I don’t typically use earbuds these days. I used to be quite a fan a few years ago back in college when I thought I was cool walking around with a Zune player and a set of buds in my skull at all times. Poor college student me rapidly discovered, though, that earbuds don’t tend to last very long as they’d either be dropped and lost or eventually just fall apart on their own power.
Thus, I eventually switched to preferring over-ear headphones and was a bit skeptical when Skullcandy’s branded Smokin’ Buds 2 Halo Edition showed up for review. Imagine my surprise: these are solid earbuds that address pretty much all the issues I had.
We’re talking about the Halo 5: Guardians edition in particular here, though the only technical change from the usual Smokin Buds 2 appears to be the inclusion of REQ Pack redemption cards for Halo 5 included with the earbuds. They work just as well plugged into a compatible Xbox One controller as any other 3.5mm headset. They do look nice, at least, with a nice blue finish.
Anyway, first, and perhaps most importantly: unlike every other set of earbuds I’ve used, the Smokin’ Buds 2 – henceforth SB2, since I can’t bring myself to keep typing that ridiculous name – did not actually fall out of my head at any point. Yes, I was amazed too. These earbuds are surprisingly comfortable, but more importantly they’ll stay where you put them. There’s a wireless version of these as well, and it would be a pretty significant issue if they were to fall out in use.
Apparently, we can attribute these buds’ stability to “Off-Axis technology,” which is a fancy term for “the port is angled, so it’s harder for them to fall out.” It doesn’t really matter what it’s called so much as the fact that it works. The buds also come with replacement caps, but I didn’t find any need to use these as the default worked well enough.
Secondly, the sound quality is actually pretty damn nice on these things. You connect them via 3.5mm, whereupon rich, clear sound is mainlined into your brain. The SB2’s audio balance is pretty solid, but my biggest compliment goes to the clarity, which was vastly superior to my iPhone 6S’s EarBud sound experience. It’s crisp and works well for all kinds of music, from my boy Biebs to T-Swizzle herself to the hardest of metal.
Third, there’s an online microphone on these buds, much to my surprise. It’s not the greatest mic I’ve ever used, and as I’ve mentioned before mic quality is a big deal to me for PC and other gaming usage. Despite these being the Halo edition, I don’t know if I’d recommend them for use on the Xbox One with the superior SLYR GMX+1 Gaming Headset option available. These, however, are earbuds; there’s a pretty good chance you aren’t intending to use them for voice chat outside of incidental usage with a cell phone. When plugged into a phone they’re good enough to pass muster and shouldn’t cause too many issues while you’re making calls. There’s an inline mic control, though it’s a tiny button that might take some getting used to if you’re going to be pressing it without looking at the control.
Finally, these earbuds certainly seem sturdy enough. It’s difficult to comment on this without weeks of use, but so far they’ve been wrapped around my phone for a couple of weeks and have yet to break, so that’s a win. They come with a tiny plastic storage case…but it’s a little too tiny and I had little success cramming the earbuds into it, so they remain wrapped around my phone. My point is that as far as I can tell the wires aren’t going to break anytime soon, which is the kind of durability I’d expect from an audio product.
I’ll admit that I’m a fan of Skullcandy; my favorite PC headset remains the PLYR1, while a very close second goes to the PDP Afterglow Nur Premium Wireless Headset that’s currently running on my TV sound setup. With the Smokin’ Buds 2 Halo Edition, Skullcandy’s shown that they can still match affordability with quality design. I still don’t think I’ll switch away from on-ear headphones for at-home usage, but for going out, there are definitely worse options than the Smokin Buds 2.