The true wireless earphone field is crowded and you want your brand new product to stand out in a field dominated by JBL, Apple, and Jabra, so what can you do? Well, start by making it inexpensive. That’s what the Tribit FlyBuds 3 does with a scant $35.99 price compared with most quality true wireless pairs we’ve tested at $100 or more. They’re also fully waterproof, with a higher water resistance rating than the $250 Apple Airpods Pro. And, while they perhaps forego any design pleasantries that a compact, cool-looking charging case might bring to the table, they instead just annihilate the competition on battery life with an impressive 100 hours of playback time. They also fit really well and offer more eartip options than most expensive models do, with a wildly sculpted but balanced and powerful sound, and earn our Editors’ Choice for budget true wireless earphones.
No one will buy the FlyBuds 3 for their beauty—these are plain, black, unremarkable earphones in nearly every aspect of their physical design. But the in-ear fit is exceptionally secure, and the eartips also seem to block out a wide swath of ambient noise passively. A generous six pairs of eartips in various sizes are included, along with three separate earfin pairs that fasten on near the outer panel for added stability.
The FlyBuds 3’s IPX7 rating means its earpieces can be submerged up to one meter in water. Bluetooth signals don’t do well underwater, but the waterproof rating means you can wash the earphones off under the faucet, expose them to heavy rain, and get the earpieces sweaty without issue.
The on-ear controls are touch-sensitive and spartan: Double-tap either ear’s outer panel to play or pause audio or answer or end calls, triple-tap to skip forward a track, and press and hold to summon your device’s voice assistant. There’s no volume or track backward, but at this price, we won’t nitpick.
The FlyBuds 3 is compatible with Bluetooth 5.0, and supports AAC and SBC Bluetooth codecs, but not AptX. Tribit estimates the FlyBuds 3’s battery life to be roughly 5 hours on a single charge, with an extra 95 hours (not a typo) in the charging case. Those single-charge numbers are normal, but the case numbers are fantastic. Your results will vary with your volume levels.
The charging case is a large, rounded flip-top rectangle that is heavier and bulkier than just about any other case we’ve tested, and for good reason. The case’s built-in 2,600 mAh battery provides all those extra hours of charge, and also doubles as a charger for your mobile devices when they’re low on juice—another feature we rarely see with true wireless earphones. The case’s exterior is a slippery, glossy plastic that we wish were more rubberized and easy to grip, but again at this price, we can let plenty slide. A rubber snap-shut cover protects the USB and USB-C ports (the former is for charging external devices)—a short USB-C to-USB cable is included. Above the port, there are battery status LEDs, and next to the port, there’s a battery status button.
Would an app with some EQ be too much to ask for? Well, yes, it would when the price is $36. This means you don’t get access to features like an EQ to help to tame the wildly sculpted sound signature.
The mic offers decent intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 8, we could understand every word we recorded without issue. There’s a little bit of typical Bluetooth distortion in the mix, and the mic signal is perhaps a tad fainter than would be ideal, but these are par for the course with true wireless in-ear mics. Your call partner shouldn’t have problems understanding you on a clear connection.
On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the FlyBuds 3 offer powerful low frequency response. At top, unwise listening levels, the deep bass on this track is delivered without distortion, and at more moderate levels, the lows are still strongly represented. This is a bass-lover’s sound signature, for certain.
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the FlyBuds 3’s general sound signature. The drums on this track sound thunderous to a near-unnatural degree, and Callahan’s vocals receive more low-mid richness than they need through the FlyBuds 3’s drivers. And yet, the highs are sculpted so that the sound signature never sounds muddy: The vocals get a little treble edge, the acoustic strums sound notably bright, and the tape hiss takes a step forward in the mix. Audiophiles looking for a pure, flat response will run in horror, but the audio performance here is impressive for the very low price. Accuracy is not part of the goal, really—these in-ears are designed to have snappy highs and thick bass, and they achieve just that.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives plenty of high-mid presence, allowing the attack to retain its punchiness in the mix, while the vinyl crackle and hiss take a step forward in the mix as well. The highs are boosted and sculpted to a dramatic degree, but this is because the lows are pumped up, too; the drum loop’s sustain gets some extra thump here, and the sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with serious power. Because the lows and highs are so sculpted, the result is a decent amount of balance, even if the sound signature is far from natural.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, sound a little ridiculous through the FlyBuds 3. The bass is dialed up far too much here, and while the higher register instruments remain crisp and bright, the lows are simply overpowering at times. Again, an app with EQ would’ve been huge here, but for the price, we don’t expect one.
Waterproof, secure-fitting, bass-forward true wireless in-ears with 95 hours of extra battery life in the case, for $36? Don’t get me wrong, I am not at all in love with the design, look, or sound signature, but how can you argue with this price? It’s the definition of a bargain. For those seeking gym-focused in-ears on a budget, the FlyBuds 3 are not to be overlooked. You can also consider the $50 EarFun Free, another budget-focused IPX7-rated pair. And if your budget is flexible, two of our favorite gym pairs are the $170 JBL True Wireless Flash X (IPX7) and the $180 Jaybird Vista (IPX7). But at a mere fraction of those prices, the Tribit FlyBuds 3 are also IPX7, and that value combined with the charging case earn our Editors’ Choice for budget true wireless earphones, even if the sound is a bit too sculpted for our tastes.
|Active Noise Cancellation||No|