Stepping away from the trend of going “pro-er” than the rest, OnePlus elected to release the OnePlus Buds 3, prompting our review of a device that brings quality without a heavy price tag. Expanding the collection of mid-range buds that are available on the market, the OnePlus release date was set for 23 January, paired with the more talked about OnePlus 12. The dual-toned dual-driver OnePlus Buds 3 offers active noise cancellation of up to 49dB which intuitively adjusts according to the environment. After the first earbud launch in 2020, the company moved to the Buds Z, Buds Z2, and Nord Buds. The previous edition, the OnePlus Buds Pro 2, was released on 16 February 2023 at $179 but the new release this year is much more affordable without compromising on quality.
OnePlus Buds 3 Review: Truly Wireless Earbuds That Deliver “Harmony Unfiltered”
The new earbuds by OnePlus are quite compact and straightforward in design and function. There’s nothing over-the-top or fancy about the device but it’s perfectly good at providing high-quality audio molded into an ergonomic design that’s easy on the ears. In regard to connectivity, the Buds 3 supports LHDC 5.0 (Low Latency High Definition Audio Codec), AAC (Advanced Audio Coding), and SBC (Low Complexity Subband Coding.)
Paired with the OnePlus HeyMelody app, you get a pretty good degree of control over the listening experience. The app allows you to choose the listening modes, for example, the OnePlus Buds 3 audio is not as bass-heavy as its predecessors but its “Balanced” preset still leans towards it. The Custom Equalizer is the best solution and provides pretty impressive sound but the Game Mode is something we’ve come to appreciate as well.
OnePlus Buds 3 Audio Quality
The new buds have a 10.4mm woofer and a 6mm tweeter integrated into each bud. The OnePlus Buds 3 woofer is boosted by BassWave along with a design that enhances the base again. With an LHDC 5.0 codec and Hi-Res audio certification, you can expect consistently good audio with a 96KHz sample rate and 24-bit depth. OnePlus recommends taking the 3-minute Golden Sound test in order to refine your personal user profile, with a canal scan and hearing test to get detailed results on customizing the device settings to best suit you. Do these tests make that much of a difference to the listening experience? Not necessarily but the effort aimed at customization is appreciated.
The OnePlus 3D Audio system also makes a valiant effort to provide surround sound and enhanced spatial experience, but it isn’t all that good at it. Most OnePlus Buds 3 reviews will tell you that it’s fun to experiment with but isn’t necessarily among the strengths of the device.
ANC and Latency
The three mics in each earphone are great for calls without any static or background noise for those who mainly want these buds for work. The company boasts of its AI Clear Call algorithm which has an anti-wind design to eliminate background noise when used outdoors as well. The 49dB adaptive noise cancellation capability and 4000 Hz noise cancellation range promise to block out up to 99.6 percent of the sound and while we can’t speak to the exact percentage of efficiency, the device is quite good at filtering out any background noise.
The level of active noise cancellation can be adjusted as well—smart, max, moderate, mild—depending on your environment and how much sound you want to allow to filter in, such as when you’re out in public and still want to be aware of some outside sounds. There isn’t too much of an issue with a lag that we’d have to complain about in this OnePlus Buds 3 review, but for those who want to reduce the latency as much as possible, the Game mode is available to improve the experience further.
Design and Style of the OnePlus Buds 3
The design of the OnePlus Buds 3 matches up to other more expensive alternatives on the market, and while it doesn’t look very unique nor stand out among competitors, it ensures that you have no complaints about the aesthetics of the device. In terms of style, the Buds 3 is available in two colors, Splendid blue and Metallic Grey. The box has a largely matte finish except for a glossy finish on the brand label on the cover and inside the case, in the slots where the earbuds sit. The OnePlus Buds 3 themselves also have a contrasting texture, with the majority of the bud and stem showcasing a glossy, almost metallic finish, and the inner area designed with a more matte texture. The buds are quite lightweight as well, weighing 4.8g while the charging case weighs 40.8g.
The three changeable ear tips allow you to find the right fit for your ears and it stays in quite snugly without needing too frequent adjustments to keep it in. A slim touch-sensitive bar allows you to customize what the gestures on the bar can do on each earbud. With a single, double, and triple tap feature, hold features and slide gestures, you can control all of your interactions with the Buds easily. One OnePlus Buds 3 review has to acknowledge how convenient it is to use and how much easier it is to operate the controls compared to other earbuds on the market. The IP55 dust and water resistance also adds some appeal to the device.
Battery Life of the Buds 3
Another consideration while picking up new electronics is the battery life. The standard promise of the OnePlus Buds 3 battery is 10 hours of use with a mere 7-minute charge, which is very useful for people like me who forget to charge their electronics until the last minute. With a Rechargeable Li-ion battery, the earbuds have a 58mAh battery capacity and the charging case has an additional 520 charging capacity, making the case a heavy lifter in terms of the regular useability of the device. The Buds 3 battery’s 10-hour playtime is something of an exaggeration considering the varying levels of drain on the battery depending on the mode. With AAC codec and ANC off, the battery lasts 10 hours, but with it on, it drops to 6.5. With the LHDC codec and ANC off it supports 7 hours of playback, but with it on, the number drops to 5.5 hours.
The battery life of the OnePlus Buds 3 isn’t the most phenomenal option available but it is quite sufficient for most people’s daily use. Considering the battery support added by the case, you can likely go two days without locating a plug point. If you’re looking for a wireless charging feature in this OnePlus Buds 3 review, you will be left disappointed that the earbuds do not support it.
The OnePlus Buds 3 is priced at $99.99 and it appears to be worth every buck. There are certain things it could do better—provide wireless charging support, improve the 3D audio feature, and have a longer battery life—but those elements do not infringe on the listening experience enough to discourage a buy. With good call quality, audio clarity, and overall comfort and style, the buds are one of the best audio investments you could make, especially on a budget. If you want to pair it with your purchase with the OnePlus 12 then you get an additional $30 discount and a new smartphone to tinker around with, but even as a standalone device, it is quite a decent buy.