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Skullcandy Ink'd Wireless review: A surprisingly likable budget Bluetooth headphone

This affordable neckband-style wireless headphone looks a little cheap, but its lightweight design and decent sound prove appealing.

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David Carnoy
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David Carnoy

Executive Editor / Reviews

Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.

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When I first pulled Skullcandy's Ink'd Wireless neckband-style Bluetooth headphone out its box, I had pretty low expectations. Frankly, it looks and feels a little cheap. And, to be fair, it is: it lists for $50, and we've already seen at least on sale at Best Buy (since ended) where it was selling for $40.

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7.6

Skullcandy Ink'd Wireless

The Good

The Skullcandy Ink'd is a lightweight, affordable flexible collar-style Bluetooth headphone that offers decent sound and a comfortable fit. It performs fine as a headset for making cell phone calls and has reasonable good battery life.

The Bad

It looks a little cheap, which makes you think it should cost a little less.

The Bottom Line

The Skull Candy Ink'd Wireless is a better Bluetooth headphone than it looks.

The first thing you'll notice about the Ink'd Wireless is that it's very lightweight. If you have a collared shirt on, you'll barely feel it around your neck. The band's got some flexibility to it, which is good, and while the cords that run from the neckband to the earbuds seem a little thin, some of LG's Tone headphones have very thin cords (they're retractable on some models) and I haven't had a problem with them breaking or fraying over time.

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We got the plain black version, but the Ink'd Wireless is also available in other color options.

Sarah Tew/CNET

You'll find the integrated remote on the left side of the neckband. I liked that the controls were large and easy to operate by feel. There's a pause/play button that also doubles as a call answer/end button and volume controls that double as track control buttons. You hold down the volume up button to advance a track forward and hold the volume down button to skip back a track.

The buds themselves are all plastic -- they're very lightweight -- and the headphone ships with two sizes of silicon eartips. With the larger "default" set, I was able to get tight seal and surprisingly secure fit. It's very important to be able to get a tight seal or sound quality will suffer, particularly the bass performance.

About that sound quality -- it exceeded my expectations. You don't get the treble and bass push you get from a lot headphones these days (the sound is pretty balanced). And while there isn't a ton a bass -- Chairlift's "Show U Off" sounds fairly subdued, for example-- so this isn't going to be the greatest headphone for hip hop and club music. But it offers decent clarity in the treble and midrange and measures up well against neckband-style Bluetooth headphones that I've tested that cost almost twice as much. (Don't expect the world from the sound, but most people should be happy with it for the price).

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Close up of the eabuds.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Used as a headset, call quality was also decent. It's not going to be perform as well as something like the Jabra Halo Smart, which is specifically designed to be used as a headset and features noise reduction technology, but it performed well enough in quieter environments. Battery life is rated at 7 hours at 75 percent volume. That's about in line with what other neckband-style Bluetooth headphones offer.

Skullcandy doesn't mention anything about the headphone being sweat resistant, but it's a headphone you should be able to use for light workouts without a problem. You may be able to run with it, but I can't tell you if the earbuds will stay in your ears if you sweat a lot -- or how well the headphone will hold up over time.

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The integrated remote control.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The long and short it is I wasn't expecting much from the Ink'd Wireless. I thought I'd like it less than the its earlier Smokin' Buds 2 neckband-style Bluetooth headphone, which I didn't think was anything special. However, the Ink'd Wireless grew on me as I used it.

Yes, it looks a little cheap. And it's missing extra features like magnetized buds. Also, there's no way to adjust the cord lengths. But the sound is decent, and it's comfortable to wear. If Skullcandy could get the price down closer to $35, which is what some entry-level LG Tone headphones cost online, I'd call it a great bargain Bluetooth headphone. Now it's just just a good one.

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7.6

Skullcandy Ink'd Wireless

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Sound 7Value 7
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