The proliferation of true wireless stereo or TWS earbuds like the Apple AirPods is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it has helped make wireless earbuds and earphones more common, making the loss of the headphone jack feel less painful. On the other hand, it also makes it harder for some products to stand out if they don’t have a big company behind their name.
That is definitely a shame, considering how you may sometimes find a rare treasure among a sea of similar-looking earbuds. PadMate’s latest earbuds, the PaMu Quiet, promises to rise above the rest and we take it for a spin to hear it for ourselves.
The PaMu Quiet earbuds themselves are pretty nondescript and normal looking. If not for the name etched on its stem, it would be too easy to mistake it for any other earbuds with a stem and silicone tips. It comes in black, though, which is still a rare color among its kind, especially among those that are trying to copy Apple’s design down to a “T”.
The PaMu Quiet comes with different tip sizes, by the way, and you’ll really want to pick one that will give you the best fit, both for securing the buds in your ear as well as passive noise blocking. With the right tips, we can jump around and play basketball without the buds loosening, let alone falling off accidentally.
The most distinctive part of the PaMu Quiet is, funnily enough, its charging case. Shaped like an oversized pocket watch, it can actually be awkwardly worn around your neck too. You actually have to press the button at the top to open it up, just like a pocket watch.
The case can be charged via USB-C or any Qi-compatible charging pad so charging convenience isn’t an issue. Its size, however, might be a sore point for those who’d prefer the ability to cram their chargers in their pocket.
The PaMu Quiet boasts of some big names inside its small body. A Qualcomm QCC5124 is used for Bluetooth audio, an AMS AS3460 for active noise cancellation, and Knowles for microphones. Of course, the real test is in how these work together to deliver the audio experience that PadMate promises, which will get to in a bit.
When it comes to wireless earbuds, however, the most important non-audio spec is the battery. PadMate doesn’t give out the actual capacity of the batteries but does advertise a total of 10.5 hours of battery life with the earbuds and charging case combined.
Advertised battery life is almost always a generous estimate but it was to generate an estimate in this case. We only got a total of 8 hours or so use from the earbuds, and that’s at 55% volume from an iPad and with ANC factored in.
The PaMu Quiet has touch-sensitive surfaces on both earbuds, allowing you to control your music playback or handle calls. It supports tap, double-tap, and tap and hold gestures for a total of six possible actions. Unfortunately, none of those actions are set to increase or decrease the volume but, fortunately, you are able to configure which gestures map to which actions.
Of course, earbuds are made or broken by their audio quality, no matter how good they look or how featured they are. At $89 (Indiegogo price), you might presume that the PaMu Quiet is one of those “you get what you pay for”. Fortunately, that only partially true.
When it comes to audio quality, the earphones are strongest on the lows. That’s great if your kind of music has lots of bass in them. Admittedly, this is where many earphones trip up so it’s a nice change to actually hear a good boom. Unfortunately, that seems to be at the expense of everything else.
Mids are decent and that’s really the best we can say about it. Given how the bass is louder and stronger, vocals can be easily drowned out. It’s even worse with the highs, making it a poor fit for acoustic music. As for using the buds to make calls, our test left us less than impressed, with the speech coming out a bit mumbled but still understandable enough.
One of the PaMu Quiet’s defining features is its active noise cancellation and we’re happy to report that it actually works. In a noisy train, ambient chatter noise is easily blocked though some louder sounds can still get through. Using the right tips goes a long way in improving the ANC experience.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, the PaMu Quiet’s Transparency mode gets the job done and lets outside sound get in. Sometimes a bit too much gets in, though, but that’s what it’s supposed to do anyway.
From its specs and performance alone, the PaMu Quiet comes off as being decent and usable but not overly exceptional. You’ll definitely find better pairs, especially ones with more balanced audio quality on all levels. You will, however, be hard-pressed to find one on the $159 price range, let alone one for $89 only.
In the end, that bang for buck proposition is what makes the PadMate PaMu Quiet attractive. It’s hardly the best out there but it may very well be the best in its price class.
Do note, however, that the $89 price tag, which comes with free shipping, is an Indiegogo exclusive. The AND earbuds go up to $159 plus shipping when the campaign ends in about 25 days.