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Skullcandy Grind review: Your new everyday earbuds?

Ben Johnston
17 Mar 2022
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
70
inc VAT

The Skullcandy Grind sound good and have plenty of stamina but omit a handful of popular features found on their competitors

Pros 
Solid battery life
Spacious, detailed audio
Useful Spotify launch function
Cons 
No ANC or wear detection
Limited EQ presets
No wireless charging
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The Skullcandy Grind are the latest true wireless earbuds from one of the most recognisable brands in the headphones industry. They’re designed to be the ultimate companion for your daily routine and are the third pair of Skullcandy earbuds to incorporate the company’s Skull-iQ technology.

This arms them with some handy functionality, including voice controls and quick access to Spotify, but they have to make do without other desirable features such as active noise cancellation and wear detection.

Despite those shortcomings, the Skullcandy Grind fulfil their mission statement reasonably well; audio is engaging enough to provide an enjoyable soundtrack for your commute, and impressive battery life ensures you shouldn’t run out of juice before making it home.

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Skullcandy Grind review: What do you get for the money?

The Skullcandy Grind operate over Bluetooth 5.2 but codec support is limited to just SBC. While support for high-resolution codecs such as aptX Adaptive isn’t to be expected given the Grind’s price tag, the absence of Apple’s AAC is a little surprising.

The Grind take design cues from the Skullcandy Sesh Evo, with contoured drums and silicone eartips that fit snugly in your ears. If the standard tips aren’t right for you, there are two different-sized options included in the box. As well as offering outstanding passive noise cancellation, the tips ensure the buds remain stable during workouts, and the Grind hold up well against sweat and rain thanks to their IP55 rating. If you do misplace the Grind, the built-in Tile finding technology allows you to “call” them via the Tile app, helping you track them down.

The outside of each earbud bears a small Skullcandy logo, which breaks up the uniformity of the design while indicating the location of the earbuds’ controls. These are depressible buttons rather than touch-sensitive panels, so using them does push the buds against your ears, but the placement is such that doing so doesn’t force the silicone tips uncomfortably deep into your ear canals.

The controls allow you to perform key actions such as playing/pausing audio, answering and ending calls and adjusting volume, as well as a couple of less common commands. A one-second press and hold on the left earbud, for instance, will pull up Spotify on your phone and jump right into the last playlist you listened to. A three-second press, meanwhile, allows you to share audio with other Skull-iQ enabled products.

The control scheme can be customised via the Skullcandy app, which also provides access to EQ presets for music (standard), movies and podcasts, along with the option to create your own custom EQ via a five-band equaliser. You’re also able to toggle on or off the Stay-Aware transparency mode, which filters in ambient sound to help you remain aware of your surroundings.

On top of audio sharing, the Skull-iQ “Smart Feature Technology” has another interesting trick up its sleeve – voice controls. With the app open, you can say “Hey, Skullcandy” to execute a variety of commands, including hailing your native voice assistant, controlling audio playback and toggling the Stay-Aware mode. Voice recognition works consistently and the commands are executed efficiently, so it’s a worthwhile inclusion, even if the commands available aren’t as extensive as those on offer from smart assistants such as Alexa or Siri.

Using Stay-Aware mode will drain the battery faster, but the good news is that you’ve got quite a bit to play with. The buds offer roughly nine hours of playback – and they’ll tell you what percentage the battery is at when you put them in your ears – while the chunky, rectangular case offers a further 31 hours, for a very solid 40 hours total. There’s no wireless charging but the case is capable of providing two hours of playback from just ten minutes on charge.

READ NEXT: Check out our favourite Bluetooth headphones for any budget

Skullcandy Grind review: How do they sound?

In practice, the Spotify launch function requires a little more effort than the user manual made out – after a one-second press and hold on the left earbud I heard a small chime in the left earbud, followed by a lower sound in the right. I took this to mean that I needed to follow up with a single press on the right earbud and sure enough, roughly three seconds later, Spotify launched.

Once Spotify is open, executing the launch function a second time jumps you to a different playlist – presumably one based on your listening history, judging by the rock-heavy road this discovery took me down. This proved one of my favourite features, as it made exploring music without endless scrolling a breeze. The selection of playlists presented to me wasn’t all that varied, but that’s likely down to Spotify’s playlist algorithms.

This playlist-hopping adventure gave me plenty of opportunity to assess the full capabilities of the Grind and, for the most part, I was very impressed. The soundstage feels spacious without drifting into cavernous territory, and I found it easy enough to differentiate between various instruments in more complex compositions.

Bass can be rather overzealous on the standard audio profile, which will come as no surprise to anyone who has used Skullcandy headphones before. Impactful low-end reproduction is something the company has built a reputation on, and those who prefer their bass to be of the skull-shaking variety will be pleased. However, there is a bit of muddying of the mid-range at times.

Trebles are communicated relatively well, though I did experience several instances where the Grind struggled to articulate different aspects of busier arrangements and some high-end distortion, too. I was able to fix this, as well as the overwhelming bass, by jumping into the Skullcandy app and smoothing out the wrinkles using the five-band equaliser.

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Skullcandy Grind review: What could they do better?

The Grind require a fair bit of fine-tuning before they deliver what I’d consider well-balanced audio. The intrusive bass and garbled trebles of the standard profile can be remedied by adjusting the EQ in the companion app, but having to fiddle around with settings before getting satisfying sound isn’t ideal.

Many other brands work around this by including a range of preset audio profiles, either tuned for specific genres or offering common adjustments such as boosting or softening the bass. The Skullcandy app, meanwhile, only offers three presets – Music, Movies and Podcasts – alongside one custom slot to save your own configuration. The presets aren’t terrible, but the limited range feels rather restrictive.

Beyond that, the biggest issue I have with the Grind is that they lack popular features available elsewhere in this price bracket. Wireless charging is fairly widespread these days, even among cheaper options such as the Creative Outlier Air V3 and the EarFun Free Pro.

Equally, despite the unique and useful features facilitated by Skull-iQ, both active noise cancellation and wear detection are notably absent. The former doesn’t feel a huge miss due to the Grind’s excellent passive noise cancellation, but that doesn’t change the fact that plenty of other models include these features for similar money. The 1More ComfoBuds Pro, Edifier TWS NB2 Pro and Anker Soundcore Life P3 all offer both and can be picked up for the same price as the Grind.

READ NEXT: These are the best noise-cancelling headphones to buy right now

Skullcandy Grind review: Should you buy them?

The Grind are advertised as everyday, do-it-all earbuds with a suite of features designed to take some of the effort out of your daily routine. And in some respects, they live up to their billing.

The Spotify Launch feature is especially useful if Spotify is your go-to streaming service and you like to jump between playlists with minimal effort, while the “Hey, Skullcandy” voice controls are effective and efficient.

Audio quality is good enough to keep you engaged during your commute, and extensive battery life ensures you’ll probably only need to charge the Grind once every couple of weeks. However, the lack of popular features such as wireless charging, ANC and wear detection leaves them lagging a little way behind our favourite options in the true wireless category.

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