The fact that Skullcandy describes its products as the "sickest" headphones around should give you some idea of the target audience. The brand offers a huge range of headphones and earphones with the emphasis firmly on the cool aesthetics. But, is it a case of style over substance? We took a look at a set of the maker's latest in-earphones to find out.
The Skullcandy 50/50 earbuds come in a range of colours including black, white and blue, and we had the red version in for review. Despite the striking finish and the skull-shaped logo on the back of the earbud, the design is quite subtle so you wouldn't feel out of place wearing these if you're not quite a teenager any more.
The earphones are supplied with three sets of silicone ear pieces so that you can find the best fit for your lugholes. We found that the earphones fitted very snugly and didn't fall out too easily when walking about, while also blocking out a lot of background noise (although there's no active noise-cancelling). You do need to make sure that the the earbuds are in at the correct angle, otherwise you won't get the full benefit of the their audio capabilities. It's easy enough to do this by adjusting the earpieces until the sound output is even between the two. The soft earpieces and lightweight earbuds mean that the 50/50 are really comfortable to wear and you're likely to forget you're even wearing them after a while.
We found the placing of the in-line remote to be slightly awkward at first, as it's quite high up at the top of the right-hand cable, rather than below the "Y" where the cable meets, like many other models. In fact, we kept reaching for the piece of plastic that's located where the cable splits in two (and looks almost identical to the in-line remote). Obviously the reason that the controls are located near to the top is because that's where the microphone is so that you can use the 50/50 for making calls on your iPhone. We found that the sound quality was fine - although not amazing but then the earphones are limited by the audio offered by the iPhone itself.
Living up to its Made for iPod and Works with iPhone credentials, the 50/50's remote control will only work when you're hooked up to a compatible iPod or iPhone - if you're using them with something else, then you'll have to use that device's own controls. You can also play and pause your music by pressing the middle of the remote, while two taps will skip forwards a track and three will skip back.
At 1.3m, the cable is fair bit longer than what you tend to get on earphones (usually around 1-1.1m), so there's a fair bit of room for movement. The striking red finish carries on all the way down the cable to the 3.5mm jack and also covers the in-line remote. When we first saw the cable's nylon covering we assumed that it would stay relatively free from tangles, like The Stretch headphones from Philips. However, as the cable is thinner, the nylon covering doesn't feel quite so robust and we found that they got just as tangled as earphones with the usual rubber casing.
The supplied carry case does help a fair bit when it comes to keeping the earphones free of tangles and with a hard shell on one side, it should help to protect the earbuds, too. Unlike many carry cases that are bunged in the box by manufacturers (often in the form of a cheap, drawstring bag), the pouch included with the 50/50 has obviously been given some thought. As well as a zipped lid, there's a webbed pouch inside to keep the earphones in place and a small attachment on the outside so you can hang it on a bag or keyring.
The very first thing that we noticed when hooking the headphones up to an iPod was the splendid low-end response, which will be music to your ears (quite literally) if you listen to alot of bass-heavy tunes. However, the overall sound isn't quite as impressive. It's not the clearest that we've heard on a pair of in-ears, and it has the tendency to sound a little thin particularly considering the slightly steep price tag.
The Skullcandy 50/50 certainly look the part and the comfy design, complete with differently sized ear pieces for you to choose from is also a bonus. Although they block out a fair bit of noise, the overall audio is a tad disappointing considering the price tag, but the splendid bass certainly helps to sweeten the pill.
The inclusion of a protective carry case, while probably irrelevant to some, should mean that the headphones survive that bit longer than some slightly cheaper rivals, and the addition of an in-line remote is also a useful feature, as long as you've got an iPod or iPhone to make full use if it.