With its two new true wireless earbuds, the premium Grind Fuel and sporty Push Active, Skullcandy pushes the envelope and the meaning of the term value-for-money headphones. I know because I’ve been using them for a couple of weeks now. One thing is for sure: I’m entirely sold on the Skullcandy ecosystem.
The American brand’s wireless headphones, such as the excellent Skullcandy Crusher Evo or the Indy Fuel ANC, have always been famous for being affordable and offering a decent quality listening experience. But the next generation Grind Fuel and Push Active take the concept further by also adding Skull-iQ, a new voice-command feature that in some cases can work without an internet connection.
Most importantly, at least for me, Skullcandy also introduced an updated version of the Audiodo feature in the Grind Fuel. The Audiodo algorithm fine-tunes each headphone to your hearing so you can hear sounds better, no matter how tone deaf you are. This enables people to listen to the music better without cranking the volume up too loud.
Skullcandy Grind Fuel and Push Active: price and release date
Both headphones are available to buy from today, 28 September 2021, at Skullcandy and selected third-party retailers.
UK/AUS prices TBC.
Audiodo is not the only appeal of the new buds, though. Both the Grind Fuel and the Push Active feature the brand new Skull-iQ system that allows for “hands-free, voice-driven experiences”, as Skullcandy puts it. After pairing the buds with the Skullcandy App, a voice in the buds will confirm the activation of the voice command feature. It will stay active as long as the app is running in the background.
To activate the voice command, you just have to say “Hey Skullcandy”, followed by whatever action you want the buds to perform. You can open Spotify by saying “Hey Skullcandy, Spotify” – the buds are also Spotify Tap enabled – and access the smart assistant on your phone, answer calls, skip tracks and so on.
As I’ve been told during the briefing, Skull-iQ is “system agnostic”, so it doesn’t mind whether you’re an Android or an iOS user. Better still, it works without an internet connection, at least some of its features such as music control and stay-aware mode activation.
Speaking of stay-aware: it’s Skullcandy’s version of the ambient mode. Essentially, when activated, it lets external sounds in so you are more aware of your surroundings. Suitable for outdoor activities when paying attention to traffic is paramount, such as running and cycling.
Just one more thing before we move on to introducing the buds themselves. Having Skull-iQ on board means the new buds will receive frequent software updates and can even see new features added to their existing repertoire later on – or so I’ve been told. For instance, the Push Active hasn’t got the personalised sound feature now, but it might be added on later.
Skullcandy Grind Fuel: premium headphones for under $100
Despite being a workout junkie, my favourite new Skullcandy product of the two is the Grind Fuel: it reminds me of the Amazon Echo Bud, or more like a sleek version of that. It has all the features the Push Active has, including Skull-iQ – obviously – over-the-air updates, IP55 sweat-and water-resistant body, Find-My-Buds Tile Technology and USB-C rapid charging case.
You don't have to worry about charging the earbuds too often either: the Grind Fuel has 9 hours of battery life in the earbuds and further 31 hours in the charging case. The case is wireless charging-enabled, should you have one of those. Better still, for 10 minutes spent in the case, you receive 2 hours of battery life.
As for audio quality, the Grind Fuel has an updated version of the Audiodo feature that personalises sound to your hearing. To enable this, you have to perform a quick test for each ear and boom! You’re ready to go.
I can hear sound purists crying out in the background that such feature tempers with the audio, but it’s not like the Grind Fuel was designed for a flawless FLAC listening experience anyway. And anyway, the newer version of this feature enables you to adjust the amount of personalisation, so if you find it too intrusive, you can always turn it down or even entirely off in the app.
Skullcandy Push Active: cheap sports buds with even better battery life
The main difference between the Grind Fuel and its sporty counterpart, the Push Active, is the lack of personalised sound in the latter. The Push Active can’t be charged wirelessly either, sadly. However, it does feature the Skull-iQ system and boasts an even more impressive battery life: 10 hours in the earbuds and 34 hours in the charging case. Plus rapid charging, so there is that.
The Push Active was designed for exercising and therefore features flexible over-ear hooks to ensure the buds stay in place. They are comfortable enough so that you can wear them under cycling helmets. I do miss the option to personalise the sound output on the Push Active but A) it’s cheaper than the Grind Fuel, so it’s understandable Skullcandy omitted some features, and B) Skullcandy might add this feature later on.
Should you buy the new Skullcandy earbuds?
Skullcandy did it again: its new buds perform incredibly well, especially considering how inexpensive they are.
If I had to choose between the two, I’d get the Grind Fuel as it sounds better and looks inconspicuous enough in the ear. I don’t mind losing out on the over-ear hooks; I tend not to wear headphones for running or workouts anyway.
That said, I can see the Push Active becoming a popular choice among cyclists and skaters who need cheap wireless buds they don’t mind putting through their paces. The fact that the buds are affordable and resilient will most likely make them the go-to choice for many active people.
For everything else, you can always choose the Skullcandy Dime.