OnePlus Buds 3 Review: Competitive AirPods Alternative

Key Takeaways

  • OnePlus Buds 3 offer great sound quality, long battery life, and a comfortable fit, making them a cheaper alternative to AirPods.
  • The touch controls on the OnePlus Buds 3 can be finicky, but the volume control works well.
  • The active noise cancellation (ANC) on the OnePlus Buds 3 is disappointing and doesn’t block out as much noise as desired.

I use AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro 2 regularly—they’re great. But the OnePlus Buds 3 are a cheaper alternative that offers wonderful audio performance and a comfortable fit. They’re a great choice if you’re willing to forego the Apple ecosystem.

OnePlus Buds 3
OnePlus Buds 3

Experience stunning audio with OnePlus Buds 3’s enhanced hardware, adaptive noise cancellation, and hi-res sound that truly delivers “Harmony Unfiltered.”

Battery Life
44 hours total

3 mics per side


IP Rating

Solo bud mode?

Driver Size
10.4mm woofer + 6mm tweeter dual drivers

Dimensions and weight (case)
58.72 x 50.15 x 25.81mm / 40.8g

blue and black

Charging Port

Earbud weight

Frequency response

  • Comfortable for prolonged wear
  • Great sound quality
  • Long battery life and quick recharge capability
  • ANC doesn’t block out a lot of noise
  • Media touch controls were finicky

The Fit Is Pure Comfort

OnePlus Buds 3 lying on a table outside their case
Jerome Thomas / How-To Geek

Most earbuds fit my ears fine. Both current models of AirPods fit the best, which is one reason I tend to default to them. As good as the OnePlus Buds 3 sound, however, their best feature is their smooth, contoured feel. They absolutely give AirPods a run for their money in terms of fit and comfort. They fit my ears almost perfectly.

Of course, fit and feel will be a personal thing so I can’t promise they will fit your ears the same as they do mine. But if they do, you’re in for a treat.

The stems house touch controls. These double and triple taps can be re-assigned in the HeyMelody mobile app (more on that below). That’s great. Unfortunately, they are still cheap touch controls that are hard to get right each time.

Funnily, the Buds 3 remind me of AirPods so much that I kept trying to squeeze the stems for playback controls, the way Apple implemented its controls. That doesn’t work. OnePlus did steal the outer volume control to slide up and down for raising and lowering the volume. This part of the touch controls worked much better.

If you do want to run in these earbuds, you can. I didn’t care that much, but I also run often enough that I want ones that hook into my ears. But the Buds 3 are IP55 dust and water-rated, so they can handle sweat and rain if you need them for fitness in a pinch.

Sound and Call Quality Are Solid

OnePlus Buds 3 on a table showing the bottom mics
Jerome Thomas / How-To Geek

There are a lot of good-sounding earbuds on the market for a reasonable price. The Soundcore Liberty 4 NC come to mind. But for the money, these OnePlus Buds 3 are probably the best ones I’ve used. At every turn, with each new song, I was constantly impressed with the full sound. There was great vocal presence while having plenty of deep, resonant bass. I listened to songs in all kinds of genres and, tellingly, was never distracted by the earbuds themselves.

The Buds 3 use a dual driver design with a 10.4mm woofer and a 6mm tweeter. That’s likely the reason they have such good low-end response while being able to maintain sparkling clarity throughout the mid-range. I was impressed with the sound of music and audio podcasts.

The microphones on the OnePlus Buds 3 did a fine job of picking up my voice for use on a call, for example. I did notice a little clipping and overcompensation when there were background noises. You can hear that in the noisy environment recording.

ANC Is a Disappointment

OnePlus Buds 3 lying on a table showing the volume touch strip
Jerome Thomas / How-To Geek

The big swing and miss for me is the active noise-cancellation (ANC). I had a hard time telling if I had switched to ANC or the transparency mode.

Then, even with the max ANC strength, I could still hear more outside sounds and noises than I wanted to. This includes only slightly dampening a robot vacuum scooting by and emptying its dust bin. I noticed a little noise cancellation with certain household appliances, like the low hum of a space heater, but in general, I was disappointed.

Although they might handle enough noise blocking for some people, I would not recommend these specifically for the ANC feature.

In the app settings, you can adjust the ANC strength, including selecting an adaptive mode. I tried all these, but I wasn’t impressed with any of the options. I usually left the transparency mode on so it didn’t feel like my ears were stuffed up.

Battery Life Rated at 44 Total Hours

There’s nothing groundbreaking about the OnePlus Buds 3’s battery life, but there are some interesting aspects of it. The total time is rated at 44 hours with the charging case (with ANC off). The earbuds themselves claim 7 hours of listening time with a 10-minute recharge time.

OnePlus Mobile App Includes Customization

On one hand, I hate when earbuds require the use of a mobile app. On the other hand, not everything can be effectively crammed into the earbuds themselves. OnePlus’ HeyMelody app (available for Android and iPhone) is nothing to write home about, but it is helpful for the OnePlus Buds 3.

It’s clean and well-designed, but isn’t remarkable overall. That’s fine. You can change the EQ and assign controls to left and right earbuds—all the normal things.

Price and Availability

The OnePlus Buds 3 retail for $99, which undercuts AirPods 3 by $50. Apple has an ecosystem around AirPods that takes advantage of fast-switching and other minor details, so undercutting the price by a significant amount of money, with robust performance, seems like a compelling reason to consider these, even if you are streaming music from an iPhone, Apple Watch, and MacBook most of the time.

Should You Buy the OnePlus Buds 3?

OnePlus Buds 3 in their case next to the box
Jerome Thomas / How-To Geek

For every great thing about the OnePlus Buds 3, there’s a caveat. The sound is brilliant, but the ANC isn’t powerful. The volume control works well, but the other touch controls are finicky. Still, the disappointments are easy to ignore or not be bothered by, mostly because the comfort and sound are so great.

I’ve been a fan of the OnePlus Buds since the first version. I think the company continues to nail its AirPods alternative earbuds. If you want to save money by not buying Apple’s audio option, these are the ones to pick.

OnePlus Buds 3
OnePlus Buds 3

Experience stunning audio with OnePlus Buds 3’s enhanced hardware, adaptive noise cancellation, and hi-res sound that truly delivers “Harmony Unfiltered.”


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