OnePlus Nord Buds CE review: a sound budget companion

The OnePlus Nord Buds CE cost Rs 2,299. Check out our full review of the TWS.

With the 3.5mm headphone jack disappearing from most phones, the TWS (truly wireless stereo) earphones segment has burst into life. Budget TWS devices from the likes of Realme, Xiaomi, Boat, and quite a few others have been making rounds in the Indian market. A new entrant in the sub-Rs 3,000 bracket is OnePlus with its Nord lineup of TWS buds. The company had earlier revealed the Nord Buds for Rs 2,799 and received generally positive reviews from the audio community. Now a slightly stripped-down version of the earbuds has been revealed, in the form of the Nord Buds CE. Costing Rs 2,299, the TWS from OnePlus could further cement an audience entrenched in the budget segment. Here’s a full review of the earbuds to see if they are worth considering.

The lowdown

The Buds CE have a few changes on the outside that are in accordance with the slightly lower pricetag. There are no silicon tips on the Buds CE with its semi-in-ear, one-size-fits-all design reminiscent of the Apple AirPods. You get the option of choosing between two colour variants, i.e., Misty Grey and Moonlight White. The case has a spring-loaded hinge that opens without effort to reveal the two earbuds nestled inside. There is a single LED light on the front while OnePlus branding sits just below it. On the bottom, you can find the USB C port for charging.

Talking about comfort, the buds stay put in the ears without too much effort. Of course, using replaceable silicone tips would have made it much easier, but that is just my personal preference. I also noticed that my ears started to hurt after prolonged contact with the earbuds’ plastic end. The case has no physical button for pairing and instead, the buds enter into pairing mode when the case is opened. This does make it cumbersome when you wish to pair the Nord Buds CE with another device while the currently paired device is still in range. The stems on each bud have capacitive controls which work with a single, double or triple tap on either bud. You get an IPX4 rating with the buds making them resistant to light rain or sweat.

For phones which are not from the OnePlus lineup, the HeyMelody app can be used for customisations and firmware updates. I had the OnePlus 10 Pro (review) which works directly with the Buds CE as soon as the case is opened. Within the earbuds control menu, you can adjust the EQ, capacitive controls, and check out the battery percentage on each earbud. You can also sift through the various Dolby Atmos settings depending on your preference. Of course, there is no ANC functionality as the buds don’t form a complete seal with your ear canal. Apart from that, the Buds CE does not have any wear detection capability which means songs playing will not automatically play/pause once the buds are removed from your ear.

Regarding sound quality, the 13.4mm titanium dynamic driver on the Buds CE provides a bass-heavy signature that can mask some of the higher frequencies. How well the earbuds fit in your ears also plays a big role in your overall audio experience. At higher volumes, the sound can become slightly crackled particularly if there are a lot of vocals on the track. With respect to the price, the Buds CE offers a reasonably good soundstage along with a decent separation of instruments. You can toggle between the various EQ settings but I prefer the tonality that the Balanced mode offers. If you are into electronic music or even classic rock, the Buds CE could prove to be your ideal budget companion. As for the microphone, it would be unwise to use the Buds CE for answering calls in places that are crowded and noisy. For normal usage at home or at the office, the microphone quality was serviceable but by no means exemplary. The buds support Bluetooth 5.2 and SBC/AAC codecs.

As for the battery life, the Nord Buds CE is said to offer 20 hours of juice with the case. Each earbud promises to offer up to 4.5 hours of battery backup although through my testing the buds lasted just under four hours. The case allows one to juice up the buds by up to five times which does lend credibility to OnePlus’ battery claims. Apart from that, the case can be charged in about an hour while the buds also take up a similar amount of time to charge inside the case.

Verdict

The OnePlus Nord Buds CE are more than satisfactory at the price they are being offered at. The sound quality is good while the battery life is even better. I dare say that the Buds CE might just have better audio performance than most of its competitors. However, there is also the fact that its semi-in-ear design can dissuade some buyers who are looking for an in-ear option. There’s no ANC of any kind and the microphone’s functionality is limited. You can invest just Rs 500 more to get the regular Nord Buds that take care of these niggles. Even so, if your ears can get accustomed to the AirPods-like design, then the Nord Buds CE will be right up your alley.

Editor’s rating: 3.5 / 5

Pros:

  • Budget pricetag
  • Decent battery life
  • Good sound quality

Cons:

  • One size might not fit all
  • Average microphone quality