Ameya DalviJul 22, 2020 10:06:15 IST
Price: Rs 1,999
Like most people, I was quite excited when OnePlus revealed the price of their Bullets Wireless Z earphones. Since I had used the first Bullets Wireless extensively and heard the Bullets Wireless 2 for a reasonable amount of time, I was keen on knowing what magic OnePlus would bring at a sub-2K price point. Such high expectations led to a disappointing start to my testing process of the Wireless Z, as its sound quality simply couldn’t match that of its predecessors.
After my dismay subsided a bit, I reminded myself that despite the OnePlus brand name, this is a much more affordable product compared to the other two, and should be looked at and treated as such. So let’s look at what corners OnePlus has cut on this pair of wireless earphones, and ultimately, what it offers for its asking price.
OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z - Build, design and features: 7.5/10
Bullets Wireless Z are fairly standard-looking neckband style wireless earphones. In fact, they look almost identical to the Bullets Wireless 2 with an all-black body, smooth matte finish and glossy earbuds. However, unlike the metal casing for the buds on its predecessors, you get a plastic shell here. The OnePlus branding is subtle and easy to miss. The only hint of colour here is on the inline control module that has red ‘+’ and ‘-‘ symbols on the buttons, and you get a bit more red behind the translucent silicone eartips. The rubberised neckband feels skin-friendly.
Coming back to the inline control pod, it has volume control keys and a multifunctional button that can be used to play/pause tracks, answer/end calls, jump to the next track (double click) and go to the previous track (triple click). A Type-C USB port is placed on the left battery module along with a pairing/quick switch button that lets you pair these earphones with the source Bluetooth device, or switch between two devices it is paired with — quite a handy feature, that. The earbuds have magnetic tips at the back that act as a power On/Off switch for this device (Off when stuck together, and On when separated), something common to all OnePlus Bullets Wireless earphones. Just make sure they do not accidentally separate when you don’t wish to use them, else the battery will drain unnecessarily.
Unlike the multi-driver setup on the Bullets Wireless 2, you get a single 9.2 mm dynamic driver in each of the buds. That’s one way to keep the selling price down to a third. The Bullets Wireless Z aren’t compliant with Qualcomm’s AptX or AptX HD codecs either. You have to make do with AAC at best. Another thing missing here is the red OnePlus carry pouch (or any pouch to carry them in), such as the one that is bundled with its predecessors. But frankly, I was never too fond of it, and its absence wasn’t felt.
OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z - Comfort: 8/10
The OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z are quite light and weigh just 28 grams; you barely feel their presence around your neck. The in-ear monitors fit nicely into the ear without any discomfort with medium sized tips (in my case), and they do not pop out even during jogs. But the passive noise isolation wasn’t all that great with either of the three pairs of bundled eartips. A lot of ambient noise can be heard even in a not-so-noisy surrounding. The seal should have been better than this.
The placement of the inline controls is spot on. They are easy to access, and you end up pressing the right buttons on most occasions without having to look at them. The key press feels just right too. These earphones are IP55-rated sweat and water resistant, so you can carry them to the gym or in a light drizzle without having to worry about them going bad.
OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z - Performance: 7/10
I already gave away a part of what you can expect from the performance of this device in the intro. To quickly recap, its audio output doesn’t match its predecessors, but nor does its price. The OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z are priced at half of what the first Bullets Wireless were at launch, and a third of what the Bullets Wireless 2 sell for. With that out of the way, we can now simply treat these as a pair of wireless earphones priced under Rs 2,000 in 2020, and judge them accordingly.
First things first, they are quite loud and produce ample bass that’s fairly tight. Though bassheads will be delighted with this pair, it is a bit more than ideal. Excess bass does impact the midrange frequencies, and that’s the case here too. The mids feel a bit recessed, and while the vocals are reproduced pretty well, the instrument separation is not. That’s not unusual in headphones available in this budget.
Generally, excess bass can be somewhat balanced by some sharp (though not sibilant) highs. Unfortunately, that’s not the case here. The highs seem to be blunted a bit too much for my liking, thus making the overall sound signature too bass-heavy and without much detail. But I noticed something interesting; switching off AAC under HD audio in the Bluetooth settings of Android phones improves the reproduction of highs, and brings a relatively better balance to the sound output. But even that cannot do much for the sound stage, which isn’t the greatest here and feels quite crammed. Yes, I know this is a sub-2K pair and it does sound more than decent for what you generally get at that price point. But I cannot brush aside the feeling that it could have sounded that much nicer had it been tuned better, even with the existing hardware.
On the positive side, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z is Bluetooth 5.0 compliant and pairing it with compatible devices was quick and simple. No issues with the Bluetooth range either; the company claims a figure of 10 metres and this pair manages to retain solid connection to that distance with a clear line of sight. It doesn’t do too badly even with a concrete wall in between the source and the listener. However, in the second case, the connection does stutter a bit once the battery drops below 40 percent.
OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z - Call quality: 8/10
Things function as expected in this department with not much to complain about. The person on the line was clearly audible and I was heard loud and clear by the other person as well. The voice doesn’t feel boomy or tinny, and is close to what you get when using the phone microphone. However, you need to bump up the loudness a fair bit to hear the person on the line clearly. Noise cancellation isn’t the best here and a bit of ambient noise can be heard when using these earphones outdoors. But it’s not a deal breaker.
OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z - Battery life: 9.5/10
This department is clearly its piece de resistance. The OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z claims a battery life of 20 hours, and it delivers on the promise. In fact it does a tad better under a standard usage scenario. After using the earphones for approximately three hours daily, they lasted just over a week, thus clocking in excess of 21 hours of total play time before I had to charge them again. The volume level was around 70 percent during the course of my testing. I have only seen the PTron Zap (Review) do better (24 hours) among the wireless neckbands I have tested till date.
These are excellent numbers, and if those weren’t good enough, OnePlus also provides you with an option of charging this device for just 10 minutes to get 10 hours of play time. When I did so, I managed to get close to 12 hours out of it. You would too, if you use a Warp/Dash/VOOC fast charger that you get with OnePlus or most Oppo/Realme smartphones. That is another step towards perfection. In case you don’t have a Type-C charger at home, the necessary cable is bundled in the package.
OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z: Price and verdict
The OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z is priced at Rs 1,999 with a one year warranty and can be purchased on the company’s website, as well as on Amazon India or Flipkart. Is it worth buying? If you have used other OnePlus Wireless earphones in the past, it would be best to avoid the Z. However, for its selling price, it is not a bad pair at all. Yes, it could have been better in my opinion, but sound is a subjective matter. If you like extra bass in your audio, you may love these earphones. If you like a more balanced sound, then you may not. In that case, you should strongly consider the Oppo Enco M31 (review coming shortly) that sells for the same price. However, if long battery life is a key parameter, then you simply cannot go wrong with the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z.
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