OnePlus is our reigning champion when it comes to the best value smartphones, so why shouldn't the company also own the title for best value headphones, too? I've just gotten ahold of its Bullets v2 earphones, and they're a very pleasant listen that's frankly amazing for the asking price of $19.99. Xiaomi's Pistons have long set the standard in this price range, with Zero Audio's Carbo Tenore offering a slightly more upmarket option at $38, and now we can slot the Bullets v2 alongside them.
I can't say I've been a huge fan of OnePlus' headphones up to this point. The Chinese company made a huge deal out of its $49.99 Icons launched last year, but they left me a little underwhelmed, perhaps because of the excessive hype they were couched in. These Bullets v2, however, are precisely the opposite: quietly introduced in August and cheaper than a weekly London bus pass, they outperform expectations with aplomb.
Running through my usual series of test tracks, mostly electronic and vocal music like Bishop Briggs' "Wild Horses," I can find very little to complain about with the Bullets. They exhibit a wide soundstage that gives room for the music to envelop the listener, and OnePlus has retuned them from v1 with a substantial bump in the bass and lower mids. Add that to a gentle increase in response at the high end, and you've got a less flat, more exciting sound signature than OnePlus' original Bullets. That's all to the good, because it makes the Bullets v2 sound pretty great.
OnePlus has switched to a flat-ish cord with these new headphones, and it shows itself to be more resistant to tangling than usual. The Bullets v2 have an in-line microphone and Android music controls, so now people like Dieter Bohn — who considered the Carbo Tenores' lack of a mic a deal-breaker — can get on board without any qualms, too. Another important matter of practicality is fit, and the Bullets' default silicone tips fit me very nicely; these earbuds are super light and remain comfortable to wear for hours.
Since you're inevitably going to ask, the answer is no, I wouldn't take these over the Zero Audio Carbo Tenore. There's a smoothness and a sweetness to those headphones' sound that is unmatched, even by much pricier models, and I continue to hold them up as my standard for stupendous value for money. But the OnePlus Bullets are cheaper, and they're much easier to get ahold of, so why not give them a try?