OnePlus Bullets Wireless review: Clear sound at surprisingly affordable price

8/10

"Do to earphones what you have done to smartphones." This seems to have been the directive given to the OnePlus engineers who set-out to create the company's first wireless headphones. Launched along with the OnePlus 6 in London on May 16 - but available in India from tomorrow that is June 15 - the Bullets Wireless is a classic OnePlus product: High-end hardware and features, an attractive-enough design and a killer price.

OnePlus will sell the Bullets Wireless at a price of Rs 3,990. That is one-third of what companies like Bose, Beats, Sony and Sennheiser ask for their premium wireless earphones. But like how it is with OnePlus phones or for that matter the Bullets Wired earphones that launched in India in 2016 at a price of Rs 1,199, the price tag attached to the Bullets Wireless can be deceptive. For all practical purposes these are high-end earphones. They come with features like USB-C charging, support for Qualcomm APTX audio, metal casing for earbuds and a design element that OnePlus calls Energy Tube and which, according to the company, offers better sound quality.

In other words, the Bullets Wireless are as loaded as a premium pair of earphones such as BeatX or Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear, at least in terms of feature set.

In my brief use what I have found is that even at a higher price the Bullets Wireless could have been impressive. These earphones are built well and are sturdy. If that doesn't impress you, then their sound quality will surely grab your attention. The best thing about Bullets wireless headphones is that they offer crystal clear sound - something, which is unheard of in this budget segment. For example, songs like Kabira by Tochi Raina and Rekha Bharadwaj and Rolling In The Deep by Adele really come alive on these earphones.

So, what's the catch? There are a few areas where OnePlus Bullets Wireless could have been better. But the big picture is that they are worth their price and then some more, even if they don't end up offering the kind of sound quality that a pair of more expensive earphones like Bose SoundTrue Ultra or Sennheiser Momentum Free In-Ear can provide.

With big picture out, let's look at the devil and the details.

Design and comfort

Beauty is in the eye of beholder. Or in other words how you find the design of a gadget is always subjective. I find the design of the Bullets Wireless bland. Yes, OnePlus has tried to jazz it up a bit by using metal shell for earbuds and there are red accents here and there, but the overall effect still doesn't match up to what you may get with more expensive earphones. Talking of the more expensive earphones, some of them can also be boring. For example, if you ask me to compare the design of the Bullets Wireless with BeatX, I will say it's same. The BeatsX too are bland.

But if design is subjective, other areas aren't. There is a lot of attention OnePlus has paid to the Bullets Wireless and that shows from the moment you pick up the box in which they come. To start with, the Bullets Wireless come in a rather large box. It looks like there is a phone in it. Inside the box, you will find the earphones - snugly, too snugly actually, set in a piece of cardboard - as well as a red charging cable, an elaborate manual, and a very nice red soft silicon pouch in which you can carry the earphones.

When it comes to the build quality, Bullets Wireless headphones, as mentioned earlier, have a sturdy built, which means you don't have to worry about the fragile wires connecting the neckband with the earpieces, or wires breaking down any time soon.

The earbuds are encased in metal but inside, just the way it is in most earphones, it's all plastic and silicon. It's a good design and limited use of metal means that despite their size - they seem bigger than average - the Bullets Wireless are lightweight. They are also water-resistant. To put it simply, you can sweat all you want (during those rigorous workout sessions) or go out for a stroll during a gentle drizzle, and your Bullets headphones will be right there besides you playing your favourite tunes. While they do come with water resistant technology, it's recommended you take them off when you go for a swim. "Take them for a run yes, but not for a swim," cautions OnePlus.

Bullets Wireless headphones also feature silicone winglets near the ear pieces, which are supposed to add stability to the overall design. Personally, I'm not a fan of these flaps as they tend to increase the visual clutter for me. Call me a minimalist! But I would make an exception for Bullets wireless headphones. Despite making the overall design look less appealing, they help in sealing the earplugs inside the ears. I tried various tricks in the book like jumping and jogging just to test their fit and true to the words, they didn't come out.

The best thing about Bullets wireless headphones is that they offer crystal clear sound

Another good bit is placement of in-line controls, which are along the wires on the left side of the headphones. Usually, earphones have them on the right. While some might find this annoying, I found this placement of buttons in the Bullets extremely apt and useful as it makes these controls accessible. This means you don't have to look down and turn the neckband every time you need to increase or decrease the volume- which by all means is a welcoming change over the currently popular design.

Also, the controls are pretty simple to use. Bullets headphones feature three buttons, while two buttons are for controlling the volume, the button placed in the middle of the phone can be used for multiple purposes including connecting the headphones with Bluetooth devices, playing and pausing the music, and answering and disconnecting the calls. Long holding the middle button also activates Google Assistant. In my use, I found that the buttons do what they are intended to do, without any fuss.

Performance and battery

First things first: Sound quality. I tested Bullets wireless headphones for a brief period of time and one thing is clear: they offer crystal clear sound - a quality that is both, hard to miss and difficult to ignore. Be it dark blues like Adele's Rolling In The Deep or pop rock songs like One Republic's Counting Stars, they all sound nice to say the least on Bullets Wireless.

With Bullets headphones you will be able to hear every string, every beat, every note clearly. While this is definitely a plus as it enables you to not just listen but also experience a song in its entirety, it is also a point that I believe is overdone. It is as if the Bullets Wireless earphones accentuate the highs more than they should. And while the highs go really high, the lows suffer somewhat. This means in some songs you may not find as much bass as your heart may desire. You won't get the thump in the Gangnam Style.

I tried listening to David Guetta and Sia's blockbuster pop number Titanium and Bryan Adams' classic Summer of 69 and notably, the sound despite being refreshingly immersive, gave me ear fatigue due to accentuated pitch. I experienced something similar when I tried listening to Faded by Alan Walker (EDM) and Sugar from Maroon 5. As I said clarity becomes too much, especially at higher volume.

But there is another aspect to it. You notice the bleeding highs with the Bullets Wireless in silent surroundings, for example in an orderly office or in your drawing room at midnight. If you are out on a street, or are in a noisy room, your ears don't mind the highs so much. In a way, the outside noise tends to balance out the screechy sound.

Bullets perform decently when it comes to mids and they are good with vocal-heavy songs like K-pop singer Kim Hyung Jung's Because I'm Stupid and Arijit Singht's Bolna. So basically, Bollywood music is sorted on these earphones, although lack of bass would be noted by those who like bass-heavy sound.

Well, this is all about the sound quality. Now let's focus on other equally important details. For starters, the earplugs of these headphones come with magnetic heads and so their heads stick together when the headphones are not in use. This means that you can put them around your neck and forget about losing them ever. And since these headphones are extremely light, you won't probably even notice them around your neck even if you go around with them for a day.

When connected together using the magnets inside them, these headphones disconnect from the Bluetooth of the paired phone and go to sleep automatically, pausing the music

Another benefit of having magnetic heads is that they help in conserving the precious battery life. When connected together, these headphones disconnect from the Bluetooth of the source device and go to sleep automatically, pausing the music playing in the background. And as you separate the heads, these headphones come to life and connect with your Bluetooth device automatically. In theory, separating the magnetic heads also plays the paused music. However, when we tested this feature with Samsung Galaxy S7 and OnePlus 5T smartphones, the music didn't start playing automatically.

As far as battery life is concerned, I tested Bullets headphones for a limited amount of time and during that time, these headphones offered a decent battery life. OnePlus claims that these headphones can work for up to eight hours on a single charge. And during my limited experience, the battery went down by just 40 per cent after around three hours of usage.

Is it worth buying?

Yes. And especially if you are looking for a pair of affordable headphones that will cater to your needs during the intensive workout sessions. Bullets wireless headphones are light-weight and sturdy, they offer decent sound quality and they go easy on your pocket. More importantly, they are water-resistant and they don't fall off from your ears at all, all of which makes them a good buy.

Performance wise, these headphones work best with country music and vocal-heavy songs (yes, Bollywood included). If you listen primarily to pop, EMD and rock music, you will have to stick to the lower side of the volume. But even at 40 per cent to 50 per cent volume, you will find the Bullets loud enough. The only songs where you won't like the Bullets are bass-heavy songs.

Overall, to repeat, I find the Bullets Wireless totally worth their price. At a price as low as 4 grand, OnePlus Bullets wireless headphones are one of the best headphones in their market segment.

OnePlus Bullets Wireless review 8/10

  • Good stuff
  • Clear sound
  • Affordable
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Bad stuff
  • Highs get screechy
  • Not enough bass
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