It’s been a while since we’ve had a neckband-style wireless headset. That’s a shame because they were superior to the currently popular TWS earbuds in many aspects, including longer battery life, tactile controls, and more fantastic connectivity performance.
The OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 was the last model we evaluated with this design, and now we have the updated version with ANC or active noise cancellation. The Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC is only a little more expensive than the Z2 at INR 2299. That still makes them one of the OnePlus range’s cheapest wireless earbuds, and the lowest with ANC.
Design and comfort
The Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC has a rather basic design that we are all accustomed to. The entire body is rubberized, and the neckband is exceedingly stretchy.
The left stalk has a full set of controls for volume, playback, and ANC, which I really miss on TWS versions. The middle button can be pressed once to play/pause, twice and three times to skip between tracks, and pressed and held to switch between ANC settings.
A multi-function button is also given, which does only two things. You can start pairing mode by pressing and holding it, or you can switch to the previously connected device by double-pressing it. All of the buttons function well and have a high-quality feel to them.
The neckband is strong, and the earbud cables are dependable in terms of build quality. In addition, you get an IP55 rating for water and dust resistance.
The user’s level of comfort is subjective. I’d forgotten how irritating it can be to have the neckband on your bare neck or the cables brushing across your face at first. However, it was really convenient to remove the earbuds and magnetically clasp them together to turn them off without having to struggle with a case and possibly drop the earbuds. It’s also difficult to misplace a single earpiece or case. It’s a toss-up whether TWS or the neckband is more handy, depending on your perspective.
Software and features
The Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC links to your phone via the HeyMelody software, an app developed by HeyTap, a subsidiary of the Singapore-based Bravo Unicorn. It is the same app that is used by all OnePlus, Oppo, and Realme audio products, and it is available on both Android and iOS.
The earbud functionalities on OnePlus phones may be handled simply through the Bluetooth settings, eliminating the need to install separate software.
Because the Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC has few functions, your options are limited. You may choose between ANC on and off, as well as transparency mode. You can choose from four EQ presets or create your own. Finally, you can make very basic changes to the physical switches.
Any modifications you make in the app are recorded on the earphones, which means they are transferred over to the next device, even if it is a PC that does not support the app.
Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC is equipped with 12.4mm titanium-coated dynamic drivers. Over a Bluetooth 5.2 connection, the earbuds support SBC and AAC codecs.
By default, the audio quality of the Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC is average. The sound is the same pounding bass-heavy onslaught that has grown synonymous with the OnePlus house sound.
On the default and pathetically titled Balanced mode, the bass on the Z2 ANC is far too powerful. It encapsulates the entire frequency range in a thick coating of mush from which the mids and highs can never escape. It isn’t really exact, articulate, or even tasteful.
When the bass is not overpowering, the mid-range can be rather pleasant. Vocals have an excellent timbre, if a little too warm and stuffy at times, and may be quite pleasant.
The high-end is underwhelming. Simply put, there isn’t enough energy at the top end to balance out the sound, which causes the overall sound profile to be dark, muddy, and unbalanced.
OnePlus appears to be aware of the shortcomings of its default tuning, which is why there are two presets geared to lowering the bass. The featured Bold setting reduces the bass significantly, bringing out the mid-range in the mix. Unfortunately, it does little to help the highs, which remain overly veiled. The Serenade lowers the bass even more, which pushes the mids even further forward into the mix, creating an inverted V-shape while the highs refuse to move.
In case you have hearing loss (or want to get it), there is also a Bass setting that sounds similar to the Balanced preset but with additional bass.
Fortunately, the six-band custom EQ comes in handy. Using the preset indicated above, I was able to achieve a much more balanced tuning, which allowed me to concentrate on other aspects of the sound. Unfortunately, both the custom EQ and the more sensible settings require the app to be installed, which many people never do.
The sound is more engaging and detailed when the highs have been levelled out. This is especially true at lower volumes, where it is difficult to hear anything over the bass without pushing the volume up, which amplifies the bass and makes it even more overpowering and tiring.
The overall sound is still not extremely detailed or resolved; this is due to driver quality rather than a lack of a higher-resolution codec. Both imaging and soundscape are lacklustre and mediocre. Still, with a little tweaking, you can get a reasonably pleasant sound out of these earphones, and I didn’t have much to complain about when I was out and about. It sounds perfectly adequate for the price, however, the default tuning ruins it.
What the Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC lacks in audio quality, it more than compensates for in microphone quality. With the exception of the occasional popping sounds, the recorded audio performed admirably for voices. Even with some background noise, the recording quality was excellent, with little to no discernible background noise. As a result, the Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC is an excellent choice for making audio or video calls.
The Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC’s new ANC mode performed admirably as well. It excels at low-frequency sounds, such as the sound of an aircraft or bus engine, while also being adequate for domestic sounds like air conditioners and fans. It struggles with mid- and high-frequency sounds, although that is often the domain of larger and more expensive headphones.
The transparency mode, on the other hand, sounds muted and not really transparent. It’s OK if you just want to walk around without being completely unaware of your surroundings, but I found it better to simply unplug the earbuds to hear better.
Changing ANC modes has only a minor impact on audio quality. When ANC is turned off, the sound is slightly brighter and less bass-heavy than when it is turned on, and even brighter when transparency mode is activated.
Latency performance can be acceptable. If you have a OnePlus device and the app is identified as a game, you will experience incredibly low and scarcely discernible latency. If it isn’t recognised as a game or you don’t have a OnePlus smartphone, the latency can be pretty severe and useless for gaming. However, it is still adequate for video playback, even on a PC.
Finally, connectivity performance with the Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC was stable, with no concerns with connection quality or stability detected.
Battery and charging
The Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC’s battery life is stated to be 20 hours with ANC and 28 hours without ANC. OnePlus also claims 20 hours of playback after a 10-minute charge, which, while not specified, may be assumed to be with ANC turned off.
The Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC lasted 19 hours and 38 minutes with ANC enabled and 27 hours and 7 minutes with ANC disabled in my tests. The earbuds lasted 14 hours and 36 minutes with ANC activated and 20 hours and 21 minutes with ANC disabled after a 10-minute charge.
The long battery life is most likely the most compelling reason to continue with the neckband design. You could be on the world’s longest non-stop flight and still make it to the other end on a single charge. You may even binge a whole season’s worth of shows without pausing. Or you could be on a multi-hour phone call.
Because the battery does not need to be charged frequently, it also wears out slowly, which means that a single pair can endure for several years, as opposed to the normal lifespan of 1-2 years for TWS earbuds, making them easy on the pocket and the environment.
The OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC is an excellent value for money. Depending on how you feel about neckband designs, it can be comfortable, and well-built, with good microphone quality and a long battery life. The ANC also performed admirably, and the connectivity performance was excellent. When linked with OnePlus smartphones, you also enjoy good gaming latency performance.
The only thing left is audio quality, and the Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC is the latest victim of OnePlus’ poor default audio tuning. Fortunately, it is simple to go past it and get a pleasant listening experience that is adequate for the price.
Overall, if you’re still looking for neckband-style wireless headsets, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC is worth considering.