed stems, which are thicker than those of the Buds Pro 2, also lend it some grip (even though they do get smudgy), so they don’t slip out of my hands when removing or placing them into the charging case. Just like the OnePlus Buds Pro 2, the earbuds have a very comfortable fit, and I had no trouble wearing them for hours on end without any discomfort.

The charging case weighs 40.8 grams, while each earbud weighs 4.8 grams, which isn’t heavy. In fact, these are lighter than the combined weight of the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 (over 50 grams). Just like the OnePlus Buds Z2, the Buds 3 offer an IP55 rating for dust and water resistance. This means that the buds can withstand splashes of water or sweaty workouts as well. The sales package includes two extra sets of silicon ear tips and a short USB-C charging cable.

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The OnePlus Buds 3’s charging case (right) is thicker but has a bigger battery compared to the Buds Pro 2’s case (left)

 

OnePlus Buds 3 Review: App and specifications

When connected to a OnePlus smartphone, all the settings and customisations can be accessed under the Bluetooth Settings of the phone under Settings> Bluetooth> OnePlus Buds 3> i> Earbuds functions. One can adjust the active noise cancellation’s effectiveness, tweak the equaliser, toggle 3D audio, and, more importantly, adjust the earbud controls from here. One can also find their earbuds and control the camera when connected to a OnePlus smartphone (not available on non-OnePlus devices).

For non-OnePlus smartphones and iPhone users, there’s the HeyMelody app. It’s available for both Android and iOS devices and offers plenty of control and customisation. You get Noise Control (ANC), adjustable EQ, Golden Sound, and even OnePlus 3D Audio. One can even toggle dual connections and even check out the connected devices on an iPhone. There’s even a game mode toggle for those who prefer lower latency, and one can even upgrade the firmware using an iPhone, which is quite impressive. Earbud controls are available under a separate section altogether.

The touch controls that come with the OnePlus Buds 3 are brand-new. These work very well and provide accurate feedback when sliding a finger up or down the stem of the earbuds. While touch controls have been present on OnePlus earbuds for a while, the new slide gesture lets one either change a track or adjust the volume.

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The HeyMelody app works well on iOS and non-OnePlus devices, offering enough features and customisations

 

What’s more, is that the slide gesture can be customised for each earbud, so one can be used for switching tracks while the other can be used for adjusting volume. This feature or gesture alone seems justifiable for many to upgrade to this pair of truly wireless earphones because even the top-end Buds Pro 2 do not let you adjust volume controls via the earphones.

As for specifications, each earbud gets a 10.4mm woofer and a 6mm tweeter (dual drivers) that offer a sensitivity of 110db and a frequency response range of 15Hz to 40,000Hz. There are 3 mics on each earbud that are also used for noise cancellation apart from calls. Each earbud has a 58mAH Li-ion battery, while the case offers a large 520mAh unit. The earphones use Bluetooth 5.3 and support AAC, SBS and even the LHDC 5.0 codec.

OnePlus Buds 3 Review: Performance and battery life

As expected from an audio product at this price point, the audio caters mainly to the bass-heavy crowd. However, this isn’t the usual muddy bass but a rather clear and defined type, which is very enjoyable when listening to dance music or even when watching movies as it adds that extra bit of thump without going overboard. But all of this happens at the default Balanced EQ setting, which literally does what it claims to, reserving the more bass-heavy sound for the ‘Bass’ setting. The mids as usual, still take a bit of beating here, but most users won’t notice it much. For those who do, the ‘Serenade’ preset seems to take care of this to an extent.

There’s also a BassWave feature which I found to be quite unique. Activating it in settings lets one not only increase the bass level but also drop or reduce it. However, utilising the feature only seemed to make things worse (no matter where you are headed), so I preferred keeping it off.

As for the microphones, they do an excellent job of drowning out unnecessary ambient sounds, making the caller’s voice sound loud and clear in various settings. At no point during the review period did I ever hear a caller complain about my voice quality, which is pretty impressive as I’ve heard callers complain quite frequently when using the Buds Pro 2?

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While the two appear a bit similar, the OnePlus Buds 3’s earbuds have thicker stalks

 

The active noise cancelling (ANC) tech works as expected and is able to suppress low-frequency noise well, but not so much with mid and high-frequency noise as they managed to get through. Still, it’s quite capable and gets the job done, given its price point.

In terms of connectivity, the OnePlus Buds 3 did quite well. I was able to have conversations and listen to music several metres away (with solid walls with doors in between) in my apartment, and the connection did not seem to drop or struggle (provided I stuck to the lighter SBC/AAC codec). When playing games, there is a separate mode to prioritise latency over audio quality when using the HeyMelody app on iPhone or other Android devices.

As for battery life, playing music continuously using the AAC codec, at 50 percent volume, the buds easily lasted me 10 hours on a single charge with the ANC turned off. Turning ANC on dropped this figure to around 6 hours. Switching to the heavier LHDC, as expected, reduces play time even further, dropping it to around 5 hours only. Indeed, the chunky case does come with some benefits letting the earbuds 4 times on a single charge.

While LHDC audio codec is available, it’s quite obvious to conclude that it’s wiser to stick with AAC for better battery life and ANC usage, as the advantages of LHDC are a bit gimmicky with these earbuds. They manage a bare minimum of 400kbps while being unusable (in terms of stability and range) at the promised 1Mbps or 1,000kbps bitrate.

I wasn’t able to accurately test out charging speeds, but OnePlus claims that the Buds 3 truly wireless earphones, when charged with the case for 10 minutes, can provide up to 7 hours of combined usage, which sounds good enough, so I’ll take their word for it.

Verdict

At Rs. 5,499, the OnePlus Buds 3 truly wireless earphones offer a plethora of features that have trickled down from the more premium Buds Pro 2, almost making the latter redundant when it comes to certain features. Key among these are the new slide gestures with touch controls, which make for a convenient way to control the volume and music playback experience without the need to reach for your smartphone. While the addition of LHDC codec is questionable, you still get capable ANC and excellent voice quality. A well-designed companion app that offers most of the features of a OnePlus smartphone, even on a non-OnePlus device, ends up making the OnePlus Buds 3 earphones a very compelling audio package at this price point.


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