Padmate's PaMu Unique headphones, even on sale for just $89.00 at the time of this review, have a lot to live up to. With a suggested retail cost of $199, these are not the most inexpensive true wireless earbuds available. In fact, that puts these earbuds in the same price bracket as some of the heaviest hitting competition around. A pair of Samsung Galaxy Buds+, for example, costs just $149.99 while Apple AirPods Pro costs just $249.
However, this isn't Padmate's first attempt either and the company has brought some reasonably big guns to the fight. Not only do these earbuds offer available wireless charging or USB-C charging. Padmate packed one of Qualcomm's best audio chipsets into the slim, lightweight build. It backed that up with a long-lasting battery and an IPX6 water-resistance rating.
That's alongside two mics for active advanced noise cancelation. And the company also includes extra sizes of earbud tips for a more personalized choice of fit. But one other big selling point here, aside from incredible sounding audio and great comfort, is in the aesthetic. PaMu Unique comes customizable right out of the box with no extra purchases needed. That's thanks to its unique magnetic scroll-like design and leather scroll covers.
Taken together, all of these attributes make PaMu Unique a force to be contended with in the true wireless audio market. This gadget not only lives up to its full retail cost. It's an absolute steal while it's still on sale.
Personalization is the name of the game for PaMu Unique
Now, we'll cover the most important aspects of these true wireless headphones, the audio and battery life, momentarily. But one of the biggest features that sets these apart isn't the sound but the level of customization available. That's because PaMu Unique's scroll-like covers are replaceable. And the company doesn't just ship one cover with each purchase.
PaMu Unique ships with no fewer than three leather covers and there are two packages available. Both ship with a honeycomb grid-like black cover. That design is interesting because some of the honeycomb-shaped pattern segments are matte toned while others are glossy. The resulting effect, as shown in review images here for PaMu Unique, is actually kind of stunning.
But, its the lacquer painting-stylings of the other covers that really stands out. Padmate says that its artists combined that art style with modern graffiti and abstract art. And each PaMu Unique comes with two of those too.
Unlike the somewhat simplistic, but no-less high-quality drawstring carry-bag included in the package, those covers are replaceable at a moment's notice. That lets wearers express themselves differently and without losing style from day-to-day or even minute-to-minute if they feel so inclined.
One other way that users can express their individuality is through the purchase of another accessory. For just $20, Padmate also sells a disk-shaped PaMu Unique USB-C wireless charging adapter. That plugs into the end, acting as an extension of the round-shaped carry case rather than adding too much bulk. It charges wirelessly, based on a quick assessment, just about as quick as wired charging.
Last but not least, in every PaMu Unique package, Padmate includes no fewer than six earbud tips. Most companies, by comparison, ship their earbuds with just three — small, medium, and large. Here, buyers get not just those but also "+" sizes. That means that those who have a need for an in-between size or a slightly larger size aren't left out of a great listening experience.
The hardware feels and looks great too
Looking past the charging case, the design used for PaMu Unique isn't entirely, well, unique. On initial unboxing, they closely resemble just about any AirPod-style true wireless earbud on the market. That is, until closer inspection. In hand, these earbuds have subtle curves. And the end piece has a specially-engineered shape and curve to ensure they fit comfortably in the ear.
Each individual bud weighs just 7.1 grams. So, thanks in part to the shape and as long as the correct size silicone tip is installed, these buds almost feel like they aren't being worn at all. In fact, for the first week or so, I kept thinking they were going to fall out. The level of comfort here, summarily, took some getting used to throughout my review of the PaMu Unique.
That's not to say that they ever did fall out. They didn't, regardless of whether I was running, riding a bike, or even jumping on a trampoline.
The one complaint I had for the earbuds themselves is that the silicone sheath around the back continually gathers dust and that's almost impossible to wipe away. The buds are rated at an IPX6 for water resistance, so it should be possible to wipe that away with a damp cloth. I just resigned myself to the fact that they'd never look quite as clean as I'd like.
Now, the earbuds each slot into their own individually marked slot in a plastic carrier and charging case. They do so easily and via magnets but are also easy to take back out. That hasn't always been the case with earbuds I've review but it is for PaMu Unique.
The cylindrical case has a satisfying sheen to it but isn't so shiny as to look gaudy. It's a good look, even without the magnet-lined leather cover in place. At the ends of that is a shiny, ridged circle element, surrounded by a deep groove. The left-hand side also houses a snug-fitting USB-C port, while the groove of the right-hand side is embedded with white battery-indicator LEDs.
The included leather covers slot over that via magnets and carefully placed indentations. Those covers are also well-designed. They not only feel like they're high-quality, but they also look great. The cylindrical shape fits neatly into just about any pocket, without the cover sliding off.
Better still, the leather covers are resistant to cold and hot shock, high temperatures or humidity, and wear. So they should last for quite some time.
Connection quality and special features are top-notch
As noted above, my average distance from the audio source during this review of the PaMu Unique was around 5-feet. And that maxed out at around 20-feet. But Bluetooth 5.0 is in use here so the maximum range should ultimately be much further without losing distortion or unwanted artifacts. I certainly didn't notice any of those during my review.
Better still, these earbuds connect and reconnect automatically quickly. They stay connected even when they're charging. That means that listening via just one earbud is entirely feasible. The one drawback to that is this device's touch interaction layout, with each individual bud packing individual functionality.
Interactions here rely on taps or tap-and-hold actions on either bud, just below the silicone jacket. Those touchpads are intuitive to use, as are the interactions. And the buds are easy enough to securely fit or remove using just the extended arm of the bud. So there's little chance of accidental interactions.
Touching once on either pad works to pause or play media. That also works to answer a call if one is incoming, while a double-tap rejects the call. To turn volume up requires a long-press on the right-hand bud. A similar action on the left-hand bud turns the volume down.
Double tapping on the right-hand bud while a call isn't incoming, conversely, skips to the next song. Repeating that action on the left-hand bud launches the source device's AI assistant.
That works with Siri if you happen to be on an Apple device but this was tested on a smartphone that had Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Bixby installed. The phone gave me the choice among those, the first time I performed the action. That choice can be set to just once or to be remembered with each double-tap.
In every case, the taps were equally responsive, lending to a smooth overall experience.
Battery life is acceptable but charging times are great
My listening with this device fell in between 60- and 75-percent volume, at an average distance of 5-feet from the source. That distance ranged from between two-feet with the phone in my pocket and 20-feet. With a single charge of the earbuds themselves, I saw just a minute or two short of nine-and-a-half hours of listening.
It bears pointing out that, as with all Bluetooth accessories, distance, range, volume, and media type are going to have an impact on battery life. And the battery life here isn't at all bad, only made better by the fact that just five minutes of charging should net users an additional hour of playback. But charging to full from the carry case was great too.
Padmate advertises a charging time of an hour-and-a-half for the earbuds. It actually took just a few minutes under that in my review of PaMu Unique. So that performs as advertised. The same held true for the carry case, which held just over two charges for a total of 22-hours and 30-minutes of playback. The case charged in just under two hours, with drained earbuds installed.
So where's the big caveat for the battery life here? That arrived with the built-in low battery warning, played as a voice in the right earbud. Not only was that sounded much more frequently than normal, playing every few moments. It also arrived just a song or three before the device died. So I didn't have much warning at all and the annoying voice felt almost constant once it started.
The sole consolation there is that the low battery warning was, once fully, charged, hours away. I wasn't forced to listen to it for more than a dozen songs — as is the case with some competing true wireless headphones.
But how's the audio quality with PaMu Unique?
Of course, the most important aspect of any listening device or true wireless headphones is the quality of audio delivered. Associated features such as dual-mic noise-canceling technology in playback and calls help. But, as revealed over the course of my PaMu Unique review, these could almost have done without the extra bells and whistles.
Now, that technology definitely has its advantage. Padmate placed it over the top of 16ohm 6mm drivers with SBC, AptX, and AAC audio support driven by Qualcomm's high-transmission, low-power QCC3020 chip. And it serves to cancel out as much as 90-percent of background noise. That works relatively well even at volumes lower than 50-percent.
But that other underlying technology does a spectacular job here, as would be expected of any earbuds with a near-$200 retail price tag. Not only is the signal transmission solid and audio clear — on both sides — when used for calls. PaMu Unique offers clear coverage of the audible frequency spectrum at a balanced volume.
The result of that is clear pounding bass that sounds precisely as its meant to. That bass doesn't drown out the mids or highs either. Across all genres of music that this was tested with, the audio came through clearly. They revealed hidden details in more complex layered tracks and keeping less complicated songs stable.
What the term audio quality means can vary drastically from person to person. But there was never any unintended distortion throughout my listening. Consistency held true across multiple listens as well. Summarily, these earbuds are going to offer what could subjectively be referred to as a peak of audio clarity and balance. They'll more than compete with sets that are much more expensive.
Is PaMu Unique worth the price tag?
Obviously, spending $200 or more on a pair of headphones is an investment. It's also easy to write off true wireless and other Bluetooth-driven listening devices. Or at least it is for most users that would readily identify as 'audiophiles'. But these headphones come as close as any other pair I've tested and they do so at a fraction of some of those devices' cost.
The primary caveats for these headphones aren't numerous. Battery life could always be better and the low-battery warning, short-lived though it is, is somewhat more obnoxious here. Dust gathers on the materials used like magnets — likely because, at least in part, there are audio components underneath. But the water resistance also means that these can be kept clean with some effort too.
On charging and longevity, PaMu Unique falls into the "just about average" end of the spectrum.
On audio quality, however, my review showed that PaMu Unique is definitively in the upper class. Bass tones hit hard without degrading the quality of other notes and even at high volumes, there's no end to the above-average balance.
At just shy of $200, these earbuds are easily worth the money. But whether or not the features make that true is also almost irrelevant while they're still on sale for under $90. For those shopping in that price range, PaMu Unique is undoubtedly among the best options available. And it's easily recommended as a top suggestion.