Sitting in the mid-range (priced at $99 rrp) of their range of wireless buds, Skullcandy’s entrant – the Skullcandy Mod – into this hotly contested space is a strong contender for your money, but is it convincing enough to win us over too?
Skullcandy has created a clean, matt black (also available in a light grey) compact case with a scalloped lid, creating a handy little gripping point.
It’s solid, and the lid feels weighted, likely an illusion created by the tension engineered into the hinge. That means it’s not just going to flop open which is a must in this instance because there isn’t a physical clip to latch it down.
Thankfully, it’s equipped with the idiot-proof USB-C charger port and a neat little charging indicator light to let you know if your buds are back to full charge. There are also three different sizes of silicon ear tips to get the best possible fit- a necessity with noise-isolating earbuds to get the best possible sound.
Skullcandy has brought some nice features to the Mod. They feature multipoint connectivity, meaning you can connect to more than one Bluetooth source device at once, such as your smartphone and laptop. If you’re prone to misplacing things (like tired me with a teething 10-month-old), then the Tile feature will be a godsend, meaning you can pair the Mods with an app on your smartphone, and they will ring if you trigger it from your phone.
Like many earbuds in the market now, the Mods support Bluetooth 5.2, SBC (Low Complexity Subband Coding) and AAC (Apple’s Advanced Audio Codec) codecs. However, Qualcomm’s AptX (used in Android devices) is not supported. What does this mean for you? Possibly a lesser listening experience if you’re an audiophile chasing HD audio (which the Mods aren’t targeted at), but this shouldn’t be too deal-breaker since most people use streaming services at a maximum of 320Kbps in this price range.
The Mods come with push-button controls for playback control. I recommend pinching the buds between your finger and thumb before pressing, as you may inadvertently push them further into your ear canal.
Skullcandy also offers a companion app that opens a plethora of extra functionality over your phone’s OS-based sound management. This includes pre-set equalizer mixes for different listening experiences, such as music, podcasts, or movies; you also have a custom setting if you’re so inclined. Another feature Skullcandy called “Stay Aware” can be activated from the app and allows more ambient sound to be piped into your listening experience – I’m guessing this is done via the microphones that the Mods use for phone calls.
Speaking of phone calls, the Mods are up to the task and feature Clear Voice Microphones in each bud that Skullcandy says use AI to isolate the speaker’s voice and suppress background noise. I will say that the scam caller who rudely interrupted my listening session could clearly hear me tell them to “piss off”, That much is certain.
Out and about on my brisk morning walk or run, the Mods feel snug and not inclined to drop out of my ears. The fact that they’re IP55 rated (safe from rain/sweat and dust) means they will handle most outdoor activities. The “Stay Aware” function is an excellent feature in this situation, helping you remain alert to traffic and the people around you.
The Mods are pretty impressive with battery life, offering approximately 7 hours of life on one charge, which got me a day and a half of active listening in the office without charge.
The case extends battery life to 34 hours (7 for the earbuds and 27 for the case), dragging the total listening time out to a decent 34 hours. In a bind with flat batteries in your buds? You can get 2 hours of listening from 10 minutes of charging with Skullcandy’s rapid charge feature.
The experience is relatively open for a set of earbuds, and the sound stage is quite good, with the Mods creating some impression of space among the instruments and a noticeable separation between them with no detail lost in the bass-heavy nature of some tracks. Detail being lost in muddy presentation is something I’ve noticed with other brands in this price bracket, but I have yet to detect any muddiness with the tracks I’ve listened to on the Mods.
You can see…err…hear what the sound engineers at Skullcandy aimed for in the sound signature of the Mods. These have a healthy slathering of bass, but importantly, it’s not sloppy, and there’s an element of tautness to the delivery. The high frequencies are also quite pronounced, with the mid-range frequencies taking a step back, but they’re still very evident, and nothing feels out of balance.
I tested the Mods with several tracks that offered a mix of everything, and they didn’t miss a beat. Tracks like Hans Zimmer’s “Time” and “Dark Knight Trilogy” live, I’ve pushed them hard. I have not been able to trigger any distortion or muddiness. The sweeping orchestral and guitar arrangements didn’t falter under the bass but did notice some mid-range go missing in the Dark Knight track, with some toms (drums) not as pronounced as I have heard on other headphones.
Listening to “Why Georgia” from John Mayer’s Live in LA album, I heard detail in the high range with a backing guitar I had not heard before in anything other than my GRADO Headphones, an expensive pair of open-back headphones paired with a class A amplifier. Are these punching that far above their weight? No- but it was surprising to pick up that detail in the track, considering the Mods have single 6mm drivers.
Skullcandy’s Mods are a welcome addition to the budget mid-range true wireless earbud segment. They offer great sound, enhanced flexibility with the companion app and good battery life.
If I were to pick out some bugbears, the lack of a clip on the carry case would be one and physical push buttons on the earbuds, another.
In a crowded segment that features the likes of Jabra, JBL, Sennheiser and FiiO, to name a few, Skullcandy’s Mods definitely deserve your consideration.