The Nord Buds 2 are the latest entry-level successor to last year’s Nord Buds. These are still some of the cheapest earbuds OnePlus sells but at $59, the Nord Buds 2 are $20 more than their predecessor.
For that price, the Nord Buds 2 add active noise cancellation, making them the cheapest OnePlus earbuds with this feature and also one of the cheapest pairs of earbuds you will find on the market from a reputable brand with this feature. Is that enough to justify the price bump? Let’s find out.
The Nord Buds 2 have a slightly tweaked design from the previous model. The case has the same basic shape but the edges have been curved, leading to a more rounded shape. The new case is also ever so slightly smaller than the previous one. Like the previous one, the new case has good fit and finish for the price but no IP rating.
The new case also has a lighter gray color with a metallic sheen to it. The body is a lighter shade of gray than the lid and has an interesting speckled pattern, which at first glance looks like dust. The back of the case has a USB-C port for charging and a pairing button that is so flush with the surface it’s barely visible.
The earbuds follow the theme of having a slightly tweaked version of the older design. They have the same flat pill-shaped stems but the raised circular touch area is now inset into the body with a glossy clear plastic instead of the chrome finish. The stems have the same speckled appearance, which in this case almost looks like the earbuds are covered in dandruff. Perhaps somebody should have thought of that before pulling the trigger on the paint.
Regardless of the changes and the paint job, the Nord Buds 2 are still very distinctive and cool-looking earbuds. They are also quite small and light and were comfortable over long sessions. The earbuds feature an IP55 rating, making them dust and water-resistant.
Software and features
The Nord Buds 2 can be controlled through Bluetooth settings on OnePlus phones or through the HeyMelody app on other Android and iOS phones. The earbuds have the same basic feature set as the original Nord Buds but with a couple of additions.
The major new feature here is active noise cancellation. You can either turn it on or off or switch to the transparency mode. There is no automatic or manual level adjustment available here nor any custom tuning for your ears.
ANC and audio settings
The audio can be tuned through the Sound Master EQ menu. Here, you have four presets available along with an option to create custom profiles using a 6-band EQ. A new feature here is BassWave, which was introduced with the OnePlus Buds Pro 2. It’s supposed to be an algorithm that dynamically adjusts your sound but in reality, it’s just another bass knob. You can both increase or decrease the bass level with a positive or negative offset.
The Nord Buds 2 also offers good control over touch gestures. You can single, double, and triple tap, and each of these can be adjusted or disabled for each ear. You can assign play/pause, track previous/next, voice assistant, or game mode but unfortunately, there is no option for volume control. You can press and hold to switch between ANC modes and a long touch and hold to switch to your previously paired device.
Both the EQ and earbud control feature changes are saved on the earbuds themselves, which means they carry over to whichever device you pair them to, even if that device does not support the app.
Unfortunately, a big omission of the original Nord Buds is carried over to this model, which is the absence of in-ear detection. The earbuds have no idea when they are worn or removed, which means they cannot play or pause accordingly. Similarly, the ANC remains active even if you remove both earbuds, and removing just one earbud doesn’t switch to transparency mode on the other earbud.
This would have been a great feature to include over the original model. I would go so far as to say I would rather have in-ear detection over ANC, at least the sort of ANC that the Nord Buds 2 comes with, but more on that later.
The Nord Buds 2 has the same 12.4mm dynamic drivers as the previous model. They still support the same SBC and AAC codecs although the Bluetooth version has been updated from 5.2 to 5.3, which doesn’t mean anything for audio quality.
In terms of audio quality, the Nord Buds 2 are very similar to the original with minor tuning differences. The default EQ profile is called Balanced, which is ironic considering it is extremely bass heavy. The bass is rather thick and lumpy with excessive mid-bass energy. It works with some genres and tracks but also feels overbearing and unnecessary on others.
The vocals have a smooth and pleasant tonality on this preset. Voices have a good timbre and content such as podcasts sound pleasing due to the added warmth. The mid-range might not stand out in the mix, especially next to the bass, but isn’t sunken or pushed back as is the case with most other mainstream tunings.
The treble has a similarly smooth energy to it without any abrupt peaks or sibilance. The Nord Buds 2 adds a bit of extra sparkle at the top compared to otherwise similar-sounding Nord Buds tuning, which does make it a bit more balanced than its predecessor, which was all about that bass.
Fortunately, as with the Nord Buds, the tuning of the Nord Buds 2 can be changed drastically using the presets. The featured Bold preset brings down the bass to more manageable levels while also adding more energy to the treble. It tends to sound a touch too bright due to the excessive treble boost and the vocals take a backseat, sounding rather mediocre, even compared to the Balanced preset.
The Serenade preset is all about the mid-range and is probably the most balanced presets here overall. The mid-range is a touch too forward and nasal sounding than it should be but otherwise it has the most reasonable bass and treble tuning.
The Bass preset is basically the Balanced preset with even more bass and a touch extra treble. The BassWave setting can be used to add even more bass in case you prefer not to hear anything else but a better use for it is to set it to -5 on the Balanced preset so you can turn the bass down to a more reasonable level while still enjoying the mellow mid and treble tuning.
The custom EQ is useful but limited by the 6-band EQ. Also, the bass, even at its lowest setting, can still be on the higher side. Still, using the above curve, I was able to get the earbuds to sound pretty good, at least as far as the frequency response is concerned.
That aside, the sound is thoroughly mediocre and there’s not much you can do to improve that. Detail and resolution are not bad but also not impressive. The sound is also quite boxed-in, sounding largely stuck inside your head with very little sense of space even on spacious tracks.
Aside from minor tuning differences on the preset and the BassWave setting, the Nord Buds 2 sound very similar to the Nord Buds. It’s not as if there was no room for improvement but OnePlus decided to focus its attention on other aspects for the sequel.
Like their predecessor, the Nord Buds 2 have surprisingly good microphone quality. There is a slight metallic tone to voices but aside from that they sound very natural with good background noise suppression. If you just need something for voice calls these would work very well.
The Nord Buds 2 have active noise cancellation, a feature not found on their predecessor. As mentioned before, it’s a simply on/off feature with added transparency mode.
The level of ANC is mediocre at best. As usual, there is some attenuation in the lower frequencies and a bit in the mids but not much in the highs. The earbuds themselves, however, have decent passive isolation, so overall the effect is still decent. The transparency mode is similarly not great but beats having to take the earbuds out.
On my made-up 5-point scale, with 4 being the current best ANC implementation and 0 being no ANC, the Nord Buds 2 would be a 1 at best. It’s still better than no ANC but I’m not really sure if I would like to pay extra for it.
The Nord Buds 2 have very good latency performance. On OnePlus phones, games will automatically trigger the low-latency game mode while you have to enable it manually when using the HeyMelody app. Once enabled, the latency is surprisingly low and perfectly usable for most games. Video playback is not an issue either on smartphones as the video player will automatically sync to make up for the delay.
Things are different with computers as there is no automatic syncing and this is where most Bluetooth products fall apart. Fortunately, because the Nord Buds 2 have a relatively low latency by default, even without the game mode and auto syncing the earbuds perform quite well. The latency is somewhat noticeable with high frame rate video but not so much with 24fps content and even less so if it’s animated. Gaming, however, is not recommended.
The Nord Buds 2 had no connectivity issues and the earbuds worked reliably every time.
The Nord Buds 2 have a claimed battery life of 5 hours of continuous playback with ANC enabled and 7 hours with ANC disabled. During my testing, I got 6 hours 13 minutes with ANC enabled and 8 hours 34 minutes with ANC disabled. These are a fair bit higher than quoted figures aside from being great numbers on their own so you are not going to see me complaining.
After a ten minute charge from flat, the earbuds played for 2 hours 25 minutes with ANC on and 3 hours 16 minutes with the ANC off.
The OnePlus Nord Buds 2 are a modest upgrade over their predecessor. They look similar, they sound similar, and they have a similarly good microphone, latency, and battery life.
The addition of ANC may not be worth the extra price depending upon your region; I certainly wouldn’t recommend paying the extra $20 in the US and you are better off getting the still decent first-generation model for a now discounted $29. In India, the price difference is only INR 300, in which case the new model is the one to get.
Overall, though, the Nord Buds 2 are a good pair of entry-level earbuds. I would have really liked to see in-ear detection as that’s my main issue with the earbuds. The sound quality also isn’t fantastic but if that’s your priority then go wired and pick up a pair of 7Hz Zero or Moondrop SSR. But if you want to stick to wireless then the Nord Buds 2 are a decent pick in this price range.