While we await Apple’s delayed cord-free, wireless AirPods, we’ve been reviewing the competition to see if they are indeed worth the wait. The $249 Skybuds are one of the latest entries, making a debut at Best Buy this month across the US. I’ve been testing them over the last couple weeks…
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The Skybuds manage to be on the smaller side compared to other cord-free earbuds I’ve tested recently— like The Bragi Dash or Sol Republic’s new Amps Air— but they are still borderline slightly bigger than I’d say is ideal for an earbud. Of course comfort when it comes to earbuds is a very personal thing, and overall the form factor isn’t a deal breaker in terms of size— they don’t look too big in the ear like some of the other products in this category, but you can judge for yourself in the image below. And while I wouldn’t describe them as particularly comfortable, they weren’t too uncomfortable to wear for extended periods of time.
You’re supposed to twist them into place after inserting into your ear, so they sit like this:
For most that will lock the earbuds snuggly into place, and I didn’t have an issues with feeling like I might lose one while in motion.
The plastic earbuds are sweat proof and water-resistant, which makes them suitable for workouts. They come with three different size silicone ear tips that you can replace to get a snug fit. The button on the side is limited to answering and declining a call, or pausing and playing music, but the mic in my tests wasn’t suitable for calls in environments with any level of background noise on either end. Don’t expect to have a great experience with calls on these, but we’ve yet to find a cord-free earbuds that do deliver for voice calls.
The initial setup and pairing process with the Skybuds is incredibly user friendly with a pleasant sounding voice delivering audio instructions for setup when you first turn them on. It’s the usual Bluetooth headphone pairing process otherwise, meaning you should see them appear within the Bluetooth tab in Settings.
Once you’ve paired once, the earbuds should pair automatically with your device as long as they are on and Bluetooth is enabled on your device. I found them to pair quite reliably with my iPhone 7, only requiring the odd reconnecting via Settings or cycling of power when the auto pairing happens to fail (a fact of life with Bluetooth).
Like most other cord-free earbuds, these make up for somewhat limited battery life with a portable charging case that extends your approximately 4 hour battery life to 24 hours while on-the-go. In other words, as long as you aren’t listening for longer than 4 hour periods, and store them in the charging case in between listening, you’ll be able to get all-day or multiple days out of use before having to plug into a wall.
The case has charge indicator lights on top and uses micro USB charging, and you just leave the earbuds on when you insert them into the case. That way, when you pull them out next time, they are on and ready to automatically pair with your device.
Sound quality is a bit lacking from what I’d expect out of a $249 pair of earbuds— they were similar to Apple’s EarPods that come stock with iPhones in my comparisons. The sound is a bit on the thin/hollow side, and there isn’t much presence of any bass. The Sol Republic Amps Air earbuds I tested recently offer many of the same features at $179, and they provide much superior sound quality with bigger bass and cleaner mids. But they are also a bit chunkier than the Skybuds, which is the major trade-off when comparing the two products.
A companion app you can download from the App Store lets you see charge levels of earbuds and the charging case itself, as well as reinitiate the pairing process.
You can also choose to a factory reset of the Skybuds from the app and enable a “Power Saving Mode” that extends battery but reduces sound quality. The last thing these earbuds need is a dip in sound quality, but I found the battery life to live up to claims and therefore didn’t find myself wanting to enable this mode at the expense of audio fidelity.
The company says an update coming soon to the app will enable you to locate the Skybuds when lost if they’re in range of your phone.
Check out the alternatives: Apple’s AirPods are still delayed, Sol Republic has superior sound but are slightly bulky compared to Skybuds, and the competition falls somewhere in between.
Skybuds could still stand to lose 10-20% in overall size to make for an ideal fit for most people used to wearing traditional earbuds, but they are still one of the slimmest and more comfortable designs I’ve tried.
Should you buy it?
I’m holding off on cord-free earbuds personally, but if you have to get something today, before Apple launches it AirPods at $159, the Skybuds are an overall solid experience if ‘just okay’ sound quality is enough for your workouts or other use cases. If you’re happy with the sound on Apple’s EarPods, for example, but want something cord-free, that is essentially what you’re getting as far as sound quality is concerned.
You can buy them for $249 now from Best Buy. They come in nimbus, charcoal and pearl color options.
If you can put up with a slightly bulkier package and want something that sounds great, check out my review of the Sol Republic Amps Air. Or check out our roundup of the best wireless cord-free earbuds available ahead of Apple’s AirPods.