Great features and battery life
Wildly useful app
No auto-pause functionality
The other pair, Skullcandy’s Push Active, are slightly cheaper and feature an ear hook design. Both bear a branding that’s wonderfully nostalgic to most who grew up in the early 21st century. However, because both enter a corner of the true wireless earbuds world that’s increasingly competitive, the latest from Skullcandy are comparatively good, just not great.
About the Skullcandy Grind Fuel
- Price: $99.99
- Battery life: up to 9 hours, up to 31 hours total with case
- Rapid charging: 10 minutes charge for 2 hours of playback
- Wireless charging: yes, Qi-compatible case
- Voice Assistant compatibility: Native hands-free voice assistant, device assistant access
- Colors: Black
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
- Water-resistance: IP55
- Ear tips: two extra pairs
There’s nothing especially noteworthy about the Grind Fuel’s setup process. It follows the standard protocol of establishing a Bluetooth connection between the buds and your smartphone or mobile device of choice. There’s also an app that works alongside the buds, the Skullcandy app, that’s entirely worth downloading for the features it reveals.
What we like
A bonafide bonanza of features
When it comes to earbuds, the bar for what can be considered a “great set of features,” seems to be rising by the minute. Back in February, we applauded the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro for what was (at that point) an outstanding collection of features for the price. With the notable exception of active noise cancellation, the Grind Fuel add even more bounty for your money.
It’s not just the usual benchmark features like next-gen battery life (up to 9 hours in a single charge and 40 hours total with the charging case) or above-average water resistance (IP55 rating), either. While not wholly unique, the Grind Fuel offer perks like built-in Tile tracking technology and the ability to tether two pairs of Skullcandy IQ earbuds together for shared listening. I haven’t tested any other earbuds that offer these features, regardless of price point.
The Grind Fuel’s built-in voice control feature, “Hey Skullcandy,” is the feature Skullcandy has played up the most. It allows you to accept calls, change tracks, adjust volume, call up your phone's voice assistant, and turn on Stay-Aware mode among other things. You can even call up Spotify on-command through Spotify Tap access. Plus, it will carry out the majority of these functions even if you’re offline.
In practice, however, “Hey Skullcandy” just isn’t as intuitive as standouts like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant have proven to be. For instance, it will respond when asking it to “play” music but is utterly puzzled by the word “resume.”
Still, the Grind Fuel are equipped with an impressive list of options, and they’re a bargain because of it. Other features include multiple EQ presets, the ability to use one bud at a time, and even the ability to use the control button to snap a pic with your phone’s camera.
A nice, noise-isolating fit
Possibly the cardinal sin of earbuds is a bad fit, be it painfully tight or unusably loose. The Grind Fuel steer clear of both ends of the spectrum, utilizing a compact form factor and pear-like shape to provide a secure, but not overwhelmingly cramped experience.
Running and working out with the Grind Fuel was seamless (though the ear-hook style Push Active are likely even better suited for those activities), and long sessions spent testing the validity of Skullcandy’s battery claims didn’t wear out my ears. They also offered relatively solid passive noise isolation to block out exterior noise.
As a caveat, the Grind Fuel's fit isn't for everyone. My colleague, for instance, found them to be a bit angular for his ears. With the buds’ buttons being a bit on the harder side to press, applying the extra pressure caused the tips to stab into his ears a bit, too. So, keep in mind that depending on the shape of your ear your mileage may vary.
An unorthodox, but useful app
Skullycandy’s accompanying app is ... weird. It features an unorthodox, flowing layout that fails to put the most essential settings front and center. But spend a little time with it, and the app will reveal a few crucial controls and some customizable options that you won’t want to skip out on.
Among the different options to set up—from the buds’ Share Audio feature to optimizing Skullcandy’s Tile functionality—is possibly the most vital section in the entire app: Button Settings. Here, you can set the corresponding actions for five pairs of commands. It presents all the capabilities we’ve all dreamt of most earbuds possessing, with enough commands to independently control volume, track selection, ambient sound settings, and even a niche feature like the “Take Photo” action.
It may take some time to figure out, but in the end, finding your way around the Skullcandy app proves to be time well spent.
What we don’t like
An inconsistent sound signature
After building a “Personal Sound” profile by running through a few hearing tests in the Skullcandy app, the Grind Fuel sound pleasantly detailed with selections like Chris Stapleton’s “Maggie’s Song.” The vocals are crisp, and the slow, smooth melody of the track showcases a respectable balance.
More upbeat songs, though, don’t carry nearly the same weight. Lil Nas X’s “Industry Baby,” for instance, comes off rather flat and undeniably sloppy in certain passages. There’s a five-band custom equalizer to tinker with and different presets titled Music, Podcast, and Movie, respectively. None of the above, however, seemed to solve a sound profile that’s delightful at times, but uninspired at others.
The casual listener most likely won’t find issue with the audio produced by the Grind Fuel. But be advised that competitors like the Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 or 1More Colorbuds offer better sound overall. Although, for what it’s worth, the call quality of the Grind Fuel sounded on par with most earbuds I’ve auditioned in this price range.
It feels undeniably odd to even be typing this, but though it's not widespread enough to be a full-fledged "Con," $100 earbuds can’t get by without active noise cancellation for much longer. Not when pairs like the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro and the Panasonic RZ-S500W both offer it, and both regularly go on sale for significantly less than the Grind Fuel’s retail cost. Skullcandy’s buds do offer transparency mode, allowing you to hear the world around you, as well as decent passive noise cancellation, but it’s becoming harder to justify a lack of ANC even at the $100 line.
One simple feature is MIA
Despite all the intriguing features and capabilities built into the Grind Fuel, they are without a simple, seemingly standard piece of technology. The buds do not support any sort of auto-pause abilities, meaning your podcast will continue to play whether the Grind Fuel are in your ears or not. It’s not a major inconvenience, especially at this price, but certainly a glaring one when many other options in the market effortlessly pause your content whenever you pull out a bud.
Should you buy them?
Maybe, as long as you don’t need ANC
The Grind Fuel’s sound is far from flawless, and features like active noise cancellation and auto-pause would have been nice additions. However, these buds still represent a considerable bargain for their massive feature set and battery life, especially for anyone seeking hands-free control capabilities. The plain truth is that investing $100 in almost any other pair of earbuds won’t net you the complete collection of features found in Skullcandy’s newest wearables.
Outside of unquestionably great battery life and water resistance, though, the vast majority of these features don't really stand out against the likes of the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro or the Panasonic RZ-S500W. While the Grind Fuel will no-doubt drop in price, both pairs above often sell for under $100 with great sound, features, and ANC. While their battery life is decidedly middling, Amazon's value-packed Echo Buds (gen 2) also add solid ANC at just under $120 MSRP. And if you don't need noise canceling, Jabra's Elite 3 earbuds offer fewer features but great sound and style for $80. There are just a ton of excellent earbuds at or around the $100 price point these days.
That said, with a slew of handy, if sometimes out-of-the-box features, the Grind Fuel are a loaded pair of earbuds worthy of considering as your everyday audio accessory.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Nick Woodard is a tech journalist specializing in all things related to home theater and A/V. His background includes a solid foundation as a sports writer for multiple daily newspapers, and he enjoys hiking and mountain biking in his spare time.
Checking our work.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.Shoot us an email