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Home / Reviews / Audio / Headphones / CMF Buds Pro 2 review: budget earphones in name only

CMF Buds Pro 2 review: budget earphones in name only

makes a strong case

CMF Buds Pro 2 review buds out of case

Stuff Verdict

Clean sound, effective ANC and a clever case. The CMF Buds Pro 2 are a lot of wireless earphones for very little money.


  • Energetic, entertaining audio
  • Noise cancelling competes with pricier buds
  • Very respectable battery life


  • On-case controls not a huge gamechanger
  • Very bass-heavy tuning not to all tastes


Nothing’s knack for affordable audio tech that punches above its weight shows no sign of fading. The firm’s mainline efforts rival the best wireless earbuds at their respective price points, and sub-brand CMF showed similar promise for even less cash, right from the off. The design-focused offshoot has barely been in existence a year, but now is already onto its second generation earphones.

The Buds Pro 2 step things up across the board, with better drivers, more effective noise cancelling, and a cleverer case that’s more in keeping with the rest of the CMF line-up. That has resulted in a 20% price hike – which sounds dramatic until you realise the outgoing model launched at a pocket money-friendly £49. These £59 buds are still impressively thrifty.

It’s not like cheap noise cancelling earbuds are a rarity, though. Has CMF done enough to demand the attention of all music fans, rather than just those on a budget?

How we test headphones

Every pair of earphones and headphones reviewed on Stuff is used for a minimum of a week’s worth of daily listening. We use a playlist of test tracks made up of multiple genres to assess sound, and use our years of experience to compare to other models. Manufacturers have no visibility on reviews before they appear online, and we never accept payment to feature products.

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Design & build: case in point

Nothing has ditched the first-gen Buds Pro’s circular charging case, which was arguably a little generic, in favour of a square one that’s more in keeping with the vanilla CMF Buds. It’s made of the same soft-touch matte plastic, which keeps fingerprint marks to a minimum. Only here you have four colourways to choose from rather than two: blue, orange, light grey and dark grey. It’s larger than an AirPods case, but not by much. I could still squeeze it into my jeans’ money pocket – just about.

The distinctive circular ring built into the lid, which hid holes to thread a lanyard through on the entry-level model, is now a smart dial. These are the first true wireless earphones I can think of that let you control volume with a twist, or playback with a press. The closest comparison would be the JBL Live Beam 3‘s touchscreen case, but those buds cost considerably more cash.

It’s a neat idea, saving you from prodding the buds themselves or reach for your phone to change noise cancelling modes, activate your smart assistant, or answer incoming calls. I often find using on-ear controls can either dislodge the buds I’m listening to, or push them uncomfortably deep into my ear canals; that wasn’t an issue with the CMF Buds Pro 2 once I’d got in the habit of reaching down into my pocket to change tracks, rather than up to my ear. It’s still fidget spinner-levels of satisfying to twist the dial, too.

The buds themselves aren’t just a pair of Nothing Ear or Ear (a) buds stripped of their transparent shells, though they do have a similar stem-style design, bulbous driver housings and silicone ear tips to provide a firm fit. Finding the right pair (three sizes are included in the box) makes all the difference to background noise isolation, too.

IP55 water resistance is a step up from the regular CMF Buds’ IP54 rating, meaning I was never worried about getting caught outside in a rain shower. They cope just fine as fitness buds too, shrugging off sweat better than the pricier Samsung Galaxy Buds FE.

Features & battery life: wheel-y good

Just because you can control the CMF Buds Pro 2 with the charging case, it doesn’t mean the brand hasn’t also included touch-sensitive stems on the buds themselves. You’ve got to make sure you’re hitting the right spot with each tap, and with different double-, triple- and tap-and-hold gestures for each ear, there can be a lot to remember. The companion app lets you enable or disable as many of these as you like, though.

Android fast pair makes connecting to your phone a breeze, and there’s support for higher quality LDAC streaming if your gadgets have it – though using it over basic Bluetooth locks you out of the Dirac EQ tune, for some reason. A low-latency mode is handy for gaming, as it all but eliminates any audio/video sync fails. Multipoint pairing is much appreciated, too, letting me connect to my laptop and smartphone at the same time.

Nothing has again found room inside each bud for a trio of microphones, which worked perfectly for voice calls even while I was walking down a fairly busy road. Wind reduction and background noise isolation do a great job without making you sound like a robot.

I had no complaints about the CMF Buds Pro 2’s battery life. Sticking to the standard Bluetooth codec I averaged six hours of listening from the buds themselves with ANC enabled; the case can bring that total up to just over 24 hours, meaning several days of regular listening before I had to plug it in. LDAC Bluetooth is more power hungry, dropping the buds to about four hours of playback and the total including the case to about 15 hours. This is still a decent showing among budget earbuds, but long distance travellers will probably want to stick with basic AAC or SBC streaming.

There’s no wireless charging here, which is hardly a surprise given the bargain price. Over USB-C a full refuel took about 70 minutes, but a 10 minute top up was good for about three more hours of listening from the buds. That’s pretty standard for wireless earbuds, regardless of budget.

Interface: solve for X

The CMF Buds Pro 2 use the same companion app as Nothing’s mainline wireless earbuds, and have access to most of the same features as the entry-level Ear (a). That includes a handful of noise cancelling and transparency modes, toggles for multipoint connectivity and the low latency mode, and an ear tip fit test that always insisted I wasn’t wearing the buds whenever I tried to use it.

You can adjust the touch controls on the buds, and fully customise the charging case’s smart dial. A find my earbuds feature plays loud tones through each earbud, in case you misplace them. The app can also install firmware updates and switch off in-ear detection – which like many Nothing earphones I’ve tried, can be very flaky while walking, pausing your music should the buds shift slightly in your ears.

Sound tuning is limited to a simple three-way EQ slider and a handful of presets, instead of the more thorough eight-band equaliser restricted to the flagship Nothing Ear. You do get toggles for Ultra Bass and Spatial Audio effects, but in my opinion only one is worth bothering with.

Sound quality and noise cancelling: these cost how much?

These are Nothing’s first dual driver earbuds, with an 11mm main speaker and a 6mm planar tweeter. The pair promise deep lows and crisp highs; I can confirm they absolutely deliver on the former. There’s some serious oomph on tap, even without switching on the Ultra Bass mode. I found it way too intense, making even softer tracks sound boomier than they should be.

Dial it back using the companion app’s custom EQ, though, and things are a bit more balanced. I’d definitely call the tuning “fun”, with lots of bass and a crisp treble, though that’s not to say there’s anything missing at the middle of the frequency range. Vocals are clean and overall clarity is very good.

I thought the Dirac Opteo tuning closed the soundstage up dramatically, crushing the low-end frequencies together in a way that stripped back detail, so I largely stayed away from it. The spatial sound upmixing goes the other way, bringing vocals forward and letting instruments breathe just that little bit more. These aren’t going to give pricier Bluetooth ‘buds a shoeing, but they definitely punch above their weight.

Noise cancelling paints a similar picture. ANC is a step up from the first-gen Buds Pro, quietening a wider frequency range. Bose and Sony have nothing to sweat about, but you don’t need to be an audio expert to tell these are better than the vast majority of sub-£60 earbuds at silencing your surroundings. Commutes were much more peaceful, even if sudden loud noises still pierced through. The adaptive mode – which isn’t a given on other cheap noise cancelling earbuds – otherwise reacts to generally louder environments fairly quickly. There’s a slight variance to the sound with ANC enabled, but no noticeable hiss at even moderate volumes.

CMF Buds Pro 2 verdict

CMF Buds Pro 2 review verdict

You’re getting an awful lot of bang for very little buck with the CMF Buds Pro 2. Noise cancelling is really rather good, battery life is either on par or better than most budget alternatives, and the companion app isn’t exactly short on features. The bass-heavy tuning won’t please everyone, but those that like a lot of rumble will be thoroughly entertained.

I don’t think putting controls on the charging case is a real game changer, either – but like how CMF has added them while also sticking to its minimalist design ethos. If you’re after all-rounder in ears that won’t leave a massive crater in your wallet, these deserve to be on your shortlist.

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

Clean sound, effective ANC and a clever case. The CMF Buds Pro 2 are a lot of wireless earphones for very little money.


Energetic, entertaining audio

Noise cancelling competes with pricier buds

Very respectable battery life


On-case controls not a huge gamechanger

Very bass-heavy tuning not to all tastes

CMF Buds Pro 2 technical specifications

Drivers11mm + 6mm
Bluetooth versionBluetooth 5.3
Codecs supportedAAC, SBC, LDAC
Battery life6.5hrs/26hrs (buds/case, ANC on)
11hrs/43hrs (buds/case, ANC off)
Dimensions4.9g (buds) 56g (case)
Profile image of Tom Morgan-Freelander Tom Morgan-Freelander Deputy Editor


A tech addict from about the age of three (seriously, he's got the VHS tapes to prove it), Tom's been writing about gadgets, games and everything in between for the past decade, with a slight diversion into the world of automotive in between. As Deputy Editor, Tom keeps the website ticking along, jam-packed with the hottest gadget news and reviews.  When he's not on the road attending launch events, you can usually find him scouring the web for the latest news, to feed Stuff readers' insatiable appetite for tech.

Areas of expertise

Smartphones/tablets/computing, cameras, home cinema, automotive, virtual reality, gaming