I’ve used Skullcandy true wireless earbuds in the past and thought that the fit and feel of them in the ear were the best of any I have used.  For this reason, when Skullcandy offered up a review of their new Grind True Wireless I jumped at the chance.

The Skullcandy Grind True Wireless bring with it all the expected features in a true wireless earbud set these days:  a dedicated app with OTA updates, noise reduction, charging carry case with quick charge support, Bluetooth 5.2 and IP55 sweat and water resistance.  

What sets the Grind apart from the others is the new Skull-IQ voice command technology from Skullcandy.  The new always-on voice technology promises to be extremely handy but of course let’s put that through its paces and see for ourselves.

Design and setup

The Grind earbuds are relatively small and remind me of the Bose QC Earbuds and the Sony WF-SP800N, albeit a smaller version.  By that I mean that the earbud has a portion that sits into the ear and a flatter portion that sits out of the ear a bit.  The Skullcandy Grind though do not sit very far out at all and are thus very well balanced in the ear.

Included in the box are several different sizes of tips allowing you to get a good seal with them in your ear.  Given the Grind do not have ANC but instead a lesser version in the form of “noise reducing” but they do use mics to aid this noise reduction – it just isn’t redacted to the extent of your usual ANC.

Each earbud has a soft button on the side of it which can be used to control your media playing – this button and its presses in various types can be customised within the Skullcandy app.  The buttons are soft and easy to press and respond quickly as well – nothing worse than a slowly responsive button on an earbud where you stop the music and it takes so long to respond you start it again thinking it didn’t register the stop tap.

The charging case provides an additional 31 hours of charge to the earbuds – which can store 9 hours of battery life themselves.  Providing this much extra charge comes at a price and that would be case size.  Although the case is quite large it still sits in the pocket well – it is bigger than the Amazon Echo Buds case and rivals the size of the Bose QC Earbuds case.  Battery life is certainly as expected – I haven’t come across a company that has lied on their battery life with true wireless earbuds (they’d get found out pretty quickly) and Skullcandy have done the right thing here as well.  40 hours of use, easily.

Skull-IQ voice command technology

A bit finicky at first but once I opened the Skullcandy app and turned the voice recognition off and on again it was fully responsive.  That was only at the start of using the earbuds because each tie I used them after then they worked fine, whether the app was open, used or closed.  You can easily trigger the earbuds to turn the volume up or down, play or pause etc.  You can also trigger your digital assistant to open, giving you access to even more voice commands.  

Aside from controlling your music using Skull-IQ you can use it to take a selfie, change listening mode and to share audio — at this stage it is fairly limited and I’m not entirely sure all that required. It’s certainly not a negative on the earbuds though as it doesn’t make them sound any worse or better.

My main issue with it was the length of the trigger word.  I’m not a fan of talking to my phone in public as it is so to have a trigger word that is so many syllables is frustrating.  Minor detail I know but maybe “Hey Skull” would have been a better option?

How do they fit?

The earbuds are not just small but also light.  They sit inside the inner ear canal quite comfortably and even though there is no external ear tip to hold them in place.  I was able to perform all of my workout including running etc without them falling out – or even feeling like they were going to fall out.  

They were comfortable sitting in my ears and had no problems wearing them for an extended period of time.  The seal with the ear canal was quite good which is just as well given the lack of ANC.  This is where they differ from some of the ANC earbuds on the market – the ANC earbuds often don’t have such a good seal in the ear as these do.  The Grind earbuds rely on getting a good seal but that is something they are good at – assuming you can find a tip that fits your ear canal well.

How do they sound?

Priced at just $179.95 you would expect the sound produced by these to sit somewhere between the premium and the cheaper lower-end earbuds – and you’d be right.  In saying that though the difference between these and the premium earbuds is not all that much.

I have a couple sets of premium earbuds (Bose NC Earbuds and OPPO Enco X) and in a quiet environment the quality of the music approached what these premium sets produce.  As you would expect they were a lot closer to the OPPO than the Bose – but then so is the price.  If you listen within a relatively quiet environment most of the time then you will struggle to find much (if any) difference between the $180 Skullcandy Grind and the $350 OPPO Enco X.  Of course, Bose is just that much better than both of them but you pay for that.  The Grind sound was much better than those produced by the Echo Buds, albeit without the ANC that the Echo Buds include.

In a noisy environment though the Skullcandy Grind rely on a good seal of the earbud within the ear along with a couple of noise isolation mics but not true active noise cancellation.  This is where you need the more expensive ANC earbuds.  In the noisy environment the earbuds with true ANC produced a better listening experience but in saying that the Grind were not useless.  At the gym, with the background music blaring some terrible music I was still able to easily enjoy my own metal mix through the Skullcandy Grind.  If you want audiophile-quality music in a noisy environment, then you should be looking at a more premium earbud with true ANC.

Where do they sit in the grand scheme of true wireless earbuds?

Comfortably above the middle of the pack.  When it comes to true wireless earbuds you normally get what you pay for.  At $180, the Skullcandy Grind are not a cheap pair, but neither are they an expensive, sell-your-left-kidney for.  

The new Skull-IQ voice control has limited value outside of controlling your media but that can be just as easily done (possibly more easily) using the buttons on each earbud.  Skull-IQ has some definite uses though with one being the ability to take selfies with your voice. Even with this having limited value they are still a great set of earbuds.

At $180 they out-perform their price.  The sound is rich and covers all types of music with a nice deep bass that is so often lacking on true wireless earbuds.  Sure, they don’t have true ANC but they have decent noise isolation and a great seal in the ear creating a very good isolation of the music from the background noise using the earbud seal and the included mics.

Without breaking the bank, I can recommend these true wireless earbuds.  The Skullcandy Grind small earbuds with a decent charging case that sit comfortably and securely in the ear.  If you are looking for a sub-premium set of earbuds that sounds premium, listen to your music in a relatively quiet environment and don’t want to fork out an arm and a leg for them then these earbuds are for you.  

The Skullcandy Grind are available now at Skullcandy.com.au and at all JB Hi-Fi stores for RRP $179.95AU.

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