It’s no surprise why truly wireless headphones are so popular. They’re completely unrestricted by wires, super compact for easy transport, and many are also pretty stylish. They’ve been on my own tech wish list for a while now.
One of the latest models to break onto the scene are the sleek and affordable Skullcandy Push and Push Ultra earbuds, and I was lucky enough to be able to spend a week with both of them. I was especially excited to try out Skullcandy’s take on truly wireless, as Skullcandy was my go-to audio brand in my university days due to their quality and low price point. But does my old fave brand still hold up in the wire-free era?
Connection and controls
With truly wireless earbuds being so small, it’s not always easy to pack all the needed controls into them effectively. But I found that the Push and Push Ultra controls were easy and had a strong Bluetooth connection, perhaps with a few small caveats.
Connection and controls on Skullcandy Push
When you first open the Skullcandy Push box, you’re greeted with a card that perfectly lays out all the controls so that they’re easy to find and understand. However, with only one button on each bud, it’s not always easy to remember the combos for each control. I often found myself having to look back at the card to remember if volume controls were 2 or 3 clicks (and then I’d end up accidentally skipping to the next track). Some controls are also dedicated to a single bud. For example, to skip forward you click the right bud, and to skip back you need to click the left, which might make these earbuds difficult to use for anyone without full mobility in both arms.
For their connection, the initial set up and pairing them to subsequent devices was quick and easy, easier than a lot of other Bluetooth devices I’ve used in the past. The Bluetooth connection is also strong: I was able to roam my entire apartment without losing the connection, including putting several walls and doors between the buds and my phone. I only lost the connection once I went outside on my patio.
Connection and controls on Skullcandy Push Ultra
The Push Ultra definitely surpasses the Push in the controls department. The Push Ultra adds additional +/- buttons to each bud to control track skipping and volume, which makes its controls a lot more intuitive and easy to remember. Almost all functions can be controlled from a single bud, making this model better for accessibility.
Compared to the standard Push model, the Push Ultra was just as easy and simple to set up and connect to any device. I also got the same results testing the connection: the sound only started breaking up once I walked outside, leaving my phone at the opposite end of the apartment.
For any pair of headphones, great sound quality is a must. But can a brand known for its affordability really bring the top sound quality you need?
Skullcandy Push sound quality
I put the Push’s sound quality to the test across music, video, podcasts, and phone calls, and across the board it delivered sound that was crisp and full. However, it’s probably not going to blow you away. The Push features a 9.2mm driver, which is pretty good for an earbud, but it’s just not going to reach the same levels as a larger driver in an over-ear set. But given their size and price point, the Push delivers solid auditory quality for both music and calls.
However, I was disappointed with the quality of the Push’s microphone. While making calls, those on the other end commented that my voice sounded more muffled and less clear than it did previously. I also tested this by recording my voice with the Push, and I sounded more tinny and distant compared to recordings with microphones from other devices. If you need to make a lot of calls throughout the day, the Skullcandy Push’s microphone might make you think twice.
Skullcandy Push Ultra sound quality
While the sound quality of the Skullcandy Push is adequate, the Push Ultra takes it to another level. With its 12.5 mm drivers, it’s able to deliver richer, clearer sound than the Push, and is able to reach higher decibel levels for louder volume. It also features 3 EQ modes to enhance sound for music, movies, and podcasts. For me, there was a noticeable difference in quality when using the modes for different content types, particularly the music and podcast modes.
The Push Ultra’s microphone is also a big improvement compared to the Push. In both calls and recordings, this microphone was comparable to the headset I normally use for calls, and my voice was clear, with a more pleasant sound. If you’re worried about call quality, the Push Ultra will do you right.
Fit and feel
The freedom of truly wireless headphones is particularly attractive to those with an active lifestyle, but only if they also fit well and don’t fall out. And as with all headphones, comfort is key. I put the Push and Push Ultra to the test with some exercise and a bit of old fashioned headbanging.
Skullcandy Push fit and feel
I admit I had a bit of trouble getting the Push to fit in my ear at first, mostly because of the ear tip sizes. The Push comes with 3 sizes included, but I found that only the smallest size could even fit in my ears. The Skullcandy Push might not be the best choice for my fellow small-eared friends.
Despite the initial trouble I had, I found the Skullcandy Push surprisingly comfortable. I hardly noticed them in my ears for most of the day, though I did get some soreness after about 4 straight hours of wear time.
Now that I had the buds in my ears, would they stay inside securely? I spent most of the day wearing the Push buds, and found that they stayed in place through all my regular everyday activities, and even my exercise regimen consisting of sit ups, squats, and shadow boxing. There were a few moments when it felt like a bud was coming loose, but after a quick adjustment, it stayed in just fine. The only time a bud actually fell from my ear was when I was intentionally trying to shake them loose with some serious headbanging, so you should be good through most activities.
Skullcandy Push Ultra fit and feel
The Push, the Push Ultra only features one eartip, so I was worried about having an option for my smaller ears. However, the Ultra Push’s eartip is designed to not fully enter your ear canal, so I actually found it a lot more comfortable than the Push. Though my ears did start feeling a bit sore after 5 hours of wear time.
The best part about the Push Ultra’s fit is that it features a flexible hook that you can mould to the shape of your outer ear for a near-custom fit. With these hooks in place, I felt pretty confident that I could take on even my most rigorous activities without losing a bud. However, the added hooks do make the buds more bulky than the Push, and you may have to readjust them to fit them properly back in the case.
Battery life and charging case
No one wants headphones with a substandard battery life. You need enough battery life to get you through your whole day, dawn until dusk, especially with truly wireless headphones that you want to take on the go. Let’s see how the battery life and charging cases of the Skullcandy Push and Push Ultra compared.
Skullcandy Push battery life and charging case
The Push holds 6 hours of power in the buds, with an additional 6 stored in the charging case. A total of 12 hours without a charge is more than enough for the average person to get through their day. When I tested the charge time, I got a 50% increase in battery life before an hour of time had passed, so even if you do find yourself with low battery, you won’t have to wait too long.
As for the charging case itself, removing and replacing the buds is super easy, and when you do so, they turn on or off automatically. It also features an LED gauge for the battery level, so you can easily estimate how much power you have when you’re unsure if you need a charge. The case is compact, though still not thin enough for me to keep it in my front pocket all day. And while I had no issues with it, the plastic material feels a bit light and thin. I’m not exactly confident to throw it carelessly into a backpack, or let it drop from any significant height.
The case charges with a USB-C cord, with an included cable that’s about 56 centimetres or just under 2 feet long.
Skullcandy Push Ultra battery life and charging case
While the battery life for the Push is more than enough for most days, the Push Ultra kind of blows it out of the water. Like the Push, the Push Ultra can hold 6 hours in the buds, but brings an additional 34 hours of stored power in the charging case. Unless you’re using them a whole lot, you can probably go a few days without needing a charge.
That’s pretty impressive, but it gets better. The Push Ultra also features Rapid Charge, which gets you 2 hours of power in just 10 minutes of charging. If you’re a person who finds yourself needing to stop and charge your headphones at the most annoying times, Rapid Charge is the answer to your prayers.
For the case itself, it feels a lot sturdier than the standard Push one. It also closes with a zipper to make it extra secure, so I’m confident it could take most drops in stride. However, lacks the Push’s handy battery life gauge, which is a bit disappointing. The bendable ear hooks also make it harder to get them to fit nicely in the case again. I found myself having to unbend them slightly to get the charge going, which could be annoying.
The Push Ultra case also charges with a USB-C, but the included cable is even shorter than the Push at just 31 centimetres or about 1 foot long. You’ll probably want to invest in a longer cord.
Features and aesthetics
Now that we’ve covered the standard details, let’s get into the fun stuff: the bells and whistles. And if you’re picking new headphones, you also gotta know they look good too. Let’s take a look at how the Push and Push Ultra compare in features and aesthetics.
Skullcandy Push features and aesthetics
When it comes to audio, the Skullcandy Push doesn’t have any special features to speak of, unfortunately. However, at its affordable price point, it’s hard to fault it too much for that. If you’re looking for an affordable truly wireless option and don’t need the extras, the Push will suit you just fine. It’s also water resistant for those rainy days, and can activate your phone’s voice assistant with 3 taps of either bud.
While it’s features might not be that special, the Skullcandy aesthetic always is. The Push holds true to the Skullcandy punk rock style with its pill shape and iconic skull branding, but balances that with a sleek minimalism. The colours include Dark Grey, Indigo Blue, and Psycho Tropical, which is sort of a shiny blue-green.
Skullcandy Push Ultra features and aesthetics
As the premium option, the Push Ultra has a lot more features to offer than the Push. One that deserves a callout is the integration of Tile tracking into each earbud. It’s pretty cool: you just download the Tile app onto your device and register your pair of buds. If you ever misplace them, the Tile app can make them play an alarm at their loudest setting, so you can follow the sound and find them again. No need to purchase any Tile devices, and the app is free, it’s all built in.
The Skullcandy Push Ultra is also waterproof, sweatproof, and dustproof, so it can stand up to a lot. And don’t forget the invaluable Rapid Charge feature and EQ modes I mentioned earlier. It’s packed with so many more features, it definitely justifies the extra cost over the Push.
For aesthetics, the Push Ultra stands out with bolder, brighter colours compared to the more muted tones of the Push. Colours include Electric Yellow, Beached Blue, and the more traditional True Black.
Overall review of Skullcandy Push & Push Ultra
So did Skullcandy, my top brand of yesteryear hold up after all this time in the world of truly wireless? For the most part, I think it did. For me, Skullcandy was always the brand that I could afford, looked cool, and delivered decent quality, and I can see those same qualities in the Skullcandy Push and Push Ultra.
While you might not be blown away by the Push’s sound quality or features, I don’t think you’d have an easy time finding higher quality truly wireless for their price. The Push is easy to set up, brings clear sound, and has the battery to get you through the day. But if you’re willing to spend a little bit extra, the Push Ultra brings crucial advantages with its secure fit, improved microphone, and extra-long battery life. If you want the freedom of truly wireless headphones without the price tag, and you can live with a few caveats, both of these will fit the bill. Check them out for yourself on BestBuy.ca or explore even more audio products and tech.