OnePlus Buds Z2 Review: Purposefully mid-range with good ANC
OnePlus has been in the audio game for quite a long time now, and we’ve seen big hitters from the company in the form of the OnePlus Buds and the OnePlus Buds Pro. The company also launched the decidedly mid-range OnePlus Buds Z last year, which were genuinely well-received at a lower price. Now the company has unveiled the OnePlus Buds Z2 in Europe after a Chinese launch in October.
The OnePlus Buds Z2 feature some noteworthy improvements over the original OnePlus Buds Z. These earbuds feature larger 11mm dynamic drivers, active noise cancellation (ANC) support, and better battery life. While OnePlus hasn’t changed the design all that much, the earbuds do come in a new Obsidian Black colorway. They also offer Bluetooth 5.2 support, a triple microphone array, and an IP55 rating for water resistance. The earbuds are rated for 5 hours of continuous playback with ANC turned on and up to 7 hours with ANC off. With the charging case, the earbuds can last up to 27 hours on a single charge with ANC on and up to 38 hours with ANC off.
The OnePlus Buds Z2 have a lot of premium features for a set of mid-range earphones, and there’s not a lot to actually complain about. After spending just over a week with these earphones, my biggest complaint is the price.
About this review: I received the OnePlus Buds Z2 from OnePlus on the 4th of December, 2021 in Obsidian Black. OnePlus has had no input on the content of this review.
OnePlus Buds Z2 Specifications
|Specification||OnePlus Buds Z2|
|Dimensions & Weight||N/A|
|Microphone(s)||Triple microphone array|
|Battery & Charging|
OnePlus Buds Z2 Design
The OnePlus Buds Z2 adopts more or less the exact same design as the OnePlus Buds Z, right down to the feel in-ear. They have the same gel tips, the same circular touch-sensitive surface for gesture controls, and the same short stem design. They’re just as comfortable too and can sit in my ears for long periods of time without discomfort — much better than the OnePlus Buds Pro.
The case itself is small and unassuming, just like with the original OnePlus Buds Z. It’s a small pill-shaped plastic clamshell that feels cheap but is also light and comfortable to hold, and sits nicely in my pocket alongside my phone or my wallet. It sticks out a little bit from my pocket thanks to its thickness — I would have preferred it be wider like the OnePlus Buds Pro case, though it’s not a big deal either.
As for the color, this is generally a personal preference, but I am a huge fan of darker colored earphones over brighter, white earphones. Darker earphones blend in better with my clothing choices, and they’re often harder to see as well. White earphones stick out like a sore thumb more often than not.
There’s no wireless charging here, though there is quick charging, and the pairing button is on the back of the earphones, below the hinge. Once entered into pairing mode, the front light will pulse a white color. You can’t put them in pairing mode without both earphones being inside the case. Once the OnePlus Buds Z2 are paired to your devices, they’re smart enough to switch to whatever is attempting to connect to them.As for gestures, by default, a single tap pauses/plays music, two taps skips to the next track, and three taps go to the previous track. Holding down for one-second switches between ANC and Transparency Mode, and holding down for three seconds switches between the two most recently paired devices. There’s no gesture to control volume, and the singular tap is too easy to trigger in my opinion, and is annoying to deal with. I have no problems with gestures being missed thanks to the flat touch area, but it’s frustrating that it’s so easy to accidentally trigger.
These earphones have Google Fast Pair support, and I’ve said previously that more Bluetooth devices need to make use of it. For the uninitiated, Google’s Fast Pair is a proprietary system that is part of Google Play Services and, therefore, is on pretty much every Android smartphone. It uses Bluetooth Low Energy to detect nearby Bluetooth accessories that are looking to pair and will pop up a photo of the accessory and a connect button if they’re discovered nearby on your Android smartphone. Fast Pair-enabled peripherals are registered to your Google account and work with Google’s Find My Device if you lose them by displaying their last registered location. You can also see battery info for your Bluetooth earphones on any device that they’ve been previously paired to. It makes the pairing process a breeze.
The OnePlus Buds Z2 earbuds are IP55 certified for dust and water resistance (low-pressure but sustained water jet). What this means is that you don’t have to worry about sweat or rain damaging your earphones, though keep in mind that water damage is still not covered under warranty.
Audio, Software, and Battery LifeWhen it comes to earphones, generally the most important part of the experience is the actual sound quality. I can happily forgive a pair of earphones for lacking in features if they have good audio quality, and the OnePlus Buds Z2 are decidedly middle of the road. They’re very bass-heavy — uncomfortably so — and there’s no built-in EQ like on the OnePlus Buds Pro. As a result, I’ve resorted to using Wavelet in order to remove some of the low-end. While some users like heavy bass, this feels overpowering to me.
If you want to check out the playlist that I primarily tested the OnePlus Buds on, you can check that out here on Spotify. A lot of songs, such as Danger‘s 1:42 sound overwhelming focused on the low-end, and the closing of Daft Punk‘s Touch sounds muddy. The sound quality is fine, and if you don’t mind powerful bass (which seems to be a selling point for a lot of other brands) then you won’t mind these earphones, either. I’m just disappointed, as I expected better from OnePlus given the sound quality in the OnePlus Buds and the OnePlus Buds Pro. Even more peculiar is that OnePlus says these earphones have the same 11mm drivers as the OnePlus Buds Pro, but I’m definitely not hearing it.
At the very least, the design of these earphones with their silicone tips isolates a lot of noise on their own, and enabling the ANC does a great job at cutting out additional outside noises. There’s also a transparency mode, though I’m not a fan of the implementation of transparency mode on any earphones that I’ve used.
To modify the settings on these earphones, you’ll need to either download the HeyMelody app or use a OnePlus phone and modify them from your phone’s Bluetooth settings. Both work and present the same options, including the ability to update the firmware. As an aside, the lack of any OPPO or OnePlus branding on the HeyMelody app (the developer is listed as “HeyTap”) might confuse a few people.
When it comes to ANC, the OnePlus Buds Z2 has a few options. You can either choose to turn it on, turn it on to max ANC, turn it off, or choose transparency mode. The ANC on these earphones is noticeably a little bit weaker than on the OnePlus Buds, but not by much. If ANC is the most important feature to you, though, just get the Sony WF-1000XM4. There’s no smart noise cancellation like on the OnePlus Buds Pro, nor is there Zen Mode Air.
As for the ANC, I’ve found that it’s pretty decent at cutting out surrounding noise, such as when in a car or on a train. They’re not quite as good as the OnePlus Buds Pro, but they get the job done well.
When you remove one earphone from your ears, the music will stop, though will continue playing again if you put it back in within 3 minutes. I enjoy this feature for the most part, but I wish that this was also customizable. The OnePlus Buds Z2 can also work independently so that you can just listen with one earphone in and have the same gestures and automatic pause/play. For phone calls, you can answer or hang up a call with a double-tap of the touch area, and you can reject a call with a long press of the touch area for 5 seconds.
I’ve had no problem with battery life on the OnePlus Buds Z2, and they charge back up quickly enough in the case, too. From my own experience, you’re looking at getting roughly four to five hours of playtime with ANC on, and up to seven with ANC off.
ConclusionThe OnePlus Buds Z2 aren’t my first OnePlus earphones, but this is certainly the most disappointed I’ve been with a pair of them, especially for the price. Coming in at €99, these are pricey, and I find it hard to justify them when you can buy the OnePlus Buds Pro (even with all their flaws) for just that little bit extra. If you like bass, then maybe you won’t have a problem, but the sound signature of these earphones is not to my taste whatsoever. There are no additional features either, and the likes of Zen Mode Air, OnePlus Audio ID, and more are completely amiss.
The software experience also leaves a lot to be desired, especially as the HeyMelody app is still required. If you have a OnePlus phone already, then these will integrate nicely, but otherwise, it’s important to know that you’ll need the HeyMelody app to control your earphones. It only mentions OnePlus or OPPO in passing and isn’t immediately clear that it’s the app that you need. The HeyMeldoy app is also mentioned at the back of the quick start guide that you get in the box (do people read those thoroughly?) and there’s no QR code or anything to easily get to the Play Store link.
With all of that said, the sound quality is passable, and the ANC is decent. These are a pair of earphones that you could definitely consider when comparing to others on the market, but honestly, if you’re going to get a pair of OnePlus earphones, upgrade and get the OnePlus Buds Pro. Otherwise, I’d take a look at our list of best wireless earbuds to see if anything else catches your eye.