OnePlus’ $99 earbuds look and sound great, but there’s a big catch

4 minutes, 39 seconds Read

OnePlus Buds 3 basking in the sun

Jada Jones/ZDNet

ZDNET’s key takeaways

  • The OnePlus Buds 3 These are the company’s latest flagship earbuds and they are available for purchase in the US for $100
  • Access to a high-quality Bluetooth audio codec sets these buds apart from others in the same price range.
  • If you don’t have a compatible OnePlus or Oppo smartphone, you’ll miss out on high-resolution audio.

In addition to your favorite pair of over-ear headphones, you should have reliable earbuds for calling and listening on the go. But if you’ve invested a few hundred bucks in your headphones, you might be less inclined to pay just as much for earbuds.

Fortunately, you don’t have to spend $300+ for great-sounding, functional earbuds. And if you’re not a fan of AirPods, shopping on a budget, or have your eye on one of OnePlus’ latest smartphones, you’ll want to check out the new OnePlus Buds 3.

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The OnePlus Buds 3 arrived exactly one year after the release of the OnePlus Buds Pro 2, and they offer better features at a lower price than their predecessors. Have you noticed the naming difference yet? The latest earbuds drop a desirable “pro” feature, wireless charging, but offer upgrades for noise cancellation, battery life, and Bluetooth multipoint connection stability.

They also feature the LHDC audio codec, which supports high-resolution audio playback over a Bluetooth connection. With this codec, you can listen to 900 kilobits per second, a bit depth of up to 24 bits and a sample rate of up to 96 kHz.

Also: 3 reasons to be sold on the OnePlus 12 (and 1 reason for buyer’s remorse)

If all those numbers and letters mean nothing to you, fine, but stay with me. All that audio nerd mumbo jumbo means the OnePlus Buds 3 sound absolutely fantastic, and unlock their full potential when paired with a OnePlus smartphone. The latest OnePlus phones support this codec, but Samsung, Apple, or Google devices cannot access it

Instead, each of those phones has a proprietary Bluetooth codec that delivers high-quality audio, but not to the same standard as LHDC.

Fortunately, this isn’t the biggest deal breaker as the OnePlus Buds 3 still sound great when paired with a different brand of phone. That’s right, I committed cardinal sins while testing them; I use them with an iPhone. The OnePlus Buds 3’s 10.4mm woofer produces bass, while 6mm tweeters keep high-frequency sounds clear and vibrant.

when i heard stress By 1975, I could clearly hear the frontman’s layered vocals and the OnePlus Buds 3 beautifully replicated smooth basslines and groovy guitar riffs.

OnePlus Buds 3 can cancel up to 49dB of noise, which means that with ANC on, you won’t hear sounds like typing on the keyboard, the distant TV, or the low chatter of the family. These earbuds can muffle the sound of close conversations or car horns outside your window, but you’ll still hear some of it. Not bad for a pair of $100 earbuds.

Also: Don’t sleep on these $40 wireless earbuds. They sound better than I expected

With ANC off, you get 10 hours of audio playback and an additional 34 hours when the case is fully charged, which is pretty impressive. These battery figures are higher than what Sony, Apple and Bose earbuds can give you from a single charge. However, the clarity mode of these buds is on the low-quality side, as a noticeable hum is present, meaning the external mics are working overtime to help you hear your surroundings better.

OnePlus Buds 3 in the hands of a woman

Jada Jones/ZDNet

On the other hand, these buds will work well for hands-free calling, as I haven’t had any complaints about the clarity of my voice. Plenty of software features add value to the OnePlus Buds 3. For example, you can participate in a hearing test to help the buds understand the structure of your ear canal and determine which EQ settings sound best.

After my hearing test, the app told me that a bump in the mid frequencies would make the earbuds more enjoyable for me, and I agreed. However, you can still change the EQ settings on the six-band equalizer in the HeyMelody app.

Also: The $399 OnePlus 12R might be the best cheap phone you can buy in 2024

If you want earbuds that can go with you from the office to the gym, the OnePlus Buds 3 can do just that. Silicone ear tips provide a snug seal for noise isolation and limited in-ear slipping and sliding, and their IP55 rating makes them sturdy enough for a sweaty workout.

Design-wise, the OnePlus Buds 3 feature chrome finish buds on the stem, matte accents on the ear tips and the charging case. The earbuds are stylish and lightweight, making them a great addition to anyone’s everyday carry.

ZDNET’s buying advice

The OnePlus Buds 3 Offers you every feature you want in a pair of earbuds. For their affordable price, you get adequate noise cancellation, excellent audio quality and all-day comfort.

But you’ll need a compatible smartphone to get the most out of these earbuds If you live in the US, many of those smartphone brands are missing, so you’ll have to settle for a OnePlus However, the earbuds have no other limitations, so the price is worth it.

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