Rating:
7.5/10
?

  • 1 – Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 – Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 – Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 – Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 – Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 – Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 – Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 – Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $79.99

Skullcandy Push Actives on surface next to case with lid open
Kevin Bonnett

There are few things I like better than a good pair of earbuds with nice sound quality and a comfortable fit. Skullcandy’s new Push Active buds are just that, plus they’re designed to stay in place all day, making them an actually useful earbud option for athletes.

Here’s What We Like

  • Comfy secure fit
  • Decent audio quality
  • Tile is built-in
  • Inexpensive

And What We Don’t

  • Buttons are tough to push
  • Enormous bulky case
  • No wireless charging
  • No ANC

The Push Active earbuds live up to their name in that they are ready to keep up with all sorts of adventures, from commutes to heavy-duty workouts at the gym or out in the wild. They boast a solid IP55 rating, which means they’re dust-protected and resistant to low-pressure liquids, like sweat or light rain. Battery-wise, expect up to 44 hours of juice from them on a single charge. And  the thoughtful ear hangers keep the buds in place no matter how you run, jump, twist, or move.

The thing that really makes the Push Active’s shine, however, is their unbelievable sub-$100 price point. These buds have a ton of amazing features, damn decent audio quality, a comfy fit, and a lot to offer, and Skullcandy sweetens the pot by not charging you an arm and a leg for them. That’s just awesome!

Case and Earbud Design

Skullcandy released these at about the same time as their Grind Fuel true wireless earbuds, and you can see it in the design. Both sport short and wide cases, instead of the ubiquitous tall and slim case seen pretty much everywhere else. They both have the same matte black lightly-textured case design and a streamlined modern design that feels sturdy. The difference, however, is that this case is SO. BIG. Like bigger than the palm of your hand big; you’ll want to throw it in your bag and not keep it on your person, which is super annoying.

Kevin Bonnett

Aside from that, though, the case is well designed. A slight indentation at the front indicates where to open it from; it’s relatively easy to open with just one hand yet still stays shut the rest of the time, thanks to its magnetic closure. The case’s exterior sports the company’s iconic skull design up top, four battery indicator lights on the front, and a USB-C charging point on the rear that’s covered by a rubber seal to help maximize the case’s resistance to water and dust.

When you open the case, you’ll see the buds laid out horizontally. They’re easy to pick up, and each sport an LED battery indicator light. The top inside of the case has the same orange design as their counterparts, the Grind Fuel earbuds. It’s a bold look, but it also looks nice and modern; it’s a pleasant pop of color.

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The buds weigh in at 7.8 grams each (and all together, with the case, at 95g—three times the weight of the Jabra Elite 3 buds). Yes, that makes them a little heftier than many other options out there, but it’s for a good cause—that sweet, sweet battery life and secure fit. I wore them for several hours each day for a few weeks, and they felt comfortable all day long. Their design does a good job distributing their weight.

You’ll never have to worry about losing the earbuds, either, as they have Tile built-in (a fantastic feature for any small electronics to have). It only takes a few seconds to add each earbud to your Tile app (Android/iOS)—super easy and a feature that every pair of earbuds out there should offer.

As was the case with their sister buds, the Grind Fuels, my only grievance about the design is that the physical buttons are kind of hard to press. The button is located at the rear of the earbud. There is no comfortable non-annoying way to press it with just one finger—you’ll either end up pushing it into your ear (which hurts) or have to partially pop it out of your ear and against your skull (it doesn’t hurt, but breaks the seal). You’ll need to use both your thumb and index finger to press either button successfully, and even that’s still a bit fussy.

The Fit

If it wasn’t immediately apparent, the Push Actives were designed for anyone who’s, well, active. The one problem most true wireless earbuds have is that they can fall out (and then easily get stepped on or lost) if you aren’t careful. On the other end of the spectrum, wired earbuds and headphones are much harder to lose, but they suck to wear during workouts. These earbuds, however, are a happy medium—they’re compact and out of the way but are still big enough to offer a more solid fit.

Thanks to their comfy gel tips and ear hangers, the earbuds will stay perfectly in place no matter how intense your workout (or other daily adventures) gets. If you (like me) wear glasses, these will slightly adjust how those fit, but not by much. Even when I just have one bud in, my glasses never felt awkwardly lopsided or like they were going to fall out, which is all I could ask for.

The Push Actives use gel eartips (and include three sizes). They are decently comfortable, but not as much as earbuds with foam tips; however, they have a more secure fit, so those are trade-offs you’ll need to consider. These eartips also mean you might struggle a bit to find a perfect natural-feeling seal. As I tested these, it usually took me a few minutes to get a seal that felt good and didn’t give me that “clogged ear” feeling even when I tried out other gel tip sizes. Your mileage will likely vary here (hopefully), depending on which eartip size you use and the shape of your ears.

And as I mentioned above, if you try to one-finger the physical button, you’ll probably mess up that seal you just spent 20 minutes trying to get just right. This was also the same case with the Grind Fuel earbuds, although the buttons on each model have different designs and locations. I might not consider fussy buttons to be as big of a deal on other buds, but since Skullcandy added so much functionality into these buttons, the fact that they are tough to press is ultimately just really frustrating and disappointing.

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Why? Skullcandy made it so you can control audio playback via these buttons as well as your phone calls. You can increase or lower the volume, launch Spotify, share or join audio with another Skullcandy device, and pair your earbuds to a new device without opening the mobile companion app. You’ll genuinely want to use these buttons every day, and I’d still love to see Skullcandy improve these buttons in future earbuds.

Head-on view of the top of the case
Kevin Bonnett

Otherwise, you can use Skull-iQ, the company’s voice-driven Smart Feature Technology. This feature gives you hands-free control over your audio and other features using—you guessed it—voice commands. If you don’t mind saying the “Hey, Skullcandy” trigger phrase followed by a command like play, pause, next, volume down, or Stay-Aware off, Skull-iQ is a solid workaround to those pesky buttons. It’s worth noting that only Skullcandy’s assistant works for controlling the buds, but you can still access your preferred voice assistant for other tasks.

The App

Skullcandy made a fantastic app (Android/iOS) for its products. It has a slick design and every possible option you could hope to see is there, clearly labeled and easy to find. From here, you can enable and customize features and actions, locate your earbuds via Tile, read the User Manual, and so much more.

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Home page of Skullcandy app, showing the connected earbuds and status

Suzanne Humphries

Volume levels, charging percentage, voice control status, and equalizer options in the app

Suzanne Humphries

Options to customize button settings, share audio, find with Tile, enable Spotify Tap, and more

Suzanne Humphries

Detailed list of button press and hold customization settings

Suzanne Humphries

The app shows you each bud’s battery life and volume and makes it easy to manually toggle features like voice controls, Stay-Aware Mode (which allows you to hear your surroundings without removing the buds), and select an equalizer preset (or customize your own). It also shows you additional features and options, like Button Settings, Take a Photo, Share Audio, Spotify Tap, and Find With Tile. You’re limited to which options you can choose for a specific action, though, instead of it just giving you carte blanche rule, which is lame.

You can customize what a single, double, or triple button press does, along with what a one- or three-second button hold (long press) does. There’s a decent selection of options at your fingertips here, like adjusting the volume, changing the track, activating your assistant, taking a photo, toggling Stay Aware, or activating Spotify Tap. The latter is a Skull-iQ feature that automatically opens Spotify on your device (if it’s already downloaded, of course) and starts playing what you were listening to the last time you had the app open or whatever the algorithm thinks you’ll like.

Battery Life

One of my favorite things about the Push Actives is their enormous battery capacity. Between the earbuds and their charging case, you’ll get up to 44 hours of listening time; that’s 10 for the earbuds and another 34 hours from the case. That’s enough to get you through a day of work and most (if not all) of your commute on a single charge.

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You can also throw them in the case and gain another two hours after just 10 minutes of quick charging if needed. That’s a handy feature you can take advantage of at the end of your workday while you’re packing up just before you head out.

Performance and User Experience

These features and a rugged design are nice, but do Skullcandy’s Push Actives actually sound good? The sound quality is decent. The buds are by no means audiophile-level equipment, but for under $100? They get the job done. If you don’t think bass is a big deal, however, I’d even go so far as to say they’re great.

Charging port revealed on case underneath rubberized cover
Kevin Bonnett

As usual, I ran these headphones through my standard headphone tester playlist, featuring all kinds of music from electronica and 80s synthpop to rap and hardcore punk. They did alright overall. Vocals and guitars sound great, but bass and drums struggle to sound nearly as good and are far less discernable within the overall soundscape, which was disappointing.

It feels like Skullcandy tuned the earbuds more toward electronic music, podcasts, and acoustic guitar, compared to heavy rock or hip-hop and rap. Sound-wise, they could be better; even the equalizer tuned up didn’t help much. However, I can say that these are great for use while working out or vibing through your morning commute. I would definitely upgrade to another pair if you’re looking for stellar audio quality.

The Push Actives also lack active noise cancellation (ANC), a remarkable feature that actively blocks out unwanted background noise, like fans, traffic, and conversations. Honestly, the omission is a big miss. Panasonic, JBL, Wyze, and others all offer ANC to earbuds at this same price point (or less). Despite that fact, these buds still lack it. Instead, the buds make a minimal effort to block out noise, but it’s far from the actual effective active noise cancellation; it kind of just felt like they block out just enough noise to call the Stay-Aware Mode an actual feature.


Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a decent pair of buds that’ll endure tough and sweaty workouts, the Push Active’s are a solid bet. They’ve got a rugged construction, an all-day battery capacity (and then some), and are resistant to dust and sweat (and light rain). I also love that they have Tile built-in so that you won’t ever have to worry about losing them.

Although I wish the audio quality was better all-around, that they supported wireless charging, and that their buttons were a little easier to press, the Push Actives are plenty good enough for anyone just looking for a budget-friendly pair of workout earbuds.

Rating: 7.5/10

Price: $79.99

Here’s What We Like

  • Comfy secure fit
  • Decent audio quality
  • Tile is built-in
  • Inexpensive

And What We Don’t

  • Buttons are tough to push
  • Enormous bulky case
  • No wireless charging
  • No ANC