OnePlus Nord Buds CE wireless earbuds aren’t cutting corners to keep costs down

How low can you really go on the price band for wireless earbuds, before it just isn’t worth it anymore? The answer you’d potentially be working with now will be significantly different from a couple of years ago. The Nothing ear (1), Google’s Pixel Buds A-series and indeed OnePlus’ own recent Nord Buds are well defined moments in the evolution of wireless earbuds, nipping away at the affordability and quality metric. More and more affordable, as time has passed.

There is an attempt to reset the boundaries again, with the OnePlus Nord Buds CE (these are priced at 2,299) attempting to take over the mantle from the OnePlus Nord Buds ( 2,799). This is now the most affordable wireless earbuds option from the brand that’s otherwise well known for Android phones. There is audio expertise to build with, considering the premium OnePlus Buds Pro (around 10,000) proved impressive from the outset.

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A quick glance at the competition landscape tells us the OnePlus Nord Buds CE should be quite wary of the very competent (and popular, the quarterly research numbers tell us) Indian wearable ecosystem, that’d include the Boat AirDopes 413ANC (around 2,499) and Noise Air Buds Pro (around 2,999).

But the competition threat level is perhaps not so much with the Xiaomi Mi True Wireless Earphones 2C (around 2,499) or Realme Buds Air Neo (around 2,999), which can be considered a generation (or a half) older, for most intents and purposes.

The design is akin to a warm embrace of the simpler times of the past. There are no ear-tip attachments, but just the sculpted plastic that makes up either end of the earbuds. For anyone who has slightly thinner ear canal, the wireless earbuds with ear tips don’t always work well — they either fall off, or are simply too uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time. The OnePlus Nord Buds CE’s design (very similar to Apple’s wired EarPods earphones and the earlier generations of the AirPods) makes things simpler.

Comfort and compatibility advantages aside, the lack of an ear-tip sealing does mean isolation from ambient noises is almost non-existent. Everything around you filter through to your ears, alongside whatever music or podcasts you may be listening to with the OnePlus Nord Buds CE. It is not a limitation specific to these wireless earbuds for any particular reason, but a factor of the design itself.

The OnePlus Nord Buds CE attempts to compensate with artificial intelligence algorithms for noise cancellation, but that’s available only for calls. They work, a fair bit, but while there isn’t the inaccurate clipping of the human voices on either end of the phone call, background noise at either end does often pass through undetected.

Within this sculpting (it’ll look particularly good in Misty Grey colour) sit really large audio drivers. In each ear will be 13.4mm audio drivers, some of the largest hardware in the wireless earbuds that are in direct competition.

For instance, the Realme Buds Air Neo has 10mm audio drivers in each ear. The laws of physics dictate (at least theoretically) that the larger the audio hardware, the better the audio emerging from it. Detailing, in particular.

It is perhaps to be expected that the OnePlus Nord Buds CE are tuned for casual listening and for popular music genres. In fact, the slight focus towards bass adds to that dynamism which should work well for remixes, Bollywood music and anything up-tempo in general. That said, it doesn’t make vocal-focused content (such as podcasts) sound inferior.

One of the functions of this earbud design means the OnePlus Nord Buds CE delivers really open sound, with the entire stage coming through as much wider than most competition may be able to deliver. It is not the sort of sound equalizer that’s tuned for neutrality and pristine detailing. It is meant to appeal to the masses, and does a fine job of delivering on what the demographic would want.

A big difference between the OnePlus Nord Buds CE and the somewhat more expensive OnePlus Nord Buds (with the 12.4mm titanium audio drivers) is the latter’s support for Dolby Atmos audio format. That, if you intend to build the music experience with an Apple Music library curated carefully with Dolby Atmos layered music, this may prove to be a starting point set too far back.

There is a fair bit of customisation available too, with the Hey Melody companion app for Android phones and the Apple iPhone. And on the subject of the app, this makes setup a breeze too.

The OnePlus Nord Buds CE does deliver on the battery stamina aspect too, with close to 5 hours of listening time for the earbuds (we admit to preferring our music delivered at less than 50% volume most of the time), and a total of just more than 20 hours when topped up with the charging case.

The biggest observation about the OnePlus Nord Buds CE is that the look, feel, are built and sound more expensive than they actually are. Wireless earbuds, particularly in the more affordable realms, often flatter to deceive with audio quality and comfort of use. This is positively heading in the right direction. It is just an uncomplicated experience overall. While we understand that costs need to be kept in check, the lack of support for Dolby Atmos is something you must consider—the OnePlus Nord Buds is a ready alternative, if you have one eye on the longevity of your investment.

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