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OnePlus Buds Z2 review: Hands on with a budget set of true wireless ANC earbuds

Although sound quality and battery life are both good, there are some significant drawbacks with the OnePlus Buds Z2.
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Written by Sandra Vogel, Contributor on

The latest OnePlus-branded true wireless earbuds, the OnePlus Buds Z2, have an RRP of $99.99 and are currently on offer at the attractive price of $79.99. They come in either Pearl White or Obsidian Black.  

These buds are the type designed with a stem rather than being fully in-ear. They weigh just 4.6g each. Like many other vendors, OnePlus includes six silicone ear tips, with the mid-sized pair pre-fitted to the buds. With its IP55 rating for dust/water resistance ('dust protected'/water jets), the OnePlus Buds Z2 might have some appeal for sports enthusiasts, but I found the left bud was rather keen to dislodge itself even when I was just walking. This is an issue I often have with this style of earbud, and others may share it. 

Pros
  • Good sound quality
  • Affordable
  • ANC and Transparency mode
Cons
  • Some features only available on recent OnePlus phones
  • No equaliser control in HeyMelody app
  • Fiddly tap controls

There is a low-latency gaming mode that will appeal to gaming fans but won't interest non-gamers. If you're in the former camp, take note: this mode is only available on more recent OnePlus phones. The same goes for Dolby Atmos, which is only accessible to owners of the OnePlus 7 or later phones. If you're using an earlier OnePlus phone, or have a different brand of handset, Dolby Atmos and low latency are not available. 

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The OnePlus Buds Z2 have an IP55 rating for dust and water resistance.

Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

The HeyMelody app provides for some granular control including configuring audio playback management. There are single, double and triple taps, as well as touch and hold for one second, and touch and hold for three seconds. Good luck remembering what's been configured for each of those. I found the touch controls a bit fiddly, especially when out and about. It's too easy to tap too many or too few times. 

SEE: Best cheap 5G phone 2022: No need to pay flagship prices for quality devices

The app also allows users to configure Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) and Transparency. I found some sounds getting through the noise-cancelling filter even when set to 'extreme' – the other option is 'faint'. That's actually fine by me, as I don't like to be completely shut off from external sounds. But it won't suit everyone. Meanwhile, Transparency mode, which is designed to let some sound through, did well at allowing me to notice when someone was talking to me without them having to resort to semaphore. 

The app has a few other features, including the ability to toggle in-ear detection and set whether audio automatically goes to the buds when they are being worn, with pause and play happening when buds are removed and reinserted, or whether audio is configured manually by the user as required. 

Notably absent from the app is any kind of equaliser control, and there are no pre-set sound profiles either. You get what you're given in terms of audio quality. Fortunately, in everyday use I found the sound to be perfectly acceptable. There was enough bass in music playback for me, and also enough tonal variation for me to enjoy full orchestral classical sounds. People I spoke to said I sounded clear to them, and they sounded clear to me.  

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The case will hold up to 27 hours (ANC on) or 38 hours (ANC off) of charge for the OnePlus Buds Z2 .

Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet  

The app also displays the charge level of both the buds and the case. It's handy to know how much juice is available in total, in case a charge is likely to be required in preparation for a prolonged period away from a power supply. The buds will deliver up to five hours of sound with ANC on and seven hours with ANC off, while the case will hold up to 27 hours or 38 hours of charge depending on ANC status. 

The case is relatively small and lozenge-shaped, and is easy to stow in a bag or pocket. It charges via USB-C, and a short cable is provided for the job. When a quick burst of power is required at short notice, 10 minutes will provide five hours of ANC playback.  

Although sound quality and battery life are both good, there are some significant drawbacks with the OnePlus Buds Z2. Some features are only available to owners of more recent OnePlus handsets, and the absence of an equaliser is surprising. The tap controls are fiddly and the stem-based design isn't entirely suited to my ear shape. That last point is personal, of course, but it's unlikely to be unique to me. 

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