View Full Version : Skullcandy Smokin' Buds 2: A TeenageAngst Review

02-17-2014, 12:35 PM
WEED ALLEGORIES! Back in 2010 these little dickens were swinging from the ears of every highschooler with willing parents or disposable income, shamelessly blasting Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry as they shuffle between classes. Their prices were high, their quality considered top notch by their users and garbage tier by audiophiles. They sparked so many headphone debates on the forums I can't even. I can't. Even. But this is 2014 and more competitors have entered the field. Sure, you still have Sennheiser and Klipsch and Bose and other manufacturers no one with less than $100 to blow on quality earware cares about, and sure Sony's always been kicking around as the working man's earbud of choice, but now there's Marley and Urbanears and Beats and some new earbuds that are specifically designed for women (what?) etc etc.

This did two things, it told Skullcandy to specialize and force them to lower their prices. This had the effect of causing their products to actually fall in line with their price points. You see, all those highschool kids in 2010 are now in college and BEATS are where the YOLO crowd are now. Skullcandy? That's kiddie stuff. So they market now at the kids who don't particularly care about quality or don't have much disposable income but still want a name brand.

"TA you philosophical magnate," you're saying to yourself, "What does any of this have to do with the actual earbuds?" Well I'm getting to that. Let's start with the product themselves. I purchased these from the campus computer store, a decision prompted by me losing the silicone ear thingy to my other earbuds. Obviously this rendered them useless, and in a bind, I purchased these for $22. My expectations were mixed, these headphones were packed with innuendo and hyperbole left over from 4 years of broken cords and teenage infighting. Needless to say I purchased the lime green/purple ones, to be as completely over the top as possible, as Skullcandy should be. These come with an in-line microphone, which I need for Skype calls, and also a chincy plastic carrying case. Not a little bag that looks like you're lugging around a quarter (prime opportunity lost on Skullcandy's part) like my last earbuds had. The earbuds themselves are offset, which is important for some reason. They also include see-thru plastic windows in the actual bud so you can see the itty bitty copper bits inside. I can only assume this is so that, like a fuse, you know for absolute certain whether or not your headphones are brick'd.

Now, how do they sound? Mid-level earbuds/headphones are always fascinating to me. They're never high-quality, but they pull every trick in the book to try and convince you they are, and these Skullcandys are no exception. They have a really strange tonal depth that is a bit like reading a dictionary with the A section lopped off. Everything is crisp and clear and deep on the mid and high end until you hit that 20khz range where it just kinda smacks into a ceiling of look-ahead-brickwall-limiting-esque glass and turns to mush. At first I considered it strange this would be the limitation, but given their target audience is already listening to music with this effect in place, it probably basses by unnoticed. The bass is where these earbuds (and every other goddamn headphone on the market) try hard. But it's the kind of trying hard that makes the headphones turn into tryhards.

Some time around 2005 or so with the advent of the iPod and its earbuds, the entire market realized quality bass was hard to get out of a normal earbud. 9 years later, manufacturers still haven't stopped trying to shove dual 12" subs into their earbuds. In the case of over-ear headphones this effect is easily achieved, but the in-ear variety requires the use of special gimmicky technology to pull it off. Now that's not saying it isn't do-able, certainly a $100 pair of German-engineered goodness will be a feast for the ears all around, but in the $20-$30 market you're looking at fish oil. These earbuds are exhibit A. Equipped with what Skullcandy dubbs "Supreme Sound" these little dickens have an unnatural, distorting, muffled, bass-boosting effect. This is a kind of sound I haven't heard since the 90s, in my old Sony boombox with a BASS BOOST button. It strikes a weird effect in that it's not bad, but it is tiring. You become fatigued from listening to the music at higher volumes because the wet bass-effect overwhelms the music. Punk rock turns into a flood of chugging lows, and metal pulls downward like an old car slowly veering to the righthand side of the road. You keep needing to fiddle with the EQ like tugging on the steering wheel to keep it straight. These suckers are tuned for pop music, which they do remarkably well at, but straying too far from that well-trodded path is beyond the scope of their engineering.

So, in all, you get what you pay for. These earbuds certainly aren't the worst I've used, I'd even say they're better than my previous no-name pair I got for $25, but they are certainly not great. For $22 you really can't go wrong if it sounds okay and looks cool, which, to me, these do. Skullcandys are to other headphones like a riced-out Honda Civic is to sports cars. Yeah, it's a name brand, but not a great one. And they're certainly not great earbuds. But like the Civic, which is faffed up with house-siding and painted neon colors and fitted with spoilers and VTEC YO! These earbuds are bright, they have silly ricer-esque styling, they have SUPREME SOUND YO! The Civic is cheap to replace and fun to own, as are these, and like the Civic people are going to look at you like a tool for wearing them, because regardless of what they're listening to, they wish it had the kind of stupid fun personality these do. Sure, you could have bargain basement Marleys or Urbanears, but like an entry-level luxury car, it just says you haven't arrived yet. Or you could have the aforementioned Sonys which is always a solid choice, like a Ford Mustang, while you listen to your Bruce Springsteen on the way to the union-required health and safety meeting. But for all those kids and kids at heart out there, those people who like LEDs in their computer cases and stickers on their Civic windows and Eminem on their iPods, there's Skullcandy.

02-20-2014, 06:25 AM
This is a pretty neat idea, giving your opinion in the review based on your experience.

I'd suggest that you maybe have some pictures and perhaps divide your points into sections to make it a little easier on the eye. (If you look back at this on mobile it's a wall of text) :P

However I now know that I'm best off sticking with the EarPods I already have!

02-20-2014, 02:19 PM
It looks like a wall of text probably cause it's a wall of text. I'll throw some pictures in when I get home to make my points a bit more clear.