It used to be that when a company best known for their mobile phones launched a pair of earphones, there were bundled in with the handset as a 'nice to have', not a 'must have'.
But the game has changed and now we are seeing some sterling efforts from tech companies that aren't best known for their audio wares.
Enter OnePlus. Its first iteration of the OnePlus Buds were moulded and aimed at everyday use, not really for audiophiles to test to their limits. Its latest true wireless earphones - the OnePlus Buds Pro - are just that, though, a pair of buds that looks great and sound even better.
We've had them in our ears for a few weeks now. Here are 5 things you need to know about the OnePlus Buds Pro...
- The best true wireless earphones - find the right pair for you.
1. Design has been overhauled
OnePlus has really focused on making the Buds Pro a desirable-looking pair of earphones - and, more importantly, not like AirPods. There's a nice contrast between the smooth black (or white, but the version we reviewed are black) plastic tops to the stainless-steel stem.
The stem isn't just for design, it's where the touch controls are housed. These work incredible well, but you have to remember the combinations for the action you want. Eg, pinch once to play, twice for the next track and thrice for the previous track. Kudos, btw, to OnePlus for using the word 'thrice' in its instructions.
The design flourishes also carries on to the case. It's brilliantly designed and has the same matt effect of the top of the buds. It's nice and compact, too, so can easily slip into a pocket without too much bulge.
2. The fit is fantastic - if your ears aren't too big
The OnePlus Buds Pro fit really nicely in the ears, but we have a feeling that if your ear entrance is a little on the large side, then there may not quite be the lock that you want.
Our pair slotted in well, though, and are incredibly light and comfortable. Even wearing them for long periods, they never caused an ache, which is common with many ear buds.
The OnePlus Buds Pros are IP55 dust and water resistance which means that they are ideal for the gym. They survived multiple sweat-filled trips during our tests which is testament to them but also an embarrassing admission about our own fitness.
Again, the fit works really well and they never felt like they were going to pop out and get sucked under the treadmill.
3. The ANC is pretty powerful
It's always great to see (sorry, hear) active noise cancellation on a pair of True Wireless ear buds and OnePlus has created a solid, sound-sucking ANC for the OnePlus Buds Pro. There are three versions of the ANC. They are: Noise Cancelation (faint), Smart and Maximum.
We tried maximum first and it made a noticeable difference in the sound around us. The two people chatting about the number 32 bus route in the gym cafe were nicely muted, the natural buzz in the air from the wind and car noise near silenced.
We preferred the ANC in Smart mode, though. It did feel like it adapted to the noise around, so it was never too silent.
While the max noice cancellation can quash up to 40db of noise, they aren't in the Bose level of total cancelation. We were impressed with how much noise they reduced, though.
4. Sound is smart and will help you chill out
If you are a OnePlus user, then you get all the audio goodies you need from these earphones. That's because some of the features are 'locked' to OnePlus phones - including Dolby Atmos and something called Pro Gaming Mode (which offers better synching between audio and video while gaming). Great features, so it's a shame that they are only for OnePlus users.
We get it, kind of. But if OnePlus wants to entice others to its earphones, then it's always better to have an open approach. Saying that, there is an accompanying app for the ear buds if you aren't using a OnePlus phone, which has a number of fun features - all of which are in the settings for OnePlus users.
These include a brilliant Zen mode, where you can pipe soothing sounds through your earphones when you need a place of solace and there is an option to sound-map your ears, called OnePlus Audio ID. This isn't as intensive as what a company like Nura offers but it's a smart option to have.
As for sound, well OnePlus has honed its audio and created a decent and well-balanced sound. The lower levels worked well for Joy Orbison's Still Slipping Vol.1 album, with the main beat of 'rraine rattling through nicely.
The 'live' feel of The Band's Tears of Rage was beautifully rendered, with the high-notes of the piano resonating well. Chvrches California sounded nice and expansive, with Lauren Mayberry's voice soaring throughout.
The guitar on Saint Etienne's Music Again drifted well throughout the song through the OnePlus Buds Pro.
We would have liked a little bit more oomph from the bass throughout, but the audio doesn't disappoint.
5. Battery life is decent, charging is quick
OnePlus is known for its fast-charging so it's great to see it also implemented in the Buds Pro. A quick 10-minute charge will give you around 10 hours of listening which is rather impressive.
On a full charge, you'll get around 24 hours out of the earphones (including the charge in the case). This does drop a few hours if you are blasting the ANC on max - they can be charged through USB-C or a QI-compatible charger.
It's a solid amount of battery that OnePlus is offering here, but the quick charging is the game changer here.
OnePlus Buds Pro review: Final Verdict
The OnePlus Buds Pro have surprised us. OnePlus isn't known for its audio smarts and the two true wireless ear buds it released before were fine, but more for a budget-friendly crowd.
At around £140/$150 the OnePlus Buds Pro are the most expensive earphones created by OnePlus but also the best.
They are a decent choice not just for OnePlus users (although you will get the best benefits if you in this club) but those looking for a smart-looking, great-sounding pair of true wireless earphones.