OnePlus has a problem. It’s a good problem, but a problem nonetheless.
See, the company can’t keep its products in stock. I don’t know the reason — either they keep selling out due to high demand, or they’re just not making enough of them — but it means there are people who want things but can’t get them.
Until recently, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless headphones fit into that category. After debuting in May alongside the OnePlus 6, the company’s first pair of wireless headphones seemed to disappear from online shelves almost immediately, only to crop up here and there like a game of Whack-a-Mole. Thankfully, I got a pair alongside my OnePlus 6 review unit and, like so many accessories, paid little mind to them in comparison to the phone it ostensibly supported.
But on a sunny day in June, I unwrapped the packaging, charged them with a USB-C cable I had nearby (more on that later), turned them on and paired them to my phone, put them in my ears and… thud. They sucked. Thin and lifeless sound. And uncomfortable! What a disappointment!
I put the headphones aside for a couple of days and returned to my trusty LG Tone Infinims, which worked well but whose plastic exterior was bulky and not conducive to multi-hour sessions.
Thankfully, friends, the problem, was not with the OnePlus Bullets Wireless but with me and my stupidly-shaped ears. I decided to revisit the headphones sans wings, or fins as OnePlus calls them, and try the large-sized ear tip inserted a slightly different way than before. And voila, my world changed in that moment.
To say the OnePlus Bullets Wireless headphones are my most-used product of 2018 would be an understatement. Since finding the right fit, they have been my constant companion whenever I leave the house, be it on a short dog walk or a long trip overseas. They’re the rare product that has bled into my real life, the kind that I return home for when I forget them by the front door. They’re so good, in fact, that when, after brushing against my jacket on a walk last week, the right ear tip fell somewhere between home and the dog park, I spent more than half an hour digging through autumn detritus to find it, without a second thought as to whether I should go home, cut my losses and return to another pair. No. Way.
So why are they so good? At $70, there are certainly cheaper wireless headphones out there that do the job, and conversely ones far more expensive that sound better. They’re not truly wireless, so there’s still a cord, and they lack active noise cancellation, so you’re not going to drown out the world.
Here’s the reason: they’re so good because they just disappear into your routine. The sound is bassy but not overwhelming, with highs that lack sibilance. Music sounds rich and dynamic without being artificial, and with the right fit (that I eventually found) they have enough passive isolation to block most, if not all, of a city’s various indignities. They’re lightweight and flexible, with a rubberized cord that sits around the neck without calling attention to itself. The earbuds, too, are the perfect length from the base, so when one or both drivers dangle while not in use they don’t end up becoming distracting.
The three-button remote, which sits below the right earbud, is reliable and easy to use, even with gloves on. And perhaps my favorite feature is the magnetic latch that, while keeping the earbuds in order, automatically turn off the circuitry to save power. The battery is ample, and can be topped up via USB-C, a revelation that, as with phones and other accessories, I can barely live without anymore.
I think the reason I love the OnePlus Bullets Wireless is that they just work in every situation. I can bunch them together and throw them in a bag and not worry they’re going to get destroyed. I can (and have) take them out in the rain and not fret about long-term damage. In short, I’ve abused the crap out of these and they’ve emerged unscathed.
The other reason I love these headphones is a bit more ephemeral — after preparing for, and having, a baby earlier this year, I really tried to simplify my tech life. As much as I love testing new gear, I just wanted to harmonize my everyday carry gear. I just want to use stuff that makes me feel good; I’m so tired of fighting to appreciate mediocre gadgets.
In the world of headphones, the choices are endless. Even the Bullets Wireless are kind of a BeatsX clone (though they sound significantly better). Doesn’t bother me. These days, my worn pair of Bullets Wireless is like the comfortable shoes that you actively appreciate as much for their evocativeness as you do for getting you where you need to go.
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