With the OnePlus Buds Z2, the smartphone manufacturer offers a price-conscious alternative to the Buds Pro, which features both two-stage noise-cancelling for attenuation and ambient mode for amplifying outside noise. These cable-free in-ears are also characterized by good speech intelligibility during telephone calls and support a high-quality audio codec with the AAC format.
This handy set of charging case and in-ears weighs just 52 grams, of which 42 grams are for the case, which comes in a pocket-friendly format. One special feature of the OnePlus Buds Z2 is complete protection against weather-related wet conditions, in that these headphones have an IP55- and the case an IPX4-certification. In this respect, the system is ideally equipped for outdoor activities, and it also appears possible to use it during sports if the in-ears are not exposed to any severe shocks. In addition, the housings are well embedded in the ears and hardly protrude, so that the headphones can be worn under a cap if necessary. The light weight of five grams per side promotes a comfortable fit.
Without noise cancellation, the OnePlus Buds Z2 achieve a listening time of six hours at a raised volume, while the runtime in ANC mode is not quite four and a half hours. The earpieces can be fully charged four times in the case and once more with a remaining capacity of 30 per cent, resulting in a total runtime of almost 32 hours in basic mode and around 23 hours with noise cancellation. However, there is no charge indicator on the earpieces, so it is not clear when the charging cycle is complete. According to our test results, however, empty batteries were fully charged again after 50 minutes.
For spontaneous use, a quick-charge function can also be used, which applies to both the earpieces and the case. This provides more than five hours of listening time when the charging case, including the in-ears, is supplied with power for ten minutes via the USB-C port. If, on the other hand, only the earphones receive a ten-minute power supply in the case, the usage time in standard operation is two hours and 10 minutes. In addition, the battery reserve of the case can be fully recharged within 90 minutes, and a USB-C to USB-A charging cable is included for the job. However, this model does not offer a wireless charging option via Qi like the OnePlus Buds Pro.
The OnePlus Buds Z2 support Bluetooth standard 5.2 and offered a range of about nine metres within an urban environment. While initial pairing can be done directly by opening the case, which puts the earpieces automatically into pairing mode, connecting additional devices seems to be a bit more complex, as activating the pairing function via a button on the case is required. Furthermore, it is not possible to switch these in-ears on and off manually via the touch-sensitive surfaces, which is a disadvantage and is likely to shorten the life expectancy of the batteries, as they are charged in the case after each use. However, fast pairing via the Google Fast Pair service and single-sided use of the headphones in single mode is supported.
When a wireless connection is established, a single tap controls playback, while a double-tap is used to answer and end calls and allows skipping ahead to the next track. You can also skip back by tapping three times. Furthermore, switching between ANC and ambient mode is activated by a short hold, which can be extended in the basic mode via the OnePlus Buds Z2 app. The option to activate voice assistants can also be added. However, volume control is not available via these controls. As well as the reliably responding touch control, these earphones have a wearer recognition function so that playback automatically pauses when the earphones are removed and resumes when they are reinserted.
While smartphones from the same manufacturer offer direct access to the OnePlus Buds Z2 settings, the HeyMelody app can be used on iOS and Android devices. In addition to the possibility of firmware updates, a detailed battery status display for the headphones and case, as well as a fit check, are available via the app. The ambient mode and noise cancellation can be activated and deactivated here, with a total of two ANC modes to choose from, “normal” and “maximum”. As already mentioned, the adjustment options of the touch control lack a volume control, but this could be remedied with an update. An EQ for individual sound adjustment would also be a desirable addition.
Voice quality on the phone
Equipped with three microphones per side, the OnePlus Buds Z2 offer excellent intelligibility in a quiet environment, rendering both sides of the conversation distinctively clear. Thanks to the noise-reducing technologies, one’s own voice is not masked in a busier setting and remains understandable even in street noise. However, we noticed that high-frequency noises such as ring tones or children’s voices are not noticeably attenuated and can be perceived by the caller on the other end of the line.
In basic mode, the OnePlus Buds Z2 have a tight bass response with a powerful punch. While the low bass seems lean, a certain fullness follows in the mid-bass range, which, however, does not seem at all bulky, but sounds decidedly defined. The mid-frequency range is also reproduced with appealing precision, and seems clear and detailed, especially as the reproduction never seems cramped or dense, as there is space between the individual instruments. Voices are reproduced presently and centrally, with a high level of intelligibility, from which spoken content or films also benefit.
The treble imaging can be characterised as spirited and agile, but this can come across as a bit loud and exhausting with increasing volume. Especially since the OnePlus Buds Z2 have a considerable output, which makes it possible to turn up the volume. However, high levels are not necessary. On the contrary, while the high-frequency range can sometimes seem quite sharp at raised volume, the sound seems decidedly harmonious at ordinary playback levels, so that the earpieces cover a wide range of uses in basic mode.
Noise cancellation and ambient mode
What the OnePlus Buds Z2 manage very well is the amplification of outside noise in ambient mode, which makes it possible to respond to people around you at all times up to a medium output level. When playback is paused, however, a conversation is possible and loudspeaker announcements can also be understood without having to take out the earpieces. However, a perceptible background noise can be annoying, and this also applies to the maximum ANC mode. Irrespective of this, the noise cancellation attenuates noise sources noticeably and quite extensively. Voices or a passing truck were still perceptible, but they were pushed well into the background. It was not possible to determine a large difference between the normal and maximum ANC mode. While the maximum setting has slight advantages in the low and high-frequency range, the standard mode appeared to be a little more effective in attenuating voices.
Where the modes also differ is in sound. Both in normal ANC mode and in ambient mode, there is a boost in the bass range. This gives the low bass more substance and overall the substructure sounds richer, which increases the fun factor with hip-hop and the like. In maximum ANC mode, the low end appears boosted again and seems quite massive, which can also make bass-oriented productions sound a little spongy, with the lower realms losing precision.
The OnePlus Buds Z2 convinced us with good all-rounder qualities and a high level of speech intelligibility during phone calls. Apart from the perceptible background noise, the ambient mode also scored points with a clean amplification of external noise, while the two ANC modes provided respectable attenuation. Two other special features are the weatherproofing and the quick-charging function of the earpiece and case.
- Comfortable fit
- Lightweight, compact format
- IP55-rated handset, IPX4-rated case
- Case and handset with quick charging function
- Speech intelligibility on the phone
- Ambient mode (except for background noise)
- Support AAC format
- Handset without charge indicator
- No manual switching on and off of the in-ears possible
- Touch control without volume control
- No EQ for sound adjustment
- Maximum ANC and ambient mode with background noise
- Ear couplingIn-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)20 - 20.000 Hz
- Sound pressure level (SPL)@ 1 kHz ±3 98 dB
- Weight without cable5 g each, case 42 g
What's in the box
- Silicone ear tips in sizes S, M and L
- USB-C to USB-A charging cable
- Charging case
- Available in black and white
- BT codecs: SBC, AAC
- BT version: 5.2