Skullcandy Grind review: A well-designed on-ear headphone that sounds surprisingly good for its modest price
Truth be told, we haven't been too impressed with Skullcandy's headphone offerings in recent years. But we've finally found one that we like a lot in the Grind, an on-ear model that retails for $60 (£40 in the UK; no official Australia pricing yet, but the US price translates to around AU$79) and comes in several different color options -- some better than others -- including some eye-catching translucent versions.
The Grind is lightweight but seems sturdily constructed, with a metal headband, and it's comfortable to wear, particularly for an on-ear model. I can't tell you how it's going to hold up over time because I've only used it for about a week, but on the plus side it's got a detachable cable, an L-shaped plug, and the plastic earcups don't look or feel cheap (Skullcandy reps told me they're using high-quality polycarbonate). On the downside, I kept the headphones in my backpack when not in use, and the earcups on the darker translucent model did show some scratches after a few days.
The Grind also sounds surprisingly good for the price and comes with an interesting feature: Instead of having the remote and microphone built into the detachable cord, they're integrated into the left earcup, which is similar to the the setup you'd get with a wireless Bluetooth headphone.
A button on the outside of the ear cup -- Skullcandy calls the feature "TapTech" -- lets you take calls, play or pause tracks and skip them forward and back. It's designed for use with both iPhones and Android phones, but doesn't have any volume controls. (Headphone companies have to pay a licensing fee to Apple for MFi -- "Made for iPhone" -- certification in order for their inline remotes' volume controls to work with iOS devices, so some companies are choosing to leave those controls off.)
For $60, you're not going to do much better for sound. There's a touch of bass and treble push with a little dip in the midrange, but overall the Grind is a well-balanced headphone that offers decent clarity and is pleasant to listen to. You're also not going to get the richness and refinement you would from a higher-end headphone, and the on-ear design doesn't seal out ambient noise as well as an over-ear model would.
But both CNET contributor Steve Guttenberg (aka The Audiophiliac) and I listened to the headphones after taking a spin with Sennheiser's Momentum On-Ear -- which retails for over $200 -- and thought the Grind held its own and was arguably smoother-sounding (the Sennheiser has some bass push). And while the Sennheiser does offer a swankier-looking design and better construction, it isn't as comfortable as The Grind.
Sound-wise, the Grind is on par with Beyerdynamic's DTX 350p , another modestly priced on-ear we like. That model has a folding design (the Grind doesn't fold and doesn't come with any sort of carrying case), but the Skullcandy seems more sturdily built.
Neither Steve or I are huge fans of on-ear headphones simply because larger, over-ear headphones usually sound better as a rule. But we do appreciate on-ears that sound good for a modest price and don't pinch our ears when wearing them.
As for the built-in microphone, it worked fine for making calls. No complaints there, though you shouldn't expect exceptional performance.
Finally, a Skullcandy headphone we like and can recommend. The Grind is a solid choice for anyone looking for a quality on-ear headphone who doesn't want to spend a lot.