Review: xFyro xS2 waterproof wireless earbuds and powerbank case
They're hardy, waterproof and dustproof, with a nifty and very portable magnetic case that doubles as a powerbank. They're cheaper than Apple's AirPods, sound great as long as you're not a bass fiend, and we've spent a couple of weeks with them to bring you this review.
It's been a while since I cranked up Blood Sugar Sex Magik by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and it may have been a mistake. My colleagues are craning their necks around monitors to give me pointed looks, protesting my violent headbanging and involuntary air drumming. Sorry guys, just doing my job over here, and today that job is reviewing a new set of wireless, waterproof earbuds by xFyro. Not sure how to pronounce the company name, but they do make a nice product.
The xS2 earbuds have the following vital statistics: their IP67 rating means both the earbuds and the case are dustproof and happy for up to half an hour submerged in up to 1 m (3.3 ft) of water. They're said to last five hours on a charge, and that's not far off the truth in my experience.
Bluetooth range is a claimed 9 m (30 ft), and yes, the connection is solid at that distance, although you can expect some skipping and dropouts if you stick your phone in your pocket and cover it with your hand. Par for the course.
With a built-in microphone, you can use them to make hands-free phone calls – although they do suffer from too much wind and ambient noise if you're outside on a windy day, and for some weird reason, phone calls only come through in one ear "for safety reasons." Huh? No matter, they do the job.
Each earphone has a button on it, which you use to turn them on, put them in pairing mode and access a limited set of functions when you've got music on; short press to play/pause, double tap for next track, triple tap for previous. There's no apparent button shortcut to access Siri/Google Assistant/Bixby, which is annoying, but then it does seem to work if you just say "hey Google," so that'll do.
The charging case is a spunky little touch. It's about 12 cm (4.7 in) long and quite thin, making it a nicely pocketable unit, and the xS2 earbuds suck themselves magnetically into recesses at either end. It's good for five charges, and it's got a waterproofed USB socket to make it an 850-mAh powerbank to charge other devices with.
The pairing procedure is a bit weird for these things – unnecessarily so, I think. I didn't read the instructions the first time, and just went ahead and did what seemed logical, which was to pair my devices with both the left and right xFyros. This was a mistake, and led to some weird, inconsistent behavior. What you're supposed to do is just pair one earbud to your devices, and this becomes the "primary," and the other earbud automatically connects to that one. I'm not sure why you're given the option to pair with either one, but once you get it right, everything goes along smoothly. They don't turn themselves on automatically when you pull them out of the case, and I'm OK with that since I don't mind powering them on.
As for sound? Well, our recent experiences with hearing-adaptive headphones have taught us that there's no such thing as good or bad sounding headphones, just ones that match your ears and ones that don't. Personally, I think they sound good, with impressive top end clarity, but I'd consider them treble-biased and not what I'd recommend if you're looking for bass monsters or listening to a bunch of dance or dubstep music.
Overall volume levels can go very high though – enough to really blow your ears out if you crank them up – and it's nice to be trusted with something pretty savage when it's time to crank up something like, say, Blood Sugar Sex Magik by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which was their greatest record ever IMHO, and Kiedis should never have decided he was some kind of auto-tuned singer instead of a quirky, loose, nudist funk rapper.
The look is not exactly discreet. These are some decent-sized gadgets to wear in your ear, and the fact that they're black means they're visible on anyone who doesn't have long hair to cover them with. Mind you, this is again pretty much par for the course with wireless earbuds, and there's nothing offensive about the design.
The xFyro xS2 are a nice little set of earbuds by my estimation. I don't think they'd be much use in a swimming pool, because you'd find yourself more than 10 m from your (presumably dry) phone pretty quickly, and Bluetooth signals can't penetrate water if you go under, but their water resistance makes them totally fine for whatever outdoor uses you could think of, or listening in the shower or the tub, plus it means you don't have to treat them with kid gloves in any way.
Their MSRP is supposedly US$250, but from what I can tell they're perpetually on sale at 50 percent off, for a price of US$125, or AU$175 in Australia. That makes them a fair bit cheaper than Apple Airpods, and while there's cheaper options out there, the xFyros' hardy waterproof construction does put them a step ahead and worth the money in our opinion.