An Image of the PineBuds Pro from the Product Page
The Pinebuds Pro are an open firmware capable pair of wireless earbuds created by Pine64.
For those who don't know, Pine64 is a company that focuses on designing open hardware that the community can contribute to, these earbuds are no different.
I've always loved Pine64 and found their goal admirable. I've also always loved headphones, so for me these things are a match made in heaven!
The PineBuds Pro only cost $69.99, so you know that I hit buy the minute they became available!
So, let's take a look at the PineBuds Pro and see if they meet my high expectations!
The Box the PineBuds Pro Come In
The PineBuds come in a simple white package with an image of the product on the top, it's simple and effective. I always love it when companies put effort into their boxes despite the fact their products probably won't ever be on store shelves.
Inside the box you'll find the PineBuds themselves, replacement ear tips and the manual.
The manual is very simple, straight to the point and helpful, in an age where companies print novellas full of useless information, that's greatly appreciated!
The Three Pairs of Tips the PineBuds Pro Come With
My only gripe with the accessories the PineBuds come with are the ear tips, I think that they should have included more sizing options as the three pairs that are included are either too big or too small for my ears. Perhaps this is an opportunity for Pine64 to sell some foam ear tips as an additional purchase?
The PineBuds Pro Case Closed
The PineBuds Pro are a seriously nice piece of hardware. They consist of a case and two independent wireless earbuds that seamlessly pair with each other.
The case is made out of a sturdy plastic and is frankly much bigger than I thought it would be, the same is true of the buds.
The Open Case
The case opens using a bizarre sliding mechanism. Some people were concerned about this but I personally think that it feels very sturdy and I have no worries about the mechanism breaking.
On the back of the case you'll find a USB-C port (thank you Pine64!) and on the front are some lights that show you how much the PineBuds are charged while they're charging.
Overall, I think that the PineBuds Pro are really solidly built and I have no concerns about the buds breaking during my day to day usage of them. These definitely aren't the headphones to get for any skinny jeans fans though!
The experience of wearing the PineBuds is overall decent. They're fairly comfortable and I have no concerns about them falling out of my ears. Despite their large size they feel very lightweight in the ears.
My only complaint about the experience of wearing the PineBuds Pro would be that the ear tips irritate my ears quite a lot, though that's something that I experience quite a lot with subpar rubber ear tips. Again, this issue could be solved by Pine64 offering foam ear tips.
My main impression of the PineBuds Pro's sound is that it's very bass-y! That's not to say that these are bad headphones though as the bass doesn't come at the expense of the rest of the sound spectrum.
Unfortunately, it's impossible for me to say just how bass-y these headphones are as nobody has made a frequency response graph for these headphones yet and I can't make one myself as the equipment to do so is very expensive. Just take my word for how bass-y they are.
As these headphones are capable of running open firmware it is very likely that somebody will make a firmware that tames the bass a little bit. Though, I still wouldn't recommend these headphones if you don't like prominent bass in your headphones. Though personally, even as someone who doesn't really like a lot of bass I still stopped noticing the exaggerated bass after a few hours of listening.
Measurement of PineBuds Pro ANC vs AirPods Pro ANC
One of the coolest features of the PineBuds Pro is it's ANC. It's not necessarily "magic" like the AirPods Pro (the AirPods Pro block out almost all ambient noise and put me into a world of total silence, the PineBuds Pro can't quite live up to that.). I put that down to the AirPods Pro being better at making a seal in the ear.
Even despite this the PineBuds Pro still have very good ANC. Once my music is playing I can't hear anything around me (for better or worse.). These aren't the headphones for using in a construction site or another extremely loud place but they'll certainly give you some peace and quiet during your morning public transport commute.
The PineBuds Pro also have a "super ANC" mode, I assume that this is supposed to block out even more noise than standard ANC mode, I find that it doesn't really block any more ambient noise than standard ANC mode and instead just makes the ambient noise that is able to come through sound distorted and weird. I'd pass on super ANC mode.
There's also a noise pass through mode that allows you to hear your surroundings with the headphones still in.The sound quality of this pass through mode isn't that great, but it'll do in a pinch.
Of course, if you think that all of this is just nonsense you can turn all the ANC stuff off and just listen to the buds as they are, this is a decent option as in many cases the PineBuds Pro's passive noise cancellation will be enough.
As previously mentioned the PineBuds Pro are capable of running open firmware, this is because Pine64 have given the user the ability to reflash the firmware on the device (as is the case with the rest of Pine64's products.). Potentially, this could lead to custom firmware with more features, better sound quality and more.
Unfortunately however, neither the stock firmware nor the hardware is open source. Some people have deemed this unacceptable. Personally, it doesn't bother me too much, the fact that I'll be able to run free software on these buds once it's developed is enough (though I wouldn't mind running non-free software on Bluetooth earbuds in the first place). Whether or not you deem this to be acceptable is up to you ultimately.
The PineBuds Pro's Closest Competition
Despite the fact that they cost several times more than the PineBuds Pro I believe that the AirPods Pro are the closest comparison that can be made with the PineBuds Pro (Yes, the PineBuds Pro are that good.)
The AirPods Pro have slightly better build quality and sound quality than the PineBuds Pro, and their small size makes them far more pocketable. But, the PineBuds Pro have USB-C and support for flashing custom firmware.
Overall, I think I'll probably use my AirPods Pro more than the PineBuds Pro, but the PineBuds Pro have won a permanent space as my "on the go" headphones.
In conclusion, the PineBuds Pro are a great pair of headphones. I would get them on the spot if you're not afraid of a little bit of bass! I'd especially recommend them to people who enjoy tinkering.
Who knows what the future holds for these little buds once tinkerers get their hands on them!
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