Good features for the price
Very useful app
Editor's note: This article is written about the Mod earbuds, but there is also a potentially cheaper Walmart version called the Mod XT. There's no difference, according to Skullcandy, apart from the fact that the Mod XT is a Walmart exclusive.
About the Skullcandy Mod
- Price: $60
- Battery life: up to 7 hours per charge, 34 hours total with case
- Rapid charging: 10 minutes charge for 2 hours of playback
- Wireless charging: no
- Ambient sound modes: transparency mode
- Colors: Black
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
- Water-resistance: IP55
- Ear tips: three pairs
- Weight: 54.8 grams with charging case.
Wrapped in refreshingly compact packaging, the Mod aren’t the most extravagant-looking earbuds. They come in just a single color (black) and sport the classic Skullcandy logo adorned on the end caps. There isn’t much else to these pear-shaped buds unless you count the standard three sizes of ear gels (small, medium, large) and USB-C charging cable.
What we like
Great features for the price
The Mod may not be industry leaders in any particular category, but for $60 they have pieced together an impressive repertoire of features. It starts with a 7-hour battery life, bolstered by nearly four extra charges with the buds’ case. They’ve also got an IP55 dust and water resistance rating, giving them solid protection against the elements. Just by taking those specs into account, you’re getting a pair of buds with some real utility for the cost of a date night.
The Mod also feature multipoint pairing to connect to numerous devices at once, a feature that luxury earbuds like the Sony WF-1000XM4 don’t even have. Plus, Skullcandy included built-in Tile functionality as well as a Stay-Aware (aka transparency) Mode and the ability to use one earbud at a time.
You can certainly pinpoint the corners that Skullcandy cut to save a few bucks compared to the more expensive Grind Fuel: the Mod’s case doesn’t offer wireless charging, and the buds come with two fewer hours of battery life, but that's pretty normal at this price. They also don’t have the nifty native voice assistant that Skullcandy marketed heavily with the Grind Fuel.
Still, they are competent buds littered with plenty of useful features. At $60, that’s kind of the definition of nailing it.
Lightweight, comfortable build
The Mod aren’t as miniature as something like the Raycon Everyday Earbuds, but they aren’t that far off, either. Their dainty size makes them less obtrusive than many heavier buds.
To be fully transparent, these buds are encased in a rather cheap-feeling skin. For more sensitive ears, that could lead to discomfort at the end of long listening sessions. The average person, though, should find the Mod to be sufficiently comfortable for hours of playback at once.
A useful app, courtesy of Skullcandy
We were generally impressed with the Skullcandy app when reviewing the Grind Fuel. It features an undeniably odd, flowing layout that tends to tuck away a few important settings. But it’s functional at its core, letting you customize the Mod’s button controls and adjust the transparency mode (aka Stay-Aware Mode) to choose how much environmental sound you let in.
There’s also a handy User Guide to thumb through, plus a quick tutorial on the buds’ multipoint pairing capabilities. It’s not the best accompanying app we’ve dealt with, but it does unlock key functionality within the Mod. Plus, the quirkiness of the app fades as you get accustomed to the different controls (eventually).
What we don’t like
Underwhelming sound quality
It’s not totally fair to describe the Mod’s sound quality as “poor.” In fact, I would lean closer to “serviceable” than anything else. The thing is, these buds are missing any semblance of dynamic range that would rescue them from boredom. There’s no gravity or depth in the bass, and it almost feels like they cap out a few octaves below the threshold for relevance in higher frequencies.
The app’s customizable equalizer isn’t the savior we’d need it to be, either. Bumping up the bass doesn’t generate any notable difference in sound, and choosing to adjust higher frequencies inevitably adds a harsh undertone to the audio. Keep in mind that these are $60 earbuds. They weren’t meant to deliver high-quality sound, and expectations should be tempered as such. That said, if you had ambitions of finding better sound at a similar price, pairs like the Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 or the Jabra Elite 3 are both compelling options.
The highlight of the audio experience might be call quality. Skullcandy says it equipped each earbud with a “Clear Voice Smart Mic,” that uses artificial intelligence to isolate the speaker’s voice. The result was phone calls that were derailed far less frequently by outside sounds during activities like a doorless drive through town in a Jeep.
Loud environments find their way in
We don't really to get noise canceling in a pair of $60 earbuds … yet. It was disappointing, however, to struggle to get a solid seal in my ears, which in turn erased any hopes I had of passively blocking out the sounds of other gym-goers. All ears are different, of course, and the included extra pairs of ear tips may have what you need to establish a good seal. But for my ears, the fit definitely missed the mark.
No auto-pause functionality
This is the true wireless hill I’m willing to die on in 2022. There are too many podcasts and not enough hours in the day. If I remove my earbuds to take a shower or tend to a task, I should be able to pop them back in and pick up right where I left off. With the Mod, I found myself having to frantically move the cursor backward to the last segment that I remembered hearing. It’s the modern-day equivalent of rewinding VCR tapes, and it’s such a drag.
Should you buy it?
Maybe, if you value features over performance
If $60 is your budget, and you don’t mind bland sound quality, the Mod may be enticing. They have a loaded set of features (including multipoint pairing), a small footprint, and an app that, while quirky, offers a lot of functionality. If you’re a casual listener that focuses on podcasts and the like, the dip in sound quality may not be a big deal.
If your budget rests somewhere closer to $100, though, there are better options to consider. Stalwarts like the Anker Soundcore Liberty 2, the JLab Audio Epic Air Sport ANC, or the even the Mod’s older sibling, the Grind Fuel, should all be looked at before the Mod. The performance is better with all three options, and you won’t have to stretch your wallet too much to get there.
If you just want a barrel of useful features in a budget-friendly package, the Mod may be worthy of consideration.
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.
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