That's because the price tag is sure to please most—but unfortunately, the performance isn't. You can't expect the world from $20 headphones, but believe us—you can do better and still save money.
Simple, cheap, and lightly decorated
For $20, you probably wouldn't expect high-quality materials and well-shielded flex points here—and you'd be right. The Ink'd 2 in-ears have a flattened cable that resists tangling, and light plastic shielding on the buds and in-line mic, but that's about it for durability. We're not saying they're precious porcelain... but you'll have to treat them right if you want them to last.
"Porcelain" might be a color option, though. The Ink'd 2 buds come in a ton of colors and styles (gray, red, cyan, green, tan—the list goes on), ranging in price from $15.99 to $24.99. There's even a Lakers style.
No matter the color, you'll find Skullcandy's logo on the silicone ear sleeves, the backs of the buds, the single-button remote, the static neck split, and the cable jack.
As far as comfort goes, the Ink'2 in-ears aren't too shabby. The only included accessory is an extra, smaller set of silicone sleeves, but the standard pair fit snugly in the ear. I found myself adjusting them a lot at first, but after a while I forgot they were even there. This fit is in no way luxurious, but it gets the job done.
For this price? Palatable
As a personal listening device, the Skullcandy Ink'd 2 headphones are not going to win any awards for their sound quality. The audio performance is tolerable, but certain flaws take things down a peg in terms of overall quality.
The most notable issue is that the speakers are out of sync. Specifically, the right ear delivers healthy, normal emphasis in the bass range, but the left bud drops in volume throughout this portion. Happily, both speakers manage middle and high notes much better (think acoustic guitar and cymbals).
These are very decent isolators, too. As in-ear headphones, the Skullcandy Ink'd 2 do a great job blocking outside ambient noise. They've got nothing on a good pair of active cancelers, but for $20 you can't complain.
We also tested practically no distortion—a fantastic performance perk. Still, the imbalanced speakers are a real drawback. Throughout almost the entire bass range, sounds are both louder and more heavily emphasized in the right speaker than in the left, and you don't need gilded ears in order to hear it. This may not be a deal breaker for every listener, though, considering that small asking price.
Not a diamond in the rough
Reviewing a product this cheap is always a challenge. The Skullcandy Ink'd 2 in-ear headphones went through the same rigorous testing process that very expensive headphones undergo—the bar is high.
With so many color and style options, and with an MSRP of just $20, the Ink'd 2 in-ears are sure to find plenty of willing budget buyers. But if you care more about sound than looks—and you still want to save a buck—then be sure to consider the competition before scooping these up.
Headphones large and small must pass the same trial: Mortal combat! Actually, we use a set of standardized lab tests in conjunction with software, speakers, and a robot in order to measure the objective integrity of all headphones we test.
The Skullcandy Ink'd 2 in-ears (MSRP $20) tested with a couple of fairly big flaws. The biggest issue we found was that the speaker channels are out of sync. It isn't all sour grapes, though, as distortion and isolation tests produced positive results.
Our tracking test measures the balance of volume between both speaker channels (left, right). Essentially, we want to see that the volume level is even between the two sides across the entire frequency spectrum.
This is one area where the Ink'd 2 in-ears exhibited some notable problems. Testing revealed that the right channel is favored heavily, starting in sub-bass tones (20Hz) and persisting through almost the entire bass range (500Hz). This means that bass notes on instruments like tuba and cello are going to sound audibly louder in your right ear.
A frequency response chart illustrates how headphones emphasize each frequency, from the lowest bass notes to the highest treble notes. The Ink'd 2 in-ears tested with an irregular response.
Testing revealed that the right channel gives fairly even emphasis to bass and sub-bass tones from about 30Hz through 300Hz. The left channel, however, is about 12 dB quieter throughout this range, and only syncs up with the right channel's volume from 250Hz and up. Simply put, that means bass is noticeably louder in the right speaker.
From here, the channels stay mostly in sync, allocating fairly even emphasis in volume throughout the mid- and high-range, with a slight drop around 2.5kHz. During the high frequencies, both channels progressively add emphasis until peaking around 7kHz, impacting sibilant sounds like cymbals, as well as overtones and harmonics.
Our distortion test measures the percentage of a speaker's output that contains misrepresented sounds, like clipped notes or unwanted mechanical noise. This percentage is called total harmonic distortion, or THD, and any more than 3% anywhere within the frequency range is considered perceptible—which is bad.
Fortunately, the Ink'd 2 in-ears tested with less than 3% THD from about 100Hz (the meat of the bass range) through the highest audible part of the frequency spectrum—a great result. As usual, there was more than 3% distortion within the sub-bass range, but we don't worry about this as much, as it's mostly inaudible anyway.
Meet the tester
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.See all of Lee Neikirk's reviews
Checking our work.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.Shoot us an email