Skullcandy and Tile joined forces to launched three true wireless earbuds recently. Jo reviewed the Indy Evo here and they rapidly became her daily drivers. With thanks to Skullcandy we get to look at the Push Ultra and put them through their paces.
The Skullcandy Push Ultra are visually different from the “run of the mill” earbuds, with the hard to miss over the ear loops that is designed to give a more secure fit for the very active wearers. It works by having the in-ear part like many other wireless earbuds, then the hook goes over the top of your ear. The loop itself is mouldable so you can get them to curve so they fit you just right.
Because of the ear loop, the storage / charging case is naturally a bit bigger, and this one is about the size of my palm. It is definitely going to take up all that pants or jacket pocket space.
The instructions to pair the Push Ultra for the first time calls for the earbuds to be removed from the packaging and placed into the charging case, making sure both earbud LEDs turn red. The next step is to remove the earbuds from the charging case which automatically puts them into pairing mode. Last step is to select Push Ultra from your phone (or computer) and complete the pairing request.
The instructions are straightforward enough, although things did not quite go as easily in practice. The right earbuds never turn red for me no matter what I did, but pushing through to the next step and they paired without drama.
Maybe it the different form factor, but I have subconsciously used both hands to put each Push Ultra earbud on. This makes it a much slower process than what I am with used with more conventional earbuds. Unlike other earbuds the Push Ultra do not sit in the ear canal, instead they are more akin to just be in the region with the largish buds sitting at an outward facing angle. The at rest position is fine tuned more with the ear hook than with the moving the actual buds themselves.
The Push Ultra is a one size fits all deal, there is no selection of ear tip sizes. They are almost fully covered in a silicon-like material which gives the look and feel of sportiness, and should resist being fingerprint magnets. They feel comfortable enough when worn, although it is a little odd when I am used to having an in-ear fit and this one feels like it is being a tease instead, hovering just outside the ear canal entry.
Because each ear bud can be independently used, the control scheme is mirrored on both buds, giving full functionality regardless of which one you are interacting with. The volume buttons doubles for track skipping with a two second press. The large center cap can be tapped to play and pause, as well as to answer calls. A double-tap followed with a two second hold switches between three EQ presets: Music, Movie or Podcast. An audible notification confirms the EQ switch. A triple taps brings up voice assistant.
What about sound quality given that the Push Ultra does not create an ear canal seal? Voice calls, podcasts and other mainly conversational sounds comes through clear and … bright. I could almost call it chirpy and cheery.
Music wise, it is probably best described as decent. It is not perfect but they also are not bad, bearing in mind that the positioning of the earbuds will change the sound response for each person. Personally I found the bass to be a bit weak, it lacks the thumps and punch with the baseline. The mid tones is well tuned as noted with voice based sounds. The highs are also on the weaker side but not as much as the base.
Sound wise the Push Ultra will not catch the attention of an audiophile, but for use when you are puffing through a workout set? I don’t know about you but perfect sound quality is the last thing I am concentrating on.
The design compromises are certainly there. By opting out of an in-ear seal, the Push Ultra does nothing for passive noise cancelling of background noises. On the bright side given that they are designed for active people, you can absolutely pick up all the ambient sounds around you. It is great for situation awareness without having to resort to using only one earbud.
There is also no active noise cancelling, which a client found out as my toddler squealed as soon as I picked up their call.
The build quality of the Push Ultra is good. The silicon-like finish is not as grippy as one would expect, but it is not slippery either.
The Skullcandy Ultra Push are IP67 rated. This means no ingress of dust, complete protection against contact in a test duration of up to 8 hours based on airflow. Ingress of water in harmful quantity shall not be possible when the enclosure is immersed in water under defined conditions of pressure and time (up to 1 meter (3 ft 3 in) of submersion). Test duration of 30 minutes and tested with the lowest point of the enclosure 1,000 mm (39 in) below the surface of the water, or the highest point 150 mm (5.9 in) below the surface, whichever is deeper. (Source: Wikipedia)
The case itself is not waterproof, and it is not advised to try charging your earbuds if they are wet. Speaking of charging, Skullcandy estimates battery life to be roughly six hours per charge, with a total run time of 40 more hours via the charging case. You could stretch that out if you are using a single earbud at a time.
One of the big drawcards of the Push Ultra is of course, the Tile integration. This is done via the Tile app from your respective app store and follow the bouncing ball. Unlike your regular Tiles though, the earbuds associated with your account and cannot share it out with another person.
There are a couple of gripes from my testing. For starters the earbuds are not guided into place for charging which can result in a poor “return to home” and no contact made. You will have to pay attention to make sure the LED light up when the contact is made, and occasionally you do not get the LED feedback and you will be left hoping that it is seated correctly. The other downside to not seating the earbuds properly is that if it will not disconnect the Bluetooth and turn off.
The Bluetooth connection can be a bit finnicky at times. Generally if you get both earbuds out of the case at around the same time, they will stay synced and work in stereo. A few times I have had issues with one earbud not coming up and I have resolved it by throwing both back into the case and starting again. Jo made an excellent troubleshooting and resolution guide here for the times when you really are in dire straits.
The zip on the charging case could be a single point of failure. Life tip – you have to look after to look after zips in the day to day use regardless of how heavy duty they are. Murphy dictates that they will always break at the most inconvenient time, like in the middle of 180km hike.
The Skullcandy app is pretty lacklustre, without any of the controls that competitors have. It can display the EQ mode, but there is no ability to make any adjustments of any kind via the app.
The Skullcandy Push Ultra is a bold visual statement but the heart is ultimately a compromise between design and function. I can’t help but feel that the quality of audio could be improved if only the earbuds are in-ear rather than “in the vicinity of” ear canal.
However not all hope is lost, because it does have a perfect use case scenario in my opinion. The very thing that I complain about is actually perfect for the newly minted teenager here at home. The lack of noise isolation, working in conjunction with the over the ear hook and the Tile integration means I am actually far happier for him to be using them going to and from school (when it finally happens again), or skate and scoot around the neighbourhood.
The Skullcandy Push Ultra is available in True Black, Strong Red or Energised Yellow and yes the carry/charging case follows the colour of the earbuds. It is available for RRP AUD$249.95 from Skullcandy directly or JB Hi-Fi. They are not the cheapest earbuds available, but surely the economics dictates that it would be cheaper in the long run than to replace lost buds regularly.
Headphone Type: True Wireless Earbud
Connection Type: Bluetooth® 5
Impedance: 32 Ohms
Driver Diameter: 12.5mm
THD: <3% at 1KHz
Sound Pressure Level: 101-107dB
Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20KHz