Skullcandy recently launched their Indy ANC (Active Noise Cancelling) True Wireless earbuds. This is the first time we’ve seen the brand offer true wireless earbuds with ANC technology. If you’re trying to work from your home office and you need to block out the world to focus on a meeting, these could be perfect for you. If you’re a fan of listening to music while shopping, these could be perfect for you.
These small and light earbuds sound great, have great battery life and a nice comfortable design, so there’s lots to like here. Not everything is perfect and after spending time with the earbuds over the past month, I have a love hate relationship with them and you need to read the full review to find out why.
Small, light, portable, powerful
The headphones are proudly Skullcandy, representing your brand of choice to the world with two grey logos on the exterior of the earbud. Apart from that embellishment, they are otherwise a very neutral matte black which I really love, there’s no reason to draw attention to what is essentially a functional product.
The wireless charging case grabs the same design treatment which makes them a match made in heaven. Above the logo, you’ll find a 4 LED lights that illuminate to indicate the current charging levels.
If all things black don’t get you excited, there’s also a ping version of the Indy ANC earbuds and matching charging case. In the bottom of the charging case (regardless of the colour), you’ll find a USB-C port for charging. This makes it convenient given most of us have a USB-C charger (or 5) laying around.
How do they perform ?
Once you have these earbuds paired and fire up some music, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at sound out of the box, but that’s just the beginning. When you first put the earbuds in your ears, you’ll hear a voice prompt announcing that noise cancelling is on, blocking the sound from the outside world and allowing you to focus on what you’re listening to.
Obviously ANC is one of the biggest features of these earbuds and it works well, and I’d say blocks around 80% of noise, which is not the most aggressive I’ve ever experienced, it does a decent job.
The mobile app allows you to really customise the sound that comes from earbuds, to match your preference. Some may see this as overly complicated, but the benefits of spending the time to do this, should not be under-rated. This is far more than a basic EQ adjustment and if you can spend the time to go through the wizard, I highly recommend it.
The process takes a few minutes and plays a series of tones across a variety of frequencies to you. This occurs for each ear and can tailor the audio experience to suit your particular hearing capabilities. There were certainly tones that I couldn’t hear as a 39 year old, which I assume is probably due to my age and while this wasn’t an official audio test, I expect I do that my hearing isn’t perfect.
What I can tell you is the music playback after personalising the audio output was significantly enhanced to what you get out of the box. The best way to experience the before and after is the to go into the Skullcandy on your mobile device and toggle the ‘Personal sound’ setting. For me, this allows you to hear far more of the soundscape of music than you can otherwise enjoy.
There is also a mode selection in the app or by pressing and holding both earbuds. These include Music, Podcast and Movie mode. Personally I spent most of my time on Music mode and didn’t notice a lot between this and Podcast mode, but watching movies, it is worth switching to get the most from it.
Standout features of these earbuds.
Use either bud in solo mode.
One of the biggest frustrations people have with wireless earbuds is that they often rely on being paired together, this means you are locked into using both, everytime, however Skullcandy have duplicated the internals in both earbuds and that means you can use either, independently from one another.
Find with Tile.
The other big frustration with wireless earbuds is that you misplace them and have to re-buy them, making them a very expensive proposition. Indy ANC features Tile technology built-in. This enables you to find your earbuds like you find your keys thanks to the free Tile app. If you’ve traveled between home, the office and the coffee shop, this simply ability to track where the earbud is, is incredibly useful.
At time when you’re wearing earbuds or headphones, you’ll have people approach you. It may be colleagues, family, friends or strangers, but regardless of who interrupts your listening experience, you need to turn things down to listen to them. It’s easy to turn off your noise cancelling temporarily to engage in a conversation, like ordering a coffee, without removing them from your ears.
To do this with the Indy ANC just use a quick ‘tap and hold’ of the main sensor lets you hear everything around you. When you are done, tap and hold again to turn noise canceling back on.
Battery life and wireless charging.
Any wireless gadget will quickly end up in the drawer if the battery life isn’t there to support a full day’s use. The Indy ANC earbuds are engineered to deliver long battery life. Noise cancelling consumes more battery than not and practically we see around 5 hours of continuous listening with ANC.
If you turn it off, you’ll get 9 hours, so for those in quiet environments, like a home office, there’s definitely an advantage of only using it when you need to.
To extend your playback, you can drop the earbuds back into the charging case and with just 10 minutes of charging (about the time it takes to make a coffee), you’ll have another 2 hours of playback.
Not everything’s perfect
One of the promoted features of the earbuds is the ability to rotate the rubber surround to enable good fitment in your ear. The problem I noticed is that when the earbuds are then placed back into the charging case, the rubber section can get caught when the lid closes. This means to place the earbuds back into the case, you have to rotate the rubber surround, then charge them, then rotate it again to your preferred fitment.
This does seem a little clumsy and does make me question the longevity of this rubber, if regular movement takes place. Other earbuds opt for a solution where multiple rubber components of different shapes and sizes are provided, enabling the owner to fit the right size for them. The case design needs to accommodate these variances.
My biggest complaint was the difficulty in pairing this headset with an Android phone. Fortunately I tried with an iOS device and it was seemless, but with Android, it was a nightmare. When I found the device in the Bluetooth menu, you tap on Indy ANC, only to be told to use the app. You use the app and it can’t find the earbuds. I got to the point you never want to reach, searching for the manual to help. I followed the instructions time and time again to unpair them and start over, but with no success. I really hope the next review of this product include a dedicated pairing button on the case and it just works.
PRICE & AVAILABILITY
How much and when can you get one ?
The Skullcandy Indy ANC is available for A$259.95 in True Black or Feisty Pink. If you’re keen to pickup a pair, you can do that via Skullcandy’s website, or via select retailers like JB Hi-Fi, just be careful to make sure you look for the ANC version. The non-ANC version costs A$179.00 making the ANC feature an $80.95 premium.
Given the increase in the locations and environments you can use earbuds in when you have noise cancelling, personally I think that premium is easy to justify.
These earbuds produce some of the best audio I’ve heard from wireless earbuds, while blocking out the outside world. Skullcandy has managed to avoid the regular bone conductivity that happens with ANC products, which has been a frustration of mine in the past.
I really like the design of these earbuds, and the matte-black finish looks pretty great, blending in enough to be perfectly fine on a business call. The battery life is really great and easily gets me through the day and thanks to the USB-C charging port in the bottom of the case, it’s easy to connect it overnight and have them ready to go the next day.
The stem on earbuds like this is still pretty controversial and some people absolutely hate that, but the advantage is the microphone lands closer to your mouth, delivering better audio quality. After having seen many TV crosses to people wearing Apple air pods, I think these have been normalised at this point.