While they cost more than 10 cents, the Skullcandy Dime True Wireless Earbuds are the most affordable wire-free earphones we’ve seen at just $24.99. Yes, some compromises have been made to reach such a low price: everything here is plastic and looks it, the charging cable is about the length of a pinky finger, and included accessories are kept to a bare minimum. But sonically, these eabuds deliver rich, boosted (but not unnatural) bass depth matched with bright, detailed highs. Their solid audio performance makes it easier to forgive some of the other issues, such as relatively short battery life and poorly implemented controls.
Skullcandy markets the Dime True Wireless Earbuds as “noise isolating,” but any earphones that seal off the ear canal securely are essentially isolating noise to a degree. If they create a strong seal, then the noise isolation is going to be even more effective. So it’s not that the statement is untrue, but don’t confuse these earphones with ones that use active noise cancellation.
The in-ear fit offered by the matte black, blue, gray, or green lightweight plastic earpieces is surprisingly secure. The plastic feel of the earpieces—and the charging case for that matter—is almost prototype-level cheap. There are no design flourishes beyond the Skullcandy logo on the outer panels of the earpieces. Three pairs of silicone eartips are included, in small medium, and large, and generally speaking, the shape of the earpieces is enough to hold things in place when combined with the right eartips.
The on-ear controls are handled by pressing the Skull logo on either earpiece’s rubber outer panel along the stem. This is how you power the earphones up and down (with a two-second hold), pair them (a four-second hold), and play/pause audio (press once). These controls are fairly straightforward, but things become confusing if you want to do anything else. To skip forward a track, hold the right earpiece’s button down for one second—don’t confuse that with a quick press, as that is for play/pause. (Skipping back a track is the same one-second hold on the left earpiece.) Volume is controlled with two taps—up on the right ear or down on the left ear. Voice assistants are summoned with three taps, and a single press answers an incoming call. As you might imagine, mixing presses with holds is bound to create some misfires when one button handles everything.
The earpieces have an IPX4 rating, which means they can handle splashes and exposure to sweat. Wearing them in light rain or while exercising shouldn’t be an issue, but avoid washing them off under a faucet. And remember that the charging case has no water-resistance rating, so the earpieces need to be completely dry before docking them.
The case has a cut-through lid that reveals when the earpieces are docked, showing the rubberized stems. The flip-top lid is probably the least protective of any case we’ve tested, made of lightweight plastic that, as the cut-through panels hint at, is almost there for show. The charging contacts on the interior are essentially exposed whenever the earpieces aren’t docked, so find a safe, dry place to store the case when it’s not in use. There’s a micro USB port on the back panel for the included charging cable. If the case has one minor flourish, it’s the lanyard fastened to one of its rounded corners.
The earphones are compatible with Bluetooth 5.0 and there’s no app, which isn’t surprising at this price. Skullcandy estimates battery life to be roughly 12 hours total, meaning the earpieces get four hours on a full charge, and the case has eight hours of capacity. These numbers are low for true wireless battery life these days, but again, how much can you expect for $25?
Solid Audio Performance
On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the earphones deliver impressive low-frequency response. At top, unwise listening levels, the track doesn’t distort, and at more reasonable volumes, its depth is robust and powerful. The highs seem balanced enough here to match the lows and keep things from becoming overly bass-focused.
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the Dime’s general sound signature. The drums on this track can sound overly thunderous on bass-forward in-ears, but here, Skullcandy strikes the right balance. There’s some serious boosting happening, for sure, but it’s in the name of giving the drums a robust, round sound. Things never veer into unnaturally thunderous territory. Callahan’s baritone vocals also receive a solid helping of rich low-mid presence, matched by a crisp high-mid edge. The acoustic strums and higher-register percussive hits are delivered with a reasonable amount of high-mid detail and brightness. Things definitely lean toward the lows, but they never sound muddy—there’s enough definition in the high-mids and highs to maintain the basic clarity of the mix.
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On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives enough high-mid presence in its attack to retain its punchiness, while the vinyl crackle and hiss that’s usually relegated to background status seems to take a step forward in the mix—so it seems there’s some sculpting happening in the highs rather than across-the-board boosting. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with a solid sense of subwoofer-like thunder without going full-on mega-bass. We get a strong sense of the scope of the lows here, without them overwhelming the balance of the mix. The vocals on this track are delivered with solid clarity, and perhaps a smidge of added sibilance, but they never seem to do battle with the somewhat pumped-up lows.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, have a bright, rich sound to them. The lower-register instrumentation gets some boosting, but isn’t pushed to extremes. The higher-register brass, strings, and vocals are delivered with their typical crisp, bright presence that commands the spotlight. Generally speaking, this is a balanced sound signature with rich lows and bright highs. There’s plenty of sculpting, but the sculpting is well matched on both ends of the frequency range. The sound signature is certainly not for purists, but for $25, it sounds remarkably good.
The mic offers surprisingly solid intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 8, we could understand every word we recorded without issue. There was a little Bluetooth distortion fuzzing up the edges of words, but this is to be expected, and the mic’s signal was relatively strong compared with what we usually hear from true wireless earphone mics.
The Most Affordable Wire-Free Earbuds
For $25, the Skullcandy Dime True Wireless Earbuds deliver a powerful, balanced, rich, and bright sound signature. There’s really not much else to talk about, but the audio is better than you would expect for the price. The controls are a bit annoying to operate and the build is as cheap as can be, but the most important thing—the audio—punches above its weight class. There are other true wireless earbuds under $50 out there, such as the $30 JLab Go Air and the $35 Tribit FlyBuds 3. The FlyBuds are our top pick in this price range, especially if you’re looking for fully waterproof earpieces for exercise. But if you’re simply looking to spend as little as possible, it’s hard to argue with just $25 for the Skullcandy Dime.
Skullcandy Dime True Wireless Earbuds
The Bottom Line
The true wireless Skullcandy Dime earbuds deliver audio that sounds far better than you’d expect for just $25.
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