Published on August 29th, 2022 | by Scott De Lacy
Skullcandy Push Active Review
In case you missed it, we previously looked at the Skullcandy Grind and how incredible they were. Take some time now to check out that review, as we go in depth into the design, the Skullcandy app and cover some of the finer details about its required permissions.
This time, we have the Skullcandy Push Active, which is comparable to the Grind, but it is also a very different look and feel and much more suited to an active wearer who needs the stability and support from the over-ear arms.
The Push Active, which is the S2BPW has the following specifications on the Skullcandy website.
Headphone Type: True Wireless In-Ear
Connection Type: Bluetooth® 5.2
Impedance: 22 Ohms
Driver Diameter: 6mm
Sound Pressure Level: 112dB ± 3dB
Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20KHz
In comparison to the Grind at 64g, this larger weight is due to a larger case and the over-ear arms, which is understandable. From a real world perspective, this is next to nothing.
Let’s breakdown of the features and what they actually mean for you.
Skull-iQ Smart Feature Technology
This isn’t just marketing wank! Skullcandy have implemented voice activation that is fully independent of the device. Meaning it wont matter if you are using an Android, iOS device, or even if you are offline. Voice activation simply just works. And yes, its Australian accent friendly!
Update earbuds via the Skullcandy App to add new features for enhanced functionality and added value.
This actually is the case, witnessed first hand. Quick and painless and all automatic.
Premium Audio Quality
Experience supreme sound thanks to expertly-tuned acoustic drivers, dual noise-reducing microphones for natural and clear call quality and a noise-isolating fit
If correctly fitted with the right size inserts, then you will truly have a noise reduction experience.
Up to 44 Hours of Battery Life
Push Active delivers a whopping 44 hours of listening time between the charging case and buds. Plus, your earbuds tell you how much battery is left every time you remove them from the case.
This means 34 hours from the case, 10 hours from the earbuds themselves. Not too shabby!
USB-C Rapid Charging Case
For 10 minutes spent in the case, receive 2 hours of battery life
True Wireless via Bluetooth® 5.2
This simply means that there are no wires! Of course it also means that it uses True Wireless Technology, with Bluetooth 5.2.
Enjoy automatic turn on and pairing with the last device used.
This is spot on automatic connection. The only way this fails, is if you turn Bluetooth off on your device!
IP55 Sweat and Water Resistance
Go on any adventure without missing a beat
This means that the S2BPW has been designed, built and certified against IP55 standards. Meaning it can resist entry of dust into the casing, and has been tested under a water spray test, which has shown that operation still continued.
In simple terms, standard humidity and a light bit of rain wont stop you from listening to music. But don’t take them into the pool.
Built-in Tile™ Finding Technology
If an earbud is misplaced, simply ‘ring’ it from the Tile app.
Tile is a 3rd party app, that once install and agree to the terms and conditions (location data), you can use it to find the missing earbud. That is pretty cool when you think about it.
Included are small, medium and large ear inserts, a USB-A to USB-C cable, the quick-start guide, and a full comprehensive guide in multiple languages.
Installing the App
As shown from the Skullcandy: Grind review
The quick start guide provides a QR code that will jump you straight to the app and in turn the Play Store or iTunes store. It is a little disconcerting to see such a negative trend of reviews for the app, where the most notable criticism is the need to agree to sharing your location.
Once installed, the application is quick to find and pair the Skullcandy.
Sure enough the permissions do require location to continue, however the legal write up assures us that you are not being tracked (by Skullcandy), so we press on!
The Skullcandy app runs us through a guided introduction, highlighting various features and the inbuilt instruction guide.
As you can see, there is a full comprehensive user guide included in the application.
The first initial test with these, was a pairing with a computer and with some Youtube music videos. At first, the sound was not impressive. For some reason there was a persistent crackle on the left side in the top end that was grating to the ears. The first fear was that the left earbud had a defective driver, but as it happens there was a pending firmware update available by the Skullcandy app, once this was applied, music playback from the phone was crackle-free.
The Skullcandy App, has four DSP settings that shape the EQ of the audio. Three of these settings are presets for Music, Podcast and Movie, with the fourth being programmable across only five points between 60Hz to 12KHz, which is only a subset of the total frequency response of 20Hz to 20Khz.
Learning from the previous Skullcandy Grind, the personal preference was for a flat EQ via the custom setting. But to make sure this crackle sound was gone, each EQ was tested and yes, it was gone after the firmware update. Hallelujah.
The DSP is activated as soon as the app connects to the Skullcandy, so the EQ appears to stay “on” and set to the preset shown in the app. The EQ can dramatically shape the audio quality for good or bad in equal measure. It really depends on the type of music, movie, podcast or audio type you are listening to.
For this testing, the EQ did not provide enough resolution to customise the sound profile that makes it a good fit for an ‘all-rounder’ profile, and although at times the sound was astonishingly great (for hands-free), it often felt too harsh of an adjustment to the true audio.
As with the Grind, adjusting the EQ for an approximate classic V also did not yield pleasing results in a few songs. Since the EQ is always on, the recommendation here is to enforce a flat-line EQ and allow your favourite music player to provide a more comprehensive dynamic range.
And finally, we must mention delay. There is always the trade-off with Bluetooth audio, also known as Bluetooth Audio Lag, which will inherently introduce a small, yet measurable delay in the audio stream. As with the Grind, during YouTube video playback, mostly with talking heads, a good delay of an estimated 20-100ms was noticed, or more precisely, about half to one syllable behind. Why is this? Well, the Bluetooth connection has to contend with signal, bandwidth and interference factors, as well as the overheads for creating a secure connection, in this case, to two devices. The audio must be packaged and sent via your device and decoded and played by the earpieces.
The Skullcandy voice controls & advanced app features and the performance of the phone as well as interference may all influence the perceived delay in a video. Disabling some of these features may reduce the delay significantly. Overall, the good news is that the Bluetooth Audio Lag was not excessive with the S2BPW. What was interesting, is the Push Active audio LAG with Youtube/Video content is reduced or possibly eliminated entirely when the audio controls are disabled and the app is closed.
The audio quality on phone calls is great. The test call response to “How does it sound? Can you hear me fine?” was a resounding yes, it’s fine. The voice commands during a call are disabled, so that you cannot inadvertently play music or disrupt your call.
Skullcandy provide Small, Medium and Large standard dome inserts and most people will find the medium size, which already come attached, as being the most suitable.
Picking the right size is not rocket science, but it does not hurt to understand the relationship between a good fit, comfort and how it affects the sound quality. There are plenty of resources on the internet.
Given that you only get one pair of each size, you will need to consider purchasing replacement tips, because at some point they will get gritty and you will not want them anywhere near your ears.
The arms are super soft and flexible, so once you have inserted the earpiece, the arm will just softly wrap over your ear and will not rub or chafe even with some activity. Seriously this is far better than any rigid material that you will find in any other hands-free of similar design.
Usage and Experience
When taking the earbuds out of the case, and immediately inserting them into your ears, you will hear a pleasant female voice tell you the current battery life of the earpieces. This is such a professional and nice touch.
Enabling the voice activation, Stay-Aware function, or changing the EQ settings all provide an audible acknowledgement.
Using the buttons also have an audible confirmation or tone that is played so that you know what the button did. The non verbal sounds are perfectly done in such a way that that it is intuitive and immediately conveys an understanding of the function or interaction that just occurred.
Although heavily geared for Spotify, the Skullcandy IQ will happily pause and play your Plex video or music, YouTube, or VLC media player. It would seem that any app that Android knows is a media player, will likely work fine with Skullcandy.
You can play and pause with a click of a button, or a verbal command. It makes sense that if you are on the train to work, you perhaps don’t want to be saying “hey Skullcandy” and draw attention to yourself.
In practice, the verbal instructions tend to require at least 3-5 seconds between delivery, otherwise they are not accepted, where as the buttons do respond a lot faster. No issues with accent or needing to repeat yourself, even with music playing loudly; Although the noise cancelling is so good you may not be sure you are actually speaking!
The Push Active also has the ability to assign one of the spare custom button macros to the shutter button for your camera app, and being able to trigger a photo remotely simply by activating that button combo, is insanely useful. Sure enough, this feature works exactly as intended and immediately without delay.
Charging and Battery life
44 hours of total battery life, by far this is the feature that has the most utility, well second to the actual hands free speakers itself of course.
Many solutions cannot compare to the level of battery life that the Skullcandy will provide. Consider that your average phone or tablet battery will not outlast the 9 hours of battery that the earbuds will have, let alone the additional 31 hours that case will provide.
The case, which houses the main battery and charging station, sports a new USB-C connection, however also like the Grind, the included cable was a USB-A to USB-C. But all fear not, fast charging is not only possible, it is indeed fast.
So being realistic, you wont bother with the tiny included cable, and instead use your phone charger to fast charge the case. But rest assured, heavy sustained use will still give you hours of audio.
The Skullcandy Push Active is comfortable, impressive and comprehensive, and is packed with all the iQ features that actually work as advertised with any Android or iOS device.
The Push Active provides that support and reassurance that the earpieces will not fall out even when you are actively running or moving about. This gives you that ability to work anywhere, any time, with any device in absolute confidence.
Going further, is the ability to use these features offline, without data. How many people out there use an old phone as their music player for the bike, train or plane trip, so as not to drain their phone battery? Well with the Skullcandy iQ range, and the Push Active, they can!
Breaking free of the Android or Apple ecosystem, being able to universally connect and control your device by speech, ultimately means that the Skullcandy can work and stay with you, even if you switch from Apple to Android. The Push Active can be trusted to pause, play and enable Stay-Aware mode no matter what you are doing, and that is pretty cool.
Most of all, the magnetic snap lock of the case is satisfying every time you open and close it, but when you return the earbuds to the case and the magnetic lock takes hold of them, there is a sheer moment of joy each time.
Having compared the Skullcandy Grind alongside the Push Active, it is a difficult call to suggest one is better than the other, but by and large the ear supports are a very welcome feature. If you are intending to use your skullcandy whilst cycling, bushwalking, or other intense fitness activities where you are fast moving, you may appreciate the Push Active over the other Skullcandy offerings.
Summary: The Skullcandy Push Active delivers everything it promises. Perfect solution for the active on-the-go person.