Padmate has been offering excellent value true wireless earbuds for years. Their collaboration with several NBA players puts them on a spotlight regularly. While that is the marketing aspect, I am only concerned with the product quality.
The PaMu Quiet Mini is the third TWS I reviewed from Pamu. The PaMu Slide remains one of my favourite TWS in terms of earbud design fit and sound quality. The PaMu Quiet improves upon the PaMu Slide with a fanciful charging case and active noise cancelling (ANC), a feature that all TWS cannot leave out so as to pit them against the premium brands.
The PaMu Quiet Mini has a lot less common features with the PaMu Quiet than I had initially thought. It means that they avoid cannibalising each other in sales and target market. The first difference is the price: PaMu Quiet Mini retails at US$99 with ongoing promotion at US$69, while PaMu Quiet sells at US$119.
The earbuds mould are identical, which means you can swap the charging case, but the case design is totally different. The Mini doesn’t exactly have a much smaller case compared to the PaMu Slide vs. Slide Mini. The PaMu Quiet has a unique LED indicator around the circumference of the case while the Mini has a more subtle LED glow at the front of the case. While it is less glaring than other designs, it is not as noticeable to check the battery level.
The PaMu Quiet runs on Qualcomm QC3020 TWS Stereo chip which supports aptX, AAC and SBC over Bluetooth 5.0, while the PaMu Quiet Mini uses a different chip which supports AAC and SBC over Bluetooth 5.2.
The other big important difference is battery life: while the fancy case PaMu Quiet offers a total combined battery life of 10.5 hours, the PaMu Quiet Mini delivers up to 18 hours.
The difference does not stop there. Even though both models use the same 10mm PEN + Titanium drivers, there are subtle difference in the tuning. First, the built-in voice prompts sound different, the Mini version sounding less refined. Second, the original PaMu Quiet sounds more V-shaped with deeper bass extension and crispier vocals. On the Mini, it provides more meat at the midrange which compromises the isolation at the bass and makes the vocals warmer.
The ANC quality is largely similar: both eliminates lower frequency very effectively, while the upper frequency is not so removed, resulting in a rather exposed sound. Despite, the ANC is good enough to let me enjoy music amidst the environment, while keeping me semi-aware of high-pitched sounds, like traffic sounds. When playing loud pop music, the upper frequency is not noticeable, but not the case for quieter genres like Classical.
On the Transparency mode, I notice that the PaMu Quiet Mini seems to work better, with slightly more natural. The PaMu Quiet has a slight emphasis on the environmental hiss while the Mini removed that artificial impression. But this difference is too small to be really noticeable during general use.
The call quality is again similar to PaMu Quiet. It captures voice warm and clear and also picking up higher-pitch ambient noises. People speaking next to me sounded distant, which is good. The mic switch-over between the 2 earbuds are more seamless without disruptions, and when one earbud is docked, the music switches to mono. All these are improvements over the PaMu Quiet.
And like the premium version, the PaMu Quiet Mini is supported with a smartphone app which you can customise the touch controls and update firmware. The options are limited, but certainly better than not having one.
Overall, the PaMu Quiet Mini appears to be of better value and offering better battery life. The PaMu Quiet is a better choice if you want aptX audio codec and a more cool-looking charging case, albeit with smaller charge.