PINE64's PineBuds Pro: my first impressions

I received my set of PINE64’s PineBuds Pro a few days ago. Here are my initial thoughts, and the solution to some troubleshooting.


I ordered them from PINE64 on 1st December, and they arrived on 28th December. The tracking worked, but there were periods in which it went quiet - since we’ve had Christmas, and Royal Mail strikes, I’m not surprised it took so long.

I didn’t have to pay any (additional) import duty.

Pairing the PineBuds Pro

I didn’t (and still don’t) understand the manual’s reference to “5.1 Left/ Right mutually connects” and “5.2 Peer-Connected”.

I followed the “Left/ Right mutually connects” instructions:

Remove earbuds from the case, go to your Smartphone settings and enable Bluetooth pairing.

Look for “PineBuds Pro” and establish the pairing process.

a. During peer pairing mode, the Left earbud LED alternates in Red + Blue color. The right earbud LED blinks Blue color every 5 seconds.

b. When Peer-pairing is successful, BOTH earbud’s LED blinks Blue every 5 seconds.

With Android / Graphene OS

They paired first time with my phone, which runs Android / Graphene OS.

With Debian 11 (Linux)

One one machine - an Intel NUC, running Debian 11 with GNOME, using GNOME’s Bluetooth UI - the PineBuds Pro paired immediately, and worked.

On another, I had a bit of a fight to get them working.

The answer lay in /var/log/syslog:

Jan 1 11:12:18 surfacego bluetoothd[757]: src/service.c:btd_service_connect() a2dp-sink profile connect failed for 20:22:11:33:71:37: Protocol not available

I had previoulsy installed pipewire on that machine, but seemingly not finished setting up the Bluetooth side of it.

I fixed it with:

sudo apt install libspa-0.2-bluetooth
sudo apt remove pulseaudio-module-bluetooth -y
sudo systemctl reboot

I then re-paired the PineBuds Pro, and they worked fine.

So a mistake on my part, not a failing of the PineBuds Pro.

PineBuds Pro sound quality

So far, the sound quality seems fine. I’ve only used them for about 10 minutes, so too early to judge properly. However, since I see myself using them mostly for voice - for audio / video calls - music performance is not too important to me.

Someone, whose views I trust, said:

I found the soundstage very spacious, surprisingly so for a pair of earbuds. There was a good level of detail although the mid to low bass was overly prominent for me - very much hoping to get some level of EQ control at some point.

The noise cancelling seemed very dependent on getting the precise fit of the tips in your ears. Wind noise was fairly loud when I ran to the gym as well but I may not have got the fit quite right.

The PineBuds Pro come with a selection of tips; I’ve only used the default medium ones so far. They seem to fit fine, and the earbuds are quite comfortable. I haven’t tried using them while running / exercising.

The charging case

Once I’d worked out why the charging case was not charging (spoiler: one needs to plug in a USB cable at both ends), the charging case LEDs went from three white LEDs to four white LEDs in about an hour.

The charging case is reasonably chunky. Certainly much chunkier - 175% the size, at a rough guess - than the charging case for my Jabra Bluetooth earbuds. The Jabra case is far more pocketable, and the PineBuds Pro case is more suited to carrying in a bag, IMHO.

Some warnings

I noted a couple of warnings, which may or may not be of relevance to you.

The first, on the PINE64 website, is that:

Excessive flashing Pinebuds can potentially brick the device.

Apparently, they have “Endurance erase cycles: >500”, so if you are planning on being a user, rather than a developer, this may not pose an issue. But if you plan on taking advantage of the fact that you can flash your own firmware, you might find this a bit limiting. (I guess that all flash has a limit to the number of times it can be written.)

Second is the quasi-warning on the PINE64 wiki:

[The PineBuds Pro are] a fully community-driven side-project which anyone can contribute to, allowing you to keep control of your device even though hardware is proprietary.

I mean, wouldn’t it be nice if neither the hardware nor the firmware were proprietary…