Well-balanced sound for the price • Big bass • Lightweight design
Battery module can cause discomfort • Thin • possibly flimsy cables
The Skullcandy JIB Wireless earbuds sound good, with powerful bass, and they have a lightweight design. The six hours of battery life are disappointing, but at $35 keeping things simple isn’t a bad thing.
You’ve probably heard of Skullcandy and may even know it as a popular headphone brand for people looking for affordability and decent amount of quality. The company’s JIB Wireless earbuds, which sell for $35, appear to fit that bill.
That’s a good price, but Bluetooth headphones have become so popular that they’re basically commodities at this point. With the JIB, Skullcandy isn’t doing much to make us rethink that conclusion — they’re pretty basic.
So does the Skullcandy JIB deserve attention in a marketplace with a ton of options?
A bare-bones design
At an under-$50 price point, Skullcandy didn’t have much to work with in terms of design. The JIB headphones have a plastic build that’s super lightweight. The earbuds are connected to each other via thin audio cables, which don’t exactly scream “durable;” if you pull hard enough on one of these cables, it’ll likely rip out (I did not attempt). With normal use — commuting, at the gym, or at the office — you should be just fine, though.
The left-hand side features an ultra-basic in-line control that doesn’t mimic that of Apple earphones or other Skullcandy products. It has one button for controls and a microphone for taking calls or voice commands. Clicking the button will leave you questioning the structural integrity of it, but rest assured it won’t break in daily use. The one-button control is used for power, Bluetooth pairing, answering calls, and playing or pausing the track. Beyond that, you’ll need to have your phone nearby to skip or adjust the volume.
Like all Bluetooth headphones, you need to pack batteries, a charging port, and Bluetooth connectivity somewhere on them. The JIB put all these into a small plastic rectangle that sits in the middle of the audio cable. It has a glossy Skullcandy logo, a single LED light, FCC information, and a micro-USB charging port. It also acts as a weight of sorts that aims to keep the headphones from bouncing around. The micro-USB charging port has no door to protect it, so be careful about getting the JIB wet.
In the box, Skullcandy provides a very short microUSB charging cable, but you’ll need to bring your own wall plug (so don’t expect any fast charging). The box also includes an extra pair of silicone ear gels — both small- and medium-size are included. The medium ear gels, which are the ones that come attached to the earbuds out of the box, fit me pretty well. Although if neither of these fit, you will need to buy another set of ear gels at additional cost.
The biggest surprise, considering the price: The sound quality is not terrible! The JIB has a relatively balanced experience with an impressive amount of bass. Skullcandy packed decently sized 9mm drivers in each earbud, and you can hear the results. And even with the volume set at the maximum, I didn’t experience any sound distortion.
I tested the JIB Wireless with a range of genres including rock’n roll, pop, and EDM. I noticed that tracks featuring both a mix of vocals, electronic tones, and heavy bass offered an ideal experience. The result is a rich sound with bass that packs a punch and keeps low and high tones at an appropriate range. Vocals come through when they need to, as do strings, horns, and drum beats across a variety of musical genres.
The overall result is the JIB hitting all the right notes for almost all songs, although classical might be the one genre where the heavy bass is unwelcome.
My primary concern with the JIB Wireless was how they would hold up to everyday use. After a few days, ranging from wearing them around the house to having them provide the soundtrack for my commute, I walked away impressed.
With the design, Skullcandy clearly focused on having the ‘buds stay in your ears and provide decent sound quality. During my walk from the train station to the office, the JIBs didn’t budge. The plastic piece that contains the battery and connects both sides took a bit to get used to: While it’s seemingly there to keep the earbuds from flopping around, I found that it would end up rubbing against the back of my neck or shirt, which was a little uncomfortable.
After a little while, it didn’t bother me so much, but I wouldn’t recommend the JIBs for working out. The result would be the plastic piece bopping up and down as you move.
While six hours of battery life isn’t anything to write home about (although it’s better than Apple’s AirPods, which are rated at five hours), at this price point it’s pretty impressive. However, if you plan to use them all day, you’ll need to bring a charging cable and portable battery.
I was left disappointed with the few times I used the JIB for calls. Considering the small in-line control and and the price tag, I didn’t set the bar very high, but still. Bluetooth connectivity wan’t an issue, but the call quality sounded less than pleasing.
There was a surprising amount of static coming from my end, which at times could gargle my voice, though at other times it came through okay. Wind clearly has a significant effect as there is no screen covering the input. The frustrations might not happen for every call, but you’ll probably want to play it safe and take calls on the phone itself.
A pleasant surprise
A pair of $35 headphones certainly should induce some skepticism. However, the Skullcandy JIB Wireless don’t disappoint — at least, not in the areas that matter most: They sound good and have a surprising amount of bass, plus they have a design that keeps the earbuds secure in your ears.
The JIB is by no means perfect. The in-line control is not perfect by any means, and the one-button operation may in fact be too simple. And while the design is lightweight, it doesn’t feel like the most durable. Lastly, the plastic battery module connecting the earbuds can be awkward.
But even with these central cons, the pros outweigh them… at least for 35 bucks.