OnePlus Buds 3

Verdict

The OnePlus Buds 3 may not sport the Pro branding of their predecessors, but they’re still very much pro-level buds with excellent audio performance, premium smart features and solid – if not varying – battery life. They don’t always achieve their lofty aims, but the OnePlus Buds 3 remain a tempting sub-£100 / $100 pair of TWS buds.

Pros

  • Premium audio features
  • Prominent bass
  • Support for LHCD 5.0
  • Comfortable to wear

Cons

  • Middling ANC performance
  • Battery life varies greatly


  • Top-end audio featuresWith features like customisable playback based on your hearing, spatial audio and support for the high-res LHCD 5.0 codec, the OnePlus Buds 3 seriously bunch above their weight.

  • AffordableDespite the audio tech and smarts on offer, the OnePlus Buds 3 remain temptingly priced at less than £100/$100.

  • Great soundThe OnePlus Buds 3 might be small, but they’re mighty. Sporting dedicated tweeters and woofers within each bud, the audio performance is exceptional for the price.

Introduction

OnePlus has dropped the ‘Pro’ moniker with the £99 / $99 OnePlus Buds 3, but make no mistake: these are just as capable as any other pro-branded true wireless earbuds.

Despite a tempting sub-£100 / $100 price point, the OnePlus Buds 3 seemingly offer it all: dual-driver units, ANC, wireless Hi-Res audio support for LHDC 5.0, solid battery life and even high-end features like spatial audio and personalised sound output tailored to the shape of your ears. 

While there are still areas for improvement, the OnePlus Buds 3 are a big upgrade on the OnePlus Buds 2 Pro and remain a very tempting pair of TWS buds that’ll play just as well with Samsungs, Pixels and even iPhones as OnePlus phones. They’re available to buy now via OnePlus, though third-party retailer availability is likely soon.

Design

  • Eye-catching shiny blue finish
  • Swappable eartips
  • Expanded touch controls

The OnePlus Buds 3 shares the same overall design DNA as the OnePlus Buds 2 Pro. That is to say, like most true wireless earbuds on the market, they’re pretty small, sport a stalk and live in a charging case when not in active use. 

OnePlus Buds 3 and case on a table
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They don’t change the TWS formula in the same way that Huawei’s FreeClips do, but then again, does it need to change when it’s apparent that the current design does the job well? 

OnePlus has tried differentiating itself from the sea of similarly priced TWS buds by the colour options and available finish. Unlike most earbuds, the OnePlus Buds 3 has a shiny metallic finish, but don’t let this fool you into thinking they’re made from anything other than plastic. They aren’t.

Importantly, the reflective surface doesn’t pick up fingerprint marks or anything of the like, providing a clean look even after countless hours of use over the past few weeks.  

I think the Splendid Blue buds I was sent for review look pretty good and work well as a accessory for the more fashion-conscious. If, however, the blue finish isn’t up your street, the company offers a more standard black matte finish. 

OnePlus Buds 3 in-handOnePlus Buds 3 in-hand
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Unlike open-design earbuds like the Huawei FreeBuds 5 and AirPods 3, the OnePlus Buds 3 come with small, medium and large eartips to help find the right fit for your ears. 

For me, the large tips provided the best fit, at which point the buds stayed nice and snug in my ears as I walked and even jogged. I’ve not felt the need to adjust the fit mid-listening session as I have with other buds in the past, and they’re lightweight enough to be put in your ears and essentially forgotten about at just 4.8g a pop. 

The OnePlus Buds 3 sport touch-sensitive areas on each stalk to provide easy access to various controls, from switching between ANC and transparency mode to pausing and changing the song you’re listening to. There are even volume controls – one of the big complaints about the Buds 2 Pro – that lets you adjust playback with a swipe up or down.

Admittedly, the swipe controls for volume playback can still be tedious, only going up or down a step at a time, but the tap controls worked pretty well. I even enabled the (disabled by default) single-tap action without accidentally activating it when adjusting the fit of the buds. 

OnePlus Buds 3 charging caseOnePlus Buds 3 charging case
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The buds will also survive a stint in the rain with IP55 dust and water resistance, making for a solid choice on those rainy evening jogs. 

When not in active use, the OnePluds Buds 3 snap into place in a fairly compact, colour-matched matte-finish case. It’s compact, sports a USB-C port for charging, and an LED light on the front to provide current battery levels a glance. 

Features

  • Works well with any Android phone
  • Plenty of smart features
  • Premium audio tech like Golden Sound

The OnePlus Buds 3 come with all the staples of smart TWS buds like automatic play and pause technology, the aforementioned touch controls, and multi-point Bluetooth connectivity to connect to two devices at once, but there’s a whole lot more here to appreciate.

For starters, the pairing process is an absolute breeze if you’re using an Android phone thanks to Google Fast Pair – I didn’t even need to go to the Bluetooth settings to connect, and I wasn’t even using a OnePlus phone at the time. 

OnePlus Buds 3 buds and charging caseOnePlus Buds 3 buds and charging case
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Through the Hey Melody app (or the Android Settings menu if you’re using a OnePlus phone), you can run a fit test to ensure you’ve got the optimal eartips for the shape of your ears. It’s here that you can also customise the tap controls and enable the various optional audio features offered by the buds. 

These features include a Golden Sound mode that, after a short test that requires you to sit in a quiet room and listen for various pitches, adjusts the output of the buds to suit your hearing. 

It’s a cool feature not often seen in such cheap buds – it’s present on high-end options like the AirPods Pro 2 and NuraBuds – and makes an instant difference to playback to someone like me who’s suffering the consequences from standing too close to speakers in clubs in his younger years, like switching from SD to HD. 

There’s also OnePlus 3D Audio, OnePlus’ take on spatial audio playback, that’ll attempt to widen the soundscape and essentially bring the sound from inside your head to your surroundings. It works pretty well, adding a sense of space to instrument-packed tracks, and it lends itself well to watching series on Netflix and Disney+ too. 

That said, it’s not quite as transformative as the Dolby Atmos spatial audio built into high-end phones like the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra. If you do have access to those premium audio features, I’d recommend sticking with those over OnePlus’ option.  

OnePlus Buds 3 in the charging caseOnePlus Buds 3 in the charging case
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The buds sport Bluetooth 5.3 with support for not only SBC and AAC but LHDC 5.0 codecs, with the latter offering a proper step up in terms of sample rate and bitrate and, as such, audio quality. LHDC isn’t exclusive to OnePlus products either, available on the likes of the Oppo Find X6 Pro and Xiaomi 13T Pro. 

The combination of three microphones on each earbud delivers surprisingly clear call audio too, with recipients able to hear me even walking on a busy central London street – and I haven’t used many TWS buds that can do that without complaint. 

As far as I can tell, aside from a dedicated 92ms low-latency mode for gaming and not needing the Hey Melody app to configure the buds, there’s no real benefit to using the buds with a OnePlus-branded phone. While that might disappoint OnePlus users wanting these buds to feel exclusive in some way, it makes the buds just as tempting an option for Samsung, Google and even Apple users. 

Sound Quality

  • Dual-driver units
  • Warm, rounded sound with solid bass
  • Middling ANC performance

The OnePlus Buds 3 really impress in the audio department, not only down to the premium audio features like Golden Sound and OnePlus 3D Audio but also the hardware on offer. 

Within each compact bud, OnePlus has managed to squeeze a 6mm tweeter and a 10.4mm woofer. The result is audio playback that sounds clean and warm, and although the bass is just as prominent as in previous entries, the buds sound well-balanced overall. 

OnePlus Buds 3 earbudsOnePlus Buds 3 earbuds
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The bass tones are surprisingly clean too; Billie Eilish’s I Didn’t Change My Number and its rich bass-heavy track can easily distort with bass-focused buds, but that wasn’t the case here. If you find it’s a little much for your tastes, you can adjust the bass response to your liking in the Hey Melody app – an element that works particularly well and notably boosts low-end fidelity. 

The OnePlus Buds 3 aren’t just ideal for Dubstep and other bass-heavy tracks either; there’s a surprising amount of versatility with the buds, delivering crisp, expressive vocals in tracks like Over The Rainbow, and the instrument separation in titles like Smells Like Teen Spirit is thoroughly enjoyable too.

Sound quality aside, the OnePlus Buds 3 also sport ANC capabilities that aim to quieten the environment around you by up to 49dB – but it’s a little hit-and-miss in use. Sure, there’s a quietening of the environment when I tap to activate the ANC mode, taking the edge off cars passing by as I walk down a busy London road, but it’s not that noticeable in most environments. 

My benchmark is to take a trip on the infamously loud Victoria line on the London Underground – a test that’s arguably too difficult for most TWS buds – but that’s how you separate the wheat from the chaff. 

OnePlus Buds 3 and charging caseOnePlus Buds 3 and charging case
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Where more premium buds like my go-to AirPods Pro 2 noticeably quieten the racket of the tube, the OnePlus Buds 3 barely make a dent, so much so that I have to crank my music to almost maximum volume to attempt to drown it out. 

Conversely, there’s also a transparency mode that’ll use the built-in mics to funnel environmental noise into the buds to make you more aware of your surroundings. As with ANC, it does a fine job, but I can’t have the buds up any higher than half volume if I want to be actively aware of my environment. It’s a far cry from the AirPods Pro’s impossibly natural-sounding transparency mode, anyway. 

Battery life

  • Great battery life, but it can vary
  • Up to 40hrs from charging case
  • Fast charging support

The downside to offering premium features like ANC, transparency mode and LHDC codec support is that they tend to hammer battery life, and that seems particularly true of the OnePlus Buds 3.

While the 58mAh cell within the buds can last quite some time while streaming in AAC with ANC off, around 10 hours, that drops down to six and a half hours as soon as you activate ANC. Streaming in the high-quality LHDC 5.0 with ANC active will impact things further, dropping to just five and a half hours of playback before needing a top-up. 

OnePlus Buds 3 in the charging caseOnePlus Buds 3 in the charging case
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Thankfully, with a charging case packing a 520mAh battery, you needn’t plug the OnePlus Buds 3 in after every single use – though, as with playback, total charge depends on your settings. You’ll get an impressive 44 hours out of the charging case with standard AAC playback, though that drops down to a relatively standard 24 hours with ANC and LHCD 5.0 enabled. 

There is also fast charging tech to take advantage of. Popping the earbuds in the case for 10 minutes will deliver around two hours of playtime, while plugging the case into a USB-C cable will deliver seven hours of playback in the same 10-minute period. 

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Should you buy it?

You want great sound without paying too much money

Combined, the OnePlus Buds 3’s dual-driver units and software tuning delivers a well-balanced, customisable audio experience.

You want great ANC

While the OnePlus Buds do offer ANC that quietens the environment, it’s not up to the levels of premium buds like the AirPods Pro 2 and Sony WF-1000XM5.  

Final Thoughts

The OnePlus Buds 3 are a bit of a surprise; despite the sub-£100 price point, they offer a predominantly premium experience. The outstanding audio quality is the champion here, with a range of audio customisation options that further tweak the output to your taste, and even though it’s not the best, the ANC is serviceable. 

They’re also good-looking, lightweight buds that deliver a comfortable fit and, with touch controls, you’ll rarely need to reach for your Bluetooth-connected smartphone. 

I think the only real concern is battery life. 10 hours on a charge is excellent, but as soon as you enable elements like ANC and LHDC – features you’ll likely want to take advantage of – that drops to just five and a half hours. That’s still plenty of time, but it won’t last a whole day without needing to be popped back into the charging case for a bit.

How we test

We test every set of headphones we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry-standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.

Find out more about how we test in our ethics policy.

Tested for over two weeks

Tested with real-world use

Tested the battery life of buds and case

FAQs

Are the OnePlus Buds 3 a follow-up to the OnePlus Buds 2 Pro?

Yes, OnePlus has dropped the Pro branding with the OnePlus Buds 3, but these are a follow-up to the OnePlus Buds 2 Pro.

Are the OnePlus Buds 3 water-resistant?

They’ll survive a stint in the rain or a sweaty gym session with IP55 dust and water resistance.

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