I first realized I needed some Bluetooth travel earbuds while driving a scooter in Canggu, Bali. Bali’s busy beach town makes a great hub for digital nomads, but it’s one of my least favorite places to drive. Navigating Canggu’s twisted roads only comes in two scenarios: bumping legs in gridlock traffic or bouncing on broken sidewalks to get around gridlock traffic.
I was new to town and relied on Google Maps a lot for directions. In a place like Canggu, looking at your phone while driving isn’t an option. And missing a turn with so much traffic is a serious pain. Now, with these travel earbuds, I can keep my phone safely in my pocket while listening to directions — or music to get pumped up about driving on sidewalks.
The PaMu Unique and Slide Mini earbuds meet the important requirements for a serious backpacking traveler:
- They’re lightweight and easy to pack.
- They’re sweat and water resistant.
- They have good noise isolation (important in noisy environments like on a scooter!).
- They have a long battery life (the company claims 30 hours of playtime).
- They don’t cost a fortune (I don’t want to lose them, but if I do, I won’t cry as much).
PaMu Slide Mini: What You Get
For a nice bonus, the overall packaging and presentation are well done. The box feels heavy and foreshadows a quality item inside, especially good if you’re considering this for a gift.
This photo shows the black version, but the white model looks like an Apple product. The generous number of soft ear tips seems like an overkill, but every ear is different! Sometimes sizes vary between left and right. The granularity of choices gives you maximum control to keep these things in your ears, even on a bumpy bus or tuk-tuk ride.
PaMu Unique: What You Get
The PaMu Unique comes with the same high-quality earbuds, but it’s more about customizing the unique, cylindrical case with the leather skins. The artwork has a backstory and is created using a unique process.
Only magnets hold the interchangeable leather skins in place, but they’re strong enough to do so securely.
My Experience With the PaMu Unique and Slide Mini Earbuds
My first impression of using the PaMu Slide Minis was almost all positive. I love the case, shape, feel, and way the buds snap into their assigned places with a firm tug from the magnet. As a former engineer for IBM, I was really geeking out about the design touches and attention to detail.
In terms of performance, the first thing I noticed was how quickly the earbuds paired and announced their connection to each other and then my phone. I’ve had other Bluetooth products act unpredictably when connecting to my Samsung phone. I would then have to delete the device in my Bluetooth list and connect anew. I’m sure the problem has something to do with loose Bluetooth standards and implementations. So far, the PaMu Slide earbuds haven’t had an issue or failed to connect. That’s a big win!
I was impressed by the sound quality. The Qualcomm chipset chosen by the manufacturer makes all the difference. I’m not going to pretend, even as a former engineer, that I understand how the 6-micron diaphragm helps produce more bass — but it’s boasted as a technical feature, and you can definitely hear the quality. The treble is high and clear while the bass surprisingly thumps for a device so tiny.
The dual-mic noise canceling is what really got my attention. I haven’t yet had an opportunity to fly with the Pamu Slide Mini earbuds yet (because of the pandemic), but I did cut the grass with them. The noise cancellation delivered: I could still enjoy my podcast above the roar of an ancient lawnmower.
I also use my PaMu Slide Mini earbuds for calls now. I spend a lot of time on the phone and Zoom calls now, and call quality with these earbuds is superb. Also, you can use just one (they suggest using the left one) for calls. I never had anyone complain about the quality of our call, and when I asked, people couldn’t tell I was “using a headset” vs holding my phone.
Padmate PaMu vs Apple AirPods
As mentioned, there are a lot of Apple AirPod alternatives out there — just have a look on Amazon. The secret’s out that not everyone wants to pay more than necessary for a product simply because it’s Apple. But those imitators actually focus more on copying the look of the AirPods than creating a comparable or superior product. They sound like cheap garbage. Makes sense, given that even having the white stems sticking from your ears has become some sort of status symbol.
Personally, I’d rather enjoy a product with better specs (even if it looks slightly different) and save the ~ $100 or more for travel. That’s the equivalent of 50 dinners of pad thai in Thailand, five nights in a seafront bungalow…you get the idea.
Here’s the thing: Padmate enjoys a big advantage over those other AirPod alternatives because they have their own engineering, R&D lab, and factory! Unless you saw the massive Indiegogo for PaMu Slide, you probably haven’t heard of Padmate. They were founded in 2010 and have been making other smart devices for years. This isn’t some one-hit-wonder company trying to make a few bucks on Amazon then disappear.
A few of the key selling points:
PaMu Unique or PaMu Slide Mini?
Each style of charging case has its appeals; however, I was more a fan of the PaMu Slide Mini. The case is simple and compact. Maybe I’m too old and crotchety a traveler now for the flashy designs of the PaMu Unique? Regardless, one or the other will definitely fit your style and personality.
Arguably, the PaMu Unique charging case is a little bigger and may therefore be easier to find when fishing around inside a cluttered daybag.
I don’t think either design will come open in your bag. The magnetic enclosures work great.
Other Things to Note
The Pamu Slide Mini and PaMu Unique have a USB Type-C connector for charging (cable included). I’m glad. Although this means I’ll have to carry an extra cable (it’s small) for now, I’ll be all set when phone manufacturers start upgrading to this smarter standard.
If you aren’t familiar with USB Type-C yet, it’s a more solid USB connector that works both ways! No more rotating a D-shell connector around and around trying to figure out which way is correct. Wireless charging is also an option.
The one-touch tap controls on these travel earbuds is an interesting feature. A single tap on either earbud will pause your music — a convenient feature if someone says something to you. If, like me, you don’t read the instructions until forced to do so, you may wonder why your music keeps getting paused when you adjust or wiggle the earbud in your ear. At first, I found this more a nuisance than a blessing until I changed tips on the earbuds to make them fit my ears better (hence no need to touch them anymore).
With a double tap, you can reject a call, skip to the next song, and so on. A long press on either earbud will lower or raise the volume accordingly, although I rarely use this feature.
What I Like
- The overall design, style, and fit are better than Apple AirPods.
- Sound quality, specs, and battery life are also superior to Apple Airpods.
- The price is much better than Apple AirPods!
What I Would Change
- The single-tap pause can be easy to trigger if you aren’t expecting it. Personally, I’d rather a more deliberate double tap do it. This is a tiny caveat that’s easy to avoid once you start using the earbuds.
Where to Buy PaMu Travel Earbuds
You can buy directly from the manufacturer!
As you can clearly see, I’m a fan! This is the Apple AirPod alternative I was looking for to use as travel earbuds.
As is common practice in this industry, I was provided with a demo pair of Padmate PaMu Unique earbuds along with a PaMu Slide Mini case and accessories. I was not required to leave a positive review; however, I am happy to provide one because I sincerely enjoyed using this product. I will consider other products from PaMu in the future.