Those of you who have downloaded free copies of the Playback Headphone Buyer’s Guide know that I was very favorably impressed by Skullcandy’s Titan in-ear headphones, which initially sold for around $50/pair (the price for the Titans has since been reduced to $34.95-$39.95/pair, depending on finish). Good though the Titans are, however, some listeners would still prefer a lower cost solution and one that provides basic headset functionality for use with cell phones. For them, Skullcandy offers its cleverly named Smokin Buds, priced at $29.95/pair.
I decided to try out the Smokin Buds to see for myself what advantages a relatively low-priced solution might have vis-à-vis stock Apple earbuds.
Consider this combination headset/headphone if: you seek an in-ear headset/headphone that is comfortable and affordable, that offers very good noise isolation and that produces dramatically more powerful bass and smoother overall sound than that of standard Apple earbuds. The headset functions are a welcome convenience touch, too.
Look further if: musical accuracy and neutral (or nearly neutral) tonal balance are what you seek. The Smokin Buds offer very powerful bass with smooth but also somewhat subdued or recessed highs and upper mids. This combination of tonal characteristics delivers a sound that some listeners will find deep, rich, and smooth but that—at the end of the day—is not as accurate as it could be. For just a little more money, Skullcandy’s Titans earphone sounds noticeably more balanced and is no less enjoyable for long-term listening.
Ratings: (relative to comparably price earbuds/in-ear headphones)
Probably the most frequent complaint I hear about in-ear headphones is that they offer inadequately powerful bass. The Smokin Buds address that complaint in a big way, with a rich, full, powerful low-end sound. The problem, though, is that with the Smokin Buds bass can sometimes dominate the listening experience to the point of excess, making other frequencies sound too recessed in the mix. Upper midrange and treble frequencies are somewhat rolled-off, too, which can make the Smokin Buds’ bass prominence seem that much more apparent. This package of tonal characteristic will, as I suggested above, appeal to some tastes, but over the long haul I think the majority of listeners might prefer a more neutral and therefore more accurate sound.