Details: Wooden in-ear from Skullcandy
Current Price: $22 from amazon.com (MSRP: $99.95)
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 16Ω | Sens: N/A | Freq: 18-20k Hz | Cable: 4’ I-plug
Nozzle Size: 5mm | Preferred tips: Stock single-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear
Accessories (3.5/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes), Comply foam tips, and hemp clamshell carrying case with mesh lid
Build Quality (2.5/5) – Skullcandy clearly took the wood theme close to heart with the Holua – not only is the driver chamber made of wood, but so are the nozzles and stems. The housings feel reasonably solid but the nylon-sheathed cable tends to kink. In addition, the hideous plastic mic/remote unit looks like it came out of a cereal box and there are no strain reliefs anywhere on the earphone. Left/right markings are missing as well and moderate driver flex is present
Isolation (3/5) – The rounded housings contribute to fairly decent isolation and the included Comply tips are always a plus for isolation
Microphonics (3/5) – Bothersome when worn cable-down; fine otherwise
Comfort (4/5) – The housings of the Holua are very lightweight and rounded at the front for comfortable fitment. Stock tips are of good quality and a set of Comply foamies is included. One slight issue with over-the-ear wear is the nylon cable popping out from behind the ear due to a lack of shirt clip and cable cinch
Sound (4.5/10) – The Holua feels right at home competing against bass-heavy wooden earphones from Thinksound and Xears. Quantitatively, the Holua has a bit less bass than the Xears TD-III but its low end is slower and more boomy in character. Next to the competition the Holua suffers from a relative lack of bass control, which causes it to sound slightly muddy and lacking in resolution. Expectedly, the bass does bleed into the midrange, which otherwise has good presence and decent clarity. The Holua is a warm earphone but usually manages to keep up with the cheaper Fischer Audio Daleth in clarity, if only just. In terms of balance, the mids are a touch forward but still manage to be somewhat veiled at all times. On the upside, the midrange and treble are very smooth – more so than with the metallic-sounding Skullcandy TiTans or the entry-level Ink’d buds. The lower treble is balanced well with the mids, mostly by virtue of several flattened peaks, but upper treble is slightly recessed. Treble extension and resolution are average.
The presentation of the Holua is good for a Skullcandy product but really doesn’t keep up with the other earphones in its price bracket. The soundstage is below average in width and depth and fails to escape the mild congestion that plagues most mainstream entry-level earphones. Instrumental separation is mediocre as well, especially when a track is muddied up by the bass though, to be fair, the cheaper FMJ model fares far worse. The Holua is still the best Skullcandy earphone I’ve heard and puts up a decent, if uninspired, performance. It is not quite the shift towards sound quality that I was hoping for from one of Skullcandy’s priciest in-ears but, at the very least, I can easily listen to the Holua for any length of time without losing the will to live (which can’t be said for the FMJ).
Value (5.5/10) – The Skullcandy Holua is not a bad product per se – the accessory pack, fit, isolation, and even build quality (with Skullcandy’s lifetime warranty factored in) are on-par with the most of the big-brand IEMs in its price range. However, similar sound quality can easily be had for less money and even those looking specifically for a wooden in-ear with mic should be able to pick up a Woodees IESW100B for a similar price. What it comes down to, then, is the looks and the warranty – the only two factors making the Holua stand in a very busy market segment.
Pros: Lightweight and comfortable; Comply tips included; lifetime warranty
Cons: Moderate driver flex; frustrating nylon cable; sub-par sound quality