This article was written by Tim Gideon and originally published on PCMAG's website here.
There's a serious lack of affordable, decent-sounding Bluetooth earphones, so the Skullcandy Smokin' Buds 2 Wireless, despite its ridiculous name (a Skullcandy tradition), fills a need. At $59.99, it's one of the better-sounding options below $75—but only if you like seriously boosted bass response. The bass here is powerful and never distorts, but it comes at the expense of the overall balance between lows and highs in the mix. Regardless, the Smokin' Buds 2 Wireless is a solid entry in a growing field, and bass lovers will be pleased with the pair's power.
The Smokin' Buds 2 Wireless$59.99 at Best Buy has a removable neckband (what Skullcandy calls the "flex-collar"). You can choose to wear the rubberized band, which gently fastens to your neck and eliminates any tug on the earphone cables, or you can opt to remove the compartment that houses the charging port and the electronics and wear it sans neck band, in a behind-the-head style. A small clip for cable management allows for eliminating any cable slack so your fit is secure.
Offered in black/red, black/chrome, or white, the earphones feature a control panel along the flat, linguini-esque cable, on the left ear side. The panel houses a mic and a three-button remote control. The central button controls power, play/pause, Bluetooth pairing, and call management, while the + and - buttons control volume or track navigation, depending on how long you hold them down. The volume controls work in conjunction with the master volume levels on your mobile device.
The earphones only ship with two pairs of eartips, one large and one small—even at this price, that seems like one pair too few. There's also no carrying pouch—other than the extra set of tips and the clip, the only other included item is the micro USB-to-USB charging cable, which connects to the compartment held by the neckband. Skullcandy estimates battery life to be about 6 hours, but your results will depend on how loudly you play your music.
On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife's "Silent Shout," the headphones deliver exceptionally powerful bass response—some will find it to be too much. At top, unwise listening levels, the drivers do not distort, but it bears repeating: This is a bass-heavy earphone pair, and the balance of the mix can sound a bit off kilter (too skewed to the lows) at times.
Bill Callahan's "Drover," a track without much deep bass in the mix, offers a more useful glimpse of the overall sound signature. The drums on this track, which typically should sound full, but not thunderous, sound heavy and massive here. Callahan's baritone vocals get an extra dose of low-mid richness that they hardly need, and not quite enough high-mid treble edge to make them as crisp as they should be. There is definite brightness in the sound signature—the guitar strumming comes through crystal clear thanks to some boosted highs—but there's so much low-mid, low, and sub-bass presence that things sound overly shifted to the lows on a track where that really shouldn't be the case, and the high frequency sculpting can't overcome it all.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild," the kick drum loop's attack gets just enough high-mid presence to retain its sharpness and slice through the mix as the most powerful element, but the low frequency sustain of the loop seems just as powerful, and again, things sound weighted to the lows. This is true especially with the sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat—the deep bass is all-powerful here. Somehow, the vocals don't get pushed to the back of the mix, and they manage to float above things cleanly and clearly. Generally speaking, this is probably the track that sounded best through the earphones—a plus for hip hop fans.
If you're looking for powerful bass, but want a little more balance in the mix, that tends to be hard to find in the realm of affordable Bluetooth earphones. We like the Samsung Level U Wireless$33.81 at Amazon, the Jabra Rox $78.77 at Amazon, and the SOL Republic Shadow$75.99 at Amazon—but all are a bit pricier, and all feature a boosted bass response to some degree. And as the abysmal iLuv FitActive Air$39.99 at Amazon demonstrate, it's hard to make good Bluetooth earphones affordably. So, at $60, the Skullcandy Smokin' Buds 2 Wireless do fill a need—there are too few affordable Bluetooth earphones available. If massive bass is your thing, these earphones won't disappoint.
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