Let us preface our experience by stating that if TriBit had not released their 3.1 firmware update before we completed our testing things would have gone much, much differently. Before this update their bass was anemic and yet overblown all at the same time (and yes, somehow, they made that contradiction in terms actually possible), the highs were like being punched in your ears with an icepick, mids… what mids?! It was almost as if the FlyBuds’ engineers heard about the ‘disco smile’ / ‘happy V’ sound profile and went “here hold my beer”. Flaming dumpster fire does not even begin to cover it. Listening to drunken bagpipe players trying to do stairway to heaven using a bag full of cats would have been more enjoyable. They really were the epitome of what was wrong with Chi-Fi earbuds.
Thankfully TriBit have been working hard on tweaking the FlyBuds ever since their release and before we wrote them off we did update to the latest v3.1. Also, to be fair, our sample was running an early v2 firmware (and why we went looking for an update in the first place) so jumping multiple firmware revisions did result in the seemingly massive change in their sound profile. A massive change for the better.
Gone is the over blown, almost satirically out of proportion EQ’ing done to them and in their place… a diamond in the rough appeared. One that if it was not for the still slightly forward bass and treble would be a lot, lost closer to the more natural ‘monitor’ style sound profile we enjoy. Equally important is that while the bass was kicked up a notch or two it actually can reproduce lows with a level of detail and clarity that belies their low asking price. Most likely the firmware they came with was borked and quickly fixed by TriBit… but some ‘escaped into the wild’ before the change could hit the factory floor. So if you do buy these buds… for the love of your ears and sanity upgrade the firmware before even trying them for the first time.
After a quick, and rather painless firmware upgrade the TriBit FlyBuds produce a sound profile that is best described as a ‘shallow V’. That is to say it is not neutral, but is a lot closer to neutrality than the Disco (sucks) Smile / Happy V that most consumer buds come equipped with. To imagine what this means, think of an equalizer. Now instead of pushing the Bass and Treble all the way to 10 while leaving the mids at 0 (or even -5 to -10 depending on how extreme a manufacture gets with their Disco (sucks) Smile profile) imagine the mids kept at 0, and the bass and treble only pushed to about 3 or 4. Thus the colloquial term ‘shallow V’. To be a bit more precise this ‘shallow v’ sound profile is actually shallower (or neutral) than the one Silicon Power BlastPlug BP82’s come with – basically 4/0/3 vs 5/0/5 on a EQ.This is a good thing. The TriBit FlyBuds simply produce music closer to the way the sound engineers intended than most inexpensive buds.
For a pair of “Chi-Fi” buds (especially wireless buds) this is not only impressive but actually underscores the fact that TriBit actually know what they are doing, have distinct opinions on what is right and wrong and are not afraid to buck the trend of “MOAR COWBELL”… errr… “MOAR is better!!!!1111!!!!!” that permeates most lesser known Chinese based earbud manufactures.
This is because most manufactures know that if they push the bass and treble to the front that it can hide a myriad of sins. Basically, by cranking the dial to 11 inexperienced buyers can be fooled by an inferior product… much in the way fast food ‘restaurants’ slap salt on cardboard/ fake meat to fool people into thinking it is actually good food.
The downside to this neutrality is some people will find the treble and bass… lacking. It is not. It is there and it is good, it just is not in your face like a two-year-old on a sugar high. If you are used to only overly aggressive bass and treble it will take a few hours for your ears to adjust. Trust us, this is time well spent, but do not push the volume in search of that sound profile you are acclimatized too. After a few hours you will start to realize how good these ear buds really are. You will find your ears noticeably less fatigued and you will find the music you love to be even more enjoyable than before. Of course, these are not going to take Westone or Shure… or even Ultimate Ears sales away from those companies. Any of them will beat on the TriBit FlyBuds like a Rocky Balboa beating on a side of beef, but we would put these up against FiiO and their F9 standard series any day of the week… even if they are only powered by 6mm drivers.
While there is a distinct hump in the treble range, vocals will be relatively razor sharp. Everything from Eric Clapton’s Tears In Heaven unplugged to even Sinéad O’Connor “nothing compares to you” will take your breath away if all you have used in the past is typical wireless earbuds. You will really get a lot more visceral impact from these types of songs. You will hear the anguish in Sir Clapton’s voice as he sings about the death of this child. You will feel like you were there live in MTV Studio’s while he recorded it live.
Equally impressive is that with actually good highs more typical Rock N Roll will also sound good. Everything from old school Twisted Sister and their “we are not gonna take it” to Queen’s seminal “bohemian rhapsody” to even Nina Simone’s “sinnerman” will be darn good. The one issue with such ‘big’ music is that the soundstage the TriBit Flybuds produces is a bit on the small or ‘cozy’ end of the spectrum. So, if the music you are in to relies on big auditoriums or Opera houses… it will sound different. Instead of believing you are there in the front row at a concert, it will be more like you are hanging with the band listening to them practice in the back rooms the day before the ‘big show’.
This smaller soundstage combined with actually good sonic abilities makes them a rather good choice for simple to moderately complex Jazz. “5/4 meter” and “9/8 meter” Jazz such as “West Coast style” that was made famous by Dave Brubeck and his “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo à la Turk” songs. Any of his work will come alive thanks to the FlyBuds combination. So much so you will want an 18yr old scotch while listening to it. You may even suddenly want to grow a goatee and discuss the merits of Islay style Laphroaig vs Speyside style Macallan scotch (its heresy but we would recommend Yamazaki 25 year old… or if you don’t want to sell your car for a bottle… Balblair 21 for a taste of what good Scotch actually is). You will not only hear Joe Morello’s brush on the drums, but the inhale and exhale of Paul Desmond on alto sax during Take Five comes through surprisingly good. If this sounds horrifying to you, to counteract this we would recommend a bit of Timmy trumpet’s “Freaks” which will bring you back to ‘reality’ and make you want to hit a rave instead.
Sadly the smaller soundstage does mean things like classic Opera will be less than optimal. Wagner will simply not impact you the way he meant his Opera to hit you in the feels. Of course, by the same token more modern riffs on Operatic music such as Violent J’s “wizard of the hood” album will be rather good. You will hear the rasp in his voice from years of smoking things other than nicotine. So, it really will depend on what you consider the word ‘Opera’ to mean.
TriBit makes a big deal out of the FlyBuds’ bass reproduction abilities and while there is a distinct hump to it, the bass is not only present but rather clear. Only at higher volumes will you really notice harmonic distortions and as long as you stay at sane volume levels you will like what they can do. Motely Crew’s “Kick Start My Heart”, System of a Down’s “chop suey”, Slipknot’s “Before I Forget”, the Beastie Boys “Sabotage”… all will get the blood pumping and help you through the last half of ‘leg day’ while at the same time not giving you a headache or causing ear fatigue. Of course, nothing beats “March of cambreath” for getting the fight or flight adrenaline dump going and here the Flybuds also shine. Even OG Gangster rappers like Ice-Cube or Ice-T and their classics are rather enjoyable. Put simply the bass is there in a big enough dose that few beyond bass heads will find them lacking and yet their clarity adds depth to music that is usually sorely lacking.
Because the bass and highs are a bit forward (we would have liked to have seen them at 1s or 2s… not 3s and 4s) the mids are slightly recessed. However, the mid frequencies do come through loud and clear (pardon the pun). Electric guitars especially shine on this set of buds. So, music such as Jimmy Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” are highly enjoyable. The feedback and distortion are faithful recreated, and it is the best experience we have had from Bluetooth based buds to date. So good that even a lot of wired buds will not sound as good. Also rather good is EDM such as Zomboy’s “Game Time”. It will be like being there… if it was not a rave but in his home listening to him compose it.
Overall the TriBit Flybuds are not your typical Chi-Fi’s. They are in fact the opposite… and why many people like buying from overseas. You will get a good music listening experience and do so without breaking the bank. The fact that they are wireless is merely a nice bonus, and not a detriment in the least.