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Skybuds review: Skybuds don't soar past AirPods, but they're good

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Dozens of totally wireless earphones have arrived on the market, and Skybuds, which retail for $200, are one of the better models available, though they distinguish themselves more from a performance standpoint than a design standpoint. (Official UK and Australia availability is unknown, but the US price translates to about £155 or AU$267.)

The Good

The water-resistant Skybuds are a set of totally wireless earphones that sound pretty decent, are easy to operate and set up and maintained a reliable wireless connection with mostly hiccup-free Bluetooth audio streaming. The included case delivers five charges, and their "awareness" mode that lets ambient sound in when needed.

The Bad

Their design is a little generic and the sound is only good, not great. They cost more than the AirPods.

The Bottom Line

The AirPods are more comfortable and cost less, but the Skybuds are one of the better totally wireless earphones out there right now.

Available in three colors, the Skybuds have been on the market for almost a year and they've had a few software updates via their free companion Skybuds app (for iOS and Android) that add extra features, including a pass-through sound mode that lets ambient noise in and a "Find My Skybuds" feature that helps you locate your Skybuds should you lose them.

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The Skybuds come in pearl (pictured), black and silver.

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What I like about them is pretty simple: They actually work and sound pretty decent for this type of headphone. When I say that "they work" what I mean is that is that I had no trouble setting them up and pairing them to each other and my phone. They also maintained a reliable wireless connection. I had a few Bluetooth hiccups, but no worse than with most wireless headphones, even the ones that have cords.

Are they comfortable? Relatively speaking, yes, but they're not as comfortable as Apple's AirPods. They did manage to stay in my ears securely, and I wore them during several work commutes in the streets of New York and the subway (since you jam them in your ears, they offer a good amount of passive noise isolation). I also wore them at the gym -- yes, they're sweatproof -- and even took them on a few short runs with them (they stayed in my ears just fine).

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The buds in their charging case.

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You charge and store the buds in a battery case. They're rated at 4 hours of battery life at moderate volume levels and similarly to the AirPods, the case gives you an extra five charges.

Compared to Bragi's pricier The Dash Pro, this headphone doesn't feature all that model's extra bells and whistles, such as a built-in heart-rate monitor and touch controls. The Skybuds keep things simpler (you click a button on the bud to pause and advance tracks), which I thought was a plus.

Their sound quality didn't blow me away -- I think the pricier Doppler Labs' Here One sounds a little better -- but it was definitely a step up from what you get from cheaper totally wireless buds that cost less than $100. The sound is well balanced, with bass that's not boomy and treble that isn't harsh. What's missing is a bit of openness and clarity. That's par for the course for Bluetooth, but for $200 product, your expectations are raised.

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Case closed.

Sarah Tew/CNET

They worked decently as a headset. Walking the noisy streets of New York, I occasionally had to repeat myself, but I didn't get any serious complaints from the people I was speaking to.

The awareness mode was added only recently and works well. It basically opens the microphone in each bud up to the outside world (you can adjust the openness or set it to "adaptive"). This allows you to have a conversation with someone while you have the buds in your ears. You can hear your voice in the headphones as you speak and the voices of other people are augmented. In ideal world, there'd be two microphones -- one out the outside world while another lets you hear yourself talk while having cell phone conversations. As it stands, that mode doesn't exist.

The Skybuds are challenged by having to compete with the AirPods, which cost less and are more comfortable to wear (for the majority of people). The AirPods sound slightly better, too -- at least in quieter environments. With their noise-isolating design, the Skybuds do have an advantage in noisier environments. It's also worth mentioning that they stayed in my ears while running, while the AirPods didn't. (The AirPods fit some people's ears better than others and many people can run with them without a problem).

The bottom line is that while I can't make a super compelling argument to buy the Skybuds over the AirPods, I do think they're one of the better totally wireless earphones out there right now.

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7.6

Skybuds

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Sound 7Value 7