I think it was a Kickstarter campaign that first drew my attention to the Yobybo X-Boat Pro noise-cancelling earbuds, “the first open-casing true wireless stereo headphones with LDAC,” the company said, referring to Sony’s hi-res codec. Well, while the sleek “open” case is super-cool and the buds’ sound is vibrant, some earbuds just aren’t for everyone.
As the old saying from Cinderella goes, “If the shoe fits, wear it.” Likewise, if the earbuds fit, try them. Trouble is, for me, these earbuds don’t fit well. Given that sound quality and a comfortable and secure fit are tied as the top two considerations for earbuds and headphones in my book, I simply won’t wear these. Even if the Kickstarter campaign page makes them seem pretty cool, which it does.
The other issue that arose for me with these amounts to frustration with the tap controls. They didn’t all work as described, which left me involuntarily in silence with one or both earbuds at times. That makes two significant reasons I can’t recommend these.
And what’s with that name? X-Boat Pro. Who knows. The sleek case looks a bit like a boat, or a submersible, maybe.
Yobybo X-Boat Pro: probably good for some
Those things said, the X-Boat Pro buds worked as advertised in many ways, and they might be great for someone whose ears work well with half-in-ear designs of AirPods-style earphones.
Along those lines, if someone dislikes the “earplug” sensation of earbuds with ear tips, this type of fit — designed more to sort of perch part-way into your ear — might be better.
The sound quality appears to be quite good, easily commensurate with any number of earbuds in the $75 to $150 price range. It derives from 13mm drivers, an Airohoa 1565M chip and robust codec support. If the device you use to play music makes the most of the Sony LDAC codec, all the better.
Another check in the “plus” column: the X-Boat Pro earbuds paired quickly and reliably with my iPhone 13 Pro.
And the charging case really is quite cool. It’s sleek and futuristic. The earbuds slide in on the underside, partially exposed, yet still protected. That’s what makes it an “open casing” with a small-enough form factor to be easily pocketable.
Fit could be an issue for others
The X-Boats simply don’t stay in my ears. They’re similar in design to the original AirPods. If I move a muscle, they tumble out. If I sit perfectly still, they mostly stay in.
The earbuds come with a couple of sets of old-school foam ear pads to stretch over the buds as an option to “increase the stability and airtightness.” But for me they actually decreased both. One earbud with the foam mesh stretched over it fell out of my ear while I was sitting motionless in a chair.
Tap controls seem iffy
The X-Boat Pro earbuds don’t fit in a stable enough way for me to reliably or enjoyably use the tap controls, which are somewhat complicated (although I’ve seen, or heard, worse).
And, given that the earbuds don’t come with an app, you must use the tap controls. You know, tap and hold for 2 seconds to do this, tap 2 times on the right side to do that, tape 4 times on the left side, etc. It can seem complicated, at least at first. Even with a comfortable and stable fit, I don’t love learning and using tap routines with earbuds.
And in some cases, the X-Boats tap controls didn’t quite jibe with the descriptions in the user manual. For example, one tap on the left earbuds is supposed to reduce volume, but it seems to pause music for me. I kept having to tap experimentally just to get the music back. Sometimes it would affect just one bud, other times both.
The tap controls are relatively straightforward for accepting and ending phone calls, which worked fine and sounded OK.
Tapping also activates ANC — three taps on either earbud — but the noise cancellation seemed to lack much strength.
Another issue: attention to detail lacking
To make matters worse, my sample arrived without a user manual. The little cardboard sleeve in the package was empty. That kind of omission isn’t a big deal, but it suggests a lack of attention to detail.
So I went to the Yobybo website and attempted to download the X-Boat Pro user manual. But the document wouldn’t download or open on my computer or iPhone. Strike two. And that manual would be the only guide for me to know this particular product’s tap-control routines.
Finally, I reached out to the company and they sent me the digital file as an email attachment. Problem solved. But that won’t necessarily be an option for everyone.
Bottom line: If you like the fit of AirPods-style earbuds but want to save some money and still get quality sound, X-Boat Pro earbuds could be worth a look.
While the Kickstarter campaign prices starting at $99 ended December 12, you can get X-Boat Pro on the Yobybo website for $119 and at other retailers soon. The Kickstarter page says the retail price will be $159.
Where to buy: Yobybo