OnePlus Buds Z2 test: a newcomer that joins the others, without ceremony

A sort of simplified Buds Pro, the OnePlus Buds Z2 evolve the recipe of the first Buds Z and come close to the (very) many other active noise reduction headphones under 100 euros (sold 99 euros). Can the manufacturer’s experience make a difference here?

OnePlus Buds Z2

OnePlus Buds Z2

  • Good active insulation
  • Quality in call
  • Comfort
  • IP55 certification
  • Good bass and midrange balance
  • … but shortcomings in upper midrange attenuation
  • Highs too oscillating
  • Average autonomy

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Simple, basic?

In a way, it’s hard not to get tired of headphones of this type. OPPO, Honor, Huawei: all these manufacturers look the same and offer the same things in this price range. OnePlus offers a slight variation, with a flat back directly inherited from the first Buds
in a button format. Everything else remains quite classic. The stem is quite thin, and the side either. Of course, all these similarities between the brands play in favor of the Nothing ear (1) whose transparency brings enough originality.tie central, relatively small. We do not notice any aesthetic genius, but no real false no

Body (in the hollow of the ear) a little smaller on the Buds Z2, although the overall volume of the OPPO Enco Free 2 (right) is lower © Guillaume Fourcadier for Clubic

Same remark for the charge box, rather compact and with a particularly simple design. It differs from its direct competitors by a more elongated and slightly thicker shape. Both for the box and the headphones, the gleam predominates. OnePlus does not want to hear about a matte surface. This trend is quite current and has its good and bad sides. For our part, we prefer the more sober and original Enco Free 2 from OPPO.

As classic as the design, the construction is average, without more. The OnePlus Buds Z2 are not very dense, but quite well assembled. The real plus of the product lies in its certification, IP55, and not IPX4, as is the case with its competitors. This certification offers increased resistance to water splashes (resistance under a small jet of water such as a faucet) and resistance to most dust. Above all, this robustness extends to the housing, certified IPX4. This point is rare enough to be noted, because the cases do not usually have any protection.

OnePlus Buds Z2
© Guillaume Fourcadier for Clubic

The case has a correct construction, too, with a hinge without any play. The only notable flaw, especially compared to the competition, is the lack of wireless charging.

There is almost nothing to say about the comfort, as the formula seems to be proven. Here, the semi-intra topology (very short nozzle) allows the earphones to be little intrusive, and the silicone tips (3 sizes) cover almost all morphologies. As usual, the earphones are not very suitable for sports. Indeed, despite the IP55 certification, the holding is really there only in “normal” use, without moving the head too much or making jaw movements.

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Correct ergonomics, application or not

We don’t expect OnePlus to revolutionize the ergonomics of this type of headset, especially with the use of a simple touch area on the flat back. Here, unlike the OPPO Enco free 2
the stem does not allow to control the volume.

OnePlus Buds Z2
© Guillaume Fourcadier for Clubic

Frankly responsive, the touch area of each earpiece allows:

  • one button (right and left): play/pause ;
  • two buttons: next track; three buttons: start of track/previous track
  • three buttons: start of track/previous track;
  • long press: toggle between different types of noise reduction;
  • and a proximity sensor allows you to pause and resume playback by removing and reinserting the earphones.

This picture is clearly not perfect, since the headphones do not allow you to adjust the volume or even call the assistant by default. The manufacturer relies on this symmetry of controls in order not to lose the user. If a certain latency is to be noted between the command and its release, the tactile zones remain very responsive.

Another notable flaw is that it is impossible to simply turn off the ANC. By default, switching between the different modes is only done between the ANC and the Transparency mode (sound feedback). To authorize the ANC off mode, you have to go into the application.

OnePlus Buds Z2

© OnePlus

This application is probably not foreign to you, since it is HeyMelody, a classic from the OnePlus and OPPO galaxy.

Far from being full of advanced functions, it provides the bare minimum. The first tab allows you to know the precise charge level of the headphones and the case, to switch between the different noise reduction modes, to perform a test fit of the headphones and to update the OnePlus Buds Z2.

OnePlus Buds Z2
© OnePlus

The second tab focuses on the assignment of touch commands. If the settings do not allow you to go as far as changing the volume, they at least allow you to assign a call to the voice assistant (via two or three presses). However, it is a pity that the proximity sensors cannot be deactivated. Yes, being able to trigger the pause is often convenient, but many users (including yours truly) are not fond of this imposed automatism.

It’s hard to rave about ergonomics in general, but the main thing is there. With a OnePlus smartphone, there are a few advantages, such as support for Dolby Atmos. As we have not tested the headphones under this system, we leave this point in suspense.

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An almost classic connectivity

The Bluetooth connection follows the same recipe as with Freebuds 4i and the models that followed. Here, both headphones can work in mono mode, the Multipoint is absent and the pairing is compatible with Google FastPair, all remaining on a duo of codec SBC/AAC. A kind of quartet that we inevitably find.

Like Google Pixel Buds A models, the OnePlus Buds Z2 display, in the classic Bluetooth settings, precise information on the status of the battery (right earpiece, left earpiece and charging box).

Above all, the OnePlus Buds Z2 do not fail on the quality of this connection. There are no stability issues to report, the range is already very good and the sound jumps, rare.

Noise reduction: strong on the bass, but…

Just because headphones are sold for less than 100 euros doesn’t mean that their noise reduction can’t be effective. We could be lenient at the end of 2020, but that’s no longer possible given the many references released this year.

In this game, OnePlus offers a result half-figures and half-redeals. To start with, the bass and midrange isolation is surprisingly high. The model is really effective on the very low frequencies, which is royal for situations like being in the plane or against any other humming sound. It should be noted, however, that sudden noises are much less well analyzed than on the excellent students such as Airpods Pro
or Sony WF-1000Xm4

.

OnePlus Buds Z2

Measurement of the noise reduction. In red, the control signal. In green, the passive isolation, which starts only late. In blue, the active isolation, effective in the bass and midrange, much less later. In brown, the Transparency mode, rather effective © OnePlus

On the other hand, the passive isolation, and everything close to the upper midrange and the beginning of the treble in general, is quite poorly managed. Voice harmonics spill over widely, and all slightly sibilant sounds are very poorly attenuated. In general, the highs are less blasted than the average of other headphones. This doesn’t seem to be a problem with the eartips, in this case.

The problem is that the ear tends to focus on the more distracting, overflowing sounds. That the Z2 Buds isolate several tens of dB in the low frequencies is one thing, but if the higher frequency sounds are still there, the general feeling takes a hit. The manufacturer would have done better to address the weaknesses. Don’t think that this isolation is bad for all that, but it does better than its competitors on one side, to do a little less well on the other.

The rendering is very close to what was proposed on the OnePlus Pro. These last ones had globally the same defect in the highs and the highs (in a little less pronounced in practice), and were not more effective in the bass and low-mids.

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OnePlus Buds Z2
© Guillaume Fourcadier pour Clubic

On the other hand, the Transparency mode is quite natural (partly because of this isolation). While not saving the highs perfectly, the headphones manage to follow the ideal curve closely, while attenuating the bass slightly. Note that, in the case of ANC and Transparency mode, the headphones sometimes seem to adjust their settings live, causing small oscillations in attenuation or feedback. It’s hard to say if this is a bug or not.

Another point of satisfaction: the use of headphones in call. In this mode, the microphones capture the voice with a certain naturalness. The intelligibility is there, and even a noisy environment does not put them to their knees.

Low battery life on a single charge

The autonomy is probably the point with which the ANC earphones under 100 euros have the most concerns. Between the spectacular results of the Huawei Freebuds 4i and the Honor Earbuds 2 Lite
and the average endurance of OPPO Enco 2 free and Nothing ear (1), there is a small world.

OnePlus Buds Z2
© Guillaume Fourcadier pour Clubic

In this respect, the OnePlus is more on the side of the second. Here, the autonomy is announced at 5 hours with ANC and 7 hours without noise reduction.

In practice, we are rather in the 4 h 15 with ANC, and in the 5 h 45 without ANC. The result is not bad, but quite standard. With the charging box, it is possible to benefit from about 3 and a half recharges, which gives a satisfactory overall endurance. However, it is a pity, once again, not to have integrated induction charging.

Sparkling sound, handle with care

The OnePlus Buds Z2 are powered by an 11mm transducer, a size similar to what we find on the Buds Pro. This relationship is closer than you might think, since most of the sound signatures are the same. The Buds Pro seem a bit more mastered, but they still have the same overall pitfalls and qualities. So it’s most likely the same drivers. With hindsight, the Buds Pro have aged relatively well, at least compared to the 150 euros initially asked.

OnePlus Buds Z2
© Guillaume Fourcadier pour Clubic

The sound of the Z2 Buds is pleasant at moderate volume, as it manages to bring out the bass, without exaggeration and without eating up the mids, all with a good sense of detail. A slight peak at 1 kHz helps to air the listening and accentuate the clarity of the voice. The whole is carried by particularly scintillating highs. On this point, the manufacturer had the hand a little heavy. Without being sharp, the earphones are almost too exuberant in their approach of the highs. Everything seems to be present to balance a maximum of details, not thanks to the quality of the transducers, but by an adjustment.

OnePlus Buds Z2

Frequency response (compensated) of the OnePlus Buds Z2. In green and blue, the response with ANC and Transparency. In orange, the ANC Off mode. Nothing incredible for this price range, some competitors are more balanced and a little more technical © OnePlus

This reproach is real but is especially valid in listening at high volume. We understand that the OnePlus headphones do not have the quality of the Sennheiser TW CX
but they are not bad for all that, or in any case, not strictly inferior to their competitors ANC of this price.

The OnePlus Buds 2 are already very versatile, rather pleasant to listen to, while delivering a good level of detail and a sufficiently wide and airy sound stage. The highs clearly lack balance and remain the black spot of the product, but the whole remains coherent enough to take pleasure in it.

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TechMarkup’s opinion

Direct heirs to the Buds Pro, the OnePlus Buds Z2 are clearly less premium equivalents. Technically, the headphones are very similar, but this does not give the Buds Z2 an advantage over the ANC competition at less than 100 euros.

Simple to use, effective on most points, a little less so on others, the OnePlus has only one real flaw: they arrive very late on the market. Already mature, the market is welcoming yet another interesting model, but it struggles to stand out from the other products, which have had plenty of time to lower their prices since then.

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