Padmate is one of my favorite small audio brands and for good reason. They make really good stuff that’s affordable and seriously good value for money. The new Pamu Slide 2 True Wireless Earbuds keep that trend going and are a great sequel to the original Pamu Slide buds. The Slide 2 is better in every way boasting smaller, lighter design with new touch and slide controls and Active Noise cancelling — something the original Slide didn’t have.
They go for an official price of $230 Aussie bucks but if you are quick, you can get the early bird promotional price on Indigogo for $114 which is essentially half price. What that gets you is a handsome set of wireless earbuds that sound fantastic, connect via multi-point Bluetooth 5.2, with support for ultra low-latency gaming mode and a combined total of 26-hours of battery life.
There really isn’t much to complain about at this price given competition from Sony or Apple cost several hundred dollars more. However, not everything is rosy with these buds not least of which is the ANC performance. Lets get into it.
Design and features
The Slide 2 share the same general design as the Pamu Z1 Pro I reviewed last year. Short, oblong stems that connect to marble sized drivers with swappable silicon tips. It’s a case of if it aint broken, don’t fix it. They are very lightweight and fit wonderfully in the ears while providing a good passive noise seal. They are also secure enough for a run or gym workout and won’t get damaged by sweat or light splashes thanks to IPX4 rating. Padmate supplies a generous selection of silicon tips so you can find your best fit.
Where the Slide 2 differs from the Z1 is the new touch controls. You can now use slide gestures as well as the standard taps to control the Slide 2. The slide is set to volume control by default something which I really enjoyed having as typically, the only way to adjust volume on earbuds is through the device they are connected to at the time which may often be out of reach. It can be a bit finicky to use though as sliding often triggers the tap function and can also dislodge the buds from your ears.
Speaking of, the buds also have in-ear detection so when you remove one from your ear, media playback is paused. However, the buds are designed to work independently too, so if you’re like my wife who often uses one bud at a time, that’s doable.
The case of the Slide is also quite unique. It’s bigger than that of the Z1 Pro but still easily fits in pants pockets. It has a large, textured circle on the front with the Pamu logo that’s also a grip point to slide the front cover back and forth. The mechanism is appropriately stiff resisting initial push but then springs open about half way. This is great so it doesn’t accidentally open when inside your pockets or bag.
Once you open the lid, an LED power indicator strip at the base of the case light ups showing you how much charge is left in the case. I love the progress bar styling animation when you are charging it though sadly, you can’t change the color of the light. You charge via a USB Type-C port on top of the case but even better, you can just drop the case on a wireless charging pad too. Nice.
The buds themselves are magnetically attached to the inside which is also great for preventing accidental drops while you’re out and about. Pulling them out powers them on and they enter into pairing mode. Connection is swift and easy. A rather surprising and welcome feature is multi-point connection which means the Slide 2 can connect to two devices simultaneously. So pair it with your laptop and smartphone so you can do your work and still answer phone calls hands free. I’ve not seen this feature on any other ear bud I’ve tested and its a very welcome addition.
Pamu also provides a simple companion app for IOS and Android where you can update the buds firmware, reassign touch controls, toggle the Active Noise cancellation and change the EQ presets. You don’t really get any control over the EQ sliders though so you’ll just have to live with the presets.
Performance and battery
Like the Z1 Pro, the Slide 2 sounds fantastic. Sound stage is larger and deeper than you’d expect from ear buds and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to my music on them. Padmate uses 10mm Titanium drivers that are very well tuned with impressive sound staging, bass and clarity. Vocals are clear and warm and the bass thumps but without any distortion. It honestly brings a smile to my face every time I’m listening to a track and hear that clean bass kick in. The Slide 2 are an enjoyable pair of ear phones.
For gaming, the Slide 2 has an low-latency mode which basically cuts down the lag common Bluetooth latency from 160ms to below 80ms. This removes any delay between what you see and what you hear which can be the difference between KO or a Chicken Dinner. And because the ear buds sound so good, games sound equally amazing too. The powerful mids and lows mean rumbling explosions and gunfire in Call of Duty Mobile while the wide sound stage gives deeper immersion in games like Diablo Immortal and Genshin Impact.
When it comes to microphone quality, the Slide 2 isn’t too bad. Pamu uses 6 microphones and some digital trickery to boost voice clarity. It picks up my voice well but does sound digital and somewhat unnatural. In quieter environments you should come across clear while in more noisy environments, the buds do a pretty good job at minimizing background noise to focus on your voice but again, you hear the digital-ness of your voice even more. It’s certainly no where near as good as the Sony LinkBuds I also reviewed.
The one thing that didn’t impress me with the Slide 2 is the Active Noise Cancellation. Padmate claims up to 42db of background noise cancellation from airplanes, cars and machinery but in my testing, the ANC made no perceptible difference at all. Street noise, fan noise from my rangehood, the train, nothing was different when I activated ANC. This was basically the same experience I complained about with the Z1 Pro.
The same can be said for the Transparency mode which is supposed to let in ambient sounds like peoples voices so you can hear people louder and clear but that was far from my experience. I used it in several environments and I still struggled to hear people any different than when the feature was turned off. I’m not sure what is going on here but Padmate need to revisit this feature.
When it comes to battery life, there’s nothing to complain about. The Slide 2 carries 6.5 hours of playback in each earbud which is almost an entire day at work. You also get an additional 26 hours in the case. It also takes about an hour and a half for the buds to fully charge when inside the case. Unfortunately, there isn’t any fast charge which is always handy in a pinch.
Should you buy?
Yes. The Padmate Pamu Slide 2 is one of the best true wireless earbuds you can buy under $200, more especially if you take advantage of the Indigogo offer. They sound great, they are light and comfortable and the battery will last you all day. The new slide controls can be really handy and If you also like serious mobile gaming, then the low-latency support will be just right for you. However, the ANC and transparency mode are pretty much non-existent and I can’t recommend these to anyone who needs noise cancellation. You need to look at other brands for that. But for listening to music, gaming and work I can’t emphasize enough how enjoyable these buds are to wear and use. The Slide 2 will remain my go to buds for the foreseeable future.