PaMu Slide charging case

Hands-on review: PaMu Slide wireless earbuds

Image credit: Padmate

Proving that smaller isn’t always better, a great-sounding set of true wireless Bluetooth earphones with a charging case that’ll provide days of use and which can even provide wireless backup charge for your phone if you have a Qi-compatible handset.

Like the youngest child in a family of overachieving siblings, the latest product in the PaMu range of Bluetooth audio gadgets from parent company Padmate to hit Indiegogo has a lot to live up to. Previous campaigns have set records for the platform’s best-funded true wireless earphones, raising more than $4m from over 80,000 backers.

With Slide, the company promises it’s retained and even upped sound quality, battery life and comfort level to create something that doesn’t just outperform competitors like Apple’s Airpods at a better price but will “redefine Bluetooth earphones”. That’s a bold claim. How does it stand up to scrutiny?

First impression is that PaMu has defied the general principle of portable audio that smaller is better, and we like what they’ve done. Unlike tiny charging cases that you end up juggling as you retrieve your buds or have to dig deep for at the bottom of your pocket or bag, the Slide is a solid, palm-sized block with a lid that slips neatly back and forth while the phones themselves are held neatly in place by magnetic catches. So smooth and satisfying is the mechanism, in fact, that we found ourselves unconsciously flicking it back and forth even when we didn’t need to.

The bulk isn’t just there to make it harder to mislay; it enables a few other neat features. Not least is the fact that with the earphones providing 10 hours of playing time or phone use from a single charge, and the capacity of the case allowing for five full recharges when fully powered up, in theory you can get as much as 60 hours of audio without going near a power socket. When you do, USB-C connection tops up at an impressively speedy rate with four LEDs on the distinctive fabric-effect lid indicating progress. A claimed hour’s use from five minutes’ charging was pretty much what our test unit delivered. A neat extra is that for an additional charge you can upgrade to a version with built-in wireless charging for your phone. Just sit the handset on top of the case and it’ll start charging with no need for a cabled link.

Initial charging was quick, connection to a phone as straightforward as you’d expect – what a lot of users will want to know about before they come to sound quality is comfort. This type of gadget can deliver amazing audio, but is going to disappoint if it suffers from the shortcoming of many buds that just don’t stay in your ear.

PaMu slide earbuds

Image credit: Padmate

With that in mind, most manufacturers provide three different ear tips in small, medium and large. PaMu ups the ante by doubling that to include ‘plus’ options of each size that are the same width but have a different depth. It might be all in the mind, but we were convinced it made a difference with our reviewers all finding a comfortable and stable fit. We could believe the claim that they would stay put not just when running, jumping or standing still, but during rock climbing (and who wants to see their earphones spiraling off into the distance when they’re half way up a cliff face?)

Signal stability and range was impressive, too. The Slide uses Qualcomm’s QCC3020 true wireless stereo earphone chip and LDS antenna technology to maintain that and to deliver a satisfyingly deep sound via a micron composite vibration membrane that’s designed to give the earphones a better resolution while simultaneously reducing sound distortion.

These earphones won’t suit everyone, but are ideal if you’re sitting at a desk for extended periods where you won’t notice the bulk of the charging case, or are in the habit of mislaying valuable bits of tech kit. The choice of tips means they’re also noticeably more comfortable than similar designs that we’ve tried if you really want to test out the claim of 60 hours between charges.

PaMu Slide earbuds are available in white, black or green. There’s still time to back the project on Indiegogo, with prices starting at around $70 for a pair with the wireless charging case or $50 for a pair with non-charging case.

PaMu Slide review

Take two: a second pair of ears

Having also received a preproduction review pair from PaMu, I was able to independently test the Slide earbuds. From recent experience with other wireless earbuds, all of acceptable sound quality and feature set, we have a clear idea of what we're looking and listening for in any new product.
Pairing with an Apple iPhone took mere seconds - in fact, mere seconds is something we got used to when using Slide. Flipping open that delectably tactile case lid in order to remove the earbuds, the Bluetooth 5.0 pairing connection was almost instantaneous, to the point where they were often already connected and playing music before I'd even got the second earbud into its appropriate ear.
You might not always want the music to kick in immediately, nor to pick up again where you left off (either song-wise or app-wise), but if you're OK with this (as I was most of the time), this is all one smooth automatic process that makes using the Slide regularly a breeze. On a packed, cramped train, the less fiddling you have to do with gadgets, the better.
If you've tried a variety of wireless headphones, you may already appreciate how there is no standardisation for bud-tap controls. You have to learn (and remember) the set-up for each product, otherwise you can easily find yourself triggering Siri when you really only wanted to turn the volume down.
Inevitably, PaMu has its own take on the optimum touch-control setup for each bud. Having got used to it now, it's actually a good system. There's no option to skip backwards or replay the track you just heard (so no easy bingeing on your new favourite track), but we like the 'press and hold' for controlling the volume. Left is down, while right is up, which in practice reminded us of the analogue knob control of an old stereo system. You dial the volume up or down, pressing for as long as is necessary in either direction.
The fit of the Slide earbuds is also one of the best - if not the best - that we've tested. The silicon coating on each bud really holds them in place inside your ear, including during hot summer days and sweaty workout nights (Slide are IPX6 sweatproof), and when I tried to replace the Slide's silicon with Comply foam earpieces (merely to test the difference in sound isolation) the foam just didn't do as good a job overall.
PaMu has really got things right with the Slide design, with the slick charging case and the buds' excellent sound quality. These could be your new favourite true wireless earbuds.
Jonathan Wilson

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