Review: Skybuds offer truly wireless earbuds for workouts, iPhone 7 users

Sticking things in your ears have never sounded so good

Skybuds wireless earbuds
Alpha Audiotronics
At a Glance
  • Skybuds - Charcoal (Black)

Wireless headphones and earbuds have gotten a higher profile after Apple announced the removal of the headphone jack for its new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus smartphones. Owners of the new device get to make a decision – either buy an adapter to use with their wired headphones or move to wireless. Apple hopes that you buy its own earbuds (Air Pods), but delays in shipping have left people looking for other options.

One such device aiming to fill that gap is Skybuds ($250, available in three color options) – these are individual earbuds (one for each ear) that provide Bluetooth wireless connectivity for your devices. While other earphone systems have a connected strap that usually goes behind the head, the Skybuds are free of such a cable (just like the Air Pods).

This brings both advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, there’s no strap or cable that could get caught up in your clothing while you’re working out. On the other hand, it’s much easier to misplace or lose these if you’re not careful. Fortunately, the Skybuds fit quite nicely, so the chances that these are going to drop out of your ears while you’re running or dancing are pretty slim, compared to the dangly nature of the Apple Air Pods (at least from the pictures I've seen).

Person using Skybuds wireless earbuds on a couch Alpha Audiotronics

Fitting them inside your ears isn’t that difficult. Once you find the ear tip that you feel most comfortable with (it ships with medium tips, but small and large size tips are also provided), you place the earbud into your ear, then twist one quarter of a turn so that the back end rests up against the back cartilage of the outside ear (it’s not as gross as that sentence sounds). Once the Skybuds are powered up and connected via Bluetooth you’re all set for listening to your favorite tunes. The Skybuds also include a microphone, so if a call comes in you can just talk with the Skybuds inside your ears.

In my tests, it did take a few attempts to get the right fit inside my ears – it felt like the space between my ear canal opening and the ridge for resting the back part of the Skybud was too small. But I also have smaller ears than normal people (I checked). This also made wearing the Skybuds uncomfortable, at least in the beginning. In a weird sense, the longer I wore these the more comfortable they became. Maybe it’s a Memory Foam type of thing, where my ears adapted to the Skybuds. Maybe it’s just that I’m weird.

The Skybuds also feature “passive noise cancellation”, which basically means you won’t be able to hear other people while wearing these. Because, yeah, you have a small device blocking the ear canal on each ear. OK, to be fair, if you turn off your music while wearing these, you can still hear enough of a conversation without having to remove the Skybud from your ear.

Recharging the Skybuds is done through an included “Skydock”, which includes a carrying case for the Skybuds as well as some additional battery life. The Skydock recharges via an included USB cable. There’s also a Bluetooth connection between the Skydock and your phone, which I assume is needed in order to give the power percentage rating left on the battery for each device. You can monitor the battery levels through a really cool Skybud app, which can tell you if the battery is recharging the Skybuds. The Skybuds also recharged a lot faster than I thought they would.

Sound quality was pretty good overall – they’re not the best in the world (definitely low on the bass side), but it’s good enough for you to listen to music, podcasts or whatever you need when getting through your day (or workout). Speaking of workouts, the Skybuds are sweat- and water resistant.

The price ($250) may turn off some people – the Air Pods cost $159 and people thought that price was too high. I’d expect this price to come down a bit once the Air Pods become more widely available.

Grade: 4 stars (out of five)

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
At a Glance
  • Skybuds - Charcoal (Black)

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

IT Salary Survey: The results are in