Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh." Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh."
I’m a fan of neck buds because I don’t need to put them in a case when I’m not using them, and that’s no secret. But wireless buds are getting more and more popular, and they have their perks, such as increased mobility and active noise cancellation.
I got to use three popular buds in the sub-$150 range: the OnePlus Buds Pro, the Nothing Ear 1, and the Google Buds A.
All of these buds launched in India within the last few months, so it was fun to use them in tandem to see if they’re worth the hype and the price. Let’s dive into it.
OnePlus Buds Pro: OnePlus’ latest buds have a large matte ear casing and glossy stems. They’re classy. They are the lightest of the lot with each bud weighing 4.35 grams. I quite enjoyed working out with these earbuds.
The OnePlus Buds Pro case is unremarkable yet compact. It has a nice soft-touch plastic shell and a satisfying snap of the lid.
Nothing Ear 1: Carl Pei’s new venture Nothing marketed the heck out of its design principles before launching these earbuds. And they surely look unique with transparent stems and visible circuitry. The box is also semi-transparent with red and white indicators for left and right buds.
The buds weigh just 4.70 grams, so a lot of times you don’t even notice while you’re wearing them.
The box is bigger than your average wireless earbuds case, so it might not be pocketable in all circumstances.
Pixel Buds A:
The Pixel Buds A are housed in a nice pebble-shaped case, which can go into your pocket without much hassle.
OnePlus Buds Pro: OnePlus’ buds have a unique gesture system of pinching the stems to perform actions. There’s also satisfying auditory feedback when you successfully pinch, so that you know your action has gone through.
Apart from play/pause, skip, and previous actions, you can also activate the ANC mode by holding the stem for one second. If you hold the stem for three seconds, the Zen Mode — which plays natural sounds — gets activated. Pretty neat.
Sadly, there’s no volume control on this pair of earbuds.
Nothing Ear 1: Ear 1’s controls lie on the stem, just like the AirPods. But I wish they were slightly more reliable. Apart from the standard tap controls, you can customize the triple tap and tap and hold functions.
Plus, you can slide your finger across the stem to increase or decrease the volume.
Pixel Buds A: The Pixel Buds A have a standard set of controls. Tap once to play/pause or receive calls; tap twice to skip a track or reject calls; tap thrice for the previous track.
You can touch and hold any of the buds to activate Google Assistant, which is useful for quick queries or asking for certain tracks.
OnePlus Buds Pro: The Pro model of OnePlus’ buds has best-in-class noise cancelation. It can dim the hum of the fan in your house easily. And if you live near a busy street, you won’t need to always play songs through speakers to flatten the outside noise.
Plus, its zen mode with white noise sounds makes a lot of difference when you want to concentrate while sitting in a cafe.
Nothing Ear 1: Let’s face it. Not too many $99 wireless earbuds offer active noise cancellation. It’s not out of this world, and sometimes it switches randomly between ANC and ambient mode. However, it could well be a good solution if you just want to block out SOME noise at a crowded place.
Pixel Buds A: It’s a bummer that there’s no active noise cancellation on these buds. Passive noise cancellation is mild and may not hold off too much sound.
OnePlus Buds Pro: These earbuds have an 11mm driver tuned to deliver bass. But that doesn’t mean it handles other vocals and treble badly.
The Buds Pro produces a largely clean sound with a thump. So if you primarily listen to electronic and pop music, you’re in for a treat.
Nothing Ear 1: Nothing’s debut earbuds took a bold step by choosing to have a flat sound signature. That helps reproduce clear mids and provides a great podcast listening experience.
That being said, some bass or treble-heavy tracks may sound flat. And there’s no support for high-fidelity Bluetooth codecs. So keep these ones for casual listening.
Pixel Buds A: With its 12mm drivers, the Buds A reproduces a natural and clear sound. As my colleague, Napier noted in his review, they might sound brighter in certain tracks, and you can use the ‘bass boost’ mode to tackle that in a way.
This is tricky because of how these buds are priced in different regions. The OnePlus Buds Pro offer a lot and performs efficiently for $150 price point. In India, they are priced at Rs.9,990 — almost the same as the Pixel Buds A, which don’t have active noise cancelation.
In the US, Google’s buds cost just $99 — the same as the Nothing Ear 1 with impressive design and ANC. However, the Pixel Buds could be more reliable and produce better sound.
In India, Nothing’s buds will set you back Rs.5,999. So what will you choose?
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