True wireless earphones might be all the craze these days when it comes to personal audio, but the older neckband-style form factor remains popular even today. Among the most significant brands in this segment is undoubtedly OnePlus, with its iconic Bullets Wireless range of earphones having ruled the segment just when Bluetooth was reaching a point of affordability and practicality. Interestingly, OnePlus is still among the few major proponents of the neckband form factor, and recently launched the Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC in India.
Priced at Rs. 2,299, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC is pretty much exactly what you expected when you read the name, featuring a classic and familiar design with the added convenience of active noise cancellation; this is a small step ahead of the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2. Is the addition of ANC enough to make this headset – and indeed the form factor itself – relevant once again? Or should you get true wireless earphones instead? Find out in this review.
OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC design and features
As the name suggests, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC is, at its core, the Bullets Wireless Z2, with the addition of active noise cancellation as a feature. The design of the neckband-style wireless headset is therefore unchanged for the large part, and indeed you’ll have a hard time telling this apart from the older OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 – if you get the black colour variant. Interestingly, the ANC variant also comes in a green colour option which isn’t available on the non-ANC variant.
Like most neckband wireless earphones you can buy today, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC has a flexible neckband, short cables connecting to the earpieces, and controls on the neckband itself. Power is controlled by the magnetic switch on the earpieces; separating them turns the headset on, while linking them together turns it off. As before, this is prone to accidental switches, with the headset often turning on unexpectedly due to the ease of separating the earpieces.
The buttons on the neckband – all on the left module of the neckband – control volume, playback, switching between ANC and transparency modes, and switching between two paired devices quickly. The underside of the left module has the USB Type-C port for charging, while the right side is bare save for the OnePlus logo. Like its predecessor, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC is IP55 rated for dust and water resistance.
As mentioned, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC has just one big change in the feature set – the addition of active noise cancellation, claimed to offer up to 45dB of noise reduction. Other features that return include quick device switching between two paired source devices, automatic low-latency mode activation, and support for Google Fast Pair on compatible devices.
OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC app and specifications
App support on neckband earphones is unusual but not unheard of, and the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC does come with this. The HeyMelody app on Android supports the headset, and if you’re using a compatible OnePlus or Oppo smartphone, these settings can be accessed through the system Bluetooth settings when the headset is paired and connected.
The actual set of controls and customisations is understandably basic, but covers the key functionality of the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC. You get the approximate battery level, the ability to switch between active noise cancellation and transparency modes, basic customisation of the two modifiable buttons, and equaliser settings. There are four equaliser presets for easy access, but advanced users do have the option to create custom equaliser modes as per their listening preferences.
There is expectedly not too much change in the key specifications on the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC; the headset comes with 12.4mm dynamic drivers, with a frequency response range of 20-20,000Hz and a sensitivity rating of 112dB. For connectivity, the headset uses Bluetooth 5.2 (an improvement over Bluetooth 5 on the non-ANC model), with support for the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs.
OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC performance and battery life
The similarities between the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC and its non-ANC predecessor don’t stop at the design and specifications – even the sound is pretty much the same. You get decidedly bass-heavy sonic tuning for the natural, flat equaliser setting, although customisable EQ means that you can change things up if you want.
For my review, I had the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC connected to a OnePlus 9 Pro and Apple iPhone 13 Pro. Considering that no advanced Bluetooth codecs are supported, the headset utilised the AAC codec on both smartphones, and I didn’t notice any difference in sound between the two source devices. App settings were only accessible on the OnePlus device, but that was about it when it came to differences between the two platforms.
As before, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC is very loud, managing to reach volume levels that are far more than what most other neckband-style wireless headsets are capable of reaching. While you’re unlikely to actually push it to high levels for the sake of your own hearing, you’ll still be able to get to loud enough listening levels at even the 50 percent volume mark. You might need to push it to around the 70 percent mark in particularly loud environments, but anything beyond that is both unnecessary and unsafe.
Depending on the genres of music you typically listen to, the audibly aggressive bass can either be a good or bad thing. For example, Croatia Squad’s fast beats and rapid attack across most of their tracks sounded excellent, with the Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC replicating the sonic signature and massive subwoofer-style feel of an EDM concert with ease.
On the other hand, when listening to Dance The Night by Dua Lipa, the vocals and melody of the track seemed to be somewhat overpowered by the punchy bass. You can, of course, use the equaliser settings to tone things down a notch if you want, but there’s a certain level of intensity to the sonic signature of the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC that I found hard to switch away from – at least when listening to the right kind of music for the purpose. It would cause a bit of listening fatigue over time, but that was part of the fun for me, strangely enough.
Coming to the big change on the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC, the headset features active noise cancellation, which performs reasonable well for a headset priced at around Rs. 2,000. Most low-pitched ambient sounds, both indoors and outdoors, were suitably drowned out, leaving just a faint hum for some noises such as the whirring of a ceiling fan and occasionally being able to perceive the sound of a light breeze.
On the whole, it’s a usable level of ANC, which comes in handy when listening to music and on calls regardless of where you are. Transparency mode sounded a bit too artificial and over-amplified, and I usually avoided it. Call quality is decent for the most part as well.
Battery life on the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC is impressive for a neckband-style wireless headset, particularly given that ANC has been added as a feature. I was able to use the earphones for around 18 hours on a single charge with ANC on and the volume at moderate levels. The 220mAh battery can be charged quickly, with fast charging ensuring that even a 15-minute charge is enough to top up the battery entirely; this is still something that the competition hasn’t been able to match up to OnePlus on.
The neckband wireless earphones segment is a shade of what it once was, and is largely limited to the affordable space today. However, there are still worthwhile options to choose from, and you do get better performance in terms of good hardware and features, in exchange for letting go of the convenience of true wireless connectivity. The OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC isn’t a radically different or revolutionary product in any way, but it does enough to remain relevant at its price.
The heavy bass is a hit-or-miss depending on the kind of music you listen to, and the magnetic power switch is very prone to accidentally being turned on, but the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC gets it right with just about everything else, including good active noise cancellation performance. You do also have the option to get the non-ANC variant for a bit less, but it’s worth spending a bit more and getting the ANC variant in my opinion.