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Review: The true wireless earbuds you’ve been looking for?

18 Dec 2020

The true wireless headphone battle rages on with new contenders entering the ring at a pace that reflects the size of the market.

The expectations of this tech are pretty high, with people looking for a product that is small and lightweight, comfortable but without easily falling out of the ear, great sound quality with all the mod-cons like noise-cancelling and voice assistance integration.

Today, I’m going to talk about Chinese brand Padmate’s latest offering that aims to fill all those gaps: the PaMu Quiet which retails at $299.

Form factor

The product goes for the classic earbuds look and pulls it off pretty well with a look that I quite like and, although it isn’t revolutionary, the matte black look is tidy and unobtrusive in the ear.

The headphones are certainly not the lightest, but they still feel pretty light in the ear. The standard heads they come with fit me well and it takes a really good shaking of my head to make them come out. There are no problems with slipping out when out for a run and they are rated IPX4 which makes them sweat-proof and means they should do okay in the rain.

Padmate’s tried to do something new with their charge case, giving it a faux-pocket watch look that you will either love or hate. Personally, I have an aversion to facades (I’m looking at you plastic ‘houseplants’) and so find the case a little tacky.

The weight of the case is good and makes it feel solid when it is closed. However, the case lid hinge feels loose and plasticky which makes me worry about the durability of it over a long period.

Although, the case is made of a mix of plastic and metal and is really sturdy with little give when I press down hard on the lid and only a little on the back. As long as you are careful with the lid hinge, it should last pretty well. 

A pretty blue LED that semi-circles the top of the case gives some idea as to battery status when you pop the earbuds back in the case to charge.

Bells/whistles

I am really really impressed by the active noise cancelling (ANC). I sat in front of my TV with the volume up decently and nothing playing on the headphones, and when I used the long-touch of the right earbud to deactivate transparency mode the voices on the telly all but disappeared.

As I sit here typing on my wonderfully loud mechanical keyboard, only the very highest frequencies from the tappity tap come through. This is a keyboard that I have accidentally messed up a few interview recordings with by forgetting not to use it. 

On top of all that, the ANC is really unobtrusive with no heavy white noise or weird pressure. Definitely a highlight of this product.

The microphone is also pretty great. The person I called to test it said my clarity on their end was “really, really great” and Siri (activated with a long-touch of the left earbud) might understand me better than the built-in mic on my phone.

The batteries perform as you’d hope, giving you three or four hours of listening with another 10ish hours in the case. They also charge pretty fast with the USB-C adaptor topping the case up in two hours and 15 min in the case giving you 2 hours of listening time. 

The connected app is a nice touch. It lets you control the ANC, update firmware, see the battery status, and customise what short or long presses on the earbuds do.

Audio

Pretty good! I decided to give them a bit of a challenge and so threw a range of songs at it:

Anyone by Demi Lovato – this ballad tested out the ability of the headphones to capture subtly in a huge vocal range and they lived up to it pretty well. The little bits of vocal fry, the belting notes, the vibrato all came through without any loss. The only odd thing was how the background piano sounded, likely due to the EQ being set up more for bass-heavy pop and rock.

Symphony No. 5in C Minor, Op. 67 (that ‘dun dun dun dunnnnn’ one) by Beethoven and Wiener Philharmoniker  – The clarity and instrument separation was good and, although it handles the orchestral range pretty well, the bass notes do overpower the treble range a little at times.

WAP by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion – This is where these earbuds really come into their own. Love it or hate it, WAP has a lot of those little audio tricks that take a decent speaker to truly hear. With the bass, there is a tiiiiny bit of distortion at max volume, but only in certain ranges and this is a really bass-heavy song. Otherwise, every uncomfortable gasp and pant comes through clear enough to make Ben Shapiro clutch his metaphorical pearls and call 911.

I Don’t Know Why I Like You, But I Do by The Wombats – Probably the most balanced song I listened to on these headphones. Clear differentiation between bass, guitar, drums and vocals. Meets the needs of the driving instrumental break and even catches the vocal harmony in the chorus that could be easily missed on lesser headphones.

Overall

There’s a lot to like about the PadMu Quiet, especially at the price. Ultimately, I have to ask myself would I pop into Harvey Norman to buy these, or would I look for something else.

Honestly, before I had tried them out, I would have definitely passed based on the look of the case alone – I really hate the fact that there is something that looks like a twist knob on top but is only a press button that pops out the lid. I hate the size of it; I hate the loop at the top that you put the lanyard thing on. I just do not like it.

HOWEVER!

I could actually deal with all of that because of the quality of these headphones. Everything they say they do, they do well. 

If someone was to ask me to recommend a pair of true wireless headphones for under $300, I would 100% suggest these. I really couldn’t not.

But man do I hate that case.

Full specs