In a small passport case lie the new Buds Pro 2. Clear and powerful magnetism sucks the devices into place, and the case matches the sparkling new OnePlus 11 we've been kind enough to borrow. They match well, but the Buds Pro 2 now do still come across as a significantly more premium product, they're nicely made with metal tips, they sit well in the ear, and the box "rattles" with a good solid sound, a bit like a quality car door also rattles in a different way to a Fiat 500. And they should have all these things, at £179.00. But they are very nicely made, I'll give them that. That said, the storage case just isn't made as nicely as the units themselves, and that's a bit of a shame. On the other hand, I love the silicone tips that come with it. They're very comfortable.
First it was "tuned by" and now it's "made with" Dynaudio. How much Dynaudio has been involved I'd drill a bit more into, because in each ear are "Dual Drivers", but what they mean is that they are 6mm+11mm "MelodyBoost" coax/coax units, and they are "created together with Dynaudio" - but I don't remember Dynaudio ever making small coax units, and certainly not units for in-ears. So I'd have to say I'm more inclined to believe they provided consulting and sound-tuning, after which OnePlus had it made in their own factories. That's a formulation I'm frankly quite sceptical about, and is a bit of a grey area. Dynaudio's engineers have a pretty good reputation, so either way the result is probably significantly better than if Dynaudio hadn't been in on it. But there's quite a lot of marketing, and astonishingly little concrete information that you have to gather yourself from many different sources, and thus OnePlus is becoming everything they were a backlash against. In the words of one Harvey Dent - "you either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain."
Audio ID 2.0 is supported which adapts the sound to your hearing with a manual calibration, but I must admit I skipped it as I found it too extensive, but the idea is good in that you can adapt the sound much better. Then there's LHDC 4.0, the latter being quite important as you can get a bit-rate of 900kbps, or almost triple that of SBC, which the vast majority of wireless in-ears use. There is a Hi-Res mode, but 24-bit now worked fine without it turned on.
Connectivity is with Bluetooth 5.3 LE, which provides 54ms delay, and there are three microphones in each unit. The units themselves have IP55 certification, and the case is IPX4, not much, but that's something.
There's "up to" 48dB adaptive noise cancellation and fast-charging. Noise reduction can be set in several levels as you would expect by now, and there is also Transparency Mode. I got about 25 hours with noise cancellation and, yes, I mostly use in-ears out among others, and always with noise cancellation turned on, but I've been promised about 15 hours extra if you turn noise cancellation off. That said, I have to say I'd like to see an external measurement of the 48dB - I've tried verified headphones with significantly less noise cancellation which I clearly found had much stronger noise cancellation, but they were also in a so-called closed design, so the effect will be a lot less with in-ears.
Spatial Audio is also supported natively via Android 13 - something that can be used in both Dolby Atmos material, and in some cases stuff you watch on Disney+, Netflix and Youtube. OnePlus uses their own algorithm, but when writing things like "works great with.." or "simple dual-channel audio", I get worried, because there simply isn't recorded information in stereo to reproduce audio, whereas video games and movies have that capability much better since it's just made in multi-channel from the start.
It's fine with all these Spatial Audio formats on both PC and now mobile, but if you're even minimally an audiophile, your ears and brain can hear that it's artificially created, and not from physical speakers, and my ears don't like it, well any of it, regardless of who makes it and who put their name to it.
Unlike the new OnePlus 11 it's paired with, wireless charging is supported here. There's also Fast Pairing which I've come to expect as standard, and the ability to connect multiple sender devices simultaneously. It's clever, but just with in-ears it might make a little less sense. But you don't say no to extra features. I will point out though that it seems that the vast majority of extra features aren't actually available when using other phones, and I'm a bit surprised that it's tied up with OnePlus' own ecosystem, it's the sort of thing Apple is notorious for.
The sound is the most important thing for the OnePlus Buds Pro 2, and here's the bonus, because it's not just good, it offers a real stereo perspective, a rock-solid connection and most importantly for me, a good call quality. The passive noise cancellation is excellent, and then they're really comfortable to wear - and that counts for a lot in my book. The bass is a bit more measured than you're used to, but still a bit heightened, and then it's dynamic to a greater degree than you're used to and thus more hard-hitting, and if not as well-defined as hardcore audiophile in-ears. Then they're far more neutral in sound than you're used to, with a real midrange reproduction and a treble that's clear without being shrill. The midrange, however, still appears a bit more withdrawn in the soundstage than the rest. So, not hardcore HIFI enthusiast level, which you can't expect at that price either, but still far better than most other wireless in-ears out there.