Skullcandy Push Ultra Review: A Solid Workout Companion

Evaluation:
7/10
?

1 – Absolute hot garbage
2 – Sorta warm garbage
3 – Strongly imperfect design
4 – A few advantages, many disadvantages
5 – Acceptably imperfect
6 – Good enough to buy on sale
7 – Excellent, but not the best in its class
8 – Fantastic, with some footnotes
9 – shut up and take my money
10 – Absolute Conception Nirvana

Price: $ 99

Skullcandy Push Ultra Earphones in Black and YellowCameron Summerson

Back in July I took the Skullcandy Indy Fuel earphones for spinning and came away very impressed. These are now my most recommended buds in the under $ 100 price range. I then focused on Skullcandy’s latest workout headphones, the Push Ultra. They have a pretty unique design for a set of headphones, which works great during training, but maybe not so much in everyday use.

This is what we like

Open ‘stay aware’ design that encourages situational awareness
Comfortable during prolonged wear
Secure fit even with sweat

And what we don’t do

Case battery drains quickly, even when not in use
Rigid buttons

Most headphones have a pretty standard design – some sort of tip that gets stuck in your ear canal and pumps sound straight into your insanely huge human brain. This is where the Push Ultra differs. Instead of going straight into your ear, the tip sits more or less right at the edge of the ear canal. At least that leaves your ear open for one main reason – so you can hear what’s going on around you.

This really puts them somewhere directly between a traditional workout earphone like the PowerBeats Pro and bone conduction headphones like the Aftershokz Air. This is a pretty solid idea that works well in many situations, but is especially great for outdoor training where situational awareness is crucial. But like I said before, you might not want to use them as your unique buds.

Large body, solid construction

The first thing I noticed about the Push Ultra when I took them out of the box is the case. Most true wireless earphone cases use magnets or a clasp for a secure closure, but these don’t. Skullcandy went with a zipper on the holster. At first I thought it was a strange choice, but it has taken hold of me ever since.

The Skullcandy Push Ultra case, showing the zipper (black and yellow models)Bruh. Zippers. Cameron Summerson

I think it’s cool now, because there’s hardly a chance the case will open when you toss it in your bag. So go ahead, throw it across the room in your gym bag. Everything will be alright. (Disclaimer: Please do not do this.)

Since these are training headphones with ear hooks, the case is bulkier. It’s on par with the PowerBeats Pro case, which is some of the biggest I’ve seen for true wireless headphones. The upside is that you get wireless charging in the Push Ultra case, which I was missing with the PowerBeats Pro.

The case itself is made of hard plastic, but it’s also covered in nice, soft-touch rubber, which should add extra grip when your hands are covered in sweat after a killer workout. Another touch thought out here by Skullcandy.

The Push Ultra box compared to PowerBeats ProCameron Summerson

Out of the case, the heads are sturdy and solid. The ear hooks are fully adjustable for a secure fit; the heads themselves are small and light. They use more of a vertical design compared to the PowerBeats’ horizontal form factor, which is no more and no less comfortable. Just different.

Skullcandy claims about 6 hours of playtime from the buds themselves, with the case adding an extra 34 for a total of 40. That’s about on par with my usage, but I’ve noticed the case drains quickly when it is inactive. Unlike the Indy Fuel, which can sit on my desk for weeks between charges (with light use), the Push Ultra has to touch the plug about once a week, even though I don’t touch them.

The right Push Ultra compared to the right PowerBeats ProCameron Summerson

And once the matter dies, the buds immediately begin to discharge. This means that if you don’t watch the charge level very closely, you can easily scavenge the dead buds from your bag. Big woof.

Additionally, the issue I had with the Indy Fuel not working with high power USB-C chargers is also present with the Push Ultra. It’s not a big deal once you know it, but something to consider nonetheless.

Great fit and all the features you need

Because they are designed to be used while training, they are designed to be secure no matter what you are doing. And in this they are excellent. Even when I’m sweating, the moldable ear hooks keep everything in place.

The main component of each bud includes a main button in the center and additional controls on the back. The large button can be used to play / pause music with a single tap, or call up your device’s virtual assistant with a triple tap. A long press can turn the headphones off, put them into pairing mode or reset them depending on the time.

Me wearing the correct Push UltraCameron Summerson

The buttons on the back of each device are primarily used to increase and decrease the volume, but a long press on each will move forward or backward through the track list, respectively. The biggest problem with the three buttons is that they don’t offer much tactile feedback, so it’s hard to tell if you’re actually pressing them (especially with gloves on). And when you do it right, the buttons take more pressure than I would like to activate.

The two heads can be used individually, which is nice, especially if you have to leave one ear open when running or cycling. The open design makes it easy to hear what’s going on around you, but it’s not open enough that I feel comfortable recommending them to runners or cyclists who need to share a path with motorists – unless they’re moving to one side, of course. If this is how you want to ride, this is a good choice.

The main and volume buttons on the black and yellow Push UltraThe Skullcandy logo is a button. Cameron Summerson

When it comes to features, you get a good split for the price: IP67 waterproof and sweat-proof, wireless charging on the case, full controls on every button, and built-in tile tracking. Not bad for a Benji!

There is also a companion app (Android, ios), but it is by no means a must. Once paired, you can use it to toggle between different modes (music, movies, podcasts) – which can also be done with a two-second long press of the home button on either button. – but not much else. Really, there isn’t a whole lot of reason to install it.

Sound quality is suitable for what they are

I want to make something clear here: you don’t buy headphones like these for premium sound quality. Any headphones or earbuds that don’t create a good seal in (or around) your ear just … aren’t going to look amazing. Noise isolation is necessary for great sound.

Showing the eartip on the yellow Push UltraTips are not interchangeable so this is the cut you get Cameron Summerson

But that’s not what they’re for, and all in all, they still manage to sound pretty good. I normally wear bone conduction headphones on the bike for full situational awareness, which just doesn’t sound great. In comparison, the Push Ultra sounds much better.

Because they sit just outside the edge of your ear canal and don’t create any sort of seal, you will get limited bass response from these headphones. That doesn’t mean it’s not there at all, but that you shouldn’t expect a clearly defined bass range.

In the end, just by design, you get a very midrange speaker set from the Push Ultra. Again, this is due to the very nature of the way they are worn – the ‘not straight in your ear’ style makes for a very ’round’ listening experience. This means there is a defined bump in the midrange, with highs and lows plunging down either side.

While it doesn’t usually provide the best listening experience, it does work here. Because these are made to give you music when you work out while allowing you to hear what is going on around you. Because these two things are mutually exclusive, the Push Ultra offers a very usable happy medium.

Conclusion: solid workout headphones with a few quirks

Le Push Ultra left in black and right in yellowCameron Summerson

Overall, I’m a fan of Push Ultra. They’re unlike any other bud I’ve looked at – workout or whatever. As something that sits between a set of ‘regular’ headphones and bone conduction headphones, the concept is interesting and I like the open design that improves situational awareness.

If you’re not into bone conduction and want a set of buds that let you hear what’s going on around you, this is a great alternative.

This is what we like

Open ‘stay aware’ design that encourages situational awareness
Comfortable during prolonged wear
Secure fit even with sweat

And what we don’t do

Case battery drains quickly, even when not in use
Rigid buttons

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