The OnePlus Nord Buds 2r are the company’s entry-level earbuds and a cutdown variant of the Nord Buds 2 that we looked at a few months ago. The new model primarily loses the ANC and transparency modes along with a few other minor things while retaining the core audio performance and feature set.
The Nord Buds 2r are similar looking to the Nord Buds 2; the earbuds have the same basic shape but the stalks have been rounded off and the earbuds in general are a bit smaller. This does make them a bit more finicky while handling compared to the Nord Buds 2.
The case for the two models looks similar but the Nord Buds 2r case is ever so slightly smaller and has redesigned interior. It also lacks the pairing button found on the Nord Buds 2 case; now you have to press and hold the touch-sensitive area on both earbuds simultaneously to enter pairing mode. This is much less convenient than the pairing button on the case but not something you’d have to do often.
The Thunder Gray and Lightning White colors of the Nord Buds 2 with the speckled finish have been replaced with Deep Gray and Triple Blue for the Nord Buds 2r minus the speckles. The overall build quality and finish are otherwise the same, which is to say decent for the price and you also get an IP55 rating for dust and water resistance.
As with the Nord Buds 2, the Nord Buds 2r are quite comfortable to wear for long durations. The silicone ear tips do feel thinner and cheaper than those on the Nord Buds 2 but they don’t affect the comfort.
The Nord Buds 2r are natively supported on OnePlus devices and through the HeyMelody app on non-OnePlus Android devices. The iOS version of the app does not detect these earbuds, which remains the case for the Nord Buds 2 as well.
The software experience is barebones; you get a choice of three EQ presets, which is down by one from the Nord Buds 2. I’m not sure why the cheaper model also has to have fewer EQ presets as if they cost money to implement, but I digress. You also get a custom EQ with six bands and you can create multiple profiles.
Apart from that you can also adjust the gesture controls for individual taps. This I found useful as the touch area on the earbuds is very sensitive and very easy to tap while inserting or removing the earbuds. I had to disable the gesture for a single tap to prevent inadvertent play/pauses. On that note, the Nord Buds 2r, much like the Nord Buds 2, don’t have wear detection so you will have to manually play and pause when you insert or remove them.
Apart from that, there really isn’t a lot more to do here. The software experience is so barebones that there wasn’t even an option to update the firmware. OnePlus said the option will arrive before the earbuds go on sale. At the time of writing, the earbuds were on version 106.106.101 with no option to update. We will update the review as and when the ability to update the firmware becomes available.
I do hope OnePlus does plan on adding this feature as my review unit definitely could use a software update. There was a tendency for the sound to drift from one channel to the other during use, with one driver slowly becoming louder than the other. It could go in either direction but it often veered left and only a restart or a long pause would center it. Issues like these are why we have software updates and not including the option would be greatly detrimental.
The Nord Buds 2r have the same 12.4mm dynamic drivers as the Nord Buds 2 along with the same Bluetooth 5.3 connectivity and SBC/AAC support.
The Nord Buds 2r have the typical OnePlus sound with an overwhelming bass presence. The mids are mellow with a smooth timbre and no abrupt dips but the highs are dull and lackluster. The overall sound is boomy but with pleasing vocals and a veiled high-end. It’s pleasant enough to listen to and will appeal to those who like lots of bass, don’t like bright highs, or a combination of both.
The more expensive Nord Buds 2 sounds similar in the bass and mids department but have a more pronounced sizzle at the top, which the Nord Buds 2r lack.
If you prefer a more balanced tuning, you could give the Bold preset a try, which reins in the low-end considerably while also boosting the highs. This preset does have a curious dip in the mids, which pushes vocals to the back of the mix so I personally prefer to use the EQ instead, which can provide some good results. Any changes you make are saved on the earbuds and carry over to the next device you pair it with.
Unfortunately, the sound is as dull and unresolving as it gets. This is par for the course for budget wireless earbuds but it never fails to shock me just how much better wired earbuds that cost less than these Nord Buds 2r sound in comparison. Switching to my 7HZ Salnotes Zero, the difference was night and day, both in terms of tuning and resolution.
OnePlus likes to brag about its Dolby Atmos support but as I have mentioned countless times in previous OnePlus reviews this is a feature of their phones, not the earbuds. The earbuds have no inherent Atmos capability and will only “support” Atmos if the paired device does. You may as well pair earbuds from a different brand to a OnePlus phone with Atmos and get Atmos sound.
The microphone performance was decent; in a quiet room, the voices sounded reasonably clear although they would fluctuate at times as the background noise cancellation did its thing. In noisy environments, the noise cancellation did a great job cutting out the noise. The voice got understandably more muffled but was still perfectly audible. Overall, good enough performance for voice calls.
The Nord Buds 2r have good latency performance. By default, the latency is low enough to not really be a concern except maybe in games. With the low latency mode enabled, either manually through the HeyMelody app or automatically on OnePlus phones when it detects a game, the latency was very low and not noticeable at all.
The earbuds also had decent connectivity performance. Aside from the audio drift issue, there were no disconnections or stuttering and things worked as expected.
The Nord Buds 2r have a claimed battery life of 8 hours of continuous playback. In my testing, I got 7 hours and 14 minutes, which was a good enough result. After a quick ten-minute charge from 0%, the earbuds went on for another 2 hours and 9 minutes. The battery is smaller on the Nord Buds 2r (36mAh vs 41mAh on the Nord Buds 2) and thus the battery life is about an hour less.
The Nord Buds 2r are priced at INR 2,199, which is INR 800 less than the Nord Buds 2’s price. In my opinion, there really isn’t any reason to pick the Nord Buds 2r over the Buds 2 when the price difference is that small, and the latter is just better overall. The cheaper and better-sounding Oppo Enco Buds2 are also a smarter option. The Nord Buds 2r will need to cost a lot less if they are to justify their basic features and performance.