- The Buds Pro are one of the three products launched by CMF, Nothing’s new sub-brand that aims to make “great design accessible to all.”
- The Buds Pro are TWS targeted at the budget segment and are designed to work with iOS and Android devices.
- Priced at Rs 3499, the CMF Buds Pro come with a smart design and features like ear detection and ANC, but face a lot of competition from the likes of Oppo, Realme, and OnePlus.
The Buds Pro represent the audio debut of CMF, Nothing’s new sub-brand that looks to “make great design accessible to all.” In simple, less ideological terms, they add a more affordable layer (sub-Rs 5,000) to Nothing’s largely mid-segment and upper-mid-segment product portfolio.
Of all the devices in the CMF’s opening line-up, the Buds Pro have the toughest task because they actually have other Nothing products to be measured against, although at higher price tags. So, do the CMF Buds Pro follow in the footsteps of the much-appreciated Nothing Ears and Nothing Stick?
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CMF Buds Pro Design: Well-rounded, literally (and eye-catching in orange)
In terms of design, the CMF Buds Pro have a more elegant feel and finish than we are accustomed to seeing at this price point, where design starts becoming more functional to keep costs down. They also do not come in the square or rectangular cardboard boxes that are the staple in the market but are actually embedded in a board, with another board on top of it to protect it. This looks very different, seems less wasteful in terms of packaging material, and is a bit reminiscent of egg cases, with the outline of the products protruding from below. It could present issues in stacking, but speaking for ourselves, we love the design.
The Buds Pro themselves are also very different from other TWS by Nothing. They are not transparent but are made of solid plastic. They come in a totally circular case, which looks very like a compact from a cosmetic brand (just like the Ear Stick seemed lipstick-inspired). We got the Orange variant, which might strike some as being a little too bright but is definitely more eye-catching than the relatively routine Dark Grey and Light Grey options that are also available. The case comes with a matte finish and does not pick up smudges and stains easily.
There is a logo on the top and a Type-C port beneath a metallic hinge on the side, which adds a classy touch to the plastic around it. There is a small LED indicator in front. Flipping open the case (which can be done with one hand but is best done with two as the hinge does provide some resistance) reveals the two buds lying on their sides, their stems attached magnetically to the case.
The buds themselves are very similar to those we have seen on the AirPods Pro and Nothing Ears, minus the transparent element. They are totally orange, with even the eartips (you get three sizes in the package) being orange. The listening part of the buds above the rubber ear tips have a glossy finish, while their stems have a matte finish and also feature the brand’s logo. Just below the buds is a connectivity button, which we actually missed seeing on our unit because it blended in too well with the case. We are not great fans of buttons within the case as one has to open the case every time one needs to connect a device to the buds, but it is hardly a deal-breaker.
The buds are barely 5 grams each, and the case is about 45 grams, so the entire package is about 55 grams. It is compact and light enough to slip into most pockets, and the buds come with IP 54 dust and water resistance (their case has none), so they can be used in a gym, although not in a pool. All in all, these are smart enough buds that will turn heads in their orange avatar. And they do stay in your ears and do not fall out easily.
CMF Buds Pro Interface: Tap to play and pause
The CMF Buds Pro connect to Android and iOS devices using the Nothing X app. Getting them ready to use is as easy as bringing them close to the phone, pressing the connectivity button in the case, and then choosing the buds on the phone. There is no multi-port connectivity, though, so please disconnect from one device before connecting with another. The CMF Buds Pro fit very snugly in our ears – they go inside the ear passage and do not hang from the ear lobes like the AirPods and the Ear Stick. There is no ear fit test for the buds, but we found the medium-sized tips fit our ears very comfortably. Noise isolation is quite good, and the buds come with in-ear detection, so audio playing on them pauses when you pull one of them out of your ears.
The buds can be controlled by tap-and-hold gestures on the top of the stem. The default controls are slightly unusual. A single tap does nothing at all. A double-tap answers or ends a call or skips forward to the next track if music is playing. A triple tap rejects an incoming call or skips a track back. Tapping and holding either bud lets you switch between ANC and transparency mode. The double tap and hold option has been left blank, and one can allot different actions to it, including moving the volume up or down or summoning a voice assistant.
A point to note, however, is that you can customize these controls to an extent and can even have the same gesture executing different actions on the right and left buds. By default, gestures on both buds execute the same actions, but this can be changed. For instance, you can make a double tap on the right bud to invoke voice assistance, and a double tap on the left bud takes you to the next track. The call settings cannot be changed, though. We are not too sure people would invest time in tweaking controls, but it is a good thing that the option exists.
Getting the taps right, however, can be a bit of a challenge as the area that responds to the taps is not shown clearly on the buds. We ended up tapping the base and middle of the stem because that’s where controls on many TWS are often located. Fortunately, these controls are explained in a tutorial that follows the installation of the buds (unfortunately, we chose to skip it in our eagerness to use the buds). Having the tapping area on the top of the stem is a little problematic, as every tap actually moves the bud that is in your ear. As you need at least two taps for most commands, this can be inconvenient. The taps themselves sometimes did not register very cleanly, but a software update improved matters significantly. We would advise a tiny pause between taps for best results.
CMF Buds Pro Audio, ANC, and Battery: Clear audio and decent ANC for its price
In terms of sound, the CMF Buds Pro are impressive when it comes to clarity. You can tweak between balanced, bass, treble, and voice settings and also customize the equalizer from within the app itself. There is a slight bass accent even in the ‘balanced’ mode, which the buds run on by default, but we are told that is the work of an intelligent bass enhancement algorithm that detects music signals and enhances bass in real time. That said, the bass on the CMF Buds Pro never gets overwhelming or too rumbly and never gets in the way of vocals, although some instruments get a little overshadowed if you boost bass through the equalizer or switch to bass mode.
Related Read: CMF Watch Pro Review
These are very good buds for watching shows, listening to classical music and jazz, and playing games (there is a low lag mode). And they punch above their price weight in terms of audio clarity. Call quality is a little iffy, though, and we would not advise using them for calls in noisy conditions – people we spoke to said they could hear a fair bit of background noise. The CMF Buds Pro also come with Active Noise Cancellation, and for its price, it delivers a decent experience. One obviously will not get the levels of ANC that one gets from Nothing Ears, but it is good enough to dull out the chatter in a cafe and reduce traffic noise. There is a transparency mode, too, which can be handy enough when you want to have a sense of your surroundings.
The CMF Buds Pro do a reasonable job on the battery front. The buds deliver about six hours with ANC switched on, with the case taking them to about 20-22 hours. Switch off ANC, and the numbers get almost doubled. Considering how snugly they fit and the fact that ANC is more functional than fantastic, we would recommend going without ANC unless absolutely necessary. We do wish the Buds Pro had multiple LEDs for indicating battery level – the single LED on the case cannot deliver adequate information, and we had to keep looking at the connected phones to check battery levels.
CMF Buds Pro Review Verdict: A decent debut in a competitive segment
At their launch price of Rs 3499 ($42), the CMF Buds Pro do bring a fair bit to the budget TWS table. You get different packaging, a smart and elegant design, very clear audio, and ANC that is very good for its price segment. That price puts them right in the middle of one of the most competitive parts of the Indian TWS market against the likes of the OnePlus Nord Buds 2 (Rs 2999), the Oppo Enco Air 2 Pro (Rs 3499), and the recently launched Realme Buds Air 5 (Rs 3699), all of which offer ANC and decent battery life at comparable prices.
The CMF Buds Pro do provide an interesting alternative with their design and promise of continued software support. We would say that they are definitely worth an investment if you want TWS that do not cost a bomb and focus on clear audio quality rather than booming bass (as many in this segment do!). CMF has made a promising audio beginning in a new price segment.
- Smart design (and packaging, too)
- Good fit in the ears
- Good audio clarity
- Customizable controls
- Not the greatest ANC
- Single LED battery indicator
- The call quality is a little iffy
- The area to tap is not clearly shown on the buds
|ANC and Call quality||
Priced at Rs 3499, the CMF Buds Pro come with a smart design and features like ear detection and ANC but face a lot of competition from the likes of Oppo, Realme, and OnePlus.