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CMF Buds review – GSMArena.com news

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Nothing Tech’s CMF subbrand is making a design-first pitch for its affordable accessories ranging from chargers to smartwatches and a trio of wireless earbuds.

We got a pair of CMF Buds at our office and have been using them for the past week to get a better feel of how they perform. These flashy orange buds promise three great audio quality and exciting design at a temptingly low price.

CMF Buds bring Active Noise Cancelation (ANC) with a dedicated transparency mode, Bluetooth 5.3 connectivity with dual device pairing, and 12.4mm drivers tuned by Dirac. You also get a programmable equalizer within the Nothing X app and over 35 hours of playback between the buds and their charging case.

Factoring their affordable asking price may sound too good to be true but these orange buds proved to be a surprisingly good pick.

Design

Design is a key pillar of the Nothing brand philosophy, which also translates to the CMF lineup. You’ll notice similarities between CMF products and those from Swedish electronics maker Teenage Engineering. That shouldn’t come as a surprise as the Swedish studio is a founding partner of Nothing Tech and has been the driving force behind the designs of Nothing products since the Ear (1).

CMF Buds review

We should start with the charging/carrying case since it’s unlike any other case we’ve seen so far. Our review unit comes in orange and it’s a very saturated hue that pops in images and in real life too. The design influence from Teenage Engineering is evident here from the bold color to the minimalist design and the rotating aluminum alloy dial.

CMF Buds review

It would have been cool if the dial could be used to control certain aspects of the buds but its only purpose is to serve as a lanyard attachment point. It also makes for a great fidget spinner when you have nothing better to do.

Apart from the dial, the case and earbuds are entirely made from plastic helping keep weight down. The case lid feels solid and closes with a firm snap. The only durability concern is that the plastic case is easy to scratch – I got several light scratches on the bottom of the case by carrying it in my pockets after just one day of use. There’s an LED status light on the front indicating pairing mode and a USB-C charging port on the right-hand hand side.

CMF Buds review

The case dimensions are 54.7 x 54.7 x 22.9mm and it weighs just over 43 grams while each earbud is 4.5 grams on its own.

Moving to the in-ear fit we found the CMF Buds to fit well with their default size M ear tips. The earbuds are comfortable and managed to stay secure during multiple hour-long listening sessions. The top part features touch controls with single, double, and triple taps – all programmable inside the Nothing X app.

CMF Buds review

Each earbud also hosts 2 HD microphones and the case is IP54-rated against water splashes and dust. The retail package includes a USB-C cable and replacement silicone ear tips.

Features and companion app

Despite their affordable price point, CMF Buds pack a compelling list of features including Bluetooth 5.3 Active Noice Cancelation (ANC), transparency mode, dual device pairing, and wear detection sensors. The buds are built around 12.4 mm bio-fiber drivers with tuning by Nothing and Dirac. The partnership also extends to Ultra Bass Technology 2.0 which you can tweak to your liking or completely disable inside the Nothing X companion app.

CMF Buds review

Nothing X app is one of the best-designed companion apps featuring Nothing’s signature minimalist approach and dot matrix font. The app is compatible with Android 5.1+ and iOS 13+ smartphones. Nothing smartphones also get an additional perk – a dedicated low latency mode that works in tandem with Nothing’s Game mode.


Nothing X app with CMF Buds
Nothing X app with CMF Buds
Nothing X app with CMF Buds
Nothing X app with CMF Buds
Nothing X app with CMF Buds

Nothing X app with CMF Buds

One area where the price point on the CMF Buds starts to show is with the Bluetooth codec support as they only transmit audio over the legacy AAC and SBC types. There’s no support for the high-bitrate LDAC, AptX Adaptive, or AptX Lossless here. While that may be a con on paper, it is sort of expected on a budget pair of earbuds.

CMF Buds review

ANC covers up to 42 dB of noise, maxing out at a frequency range of 2,900 Hz and the 4 onboard microphones also offer AI Environmental Noise Cancellation during calls. Nothing also added two holes at the bottom of the earbud stems for reduced wind interference.

CMF Buds support both Google Fast Pair and Microsoft Swift Pair for effortless pairing. They also feature in-ear detection sensors, which allow them to pause media when you remove either of the buds and resume playback once re-inserted in your ear.

Performance and Sound quality

CMF Buds feature a vibrant soundstage and punchy bass much like the rest of the Nothing earbud lineup. The 12.4 mm drivers tuned by Dirac Audio offer decent sound output by default although you may find the bass overpowering. Thankfully you can create a custom EQ within the Nothing X app and opt for a more balanced sound signature.

CMF Buds review

Instrument separation leaves some to be desired as the highs tend to get washed out. The mids tend to feel submerged with the vocals and instruments sounding thin. That’s not to say that the CMF Buds sound bad, on the contrary, we found them to offer a lively soundstage that suits the electronic and hip-hop genres quite well. The high treble is well-tuned and offers a nice counter to the strong bass.

These buds also get plenty loud and the ANC is potent enough to help drown out unwanted noises in the lower frequency spectrum which is nice to see at this price point. The transparency mode sounded muffled and didn’t do a great job of amplifying nearby sounds. Turning the ANC off delivers slight improvements in sound clarity in the lows and mids with bass feeling a notch less overpowering.

CMF Buds review

We tested the CMF Buds with an iPhone 15 Pro and a MacBook Pro 14 during our review. Dual-device pairing worked to the extent that we could switch between the two but you still have to manually stop media from one device and start it on the other. If you’re listening to music on your laptop and get a call on your phone the buds automatically transfer the audio to your phone which is a nice touch.

One gripe that I have is that the Nothing X companion app on my iPhone would persistently require disconcerting the buds and re-pairing with my phone if I’ve used them with another device like my laptop. Hopefully, this bug will be ironed out with future software updates.

Touch controls worked flawlessly during our review period. The default mapping doesn’t have volume adjustments toggled on but you can assign a double tap and hold gesture for volume up on one side and volume down on the other. That’s far from the ideal setup but it gets the job done.

CMF Buds review

Call quality on the CMF Buds is good enough in quieter environments but the buds have a tough time isolating your voice in densely populated areas with lots of commotion.

In-ear detection works and automatically pauses and resumes media playback when you remove either earbud from your ears. It worked too well in some cases and would stop my tracks during a workout if one of the earbuds got slightly loose, prompting a change of ear tips to ensure a better fit.

CMF Buds review

Bluetooth range is on par with other wireless earbuds we’ve tested recently and works up to 15 meters from your source device.

Battery life

CMF Buds feature 45mAh batteries in each earbud and a 460 mAh cell inside the charging case. The buds charge via USB-C and do not support wireless charging. Nothing claims you can get up to 8 hours of playback from the buds with ANC off and 5.6 hours with ANC/transparency mode on. The case extends these numbers to 35.5 hours and 24 hours respectively.

CMF Buds review

In our testing, we got 4.5 hours of usage with ANC on and 50% volume. That figure went up to just under 7 hours with ANC off. A full 0-100% charge takes 2 hours which is rather slow. A 10-minute top-up gets you enough juice for 4 hours of usage. The earbuds need just over an hour to go from 0-100% when charging via the case.

Verdict

CMF Buds by Nothing are a great pair of affordable wireless earbuds that offer more than their price tag would suggest. You get a refreshing design with minimalist branding, comfortable fit, and potent noise cancelation. Couple that respectable battery endurance, dual device pairing, and a neat companion app and you’ve got a pair of wireless buds that tick a lot of boxes.

CMF Buds review

Nothing has also brought its signature lively soundstage with overpowering bass which may be a plus depending on your preference. At $39/€39/£39/₹2,500, the CMF Buds offer great value and we’d easily place them at the top of the list in their price bracket.

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