OnePlus Buds 3 review: simple, excellent value

The recently launched OnePlus Buds 3 appear to be a brand new product line as OnePlus never released Buds 2 truly wireless headphones. Technically, they are closer to the Nord Buds Z2 both in terms of features and price, so you can say that these buds are the spiritual successors of the Buds Z2. However, their price puts them just below the premium OnePlus Buds Pro 2 in OnePlus’ audio lineup. OnePlus, with its new Buds 3 truly wireless headphones, claims to deliver premium features at a lower price. I’ve been using them for a few weeks now and that’s why I think they’re an excellent choice for Rs. 5499 in India.

OnePlus Buds 3 review: Design and features

The design of the OnePlus Buds 3 case looks identical to the OnePlus Buds Pro 2. Pick it up and you’ll notice that it’s a bit clunky compared to the latter, and that’s due to the case’s larger battery. The case has a plastic finish and doesn’t feel as premium as the Buds Pro 2’s case, but that’s okay since it retails for half the price. Its thicker overall dimensions also make it easier to open the case to access the headphones, allowing me to confidently open and close it with one hand.

The OnePlus Buds 3 have a very comfortable fit with a grippy semi-chrome finish

The headphones are available in two finishes, Splendid Blue and Metallic Grey. I received the Splendid Blue earphones for review and they have a nice chrome finish around the arms with a blue plastic body exposed closer to the silicone tips. Those chrome grips, which are thicker than the Buds Pro 2’s, also give it some grip (although they do smudge) so they don’t slip out of my hands when I take them out or put them in the charging case. Just like the OnePlus Buds Pro 2, the headphones are very comfortable and I had no problem wearing them for hours without any discomfort.

The charging case weighs 40.8 grams, while each earbud weighs 4.8 grams, which isn’t heavy. In fact, they are lighter than the total weight of the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 (over 50 grams). Just like the OnePlus Buds Z2, the Buds 3 offer an IP55 rating for dust and water resistance. This means the buds can also withstand splashes of water or sweaty workouts. The retail package includes two additional sets of silicone ear tips and a short USB-C charging cable.

The OnePlus Buds 3 charging case (right) is thicker but has a bigger battery compared to the Buds Pro 2 case (left)

OnePlus Buds 3 review: Application and specifications

When connected to a OnePlus smartphone, all settings and customizations can be accessed in the phone’s Bluetooth settings under Settings> Bluetooth> OnePlus Buds 3> i> Headphone Features. One can adjust the effectiveness of the active noise cancellation, adjust the equalizer, toggle 3D audio and more importantly adjust the headphone controls from here. One can also find their headphones and control the camera when connected to a OnePlus smartphone (not available on non-OnePlus devices).

For non-OnePlus smartphone and iPhone users, there is the HeyMelody app. It’s available for both Android and iOS devices and offers plenty of control and customization. You get Noise Control (ANC), adjustable EQ, Golden Sound and even OnePlus 3D Audio. You can even toggle dual connections and even check connected devices on the iPhone. There’s even a game mode toggle for those who prefer lower latency, and you can even upgrade the firmware using your iPhone, which is pretty impressive. Headphone controls are available in a separate section.

The touch controls that come with the OnePlus Buds 3 are brand new. They work very well and provide accurate feedback when sliding a finger up or down the earcup. While touch controls have been present in OnePlus headphones for some time now, the new swipe gesture allows one to either change a song or adjust the volume.

The HeyMelody app works well on iOS and non-OnePlus devices, offering enough features and customizations

What’s more, the swipe gesture can be customized for each earbud, so one can be used to switch tracks while the other can be used to adjust the volume. This feature or gesture alone seems justified for many to switch to this pair of truly wireless headphones, because even the best Buds Pro 2 do not allow you to adjust the volume controls through the headphones.

In terms of specifications, each earpiece has a 10.4mm woofer and a 6mm tweeter (dual driver) that offer a sensitivity of 110db and a frequency range of 15Hz to 40,000Hz. There are 3 microphones on each earpiece which are also used for noise cancellation in addition to calls. Each earpiece has a 58 mAH Li-ion battery, while the case offers a large 520 mAh unit. The headphones use Bluetooth 5.3 and support AAC, SBS and even the LHDC 5.0 codec.

OnePlus Buds 3 review: Performance and battery life

As expected from an audio product at this price point, the audio mainly caters to the bass-heavy crowd. It’s not the usual muddy bass though, but a rather clear and defined type which is very nice when listening to dance music or even when watching movies as it adds that extra bit of punch without being overpowering. But all of this happens at the default Balanced EQ setting, which literally does what it claims, reserving the heavier bass sound for the Bass setting. Mediums, as usual, still have to fight here, but most users won’t notice it much. For those that do, the Serenade preset seems to take care of that to some extent.

There is also a BassWave feature which I found quite unique. Activating it in the settings allows not only to increase the bass level, but also to reduce or reduce it. However, using the feature only seemed to make things worse (no matter where you were headed), so I preferred to leave it off.

As for the microphones, they do an excellent job of drowning out unnecessary ambient sounds, making the caller’s voice loud and clear at various settings. At no point during the review period did I hear a caller complain about my voice quality, which is pretty impressive as I’ve heard callers complain quite often when using the Buds Pro 2?

While the two look somewhat similar, the OnePlus Buds 3 earphones have thicker arms

The Active Noise Canceling (ANC) technology works as expected and is able to suppress low-frequency noise well, but not so much with the mid- and high-frequency noise they managed to get through. Still, it’s quite capable and gets the job done considering its price.

In terms of connectivity, the OnePlus Buds 3 did quite well. I was able to have calls and listen to music a few meters away (with solid walls with doors in between) in my apartment and the connection didn’t seem to drop or struggle (provided I stuck with the lighter SBC/AAC codec). When playing games, there is a separate mode to prioritize latency over sound quality when using the HeyMelody app on iPhone or other Android devices.

As for battery life, playing music continuously using the AAC codec at 50 percent volume, the Buds easily lasted me 10 hours on a single charge with ANC turned off. Turning on ANC reduced that figure to around 6 hours. Switching to the heavier LHDC predictably reduces playback time even more, dropping it to only around 5 hours. Indeed, the massive case comes with some advantages, allowing the headphones to be inserted 4 times on a single charge.

While the LHDC audio codec is available, it’s pretty obvious to conclude that it makes more sense to stick with AAC for better battery life and ANC usage, as the benefits of LHDC are a bit deceiving with these headphones. They manage a minimum of 400kbps while being unusable (in terms of stability and range) at the promised 1Mbps or 1000kbps bitrate.

I wasn’t able to test charging speeds exactly, but OnePlus claims that the truly wireless Buds 3, when charged with the case in 10 minutes, can provide up to 7 hours of combined use, which sounds good enough, so I’ll take their word for it them


At Rs. 5,499, the OnePlus Buds 3 truly wireless earphones offer a wealth of features that have evolved from the more premium Buds Pro 2, almost making the latter redundant when it comes to certain features. Key among these are the new swipe gestures with touch controls, which create a convenient way to control the volume and music playback experience without having to reach for your smartphone. Although the addition of the LHDC codec is questionable, you still get capable ANC and excellent voice quality. A well-designed companion app that offers most of the features of a OnePlus smartphone, even on a non-OnePlus device, ultimately makes the OnePlus Buds 3 a very compelling audio package at this price.

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