I have gone through two sets of ZAGG smartbuds and am now trying out a pair of Skullcandy’s 50/50 earbuds. I’ve used them both enough to give a fair review of both. First let me say that I do not listen to music, but I am a hardcore users of these earbuds. I wear them everyday. If you’re interested, I am a hardcore listener of podcasts and audio books. I listen at the gym, in the car, at the grocery store, while I mow the lawn… pretty much anytime I’m by myself with nothing to do.
ZAGG smartbuds (3.5/5)
Let’s start with the ZAGG smartbuds. I originally bought these because the Apple earbuds that came with my iPhone began to breakdown from over use. At the time these things were 75$, but I was able to get a pretty good coupon… back when ZAGG use to give their stuff away to gain momentum. The second pair I bought second hand from a co-worker who didn’t really like them (he’s stockier than I am and said that the cordage didn’t really work for him). There are many things I loved about these earbuds and many things I didn’t…
- They can be worn in a way that keeps the buds around your neck, even when not in use. This was probably the most convenient thing about these earbuds and I wore mine everyday like this. It makes it convenient for taking calls, as well as just popping in your earbuds to listen to the No Agenda Podcast (the best podcast in the universe).
- They are very comfortable, the earbuds actually come with 4 different sets of earbud adapters, 2 sizes of the thin silicone earbuds and 2 sets of the thicker foam earbuds. I used the smallest size foam and thought that they fit the best and gave the best noise cancellation affect, great for when I was listening to Beyond the Box Podcast with Steve Sensenig and Raborn Johnson.
- They generally sound great, bare in mind, I’m listening to mostly podcasts and the audio quality doesn’t need to be amazing for me to get what I need, but I’ve never had any major problems with the sound.
- The regular iPhone headphones have push button volume up/down controls and the hang-up/answer button. The ZAGG smartbuds has the hang-up/answer button, but the volume control is actually separate from the the iPhone controls, it’s a slide. It kind of gives you a little more control over the volume, since you can control the headphone volume from your iPhone and then also from your headphones. However, I found this to be a nuisance more than anything. I always kept my iPhone volume up to 100% and controlled the actual headphone volume using the slider. However, it seemed like at some points in the “slide” the volume went from just too low to just too high. I think it would have been much more sensible to just use the volume up/down controls like the Apple earbuds.
- My first pair started to get some static, it seemed like the 3.5mm connector started to wear down so whenever it moved in my pocket I’d hear some crackling noises.
- I really liked that I could keep the earbud around my neck… but occasionally I’d be reminded that at any time some ninja could sneak up behind me while I’m listening to This Week in Tech and strangle me to death with my own earbuds.
- They claim that they have a noise cancelling mic. I’m not sure how this works or if it even worked. I didn’t really detect any real noise cancelling effect apart from the foam earbuds. I could be wrong, but I did occasionally have to set the volume to the highest setting. I would think with “noise cancellation” it would have cancelled the noise around me better. This is true for both pairs I owned.
- It’s actually kind of hard to store these earbuds. The cordage is much longer than a typical set, and there are many “hard” places that seem to get into the way of how I normally wrap a set of earphones.
Skullcandy 50/50 Earbuds (4/5)
After I accidentally broke my second pair of ZAGG smart buds (my first pair broke on their own somehow). I needed to get a new set of earbuds. It’s hard to come by a good ZAGG coupon these days, so I had to look elsewhere for my podcast listening needs. After a few search and reading some reviews on Amazon I decided to try out the Skullcandy 50/50 earbuds.
- These actually have the Apple standard volume up/down control buttons. This is so much better than a slider to control the volume, I no longer have to fight for the “perfect” volume when I listen to the Freakonomics Podcast.
- I broke my last set of smartbud because of the “around the neck” feature, I don’t have to worry about that with these, if I snag the cord on something they’ll just pop out of my ears. But if I’m not wearing them, they’ll be put in my pocket anyway. So hopefully these will last me longer than the smartbuds did.
- Like the smartbuds, the sounds quality is great. I haven’t noticed any problems, no snapping, or crackling. Though I haven’t had these as long as my first part of the smartbuds.
- It is much easier to wrap up these headphones in and store them, though this is only against the ZAGG smartbuds, I’m sure any traditional headphones would be just as easy as these are. It’s still a PRO because I no longer have to deal with that hassle.
- I don’t know why they are made this way, but their silicone earbud adapters are horrible (at least for me). They sound fine, but the problem is they have little embossed “skulls” on them, which basically makes the inside of my ear itch like crazy. It’s like having a small grain of sand in your ear. Luckily, I had all my earbud adapters from my ZAGG collection. The foam ones didn’t really work (they didn’t fit right on the earphones), but the ZAGG silicone adapters worked great, and they’re actually very comfortable. I know this is turning into a pro, but it’s a con… because I think you’ll have to buy a third-party set of silicone earbud adapaters to get a comfortable feel. Skullcandy really needs to change this (seriously, who the heck is going to see the “skull” in your ears anyway). Though I never saw this complaint in the reviews I’ve read, it might just be me.
- These don’t have the same feature that lets you keep the earbuds around your neck. It’s not a deal-breaker, but I really did like that about the smartbuds. Though I don’t really need to worry about ninjas as much.
- These earbuds have a chrome piece on the earbuds that actually get pretty cold and is kind of shocking when you put it in your ear. It doesn’t last long, but I don’t enjoy it very much.
So there you have it, I was able to get the Skullcandy 50/50 earbuds a bit cheaper on Amazon than the ZAGG smartbuds. Neither are perfect, but I guess if you don’t want to buy those 200$ earbuds, you’ll have to compromise in one way or another. I think I’m really going to like the Skullcandy 50/50 earbuds though, the biggest complaint I have against them is their embossed silicone earbud adapters. If it wasn’t for that, I’d probably give them 5 (out of five).