It’s been a hot minute since we’ve had a neckband-style wireless headset in these parts. That’s kind of a shame, because in many ways they were superior to the currently popular TWS earbuds, with longer battery life, physical controls, and better connectivity performance.
The last model we tested with this design was the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 by the way and now we have the updated version with ANC or active noise cancellation. At INR 2,299, the India-exclusive Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC is only slightly more expensive than the Z2. This still makes them one of the cheapest wireless earbuds in the OnePlus lineup and the cheapest with ANC.
Design and comfort
The Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC have a pretty basic design that we’re all familiar with at this point. The entire body has a rubberized texture and the neck strap is extremely flexible.
The left controller includes the full set of controls for volume, playback, and ANC functionality, which I really miss on the TWS models. The middle button can be pressed once to play/pause, twice and three times to switch between tracks, and held down to change ANC modes.
A multifunction button is also provided, which really only does two things. You can long press it to start pairing mode or you can double press it to instantly switch to the previously connected device. All buttons work well and have a good quality feel.
In terms of build quality, the neckband is sturdy and the headphone cables are reliable. You also get an IP55 rating for water and dust resistance.
Comfort is subjective and will depend on the user. I had forgotten how annoying it could be at first to have the neckband on your bare neck or the cables brushing against your face. But it was also extremely convenient to simply remove the earbuds and magnetically lock them together to turn them off without having to fumble with a case and potentially drop the earbuds. It is also impossible to lose a single earbud or its case. Depending on how you want to see it, you have to choose between what is more practical, the TWS or the neckband.
Software and Features
The Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC connect to your phone using HeyMelody software, an app created by HeyTap and a product from a Singapore-based company called Bravo Unicorn. This is the same app used by all OnePlus, Oppo and Realme audio products and is available on Android and iOS.
On OnePlus phones, earphone functions can be controlled directly through Bluetooth settings without having to install a separate app.
The Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC doesn’t have many features, so the options are limited here. You can toggle between ANC on, off and transparency mode. You can switch between the four EQ presets and also create your own. And finally, you can do very basic customizations to the physical switches.
Any changes you make in the app are saved on the earbuds, meaning they carry over to the next device, even if the device looks like a PC that doesn’t support the app.
The Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC feature titanium-coated 12.4mm dynamic drivers. The headphones support SBC and AAC codecs via Bluetooth 5.2 connection.
The Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC have poor audio quality by default. The sound is the same crushing onslaught of heavy bass that has now become the OnePlus home sound.
The Z2 ANC’s bass is way too loud by default and has the ridiculous name of the Balanced preset. It covers the entire frequency range with a thick layer of mush from which the mids and highs can never really emerge. It’s not particularly accurate, articulate, or even tasteful
The midrange can be good when not masked by bass. Vocals have a good tone, although slightly too warm and stuffy, and can be quite pleasant at times.
The high end is disappointing. There just isn’t enough energy in the treble to balance the sound, making the overall sound signature particularly dark, muddy, and unbalanced.
OnePlus seems at least partially aware of the flaws in its default setting, which is why there are two presets dedicated to bass reduction. The Bold preset shown reduces the bass a bit, helping to bring out the mids in the mix. Unfortunately, this does not do much to improve the treble, which is still too veiled. The Serenade lowers the bass even further, which then pushes the mids even further into the mix, giving the sound an inverted V shape while the highs refuse to budge.
There’s also a Bass preset, which is like the Balanced preset but with even more bass, in case you have hearing loss (or want to get it).
Fortunately, the six-band custom EQ is a big help. Using the preset shown above, I was able to achieve a much more balanced setting, which then allowed me to focus on other aspects of the sound. Unfortunately, the custom EQ and healthier presets require app installation, which many people never bother with.
With the treble leveled, the sound is more engaging and detailed. This is especially true at low volumes, where it’s difficult to hear anything in the bass without turning up the volume, making the bass sound even more dominant and fatiguing.
The overall sound is still not very detailed or resolved; blame it on the quality of the drivers rather than the lack of a higher resolution codec. The imaging and soundstage are also disappointing and unremarkable. Still, with custom tuning, you can get reasonably pleasant sound from these headphones and I didn’t have much to complain about when I’m on the go. For the price, it seems quite decent but is ruined by the default setting.
What the Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC loses in audio quality, it makes up for in microphone quality. The recorded audio had a very impressive performance for vocals, with the only issue being occasional popping noise. Even with some background noise present, the recording quality remained good with little to no audible background noise. This makes the Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC a great option for making voice or video calls.
The Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC’s new ANC mode also worked quite well. It does its best with low-frequency sounds, such as the sound of an airplane or bus engine, while also being suitable for household sounds such as air conditioners and fans. It doesn’t work very well with mid- and high-frequency sounds, but that’s generally the domain of larger, more expensive headphones.
What’s disappointing, however, is the transparency mode, which seems muffled and not particularly transparent. It’s fine if you just want to wander around without completely ignoring your surroundings, but I still found it better to just unplug the headphones to hear better.
Changing ANC mode has only a slight effect on audio quality. The sound is slightly brighter and less bass-heavy with ANC off than on, then slightly brighter again with transparency mode on.
Latency performance can be decent. If you have a OnePlus device and the app is detected as a game, then you get very low and barely noticeable latency. If it’s not detected as a game or you don’t have a OnePlus device, the latency can be quite high and would be unusable for gaming. However, it is still OK for video playback, even with a PC.
Finally, connectivity performance was stable with the Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC and no connection quality or stability issues were observed.
Battery and charging
The Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC has a claimed battery life of 20 hours with ANC and 28 hours without ANC. OnePlus also claims 20 hours of playback after a 10-minute charge and while OnePlus doesn’t specify, we can assume that’s with ANC turned off.
In my testing, the Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC lasted 19 hours and 38 minutes with ANC on and 27 hours and 7 minutes with ANC off. After a 10-minute charge, the earbuds played for 14 hours and 36 minutes with ANC on and 20 hours and 21 minutes with ANC off.
Long battery life is probably the biggest reason to stick with the neckband design. You could take the longest non-stop flight in the world and still get to the other end on a single charge. Or you can just binge an entire season-long show without taking a break. Or make an hours-long phone call.
Since the battery doesn’t need to be recharged frequently, it also wears out slowly, meaning you can have a single pair for several years compared to the average lifespan of 1-2 years for TWS earphones, making them easy to carry and environmentally friendly. .
The OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC is a good value for money product. It can be comfortable, depending on how you feel about neckband designs, well built, with good microphone quality and great battery life. The ANC also works quite well and connectivity performance was solid. When paired with OnePlus devices, you also get good latency performance for gaming.
There remains audio quality and the Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC is the latest victim of OnePlus’ poor default audio setting. Fortunately, it’s easy to get around this problem and get a decent and sufficiently interesting listening experience for the price.
Overall, the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z2 ANC is worth considering if you’re still looking for neckband-style wireless headphones.