Hands-on review: PaMu Slide Mini wireless earbuds
Image credit: PaMu
An even more Mini-ature iteration of 2019's winning PaMu Slide wireless earbuds.
We reviewed the bigger brother of the PaMu Slide Mini wireless earbuds - the regular PaMu Slides - in July last year. What's changed in this restyle for a more diminutive form factor?
Using just the power of our own eyes, we can see that both the charging case and the earbuds themselves are smaller. While the original Slide case was hardly a pocket-stuffer, the chunky squareness of it was appreciably a lot less svelte than this new Mini case. The Slide Mini case is not much bigger than the proverbial pack of chewing gum, merely slightly thicker.
One key change with the Mini case is that it does not have wireless charging functionality for Qi-compatible smartphones. While this was a cool feature on the Slide case, providing you had a suitable phone, it's likely that not many people actually used this feature often, if at all, or even knew/remembered that the Slide case had this functionality. If you didn't have a wireless charging-compatible smartphone, the whole thing was moot anyway.
Accordingly, it makes sense for PaMu to quietly drop this feature from the Mini in order to make the case much more compact. Many consumers want the smallest possible form factor in everything earbud related: if it's small enough to stick in your jeans watch pocket, you're that much more likely to always carry it with you. If you like the idea of your earbuds case also doubling as a phone charger for a quick power boost during the day, the original Slides are still available.
The Mini earbuds themselves have lost some length in the stalk, which is equal parts blessing and curse (although the curse aspect is hardly a terminal hex). Smaller makes them appear more elegant and more on trend, in light of the look of Apple's (extremely spendy) AirPods Pro. Shorter, however, can make getting them comfortably into your ears a little more exacting without accidentally triggering some kind of command from the touch-sensitive portion of each bud, especially if you have sausage fingers, a lot of hair, and are attempting to perform this operation whilst standing up on a moving train. We found that the longer stalk of the PaMu Slides was easier to hold onto and manouevre during each fitting. It might not be an issue at all for other people: one of our test subjects with these Slide Minis was whapping them in and out of their ears all day long without any issues. You get used to it.
The core features of the PaMu Slide Minis are as enticing as their big bro Slides. Touch countrol operation on each bud for the usual volume/track skip/call handling functions; dual-mic ambient noise cancelling for clearer phone calls; 30-hour playtime; comfortable silicon tips (six different sizes come in the box); a relatively unhyped natural sound with solid bass; Bluetooth 5.0; easy auto-pairing; IPX6 water resistance rating, and a USB Type-C fast charging port. A single charge will give up to 10 hours of playtime, with a fully charged case holding a further five recharges. That's a lot of charge. Even a quick five-minute zap will get you an extra hour, courtesy of that USB Type-C connector.
One of the inner tech secrets that gives the Slide Minis their performance fillip is PaMu's decision to use the Qualcomm QCC3020 as the core processing chipset. This is a very modern design of TWS (True Wireless Stereo) earphone chips, enabling a superior and stable signal connection, better sound quality and lower power consumption. Other major brands are still using older Qualcomm TWS chips, so kudos to PaMu here for reaching for the skies, not merely settling for something acceptably average.
PaMu also touts its 'Micron Composite Vibration Membrane', which is a fancy way of saying the speaker and related components in each bud have been designed to give the earphones better resolution whilst also reducing sound distortion. As with any earbud or headphone - any technology, really - it is all about thoughtful and intelligent design decisions made, and the choice of core components, now hidden from view, that ultimately translate into the end-user experience.
The sound is the major part of any pair of headphones or earbuds, of course: the rest is just the icing. The PaMu Slides were a great-sounding pair of earbuds when we reviewed them: the Slide Minis continue in the family tradition. We found the sound to be pleasing to the ear: not excessively bass-heavy, not sadly lacking in the mid-range and not unpleasantly thin or tinny in the upper register. Just a really nice overall sound that did a wide selection of music justice. Smooth without being bland; engaging without being exaggerated.
There's no companion app to tweak the bass, boost the mids or kill the highs, so what you hear is what you get - unless you fiddle with your smartphone/tablet/computer's EQ at source - but unless you know that you already demand specific settings at either end of the spectrum, the sound of the Slide Minis shouldn't disappoint.
Looking at the frequency chart supplied (averaged and compensated), it looks like there is a very low bass boost at 20Hz, gradually coming down to 100Hz. There is then a dip in the mids and a top-end rolling off on the highs, with a gradual descent starting around 4K, then a much steeper drop off from around 12K-20K. Basically, it looks like a modern take on the classic 'smile curve' for EQ, only with a lifted super-low end and a rolloff of the highest highs.
So, do the Slide Minis deliver on PaMu's promises? We say yes, with no serious reservations. They look good, sound good, perform well and the core functionality is everything we expect from a pair of true wireless earbuds in 2020.
They're also pleasingly affordable. If the Slide Mini package had a major brand's name on it, you'd be paying two to three times the price.
They also really stay in your ear, the ergonomic shape and the strangely 'grippy' silicon covering on each bud filling us with confidence that these won't end up falling onto the railway tracks at the station one sleepy morning or tumbling down an open manhole or storm drain on a bustling urban pavement, as is an ever-present fear with some earbuds we've tried. That really counts for something when you're putting earbuds in and out of your ears several times a day, in all manner of chaotic commuting environments.
The PaMu Slide Minis come in four colours: classic black or white and the more Instagrammable pink or green.
Available direct from PaMu, $69.
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