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Skullcandy XTfree review - superb fit but spotty wireless

Richard Easton
5 Jun 2016
Skullcandy XTfree closeup
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
75
inc VAT (as of 2nd June)

The Skullcandy XTfree's fit is faultless, but its unreliable Bluetooth connection lets it down

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Specifications

Headphones subtype: In-ear neckband, Plug type: N/A, Weight: 17g, Cable length: N/A 

As far as in-ear headphones go, the Skullcandy XTfree are by far the most comfortable and secure fitness-centric headphones I've ever worn. They still can't compare with over-ear cans, of course, such as the Plantronics BackBeat FIT or BlueAnt Pump HD Sportsbuds, but in every other respect, the Skullcandy XTfree headphones are absolutely faultless when it comes to comfort. 

This supremely secure fit is all down to Skullcandy's so-called 'FitFin' design, which uses a flexible, rubberised external wing-tip that conforms to the curvature of your outer ear to lock it in place. The edges are ridged, too, which help them grip your ear even further, and the silicone buds really cling to your ear canal, making them almost impossible to dislodge even when your ears become sweaty from exercising. 

Skullcandy XTfree tips

The XTfree's low-profile casing doesn't stick out, either, so they're less prone to falling out by their own natural gravity - a problem I had multiple times with the SMS Audio In-Ear Wireless Sport. On these headphones, the wingtips simply weren't secure enough, making them poor companions for running and gym sessions alike.

Since the XTfree is sweat-resistant, you don't need to worry about damaging them during more intense workouts. There's also a bundled cable tie for taking up any extra slack in the neckband, which makes them even less likely to snag on your clothes and fall out. 

Below the left earbud, you'll find an inline remote and microphone for controlling media playback. The microphone does a good job for handsfree calls, but the buttons didn't give a lot of tactile feedback, so it wasn't always obvious if you pressed them correctly.

Skullcandy XTfree remote

This wasn't the only flaw I found with the XTfree either. During my weeks of testing, I found the Bluetooth reliability was noticeably worse than other Bluetooth sports headphones I've worn, and there would be regular hiccups and interruptions when I was using them around other devices. 

They also weren't hugely reliable while I was running, either. I normally keep my smartphone in a running belt when I go out for a jog, but I noticed that connectivity was incredibly unreliable when I had the smartphone positioned against my lower back, so much so that attempting to listen to music resulted in constant drop outs. It was better when I had my smartphone positioned across my front, but that's not my preference. I experienced the same thing using two other handsets as well, both of which have never exhibited the same problem with other wireless headphones I've tested.

Sound quality, too, was a little disappointing. The bass wasn't quite emphatic, and the mids and trebles were often a little thin and underwhelming. While many headphones can skew one way or the other, the XTfree didn't particularly shine in any frequency, delivering a generally middling sound across the board. Of course, sports headphones are never intended for critical listening, but I still found them lacking the requisite energy.

Skullcandy XTfree

Another area of disappointment was battery life, which is rated at around 6 hours. In reality, it's a little shy of this. Many other wireless sports headphones offer up to 8 hours, so you'll need to remember to charge them far more frequently. 

In the end, the Skullcandy XTfree is a mixed bag. Its fit is excellent, but they're otherwise let down by rather mediocre sound quality, short battery life and very spotty Bluetooth support. Instead, you'd be better off with either the Plantronics BackBeat FIT or BlueAnt Pump HD Sportsbuds, both of which have now dropped in price. Buy Now from Amazon


Hardware
Headphones subtypeIn-ear neckband
Headphones driverClosed
Active noise-cancellingNo
Power sourceNone
Headphones sensitivity100dB
Frequency response20-20,000Hz
Headphones impedence17 ohms
Plug typeN/A
Inline volumeYes
Weight17g
Cable lengthN/A
AccessoriesSilicone tips, soft carry pouch
Buying information
WarrantyOne year RTB

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