The Skullcandy Grind Fuel slots into a seemingly awkward place in the true wireless earbud market. It lacks active noise cancelling (ANC) and a sleek design, but offers plenty of unique features through the free mobile app. Still, can you really get your money’s worth from these $100 USD earbuds?

Who should buy the Skullcandy Grind Fuel?

  • Entry-level consumers seeking true wireless earbuds that perform nearly every function will get a lot out of the Grind Fuel.
  • Hands-on workers that would rather control audio with a voice assistant than go digging through their phone can say, “Hey Skullcandy” to initiate commands.
  • Gym rats looking to take advantage of a lightweight and water-resistant design with some extra bass will want to take these earbuds everywhere.

What is it like to use the Skullcandy Grind Fuel?

Skullcandy Grind Fuel in the rain

The Grind Fuel is durable enough to be taken with you on nearly any adventure.

Both the earbuds and charging case of the Skullcandy Grind Fuel are made from hard plastic that doesn’t exactly scream premium. The upside to the design is durability—I have no hesitations tossing the Grind Fuel in my gym bag or out walking in the rain with the earbuds’ IP55 dust and water-resistant build.

Learn more: What makes a good set of in-ears?

The charging case and earbuds are all large and bulky, so you may want to stay clear if you have small ears or small pockets. Skullcandy includes three ear tip sizes in the box for a secure and comfortable fit, and connecting the earbuds to a device the first time is quite simple.

You can use Spotify Tap without the Skullcandy app.

On iPhone, a notification to connect to the Skullcandy app pops up every time you open the case. You must approve this connection to access the main selling point of the Grind Fuel—Skull-iQ hands-free voice control. Similar to the “Hey Siri” functionality of Apple AirPods, you can say “Hey Skullcandy” to control playback on the Grind Fuel. When you want to field an incoming call, just say, “accept” or “reject.” You can even use the Skullcandy voice control to access Siri or Google Assistant and unlock full control over your device (e.g., send a text, make a call, set a timer, and more).

How do you control the earbuds?

A single button on each earbud controls music playback, pairing to new devices, and Spotify Tap, which immediately launches the last Spotify playlist you were listening to. Automatic ear detection is absent from the Grind Fuel, so removing the earbuds doesn’t pause playback.

You can use the Skullcandy app to customize the controls, but below are the default settings.

 Left earbudRight earbud
One tapPlay/pause, answer/end callPlay/pause, answer/end call
Double-tapVolume downVolume up
One tap and 1s holdPower on, Spotify Tap (requires Spotify)Power on
One tap and 3s holdJoin audioShare audio (Skullcandy app required)
Double-press and 1s holdPower offPower off

Should you download the Skullcandy app?

Despite its affordable price tag, the Grind Fuel comes with plenty of premium software features through the Skullcandy app like Tile tracking and audio sharing with other Skull-iQ headsets. Battery indicators show how much juice is left in the earbuds, while firmware updates download the latest security and features to the earbuds.

A personalized sound feature performs a hearing test and creates an EQ profile accordingly, something we’ve seen from companies like Jabra and Jaybird. There is also the option to create a custom sound profile with a five-band equalizer to change the sound of the earbuds to your liking.

You can toggle the “stay-aware” mode to amplify environmental sounds, which is an easy way to stay aware of your surroundings while enjoying music. Additional customization includes the ability to adjust the onboard button controls on each earbud (one, two, or three taps). This expands the touch controls and gives you the option to take a photo, skip or return to the previous track, adjust the volume, activate your assistant, and toggle Spotify Tap.

What Bluetooth codecs does the Skullcandy Grind Fuel support?

The Skullcandy Grind Fuel supports just the standard SBC Bluetooth codec, which means there’s no option for high-quality streaming to iPhones or Android devices. While this is a bit of a bummer, the Grind Fuel is for active listeners, not audiophiles. Bluetooth 5.2 keeps the Grind Fuel connected to a device, and this Bluetooth version yields efficient power consumption. Listeners can use the earbuds in stereo or mono mode, which accounts for those with hearing impairments.

The Skullcandy app packs tons of premium features.

If you don’t want to download the mobile app, you can pair the Grind Fuel with your phone by removing the earbuds from the case. A tone will indicate that the earbuds have powered on, and then a voice will say, “Ready to pair.” Subsequently, both earbuds will pulse red and blue when in pairing mode. Once you notice the flashing, open your device’s Bluetooth settings and select “Grind Fuel” from the discoverable devices.

How well does the Skullcandy Grind Fuel block out noise?

Chart showing Skullcandy Grind Fuel passive isolation of high frequency sounds.

Without active noise cancelling, the Skullcandy Grind Fuel struggles to block out environmental noise.

When it comes to blocking out noise, the Skullcandy Grind Fuel struggles to keep pace with the competition. Without noise cancelling, you’ll have to rely on a good fit from the silicone ear tips to block out any environmental noise. Skullcandy’s ear tips block out some high-frequency incidental sounds, but won’t drown out any low-frequency noises like the rumble from an airplane engine. These definitely aren’t the earbuds to get if you frequently commute or travel. External sounds will mask your audio, forcing you to turn up your music and potentially harm your hearing.

How does the Skullcandy Grind Fuel sound?

Skullcandy Grind Fuel Frequency Chart showing a boost to low frequencies.

The Skullcandy Grind Fuel (cyan) boosts bass frequencies beyond what we posit most consumers prefer (pink).

Skullcandy traditionally targets the workout and entry-level audio markets, where people tend to prefer a bit more bass in their music. The default Skullcandy Grind Fuel frequency response is no different and features a very bass-heavy sound.

Bass notes sound twice as loud as mids, which leads to auditory masking (when a loud sound makes it hard to hear a relatively quiet one). You may notice that vocals and other instruments lack some detail and clarity. I notice auditory masking taking hold at 1:00 of Bad Habits by Ed Sheeran, when the kick drum and bass line overpower the vocals and guitar.

How should you equalize these earbuds?

Chart showing recommended EQ settings for the Skullcandy Grind Fuel

Our recommended EQ settings for the Skullcandy Grind Fuel.

You can fix the auditory masking issues by applying a custom EQ within the Skullcandy app. For a more accurate sound, lower the 60Hz frequency band and boost the 12kHz frequency band within the custom EQ.

Since the Grind Fuel doesn’t have ANC, the earbuds sound different in noisy environments than they do in a quiet room. The rumble of an engine can drown out low-frequencies in your music, which might leave you wondering where all the bass went.

How long does the battery last?

Skullcandy Grind Fuel earbud case sliding into pocket.

The charging case is small enough to fit in most pockets.

The earbuds are rated to last 9 hours on a single charge, with 40 hours of total playback including the charging case. In our battery testing of continuous playback at 75dB(SPL), the earbuds only lasted 5 hours and 56 minutes. While this is less than promised, it is on par with other true wireless earbuds.

Learn more: How to increase true wireless earbud lifespan

An included USB-C cable charges up the case, with fast charging providing 120 minutes of playback from a 10 minute-charge. The case also supports wireless charging, so you can power up the earbuds with a Qi wireless charger.

How good is the microphone on the Skullcandy Grind Fuel?

Skullcandy Grind Fuel in left ear

The Skullcandy Grind Fuel connects to nearly any device via Bluetooth 5.2.

The microphones on the Skullcandy Grind Fuel earbuds are nothing to write home about. They aren’t as clear as the microphones on more expensive earbuds like the Apple AirPods Pro. Additionally, the microphones struggle to block out environmental noises, so people may struggle to hear you on calls when you’re walking around busy streets.

Take a listen for yourself below and let us know what you think.

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Should you buy the Skullcandy Grind Fuel?

Skullcandy Grind Fuel earbuds sitting on table.

If you don’t need active noise cancelling, the Skullcandy Grind Fuel makes for an affordable earbud option.

At $100 USD, the Skullcandy Grind Fuel makes for an enticing proposition. There are enough features packed into the Skullcandy app to satisfy any user, and the build quality is enough to survive the rougher parts of life. The voice control is also very convenient for those that frequently have their hands busy.

The most important decision to make before buying the Grind Fuel is figuring out whether or not you need ANC. With new affordable ANC earbuds popping up every other day, it’s harder and harder to recommend earbuds that lack it.

If you don't need ANC, the Grind Fuel makes for a good option

If you don’t often find yourself in noisy environments and just want durable true wireless earbuds with tons of customization options, the Skullcandy Grind Fuel won’t disappoint.

What are some alternatives to the Skullcandy Grind Fuel?

Nothing Ear 1 earbuds on table with plant in background.

The Nothing Ear 1 focuses on the core technology that makes true wireless earbuds great.

If you don’t need all the features of the Skullcandy Grind Fuel and want earbuds that just work, check out the Nothing Ear 1. As the name implies, these earbuds (literally) strip away all the fancy coating and deliver solid all-around performance for under $100 USD. The 1MORE ComfoBuds Pro is another great option, and also features ANC for under $100 USD.

If you want to stick with Skullcandy, the Indy ANC is worth checking out. Since the earbuds connect to the same Skullcandy app, you get pretty much all the same features of the Grind Fuel. The major difference is that the Indy ANC has active noise cancellation to block out more environmental sounds.

Next: The best true wireless earbuds under $200

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