Wireless earbuds are all the rage now, and manufacturer wants in on the action.
Skullcandy is the latest audio brand to go up against Apple's incredibly meme-y AirPods, and they've thrown their hat in the ring with the mostly good but incredibly basic $180 Skullcandy Indys.
At $180, the Skullcandy Indy earbuds occupy the bottom rung of the wireless earbuds market. Their nearest price competitor would be the $150 JBL Tune 120s.
Really, they're competing directly against Apple's $249 AirPods in functionality, portability and design. And in some areas, they measure up. In others, not so much. They're nothing spectacular, and even a bit boring. But they're a good-looking and okay-priced alternative if you're looking to break into the wireless earbud market.
What are they?
The Skullcandy Indy earbuds are wireless earbuds designed for everyday use. With touch volume controls and soft gel coverings, they're easy on the ears — but they're let down by unimpressive and sometimes muddy sound quality.
WHAT IS IT?
Wireless bluetooth earbuds rivalling the AirPods.
Easy charging and well-designed.
Middling sound quality and poor connectivity.
What's good about them?
Easy charging and great little case
Wireless earbuds are just the latest in a long line of items that I need to add to my fit-to-bursting handbag. Where previously, my wired earbuds would wrap around my phone in a neat little package, wireless earbuds require a bit more space investment. That's why the case is an essential part of the overall design.
Like Miss Muffet before them, this /case is juuuuuust right. It's small, round and has a bit of heft to it, making it easy and obvious in the black hole of my handbag. It fits neatly into the palm of my hand, and is a little bit smaller than a can of tuna. (This was the closest thing in my desk drawer tha resembled the size.)
The case is the real MVP of the Indys. In total, you'll get around 16 hours of battery life - 3 to 4 from the buds themselves, with the case providing an additional 12 before it needs to be juiced up again.
They don't boast fast charge but in my time with the buds, I was charging every three to four days for about an hour at a time. 16 hours is a lot of music to burn through, and the case and buds hold their charge well enough to not need to worry about them constantly.
I have a problem with my ears. They're very delicate and headphones designed to stay in my head tend to fall out when I least expect it, or squash my ears with their weird little nubs. The Skullcandy Indys did nothing of the sort, and I'm extremely grateful.
In lieu of a nub or unsightly curved hook, the Indys go for a neat little fin that sits snugly between your ear folds.
They fit securely, even when you're going for a walk or light jog, and rarely feel like they're going to fall out. I avoided taking them for a run though — first, because I don't run but second, because vigorous use did put their grip to the test and on the edge of falling out. The Indys aren't quite designed for sports use, but as far as the everyday commute and a bit of light exercise are concerned, they're great, well-fitting and secure.
At $180, the Skullcandy Indy earbuds are among the cheapest 'brand name' wireless earbuds on the market. Despite the fact that they lack the booming sound quality and robust capabilities of upper market buds like the AirPods, Powerbeats Pro and the Jabra 65t Elite Active, they're perfectly good value for money and a good purchase for those looking to begin their wireless earbud adventure.
The sound quality isn't fantastic, but that's fine. The design is a bit boring, and that's okay. Neither of these things will bother the uninitiated.
What's not so good about them?
Middling sound quality
As I mentioned earlier, the sound quality isn't fantastic. It's fine, but unremarkable. This is a bit of a disappointment for the still-high-for-headphones price. The Indys do fine with soulful indie melodies, but when it comes to dubstep and heavy metal, things start getting a wee bit muddy and tinny.
$180 might be the best on the market for decent wireless earbuds, but if you're looking for robust sound quality, there are plenty of other non-wireless, non-earbud headsets that you can invest in that may give you what you're looking for. There are also much better wireless options.
The difference was far more noticeable because I'd spent the last two weeks alternating between these earbuds and the $300 Jaybird Vistas, which (obviously, given the price) boasted far better sound capabilities. If you're leaping between a similarly-priced wired set and these earbuds, you can still expect a noticeable downward leap in quality. If you're upgrading from budget earbuds like I did with the Jaybird Vistas, you may not notice a big difference.
This was, by far, one of the most frustrating features of the Indys. To connect the earbuds, you have to take them out of the case individually, press on the backs for them to turn on, select them on your phone and wait patiently for them to hook up. They didn't immediately pair on multiple occasions, so setting up music was often so frustrating that I gave up.
Sometimes, they would pair right away and I'd be set. Other times, they refused to speak to my device and made me look real dumb on the bus. The Indys had particular trouble with my trusty 2013 iPod Touch, where all my music is stored.
I tried for a solid 10 minutes to pair the earbuds with the iPod Touch during my travels, and they just wouldn't pair. I had no such issue with the Jaybird Vistas, which paired almost instantly every time, so I can only assume that the Indys are sporting a weaker bluetooth signal or less robust bluetooth overall. Once they're connected, there's also no guarantee that the connection will be stable.
I had frequent issues with the bluetooth on the earbuds, and there were times when the sound crackled and dropped out completely, which meant I had to re-establish the bluetooth connection manually. This happened twice while I was writing this review, so I feel like I have to dob on them for being a bit shit in this department.
Should you buy them?
At $180, the Skullcandy Indy earbuds are one of the cheapestn options in market right now. They're well designed, well-fitting, and they sport a neat case but audio snobs may be turned off by their lack of sound finesse and unstable bluetooth. For the bottom rung of the wireless earbud market, you can't expect absolute bangers, and they are perfectly serviceable for the less discerning.
Whether you buy these will be determined by your budget and past experiences. And $180 isn't exactly cheap to begin with. If you can fork out another $70 for some second-gen AirPods (or wait for them to go on sale), you might appreciate the jump in sound quality and capabilities. Not to mention future proofing.
But if you're just looking for some simple wireless earbuds right now, the Skullcandy Indy earbuds are an okay option.