Alright, here’s some goodness for audio nerds. OnePlus has graced us yet again with their latest brainchild — the OnePlus Buds 3. In a bold move to conquer every price range known to humankind, OnePlus has strategically placed these earbuds snugly between the oh-so-premium OnePlus Buds Pro 2 and the wallet-friendly Nord series earbuds.

Their key bragging rights this time around? Bringing the highfalutin features of noise cancellation and transparency mode to the common folk, because apparently, everyone deserves a slice of the audio nirvana pie. Sporting the guise of their more expensive brethren, the OnePlus Buds 3 don't just look the part but come packed with features you'd be hard-pressed to find in other brands' offerings without shelling out considerably more dough.

Sure, they've skimped on a thing or two, but at the bargain price of Rs. 5,499, OnePlus insists on delivering an overall package that's as compelling as a late-night infomercial. And if you're already part of the OnePlus cult, these earbuds are presumably the missing piece in your life.

Credit: Athenil Media

How’s everything else, yo?

Right from the get-go, let's not forget that the OnePlus Buds 3 aren't just about delivering neat audio quality—they also bring a bag full of other "functional" goodies to the table. Take, for instance, the Golden Sound system, a fancy way of saying these buds can supposedly tailor their sound to the unique caverns of your ear canals.

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Then there's Google Fast Pair, a feature that practically saves you from the Herculean effort of traditional Bluetooth pairing. And let's not overlook the marvel of multipoint support, ensuring you stay connected to not one, but two devices at once, because indecision is the spice of life, right?

Moving on, if you found the pinch control on the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 a bit like trying to solve a Rubik's cube with gloves on, you'll be thrilled to know the Buds 3 have upgraded to a tap and swipe system that's allegedly more intuitive. Now you can customize these gestures to your heart's content, assuming you don't have the dexterity of a potato.

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But beware, the slide-based volume control might still feel like trying to thread a needle if your fingers are on the chunkier side. The triple mic setup promises crystal-clear calls, perfect for those bike rides where you want to chat and pedal, but throw on a winter cap, and suddenly you're talking through a pillow.

And now, for the pièce de résistance: battery life. OnePlus touts a glorious 10 hours of playback on a single charge, a figure that miraculously shrinks to 6.5 hours if you dare to use noise cancellation.Thankfully, real-world tests have shown these numbers to be surprisingly accurate, assuming you enjoy living on the edge at 90% volume with all the bells and whistles turned on.

It almost doesn't miss at any mark.

They just run shy of the 8 hour benchmark that we've set here at Athenil Media, but those figures are for far premium flagship earbuds, so there's that. And to further sweeten the experience, there's fast charging, which is like a defibrillator for your earbuds, zapping them back to life for another seven hours of eardrum bliss in just 10 minutes.

So, in a world where earbuds are judged not just by the quality of sound but by how much they resemble a Swiss Army knife, the OnePlus Buds 3 certainly stand out. They're the multitool you didn't know you needed, and in a financially reasonble fashion!

The in-ear snob talk?

Design-wise, the OnePlus Buds 3 borrow heavily from their Pro siblings, albeit opting for a minimalist chic over flashy two-tones. Available in Splendid Blue and the equally imaginative Metallic Grey, these earbuds are as lightweight as your commitment to New Year's resolutions, offering a fairly secure fit.

IP55-level dust and water resistance? Check. Because nothing says "ready for anything" like surviving a splash or a dust storm. It’s not the best out there, but then, you aren’t exactly taking them for a swim, are ya?

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Next, we have the age-old problem of finding the perfect ear tip size – a challenge akin to selecting the right pillow for a good night's sleep, but for your ears. Here, OnePlus has donned its wizard's hat and delved deep into the arcane arts of audio engineering to bestow upon us mere mortals a solution: Audio ID 2.0.

This isn't just any run-of-the-mill feature; oh no, it's a concoction of leakage compensation, ear canal sensing, and, personalized sound perception -- all designed to tailor the audio experience to the unique caverns of your ears. The secret sauce of this magical ensemble is the use of the microphone to detect any traitorous sound leakage, betraying the sanctity of your personal audio bubble.

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With the vigilance of a guard at the royal palace, it adjusts the output to ensure not a note goes astray. It’s as if OnePlus has embarked on a noble quest to ensure every chord, every beat, and every note is delivered with the precision of a bespoke suit, fitted perfectly to the unique contours of your ear canals. How splendidly considerate!

Bass-forward, and then some more

Now, onto the raw audio talk. OnePlus has somehow managed to cram in a dynamic sound profile that punches way above its weight class, courtesy of a coaxial dynamic dual driver setup. It's like they're trying to convince us that we're getting the concert hall experience for the price of a cinema ticket.

Let's dive into the euphony that these little wonders claim to offer, shall we? Describing the audio output of the OnePlus Buds 3 as "dynamic" might be putting it mildly. They dish out treble as bright as a sunny day, mids as clean as your room after a guilt-ridden cleaning spree, and bass that somehow manages to outperform its own pay grade.

Oh boy, these sound really good.

With a coaxial dynamic dual driver setup, featuring a 10.4mm woofer coupled with a 6mm tweeter, these buds aim to deliver the high-resolution audio playback dream, all while touting support for the LHDC 5.0 codec. Now, they claim a peak output that's supposed to dazzle us with numbers like a 96KHz sample rate and 24-bit depth.

Not exactly lossless, but hey, it's supposedly a notch above the CD-quality standard that's so last century. Of course, you'd need a DAC and a desire to squint at audio frequencies to truly appreciate the difference between standard and high-resolution music.

OnePlus Buds 3
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So, in a nutshell, with support for the LHDC 5.0 codec, they're practically boasting about hitting nearly lossless audio quality, a claim that's both impressive and slightly overzealous. But wait, there's more! The Basswave feature promises to amp up your bass without turning everything else into a muddy mess, a claim that's as bold as it is dubious.

Yet, against all odds, it delivers. Giving credit where it's due, the OnePlus Buds 3 do sound pretty decent. Although trying to pinpoint the nuances between Hi-Res mode and toggling between High Quality and Lossless presets on Apple Music might just be an exercise in futility.

OnePlus proudly states that LHDC 5.0 can hit a peak bit rate of 1Mbps, quadrupling what Apple deems as "high quality" for its AAC playback. So, in theory, these buds are primed to handle music streams that are of higher quality, but actually noticing that difference might just be a bit of a stretch.

You can ignore the Hi-Res talk. Just dive into the bass and bop!

On a more down-to-earth note, even cranking the volume to its limits won't send you into a distortion-filled abyss, and the sound quality doesn’t venture into what one might call auditory displeasure. Surprisingly, when pitted against earbuds that could easily dent your wallet two or three times over, the OnePlus Buds 3 hold their own, not betraying their budget-friendly lineage quite as much.

The standard listening experience is as clean as they come, and for those who fancy themselves audio connoisseurs, there’s the option to whip up a custom EQ profile to your heart’s content.

In summary, the OnePlus Buds 3 seem to promise the world—or at least a significantly better part of the audio universe—without the usual high-end price tag. Whether they fully deliver on those promises might depend on how finely tuned your ears are, or perhaps, how willing you are to believe.

So, about that bass…

Alright, let’s dig into the bass-y side of things, thanks to Basswave, a feature that's purportedly going to revolutionize your music by cranking up the bass without turning everything else into a sonic mush. Surprisingly, it doesn't just talk the talk; it walks the walk.

I was bracing for another overhyped gimmick that would end up being as useful as a screen door on a submarine, but color me impressed, it genuinely makes a difference. Push that bass slider to its limits, and prepare for a bass that doesn't just thump; it practically gives you directions.

For those of you who live and breathe trap beats or any music where the instrumentals take center stage, this feature will be like finding an oasis in a desert. Now, for an optimal experience, you'll want to dive into the Sound Master EQ, set it to the Bass profile, and then, for an extra sprinkle of magic, turn on the OnePlus 3D audio effect.

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OnePlus claims this feature will envelop you in an "immersive sound environment," and it actually does. It's like going from a stuffy room to an open field, sonically speaking, of course. This feature shines the brightest when you're listening to something that doesn't overload the senses, like the serene sounds of nature.

Picture this: you're listening to the calming pattern of rain or the serene flow of a waterfall. With the 3D Audio effect, it's not just background noise; it's an auditory journey that adds layers to your listening, making you feel a tad more in the moment. Just don't expect any fancy head-tracking technology à la Apple's Spatial Audio.

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OnePlus, in their infinite wisdom, decided that might be a bit too much razzle-dazzle for now. So, in the grand tradition of adding features that sound like they belong in a sci-fi novel, OnePlus delivers something that's actually pretty grounded and, dare I say, useful. Just remember, while it may not make your head spin with spatial wizardry, it'll certainly add a new dimension to your audio escapades.

Noise and ambience controls

For those who seek to envelop themselves in their own personal bubble, the ANC and transparency modes are surprisingly competent, especially considering the price point. OnePlus has somehow managed to squeeze in a level of noise cancellation that could give you a moment's peace from the chaos of the outside world, or at least from the screaming child at the next table.

Ah, the wonders of modern technology—where even the cacophony of peak-hour traffic can be reduced to a distant memory, all thanks to the ANC mode on the OnePlus Buds 3. With the volume dialed up to eleven, you can blissfully ignore the world's chaos, with only the most persistent of car horns or the growl of nearby trucks managing to whisper their existence into your serene bubble.

Then there's the transparency mode, a feature that, for the price tag these buds carry, performs rather commendably. It's like they're trying to give the more expensive Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro 2 and Status Between ANC 3 a run for their money. OnePlus decided to be a bit more generous with their interpretation of transparency, opting not to fine-tune the sound from the drivers based on ambient noises quite as meticulously as Samsung.

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Because who needs subtlety when you can have everything, right? However, it's not all sunshine and rainbows. The OnePlus Buds 3 have this endearing tendency to go all in with their audio routing strategy, making distinguishing between the sound of your surroundings and your favorite tunes a bit of a challenge, particularly if you dare to venture past the 50-60% volume threshold.

It's not exactly a deal-breaker, but it does shine a spotlight on the realities of squeezing every penny in the pursuit of affordable tech. Comparatively, when pitted against the Status Audio Between ANC 3, which boasts a hefty price tag and an extra driver for good measure, the OnePlus Buds 3 still manage to hold their own in both transparency and noise cancellation departments.

So, in a nutshell, while the OnePlus Buds 3 might not deliver a masterclass in ambient sound management, they certainly don't shy away from giving it a good old college try. It's a testament to what can be achieved when ambition meets a budget tighter than a pair of skinny jeans.

Cool, then. What gives?

Where the budget cuts become apparent, however, is in the finer nuances of sound quality. The Buds 3 might not deliver the same level of audio sophistication as their pricier counterparts or the industry's top dogs, but then again, they're not really pretending to. OnePlus seems content to play in its own sandbox, offering a sound profile that's more about enjoyment than dissecting every note.

A bit of a pain for non-OnePlus phone-havers. Sigh!

When stacking the OnePlus Buds 3 against their more illustrious sibling, the OnePlus Buds Pro 2, one can't help but notice that the Buds 3 seem to have attended a different class in audio school. They've adopted a more... let's call it "focused" approach, pouring their heart and soul into delivering bass that can shake your very core, albeit at the expense of muddling the mids and highs just a tad.

It's not immediately obvious, but place them side by side with the Pro 2 or their equally sophisticated cousins, and suddenly the Buds 3's rendition of audio appears as if it's viewing the world through a narrow tube—charmingly one-dimensional with a certain lack of the finer nuances that give music its full body and soul.

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Venture beyond the 80% volume frontier, especially with Basswave cranked to the hill-top and 3D audio throwing its weight around, and you're in for a treat. A treat, that is, if your definition includes a dash of distortion and vocals that have taken on an edge so sharp they could slice through your favorite tracks.

The drivers, bless them, are doing their best impression of a surround sound system, pushing levels to their limits in an ambitious attempt to create an all-encompassing audio experience. Unfortunately, this sometimes results in a performance that's more akin to a garage band trying to replicate the London Symphony Orchestra.

And because it wouldn't be a OnePlus product without a few eyebrow-raising decisions, some features remain exclusive to OnePlus phone users. It's a bit like being part of an exclusive club, except the membership criteria is owning a specific phone. That’s because for non-OnePlus phones, you need the HeyMelody app, and it makes some glaring omissions.

Much like their more expensive Pro counterparts, these earbuds come with a set of features that are off-limits unless you've pledged your allegiance to the OnePlus ecosystem. Want to enjoy Hi-Res streaming? Better make sure you're doing it on a OnePlus device, because the Hey Melody app conveniently forgets to include this option.

And for those moments when you thought tapping your earbuds to snap a photo was a universal delight, think again. This parlor trick is reserved exclusively for the OnePlus faithful. As for fine-tuning the strength of your noise cancellation via the Hey Melody app? The app is again dealt a card. It appears OnePlus has decided some things are best kept simple (or non-existent), further cementing the notion that these earbuds, much like a high school clique, have their favorites and are not afraid to show it.

So, do I buy it?

Yes, they're budget-friendly, but they wear it with a sort of pride that's almost endearing. The touch controls? Fairly responsive. The mics don't sound like you're calling from the bottom of a well, the fit is snug without making you wonder what life choices led you here, and the battery life is robust enough to keep your playlist going without eyeing the charger every five minutes. Plus, they come with IP55-level water resistance, because who doesn't want to accidentally drop their earbuds in a puddle and live to tell the tale?

Then there's the suite of features that OnePlus generously throws in to sweeten the deal: adaptive noise cancellation that actually works, Basswave for when you want to feel the beat in your bones, ambient mode for those moments when you need to eavesdrop on the world, and 3D audio that tries its hardest to make you feel like you're in the middle of your own personal concert.

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However, not everything is sunshine and rainbows. OnePlus seems to have taken a page out of the "How to Create an Ecosystem" playbook, locking certain features behind the OnePlus phone barrier. It's not exactly the epitome of consumer-friendliness, but hey, if it works for Apple and Samsung, why not?

Also, for those who like their music with a bit too much bass, be warned: diving too deep into those low frequencies might leave the vocals sounding like they're coming from the other side of a tunnel. When you look at the competition, with contenders like the Jabra Elite 4, JBL Tune Buds, Oppo Enco Air 3 Pro, and the not-so-new Samsung Galaxy Bud 2, the OnePlus Buds 3 somehow manage to stand out.

Perhaps it's their charming combination of pleasing sound quality and those quirky features that you didn't know you needed until now. In the grand scheme of things, they're gunning to be the valedictorian of the Rs. 5,000-range budget earbuds class this year, making you wonder why you'd ever consider spending more on anything else?

Buy OnePlus Buds 3 here. (Rs. 5,499)

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