True Wireless Earbuds
We’ve had wireless earbuds for a few years now, but the first few generations of the devices were weren’t truly wireless; the connection to the source device is Bluetooth, but the buds themselves are connected by a wire.
Now, true wireless earbuds are becoming more common and one of the newer examples are Skybuds, from Alpha Audiotronics.
Skybuds offer some distinct advantages over other true wireless earbuds.
The buds use a “twist and lock” motion to securely and comfortably fit. I have difficulty with most earbuds, but these fit nicely and stayed in place despite deliberate attempts to shake them loose.
Skybuds use NFMI technology to connect the buds instead of Bluetooth, with Bluetooth used to connect the primary bud to the source audio device. NFMI travels through mass (your head) more reliably than Bluetooth—important when the audio has to be synchronized between the two units without the use of a wire.
Battery life is the downside of all true wireless earbuds (you can only stuff so much capacity into a tiny gadget that sits in your ear), but Skybuds do pretty well on that front. They go up to four hours on a charge, long enough for most people to use for a workout or two. The included Skydock fully charges the buds six times (for a total of 24 hours without needing to plug into an electrical outlet) while doing double duty as a protective case. The Skydock shows battery remaining for itself and each bud with LED lights, and you can get precise numbers with the mobile app.
Premium sound was a goal of the Skybuds designers. They feature balanced armature drivers and bass enhancement for high-quality audio. While I’ve never had buds that can approach a decent set of on-ear headphones for audio quality, the Skybuds are up there so far as earbuds go. I did use my iPhone’s EQ to boost the bass a bit more, but otherwise audio is crisp, clear, and has some low-end presence. Not my first choice for casual music listening, but good enough to provide an enjoyable soundtrack for exercise.
A recent app update and accompanying firmware update gave the Skybuds a form of adaptive, active noise cancellation. The company calls it Awareness. The app gives you slider control over what level of ambient noise you want to let through. Very useful for staying on top of traffic or other hazards, or blocking out office chatter.
That same update also added a “Find My Skybuds” feature. There’s a proximity finder and a map marker showing where they last went out of Bluetooth range from your device. And you can have the app send alerts when you do get out of range so you don’t accidentally leave a Skybud behind. The proximity finder worked reasonably well, but could get fooled by a Skybud on a different floor—near, but actually far away.
In addition to the secure fit and four-hour battery life, Skybuds are sweatproof and water-resistant, making them ideal for wearing during exercise. In fact, with no wires whatsoever and the Awareness feature, they are pretty much perfect for fitness activities.
Music control is accomplished by tapping a Skybud, and you can also use a tap and hold to invoke Siri or Google Now for voice control. I used Siri and once I figured out the control sequence, that worked quite well.
If you’re checking out the freedom of true wireless earbuds, Skybuds deserve a spot on your shortlist. They’re great for exercise—secure fit, sweat resistant, and 4-hour battery life—and offer high-quality sound. With the Skydock you get 24 hours of use between electrical outlets. And with the app, you can track down a misplaced bud. I wouldn’t recommend them for kids (they’re expensive and too easy to misplace even if you have the app to track them down), but for responsible teens and adults, they’re a great option.
Especially if you don’t want to rock the alien look of Apple’s AirPods.
Disclosure: Alpha Audiotronics supplied Skybuds for review purposes.