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OnePlus Buds 3 Review: Simply Superb

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OnePlus Buds 3 Review (9)

I wouldn’t consider myself an audiophile necessarily, at least not on the same levels as some who have more expertise in this category of tech products, but I do love my audio gear and this especially includes earbuds these days, so I was quite excited when OnePlus sent out a pair of the OnePlus Buds 3 for review. I’ve been using these for the past few weeks to test out their functionality and see how they stack up to everything else I’ve been using over the past few years.

And I have to say, I was quite impressed with what OnePlus has put out here. From style to comfort to price, the OnePlus Buds 3 really are a marvel. They’re a display of what can be done when you have a passion for creating a certain product and your main goal is delivering something high quality to the consumer, even at an affordable price. And I think that’s the key part here. The OnePlus Buds 3 are only $99.99. And yet, they’re really, really good earbuds. OnePlus has clearly put a lot of effort into crafting these earbuds and I think there’s a lot of attention to detail that deserves to be showcased.

With that said, let’s get deeper into this review and see how the earbuds stack up. Are they worth your money? Will they even offer you the features that you’re looking for? Let’s find out!

OnePlus Buds 3 review: Hardware and Design

Without mincing words, I am in love with the design of these earbuds. I used to dislike this style but that was mainly because the earlier versions of this design had longer sticks coming off the end. These are much shorter and a lot more in line with the style of the AirPods Pro 2. Now normally I don’t care for tech products with glossy finishes. This is because you’re always touching most of your tech products, especially those that are designed for mobile use, so the glossy finish always ends up getting fingerprints and smudges all over it.

That’s, still kind of the case here. That is, these are a fingerprint magnet. And with touch controls on the side (which are quite good, by the way), I’d say you should give up any hope of having these be fingerprint-free beyond the first time you open the package. That is unless you’re willing to wipe these down with a microfiber cloth multiple times a day. But who has the time for that kind of lunacy? In the end, they’re earbuds. They’re small enough that the fingerprints aren’t really going to matter much.

With that one aspect aside, the glossy finish here really amps up the design I think. They make the earbuds look a whole lot more premium and honestly, I dig it here. While I prefer a matte finish for most devices, I think the glossy look was the right call with these. It looks super sharp. One other neat little detail is that these feature an IP55 water and dust resistance rating. They won’t be safe from water immersion. They will be safe from rain and sweat. So don’t be afraid to wear them if it’s raining outside or during intense workouts.

Touch controls

OnePlus Buds 3 Review (9)

Let’s talk about the touch controls because they always go one of two ways. They’re either terrible or they’re excellent. There’s no in-between in my experience. In the case of the OnePlus Buds 3, they’re excellent. The touch controls on these are probably the simplest and best quality touch controls I’ve ever used on a pair of true wireless earbuds. You might think they’d be challenging to get used to. Because of where they sit, it sometimes feels like the pressure you put on the earbud to engage the controls might dislodge them from your ears. But I didn’t experience this at all.

Once you get used to that one little detail, using the touch controls is a breeze. A simple swipe up or down on the touch area lets you adjust the volume of your audio. A single tap lets you pause or play the audio. You also have double-tap and triple-tap controls where you can set up things like moving to the next track or going back to the previous track. But there are also options for activating the voice assistant and the game mode. And you can set these controls for both the left and right earbuds. For example, I set the double-tap control on the left earbud to go to the previous track. While the double-tap on the right earbud goes to the next track.

On the same token, the triple-tap function for the left earbud activates the voice assistant (in this case Google Assistant), and the triple-tap for the right earbuds activates the game mode. Now most of these controls are set up by default. You will, however, need to install the HeyMelody app on your phone to access the options where you can customize things. Or if you’re using a OnePlus device like the OnePlus 12R, these options are simply available in the phone settings.

When it comes down to it, the touch controls are just really good. I never once had to fight with the earbud with multiple tap attempts to get things to work. Or press so hard it shoves the earbud into my ear to engage any of the functions. Hats off to OnePlus for engineering some great touch controls here.

Comfort

Depending on your ears, you might either hate or love earbuds. I am, I suppose, somewhere in between. Or perhaps a better description would be that I love earbuds as long as they’re comfortable. I’m pleased to say that the OnePlus Buds 3 are very comfortable to wear even for longer sessions. And I’ve been using them for multiple activities that were hours long. From listening to music to playing games. I’ve even used them for video conference meetings that last a few hours and generally haven’t had any issues with comfort.

Now these will come with a few different sizes of ear tips. I have found, however, that the ones that come on the earbuds out of the box work the best for me. They provide a good seal and they ensure they fit nice and snug so they won’t fall out. With any pair of earbuds, I like to do this little test where I wear the earbuds while doing things like chewing food since this moves my jaw a lot. And if the earbuds can stay in while chewing or talking constantly without loosening, then they’re a good fit. I have a couple of pairs of earbuds that no matter what size ear tips I use, always end up loosening and almost falling out if I move my jaw too much.

But I didn’t have that problem with the OnePlus Buds 3. What I’m saying is, they’re very secure.

The charging case

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We’ll get into the features of the charging case further in the review. For now, I simply wanted to touch on its design as I feel like it’s part of the overall design of these earbuds. With that said, OnePlus has designed a nice charging case for the OnePluds Buds 3. It’s small and slim enough to fit in your pocket without feeling too bulky. And that, to me, is an incredibly important part of any pair of true wireless earbuds.

This might not be the slimmest case out there but it’s plenty slim to help it fit in your pants pocket. If you think about it, you might not always have a purse, backpack, or other kind of bag to toss the charging case into. And it’s these times that you’ll want the charging case for your earbuds to be as compact as possible so it doesn’t feel bulky in your pocket. Aside from its size, the case uses a nice matte finish which means fewer fingerprints. The case also features a really nice and sturdy hinge that doesn’t feel flimsy. I feel like that might be an often-overlooked quality that deserves some attention. As it makes the case feel more well-made.

Lastly, there’s an LED light on the front of the case to show you the battery level. This also indicates when the case is plugged in and charging.

OnePlus Buds 3 review: Battery Life

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Battery life is an important factor for any pair of true wireless earbuds, and it’s actually pretty good on the OnePlus Buds 3. OnePlus advertised up to 10 hours of battery life on the earbuds on a single charge with ANC off. This was mostly my experience whenever I disabled the adaptive noise cancellation, as I would get close to 10 hours, maybe a little less if I was interacting with the touch controls more.

That being said, I rarely used these with the ANC off. I often use the earbuds while I’m out walking or shopping and I would much rather hear my music than people or traffic around me. With ANC on, I was getting around 7 hours of listening time in each earbud. Here’s the good news. The charging case provides a total listening time of about 44 hours with the ANC off. So you’ll be able to use these for probably up to a week before needing to charge the case.

No wireless charging takes away some of the convenience

The downside is that the case doesn’t come with wireless charging. So in terms of convenience, this is probably the one area where I found the OnePlus Buds 3 lacking. It would be nice to just toss the case onto a wireless charging pad and forget about them for a couple of hours. To make up for this though, OnePlus has added a super fast charging feature. This lets you charge the earbuds for 10 minutes and get up to 2 hours of listening time. So if they happen to die on you in the middle of use, toss them back in the case. Then wait for 10 minutes and you’re good to go.

What’s more, if you toss the earbuds in the case and plug the case in for 10 minutes, you’ll get up to 7 hours of listening time on the earbuds. With charging this fast, you can easily fully charge the case and the earbuds in under an hour. Now obviously, your battery life will vary. Since you may use the earbuds differently from me. Whether you turn on transparency mode or use the game mode, disable or enable the ANC, or adjust volume. All of these things will factor into your battery life. However, you should routinely get around 7 hours or at a minimum of 6 hours if you’re using some of the extra features.

OnePlus Buds 3 review: Software and Features

These are more feature-packed than I expected and for $99.99, that’s a pleasant surprise. Not only do they come with adaptive noise cancellation, but they also have a transparency mode and a game mode. The game mode in particular is one of my favorite features. Because it means I can use these for playing games on my phone and get lower latency so there’s no real lag between the audio and what’s on-screen. These aren’t the only earbuds with a game mode. But these are so comfortable, they’re the only earbuds I want to use while gaming on my phone anymore.

While I didn’t use it often because I simply don’t like hearing outside noises unless absolutely necessary, the transparency mode is pretty good. I wouldn’t say it’s the best I’ve ever used. But it was quite capable of letting enough sound in to make it easy to hear outside audio sources. I typically will only use this when I’m grocery shopping or shopping at other stores. As I tend to turn it on when at checkout if I need to speak to the cashier. You can certainly use this if you like hearing your surroundings when outside. Such as when you’re on a walk or run, as it more easily lets you hear traffic and such.

This does work pretty well and I would in fact recommend turning it on if you would feel safer not blocking out all outside audio. I personally don’t like it though, and leaving it off does help battery life a bit.

Dual Connection and Google Fast Pair

These are both great features that I have grown to appreciate. First I want to touch on the Google Fast Pair. This makes it so simple to pair these with your Android devices. Every single time I wanted to pair with any of my devices, all I had to do was turn on Bluetooth on the phone and the earbuds would essentially pair within a few seconds. The dual connection feature is also really useful if you often pair your earbuds or headphones with more than just your phone.

During my time with the earbuds so far, I was pairing these with the OnePlus 12R and my laptop while I was writing the OnePlus 12R review. The dual connection allowed me to swap between both the phone and the laptop when I was sitting down writing and walking around outside listening to music. Unfortunately, you don’t get a simultaneous connection on two devices. What I mean is that you can’t hear audio from two different sources at once. This isn’t a huge deal though. I only really tend to use this kind of thing when gaming on my PS5 so I can hear both game audio from the console and Discord voice chat from my phone.

You’re not really going to need that on these earbuds since they weren’t designed for consoles. And I can’t think of any other scenario where it wouldn’t be just as easy to swap to your second connected device when needed.

Control everything with the HeyMelody App

When it comes to the software side of things, how you control the features of the earbuds will depend on your phone. As mentioned earlier, if you’re using the OnePlus 12 or OnePlus 12R, you can control all of these same features in the settings of the phone because there’s a dedicated menu for them. On non-OnePlus devices, you’ll need the HeyMelody app. This app lets you control all of the different features the earbuds offer, including the different touch control configurations. Now you can also use the app to enable the game mode here, as well as the active noise cancellation.

You can enable this stuff on the earbud touch controls too. But if you’re already in the app or using the phone, it’s pretty convenient to just open the app and enable it from there. There’s also a Sound Master EQ feature in here where you can tweak the sound profile. There are some preset profiles you can choose from or you can adjust things manually if you prefer. What I found interesting is that the app has something called Golden Sound. OnePlus says this gives you studio-quality sound that’s customized to your ear canal structure. I don’t think this made a super drastic difference but it did make things sound a little bit better, so it’s worth doing.

There’s a 3D audio option in here too that you can turn on and adjust for certain types of content. I used this whenever I was playing games while using these earbuds because it really helped things sound much more immersive. You can use this for music and video too and I found it was great when watching YouTube or movies.

Adaptive noise cancellation

OnePlus is not the only company that makes it possible to adjust the noise cancellation in its earbuds. But it’s always nice to see this as a feature since I don’t think it’s that common. With the OnePlus Buds 3, you have a few different options for adjusting the noise control. And the app even tells you which mode is best suited for where your location. You can adjust the noise control mode between mild, moderate, max, and smart. I mostly left it on max at all times. Smart is a great option though, as it will automatically adjust the noise control mode based on your surroundings.

So if the earbud mics pick up that you’re in a noisier area, it’ll adjust the noise control to max on its own and then swap it to one of the other modes once you’re back in a quieter place. In terms of how well the noise cancellation works, I think it works fairly well. I have used it both inside when it’s dead silent and outside on walks, as well as in grocery stores with plenty of people around wheeling carts across the floor. I’d say it works well, although I wouldn’t say it’s the best. I would put it on par with something like the Hybrid Active Noise Cancellation of the Razer Hammerhead True Wireless V2 which was also good, but not industry-leading.

In short, you won’t be disappointed here unless you’re expecting the best ANC on the market. Which you shouldn’t expect as these only cost $99.99. And the earbuds with the best-rated ANC all cost a lot more. Still, again the ANC is good here. Enough to block out most noise. The only time I found where it wasn’t working as well as some other earbuds is with pretty high wind. But that won’t be an issue all the time. And even when it was windy, it wasn’t enough to detract too much from the listening experience.

OnePlus Buds 3 review: Sound Quality

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Next to comfort and battery life, sound quality is one of the other important features of a pair of earbuds. Technology for true wireless earbuds has come a long way compared to 5+ years ago. So much to the point that you can cram in some considerably good quality sound in a small pair of earbuds that don’t cost a whole lot. I wasn’t sure what to expect when the earbuds showed up, as many of the pairs I have tried in the past that were around this price were just ok or not that great.

Surprisingly, the OnePlus Buds 3 have really good sound. If sound was the only thing I was concerned with and I wanted a contender for the best sound possible, I would use a different pair of earbuds. And sometimes that is what I’m looking for. But a lot of the time these days, I just want the earbuds to sound good and aren’t going to sound tinny or muddied when the volume gets turned up. I’m happy to say that isn’t an issue really with these. And there are a couple of reasons I think for that.

The OnePlus Buds 3 are certified for Hi-Res audio so right off the bat they’re already set up to deliver better sound quality. At least for content that supports Hi-Res audio. The earbuds get decent mids and highs too. They also get some decent bass with lows without being too bass-heavy. However, you can turn up the bass with the bass boost feature in the HeyMelody app if you want more.

Audio ID 2.0

A big part of the sound quality is the Audio ID 2.0. This is a returning feature from the OnePlus Buds Pro 2, and it makes a big difference I think in how things sound. What this does is enable the built-in microphones to detect sound leakage and adjust the audio accordingly and automatically for optimal sound. You’ll need to do the ear scan for this to have it working. But the ear scan is part of the first-time setup so you shouldn’t have trouble with this.

Should you buy the OnePlus Buds 3?

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I am a firm believer in the saying “You get what you pay for.” In many cases, the less expensive a product, the less you get. And unfortunately a lot of the time that means the product isn’t that great. I don’t think that is at all the case with the OnePlus Buds 3. These are only $99.99. And for that low of a price, it almost feels impossible for these earbuds to be this good. I don’t think these will be as good as some of the earbuds that cost double or more than double the price. I think those are still going to be the best earbuds if you’re looking for a pair that offers more features and better audio quality.

However, not everyone wants to spend hundreds on a pair of true wireless earbuds. And for those consumers, there are a lot of options available. Most of those options are awful though. So when it comes down to it, OnePlus is offering so much for so little money. That makes these an exceptional value and I would say, well worth the money you spend to buy them. So, should you buy the OnePlus Buds 3? I would say, excluding those who want a high-end pair, the answer is yes.

You should buy these if:

– Price is a factor and you only want to spend around $100

– You want a comfortable pair of earbuds

– Good battery life and super fast charging are important

– A Game Mode would be useful to you

You shouldn’t buy these if:

– You want more features

– Industry-leading sound and ANC is important

– Price doesn’t matter

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