Solid, if unspectacular, but for £50 Skullcandy’s Mod buds don’t disappoint
- Decent battery life
- Solid sound
- Simple app
- Chunky case
- Controls won’t suit everyone
- WaterproofIP55 rating to protect against water and dirt
- Battery34-hour battery with charging case
- Stay-Aware modeKeep abreast of your surroundings with Stay Aware mode
Skullcandy is up there with EarFun and Rock Jaw when it comes to bad names for audio companies, but, dodgy moniker aside, it has built up a reputation for churning out reasonably priced, reasonably well-performing headphones.
At £50, the Skullcandy Mod don’t buck that trend on the affordability front, but do they sound good enough to stand out in an incredibly overcrowded field?
- Not particularly distinctive looking
- IP55 rating
- Physical touch controls
Skullcandy isn’t afraid to go garish when it comes to choosing the colour of its headphones, but the mostly black finish of the Mod means there’s very little here to make them stand out. They’re also available in light grey.
The buds themselves are a kind of flattened oval shape, with three pairs of grey eartips included in the box to help you find the right fit. They fit snugly, and while they stay put after some bursts of forceful head-shaking, you might not feel totally comfortable wearing them for more extended vigorous exercise, although their IP55 rating does mean they’ll be able to cope with being drenched in sweat.
Unlike a lot of buds these days, Skullcandy has plumped for physical buttons on the Mod. These obviously require more force to activate than touch-sensitive controls, so the best way to use them is by slipping a finger between the back of the bud and your ear, and using your thumb to apply the necessary pressure. Some will find that old-fashioned, but there’s nothing worse than a set of touch controls that don’t respond consistently when tapped or swiped.
The case they live in is a bit on the bulky side and the plastic it’s made of doesn’t exactly scream quality, but the biggest issue is the way the buds sit in the case. The hinge on the lid feels nice and solid, but the holes the buds slot into to charge are pretty shallow, which makes getting them in and out easy, but also increases the chance of them accidentally falling out. It also makes the case feel a lot bigger than it really needs to be. What’s in all that space underneath the buds?
On the bottom you’ll find a USB-C port for charging the case and a light that flashes every time you open or close the lid to indicate how much battery is left. When it goes red you know it’s time to plug in, with the shortest USB-C cable you’ve ever seen in your life included in the box.
- Customisable controls
- Stay Aware mode
- Tile app tracking
For £50 you wouldn’t necessarily expect to get too many extras with the Skullcandy Mod. And while there’s no noise-cancelling, which is probably the feature that’d be top of most people’s most-wanted list, there is an accompanying app that offers a few additional tricks.
Available for both iOS and Android, Skullcandy’s well-designed app allows you to customise the controls if you don’t like the way they’re set up by default. You can assign different commands to double, triple and long presses, but a single press will always play or pause your tunes. If you’d rather keep things simple and prevent any accidental activation, you can turn all the others off completely.
Activation of the Stay-Aware mode can be assigned to one of the commands, which, despite the lack of ANC, uses the built-in microphones to let in some of the outside world. You can also use them to summon your phone’s voice assistant, although I found it easier to keep things to a minimum.
The app also gives you access to an EQ, which offers three basic presets – Music, Podcast and Movie – but also has a Custom mode that allows you to tweak five different frequency bands. Chances are, if you’re only spending £50 on a pair of buds, you’re not going to be too bothered about fine-tuning the performance.
Battery life is quoted as up to 34 hours. Testing that with real-world use isn’t an exact science because it depends on multiple variables, but I used them regularly for multiple weeks before they needed to be plugged in. The app will show you how much battery life is left in each individual bud, and the light on the case gives you an idea when they need charging, but some sort of audible warning would also be handy. There’s no wireless charging either.
One thing the Skullcandy app can’t do is activate the Tile tracking. You’ll need Tile’s own app for this, but it’s definitely worth doing if you’re prone to leaving your earphones lying around the place and can never find them when it’s time to go out. It only takes a few minutes to do, and once you have you’ll be able to initiate a chirping SOS call from the buds that makes them easier to locate. When you get close enough your phone will also vibrate to let you know.
- Sound a little too bassy
- Good balance at low and high volumes
- Average call quality
There’s a checklist of sonic basics you’re looking for with a pair of budget earbuds and it’s fair to say the Skullcandy Mod satisfy them all. There’s enough bass to stop them sounding thin, they don’t lose all their life when played at lower volumes, and they don’t distort when you pump it up.
That doesn’t mean they’re perfect, of course. The low-end might be a little overemphasised to some ears, and they don’t dig out as much detail or sound quite as musical as more capable (and inevitably expensive) buds, but for the average listener with only £50 to spend there’s little here to really complain about.
While there’s no noise-cancelling here, they still have a Stay-Aware mode that lets in some of the outside world, but mainly just seems to amplify any wind noise, so it’s best left turned off.
Skullcandy says it has fitted each bud with a Clear Voice Smart Mic to make calls “the closest thing to talking in person.” That’s a bold claim that doesn’t really stand up unless you’re using them in a quiet room with no background noise. Introduce any kind of competition to your voice and it’s harder to make out what’s being said, with louder sounds such as background music causing real problems.
Should you buy it?
You want an affordable pair of everyday earphones. These no-frills buds have plenty of competition, but they do the basics with no fuss.
If you want the very best sound quality. There’s nothing wrong with how the Skullcandy Mod sound, but they don’t excel when it comes to audio performance.
A £50 pair of earbuds is never going to impress a proper audiophile, but a proper audiophile is never going to buy a pair of £50 earbuds.
It’s difficult to be too critical of the Skullcandy Mod. They do the basics as well as can be expected for the price, with audio performance that favours the bottom end but covers all key bases.
The problem, as always in this price range, is the sheer amount of competition out there, which means the Skullcandy Mod don’t really do anything to make them stand out.
How we test
We test every set of headphones we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
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Tested for several days
Tested with real world use
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There’s no noise-cancellation on this model but there is a Stay Aware mode to take in what’s around you.