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Tools of the trade: In-earbuds (Skullcandy review)

January 18, 2010

I just bought some new earphones/earbuds and I was kind of peeved with the quality so I wanted to do a quick review. I think most music addicts can attest to the extensive use of earphones of some type, so I figured I’d share some thoughts (although this isn’t my most expansive review ever). I’m really looking for something that sound good and lasts, so please feel more than free to leave your own opinions about what’s worth spending money on and what’s not.

  • Ink’d: I’ve been getting these ever since one of my iPod’s original earbuds died. I just wanted something cheap I could pick up at Target, so I went for the “Ink’d” Skullcandy in-earbuds. The sound the comes out of these things is PHENOMENAL. Everything is crisp and clear and beautiful. The only trouble I’ve been having with them is that they break like crazy. I’ve probably owned fifteen or so pairs of these over the past two years. I don’t know how typical that is for cheap earphones, but to me they never last long enough. It seems like every time I need a new toothbrush I also have to pick up more earbuds. The usual problem is that one side will stop working and then the next side follows shortly after. You’d think I’d branch out more if they break so often, but every time I have I’ve been so disappointed with the quality. Nothing has yet compared to the sound quality-price ratio of this particular earphones yet.

    I’m a heavy user of earphones, so it’s possible that I wear these out faster than the average person with good reason. I constantly use them on my laptop, wear them while doing chores/doing homework and fall asleep in them. If we’re calculating things, I might use these between 60-80 hours a week (yes, I may have a problem).

    As far as comfort goes, I’d say these are pretty good. I like in-ear earphones because the sound doesn’t “escape” into your environment. The sound goes directly into your ears and once you’re used to them you almost forget they’re there (I sadly have tried to pull out them out before when I wasn’t even wearing them, if that indicates anything at all for you). These earbuds come with small, medium and large replaceable squishy-ear-things (I have no idea what they’re called; they’re what cushions your ear and keeps them in), so they’re good for almost anyone.

    I normally buy Skullcandy “Ink’d” in-earbuds at Target for around $17. They aren’t particularly inexpensive, but for the sound quality I think they’re worth it. I only wish I didn’t need to buy them so often.

  • Smokin’ Bud: After my last pair of Ink’d earbuds failed me, I decided to see if the more expensive earbuds of the same brand would be better quality. I frankly was most concerned about whether or not the exterior was improved upon. Before opening the package, you can see that there is more detail on the part you put in your ear. Aside from having more visual detail, there is more to the product. The “Ink’d” earbuds are just plastic, but the “Smokin'” buds have a rubbery protective piece that encases the cord. I think this is a good idea because it gives more support to the part that will be in/around your ear. This rubber piece also lists which side is which (right and left), something that is missing from the “Ink’d” style. Another feature for the “Smokin'” type is a volume slider midway through the cord. I’ve never had much of a need for something like this, but some people might find it handy.

    Unfortunately, I’m not that happy with the sound quality of these earphones. I would have never imagined that more expensive earphones in the same brand of the “Ink’d” style would lack in this area! Perhaps I just have a “lemon,” but for now I’m simply believing this is normal. I’m sure few people would actually notice the difference between the two types, but I have because I just switched from my still faltering “Ink’d” earphones. Instead of having a crisp and clear sound quality, everything sounds slightly like it’s in a tunnel. It’s not terrible, but it’s enough to bother me.

    I was able to purchase the “Smokin’ Bud” earbuds for a little less than $25 at Target. They’re usually $30, but for some reason the extremely adorable pink ones were discounted. Was it a coincidence? Perhaps I really do have a glitchy pair. Please let me know if you’ve had a better experience.

    I’m jumping the gun by writing a review for these because I just opened them, but I’m extremely disappointed! I don’t want anyone else to buy them when they could just get the cheaper version for $8 (or more!) less and have a better experience.

I think next time I purchase earphones I’ll go for a different brand, but there is nothing worse to me than crappy quality sound. As I previously mentioned, I use these things to death, so I want them to be worth the money. Do you have any recommendations for me? Do you go through earphones as fast as I do? I can usually make them last three months or so, but this time I barely made it to two months (although if we’re being completely honest, I used them throughout finals so they probably got extra use). I hate wasting money, so I’m looking for a way to prevent this from happening in the future.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 18, 2010 8:51 pm

    I like listening to music with HQ so I like to invest a bit more in my earphones. I used to always get Sony’s, average around USD40, purely because of the name and I didn’t know better. I had to change them every 6 months though through wear and tear.

    After reading A LOT of reviews online, I’ve invested more into my current earphones, the SHURE SE210. Pricey and by far the most expensive pair I’ve owned, but the sound clarity, comfort factor and sound isolation is definitely the best I’ve tried.

    The SHUREs don’t have an instant wow factor in terms of looks (especially compared to the eye-catchiness of the skullcandys), but its definitely worth the investment if you truly want to listen to music like how they should be. Prices range from around USD40 – $400, so try one depending on your budget. At least you won’t have to replace them so often (a dozen times over two years?!)..Had them for over a year now, and still works great with minimal signs of wear and tear.

    Brands I would avoid: BOSE (same price as SHURE, worse sound imo), Sony, Philips, and usually, Skullcandys (because although they are very good value for money in the short run, they break down far too easily, I’ve prev owned 2 pairs myself).

  2. January 19, 2010 1:04 am

    Thanks for the info! I’ll definitely check out the kind you mentioned. I don’t really care about looks. I mostly listen to music at home anyway, so anything that lasts through all my excessive use would be great (no matter the appearance).

    I usually wait until my earphones break before thinking about new ones, which makes it really difficult to be objective. Plus, when you only go to one store there is usually not a lot to choose from. The more research I do now, the better.

  3. January 21, 2010 1:28 pm

    Those earphones are awesome, I love the Ink’d ones, that’s them right?

    By the way, what type of fan are you? You can pick various and comment:

    Wrote a new entry if you would like to comment on:

  4. dbldown permalink
    January 26, 2010 1:48 am

    Started reading your blog recently… good stuff! Funny thing is I was just going through a headphone – earphone ordeal when I stumbled on your post. Actually I followed a link to Dae’s song here and had to find something to click on mid-way… I really was hoping for something less… er… anyway.. different reply for a different post.

    Like I said, I was recently in the market for something new in the way of headphones / earphones. I have to admit I had been commercially influenced by the celebs and idols sporting Dre. Beats: so I toyed with that idea and went so far as to purchase the “Tour” type: only to find that one side would not stay in my ear no matter which size gel I chose to use. Too bad because the sound was nice… tuned a bit to favor the low end, but that was the intention for these, I believe. Thanks to a generous return policy I was able to take them back even a few micro ounces heavier with my own earwax.. 😛

    At that point I was influenced by a clueless sales person, therefore making me even more clueless, into purchasing some Skull Candy Holua’s : These actually sounded really good and I know how nice the Ink’d ones that you posted sound as I’ve owned a few of those in the past, but this one was supposed to be more awesome because the enclosures were made of wood! Of course that would make a difference! Well $99 compared to $17 for what I say is pretty much the same sound didn’t ride well with me eventually. Returned!

    So finally, I settled on Etymotic Research hf2: I forgot to mention that I needed ones that had an in-line mike so I could answer calls when they come. These are awesome. I don’t know if they are worth the $179 I paid for them.. I mean that’s 10 pair’s of Ink’d ones, but apparently Etymotic makes what many people consider “reference” quality devices. They claim that you will hear stuff in your music that you probably never did before if you are using the earphones that came with your MP3 player. Thing is, they are right… I wound up listening to most of my current active play list and thought, oh crap… these are terrible quality rips. Added bonus is the in-line mic is terrific for some reason. I would totally recommend these to anyone looking for a premium set of earphones!

    • January 26, 2010 2:00 am

      It’s nice to have some info on other kinds of earphones. There are so many to choose from! My biggest fear is that I’ll put out a ton of cash for nice ones and then they’ll break, and I’ll find out that the reason mine keep dying is because of all the abuse I give them haha.

      I’ve always thought it would be really nice to have some that had a microphone. I once had some that came with my phone, but my sister “borrowed” them and I think they broke before I ever got to try them 😦 haha.

      If I ever get some money I might try to go for something like the last ones you mentioned. I listen to music so much that it seems worth it to have something that enhances the experience.

      Also, about Dae’s song: I was really hoping he’d get a soulful ballad or something. He has the voice for it! “Cotton Candy” isn’t terrible, but it seems like a joke for someone with his voice.

  5. snickerstj permalink
    July 14, 2010 4:24 pm

    I use AUVIO pearl buds and the sound quality is amazing it blocks out all outside noise, however lately one of the buds has been going in and out of sound im so mad but im glad i found this blog to see more variety of headphones thnx alot!!!

  6. Laura permalink
    July 15, 2010 12:02 pm

    Hey i really like your review on both pairs of earbuds. Ive never owned a pair of inked but i do own a pair of smokin buds, do you think the sound quality difference could be because the smokin bud has bass?

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