The CMF Buds Pro 2 are among the best budget earbuds

It’s remarkable how little you can spend in 2024 to get decent quality wireless earbuds. I can still remember a few years ago when cheap headphones were pretty poor quality and you’d have to spend between £150 and £200 to get something reliable and impressive.

Those days are over. You can now get previously flagship features like multipoint, transparency, active noise cancellation, customizable sound and compact, pocket-sized earbuds for well under £100.

I’ve tried out several recent models, including the Nothing Ear (a), the Moondrop Space Travel, the Soundcore P40i, the Soundcore Liberty 4 NC and many more.

The latest contender? It’s from Nothing’s sub-brand CMF, and it’s jam-packed with features. Building on our previous recommendations of the £49 CMF Buds Pro and £39 CMF Buds , the brand new Buds Pro 2 boast dual drivers for richer sound, improved noise cancellation, and a unique customisable button on the charging case. All that, and they cost just £59.

CMF Buds Pro 2 review: design and comfort

If you’ve been following the design of Nothing’s CMF earbuds so far, you won’t be surprised by their appearance. The case looks a bit like the one on the flagship Nothing Ear model, but as if it’s been covered in a new coat of paint. The available colors are dark gray, light gray, orange, and blue. I got the blue one for testing and it’s a really nice shade. CMF has done a good job here. The plastic still feels a bit cheap, but not as bad as on previous releases from the brand.

What’s unique about the case is that in one corner there’s a “Smart Dial,” or control knob, that’s fully customizable within the Nothing X app. You can control what it does by clicking, holding and turning the dial, both during playback and during calls. It’s fun, reminding me a little of how handy the charging case controls are from my recent review of the JBL Live Beam 3 , and there’s a real analog appeal to turning the clicking dial to crank up the volume.

The Buds Pro 2 themselves are small and compact. They have a slightly longer stem than the AirPods Pro or the recent Nothing launches, but are otherwise exactly what you’d expect and are comfortable to wear. On the top of each earbud, you get a customizable touch surface. These controls are nice and responsive, but oddly you can’t program each tap to do anything. Ultimately, I found them to be less reliable than the “Smart Dial” for controls.

CMF Buds Pro 2 review: sound quality

These buds support AAC, LDAC, and SBC codecs and they feature a dual speaker system with an 11mm bass driver and a 6mm micro-planar tweeter. It’s a setup that should be capable of producing great-sounding audio depending on your tastes, but out of the box they’re absolute bass guns and the excessive low-end emphasis takes some doing. Yeah, I know you think you love bass, but without the ability to adjust that sound via the app, I honestly found it tiring to listen to them for much longer than an hour.

Luckily the Nothing X app exists and it is possible to fix some of this. By default they come with “Ultra Bass” enabled. I would recommend turning this off or toning it down, they are bassy enough without it. They also default to the “pop” equalizer setting. So the next step I would suggest is to find another one to make them more palatable.

At first I tried the “Dirac Opteo” which Nothing says is supposed to make the sound “as the artist intended” – overall it’s still too bass boosted. But once I switched to a custom equalizer mode and set the bass to “-5” I got much closer to a decent sound. Truth be told, even with this setting they are still very bassy with a lot of thump.

Once I settled on this setup, I found the vocals and mid-range to be more balanced with punch, and there is richness and detail here, after adjustment. If this tuning is to your taste, you’ll find them fun and engaging to listen to. They also have a subtle “spatial” mode, which works well and I’d consider turning it on for certain tracks and movies – it makes it seem like the sound is coming from all around you rather than just the left and right sides.

CMF Buds Pro 2 review: noise cancellation

Still, nothing says that the CMF Buds Pro 2 have a noise cancelling capacity of a decibel amount, and it says they can provide 50dB of active noise cancellation. In practice, this is always going to vary depending on the frequency of noise you’re encountering, but the positive news here is that they’re very effective in a range of situations. I’ve used them while walking around, in the office, on busy London Underground trains, and in a restaurant.

In every location, they were able to cancel out a wide range of noise, making them a surprisingly good contender for the higher-end pairs. I’m particularly impressed with how well they handle high-frequency noises, like the chatter of office colleagues. And they’re more than good enough for the commute, the only time they faltered was during some of the sudden screeching noises I encountered on the Northern Line – only a handful of pairs, like the Bose QuietComfort Ultra earbuds, can handle that.

cmf buds pro 2 review

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CMF Buds Pro 2 review: battery life

For compact earbuds, they’re solid on the battery front too, with 6.5 hours of life on the buds and up to 26 hours with the case. That’s for playback with the AAC codec and noise canceling turned on, you can get more life – 11 hours from the buds and 43 hours with the case – if you turn noise canceling off.

However, the high-res LDAC codec goes against this and reduces the battery life to 4.3 hours. Audiophile listeners who use Tidal and Qobuz will have to think twice about whether they are willing to reduce the battery life by this much, especially since the advantages of LDAC are barely noticeable on this pair.

When they’re empty, they also have a quick charge function. Ten minutes of charging can give you up to three hours of playback with ANC off.

CMF Buds Pro 2 review: verdict

There are many more handy extras on the CMF Buds Pro 2 that I haven’t discussed in detail in this review. They have dual device connectivity with Bluetooth multipoint, a low-lag mode for mobile gamers, an ear tip fit test and in-ear detection sensors.

Overall, there’s a lot of value here for those on a very tight budget, and I’m impressed that these earbuds only cost £59. The build quality feels reliable, if not premium, and there’s a good amount of control and customisation available. The noise-cancelling is convincing and the sound is solid, but only if you value bass far more than everything else in your playlists.

There may be some more versatile options, as there are tons of earbuds on the market, but these are some decent budget all-rounders that won’t disappoint many people. As I said at the beginning, it’s surprising how affordable solid earbuds have become in 2024.

CMF Buds Pro 2 review: also consider

If you can spend a little more, I’d recommend upgrading to the Nothing Ear(a), Soundcore Liberty 4 NC or Sony WF-C700N as they are all excellent and still cost less than £100. The Nothing Ear(a) are a much better sounding pair with nicer controls and a classier look.

You can also get some noise-cancelling rivals for less money, such as the decent £39 CMF Buds or the £25 Moondrop Space Travel . The latter sound a lot more balanced and refined than these.

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