The last time that I had my hands on a pair of Skullcandy cans they were part of the company’s gaming range and presented quite a different proposition to the pair of on-ear headphones sitting atop my melon as these words are being typed out.
Skullcandy’s Grind, a set of fairly compact wired ‘phones, has been designed to appeal to the younger segment of the market and they’ve got the features and, more importantly, the price to match that ambition. And while Stuff‘s frequently spoilt when it comes to audio headwear, these hold up well to the R5k musical enthusiast headphones we usually surround ourselves with.
The set I had for review consisted of a metal band inserted into a pair of translucent ear cup, with a spot of exposed wiring disappearing into the slightly-padded headband. The drivers are covered with a faux-leather material over sponge, to give the ears a bit of a break. Exactly as seen above, in other words, but there are a selection colours to choose from.
The headphone cable, which terminates in an L-shaped connector for your source, is detachable from the main body. Not for any particular reason, as far as I can tell, but just because. The Grinds are certainly not wireless, you can’t really expect that for R800. The cable itself is a bit stiff, and tends to get in the way when you least want it to. But it remains free of most tangles, so there’s that.
There’s also a little button at the rear of the left ear-cup, which has its uses. It works in combination with the front microphone on the same side and that little key will answer calls, if you happen to have these plugged into your phone.
That’s what Skullcandy wants from these, really. The small button, called Tap Tech, will answer or hang up calls but it’ll also pause your music on a smartphone (or even a notebook, in the case of OS X) and a double-press will skip to the next track.
The implication is that Skullcandy expects these to be taken everywhere and they’re not wrong. The Grind is small and light enough to tag along to most places without becoming an irritation, though I did find that extended periods of listening resulted in some discomfort. The padding just doesn’t seem up to the task and the metal headband does quite the job of squeezing the cans onto the side of the noggin. At least you’re secure in the knowledge that they’re not going anywhere.
Comfort aside, the whole point of headphones is the music. I know people that would wrap barbed wire around their skulls if it meant that their music sounded 5% better than it did before, so sound is the decider here.
And I’d have to say that sound, which comes by way of dual 50mm drivers, is better than expected. Skullcandy doesn’t have the greatest track record in the Stuff offices, something that goes back to that whole audio snob complex we’ve all kinda developed, but the sound quality is improving.
The Grind are as bassy as you’d expect from a pair of Skullcandy headphones but they hold up well, both at high volumes (provided your ears can take it) and in the mids and highs. Sure, you can get a better experience elsewhere but you’re not going to get many at this price point. Loud enough to block out an entire office, and the sound of traffic along Jan Smuts during rush hour, the Grind could have been a lot worse. A lot, LOT, worse. An examination of Skullcandy’s higher-end offerings could prove fruitful these days, if you have the wallet for it.
We’ve seen better headphones but almost none that you can pick up for under a grand. And as these are targeted at a youthful market, which isn’t thinking of dropping the price of PlayStation 4 on a single pair of headphones, Skullcandy have done rather well here. I’ve got no doubt that they could do better but not without jacking up the price. Loud, portable sound on a budget? Hit the Grind.