OnePlus’ latest set of wireless headphones is also the first to get its Nord branding, which the company uses for its cheaper products. The new Nord Buds are announced today alongside teases for two new entries to OnePlus’ European Nord line of smartphones: the Nord 2T 5G and the Nord CE 2 Lite 5G.
The Nord Buds actually have a good amount going for them, even at $39.99. They don’t have active noise cancellation, and they only have two mics in each stem instead of three like the $99 Z2 Buds, but they’re rated for the same seven hours of battery life. (38 hours combined with the case), and promise the same low latency – especially when connected to a OnePlus phone with ProGaming mode enabled – and fast charging.
The Nord Buds also have 12.4mm speakers, support for Dolby Atmos, “AI-powered noise reduction algorithms” for phone calls, and a new design OnePlus says makes them even more comfortable for long listening sessions.
One way to think about it is that the Nord Buds are the AirPods of the AirPods Pro of the Buds Z2. (Which I guess makes the $150 Buds Pro, which also add wireless charging and adaptive noise cancellation, the AirPods Max? Not a perfect analogy.) The Nord Buds are supposed to be the model entry level of the range, however now that you can buy the latest generation Buds Z for the same price, the OnePlus catalog is starting to get a little confusing.
And that’s right when it comes to wireless headphones. OnePlus is also today pre-announcing two new Nord smartphones for the European market – the OnePlus Nord 2T 5G and the OnePlus Nord CE 2 Lite 5G. The Nord 2T is designed as an upgrade to last year’s Nord 2 spec and now offers 80W fast charging, up from 65W last time around. Meanwhile, the Nord CE 2 Lite is presented as a step-down model compared to the Nord CE 2, which was himself a step back from the Nord 2 (it’s okay to be confused). OnePlus plans to properly launch both phones on May 19, when we can expect pricing and release date information.
While OnePlus is still primarily known as a phone brand, its headphones tend to top their price. Chris Welch of The Verge found the Buds Pro both comfortable to wear and impressive in their audio quality, and they earned a spot on our list of the best wireless earbuds you can buy.
In general, we’re seeing a huge drop in the cost of a pair of half-decent wireless headphones. Although it seems unlikely that the Nord Buds will outperform some of the higher end models on the market, and even competing against slightly more expensive models like the Jabra Elite 3 was a big ask not too long ago. $100 was the bare minimum for a decent pair. It is encouraging to see this price drop all the way to $40.