Nothing has had a decent start in the industry and has been consistent with its launches since its inception in 2021. Two years later, the brand is ready with its sub-brand called CMF, which has three products under its portfolio as of now. Out of these three, we are here to review the CMF Buds Pro, the new TWS earbuds that offer ANC, Nothing X App support and more. How do they compare to the competition and are they worth their price tag of Rs 3,499? Let’s try to find out.
CMF Buds Pro: Design, Build Quality, Comfort
The new CMF Buds Pro have an all-plastic build with a matte finish. They sit in a circular hockey puck-like case that’s quite big. It’s pocketable but is comparable to the size of the Nothing Ear 1 case and is relatively bigger than other earbud cases I have seen in this segment (even though the measurements of the case suggest otherwise).
There’s a Chrome finish mechanism on the back for the opening and closing of the case. It’s a spring-loaded mechanism that opens independently after a certain angle. There’s an LED on the front that lights up white or red. The build doesn’t feel very premium, but isn’t too cheap either. The case is definitely unique looking.
The buds sit next to each other in the case with a pairing button below them. The magnets on the buds and the case are strong enough for the buds not to fall off.
The buds also have a matte finish, and the black coloured (CMF calls it dark grey but it’s literally black) pair looks stealthy. It joins the crowd in this price range with similar looks. However, we feel orange should look much better and quirky in the real world.
With CMF, Nothing claimed that the same core design values they follow with their flagship earbuds would trickle down to the budget segment. However, we don’t see that happening here, at least with just the earbuds, even though the case is good-looking. Even if there were a single element of transparency in these earbuds, it would have instantly made them recognisable and attributable to the Nothing brand.
The stem of the earbuds has flat sides while the overall shape resembles that of the Ear (2) and Ear (1). That’s a positive for the buds as both generations of Nothing earbuds were very comfortable to wear and the Buds Pro are no exception. They are super comfortable in the ear and are lightweight.
They fit snugly with no chance of falling off, even during intense workout sessions such as when you are jogging or running.
The buds have touch controls on the stem with options like double tap, triple tap, tap & hold, and double tap & hold. There’s a major one missing in this list and that’s a single tap because that does nothing on the earbuds.
A single tap is usually assigned to the pause and play actions for the song but there’s no such gesture supported on the CMF Buds Pro and that’s a bummer in my opinion. I have had a habit of tapping the buds for playing or pausing the track but thanks to the Buds Pro, I couldn’t perform the action.
Alternatively, you can set a double tap on either of the buds to play or pause music, but then you lose the skip forward or skip back functionality on that earbud. Or, you can simply remove the earbuds from your ear to pause and put them back in to play as there’s in-ear detection support or use the phone itself.
Both the Ear (1) and Ear (2) had the single-tap gesture and I see no reason for the brand to remove it. We don’t know whether they can add it with a software update. The other gestures that are available, however, work well and recognise the touch the majority of the time.
The buds are also IP54 rated, so that’s a good add-on.
CMF Buds Pro: Features, Active Noise Cancellation
The CMF Buds Pro has a vast feature set. They support the Nothing X app, which works with other Nothing earbuds. The app UI is clean and modern and I didn’t face any issues with pairing. It also supports Google Fast Pair, so the earbuds popped up on all of my devices with my Google account, and the setup process was easy.
The features range from customisable ANC intensity to customisable touch controls. You can customise the touch controls on each earbud to suit your preference. Then, there’s equaliser support so you can set the audio character of your choice. It isn’t frequency-basis customisation but only the three metrics, including mids, bass and treble.
I would have liked a more detailed customisable equaliser, but the current implementation gets the job done. There are also other presets such as balanced, more bass, more treble and voice. They are quite self-explanatory as to what they do.
Then, you can use the Find my earbuds option to make them ring so you can find them in case you misplace them. There’s also a low-lag mode for gaming, but I didn’t feel any major difference in terms of Latency when using this feature. It was still considerably high, producing an average overall gaming audio experience while wearing these.
It also supports firmware updates, so CMF might improve the poor latency with future software updates and hopefully add that single tap gesture. There’s no dual-device connectivity, which could have been a great addition.
Coming to Active Noise Cancellation performance, the CMF Buds Pro claims to cancel noises with a depth of up to 45 dB. “With an extremely wide Frequency range of up to 5000 Hz, it detects and effectively eliminates more types of noises”, says the brand.
The ANC performance is quite decent on the buds, and they were able to cancel some of the loudest noises around me without any issues. The high-frequency noises were still bearable, but the noises on the lower end of the spectrum were handled very well. The noise of the fan above me was cancelled fine, but the voice of the TV was hearable. As soon as you play the music, though, most of it is kept quiet.
Traffic noises were suppressed, and I could still hear if someone honked while standing beside me. You can even set the ANC levels between high, mid and low, and I mostly kept it at the high setting.
Further, CMF claims that it built the CMF Buds Pro with a special channel structure with two holes at the top of the stem to reduce wind interference. In our CMF Buds Pro review period, wind noise reduction worked flawlessly. Even during high wind speeds, which are often at where I am located, the noise was well reduced and in control.
There’s also a transparency mode, which works in an okay-ish manner. It elevates the higher-end frequencies on the outside but still mostly sounds muffled. It doesn’t come close to what we have experienced with the ear (2), but there’s a good price difference between the two, so we expect it to happen.
CMF Buds Pro: Audio and Call Quality, Battery Life
The CMF Buds Pro’ audio performance relies on a custom-built dynamic bass boost driver and supports AAC and SBC codecs.
The audio performance of the CMF Buds Pro is excellent. With the balanced equaliser, the audio signature is balanced as advertised. There’s that thump in the bass, while mids and the high-end frequencies are also handled impressively. The instrument separation is also on point.
In most of the tracks I played, including Punjabi, Bollywood and Hollywood genres of music, the bass was prominent while the vocals were crystal clear. The mid-range with all the instruments sounded good.
However, what I liked more was the ‘More Treble’ equaliser setting. It boosts the higher-end frequencies, including vocals, without sacrificing much on the bass. With the ‘More bass’ setting, the sound gets a bit muddy where vocals and other frequencies take a back seat.
The only audio isuue I had with CMF Buds Pro was the loudness. The majority of the time, I had to keep the volumes close to 80% no matter what phone I paired it with, including the Galaxy S23 Ultra. This is quite a high volume percentage where I have heard some earbuds that sound adequately loud at much lesser volume levels. They get uncomfortable at 100%, but with CMF Buds Pro, I could easily listen to music for extended periods at max volume.
The call quality depends on the 6-mic system (3 mics on each earbud), and while the Ear (1) and Ear (2) had some of the best mics, as per our experience, that’s not the case with CMF Buds Pro. The person on the other end often complained of background noises overshadowing my voice, while some said that my voice echoed a lot. However, on my end, they sounded clear.
As for the battery backup, the buds have a 55mAh battery unit each, while the case has a 460mAh cell. CMF claims you can get up to 6.5 hours with ANC ON and up to 22 hours when paired with the case.
Without ANC, you could get up to 11 hours with buds only and up to 39 hours with the case. During my review of the CMF Buds Pro, they came close to these numbers, but as I mostly listened at high volumes, I got inferior results, and that’s perfectly fine. That’s because these numbers are already exceptional. Wired charging of the case took more than an hour during my tests. I was never forced to charge the case more than once a week with frequent partial recharges for the earbuds.