Skullcandy's reputation is based on endorsements from famous skaters, snowboarders and video gamers. That means the company's target audience generally falls squarely into the bass-loving camp. Skullcandy users also tend to move around a lot, so they need headphones that will stay put. The Skullcandy Fix aims to combat the fit issues many folks have with in-ear models when they get a bit sweaty, and these models include Skullcandy's "Supreme Sound" technology. At $49, these buds won't impress audiophiles or high-end design engineers, but they're a good deal if you're looking for an upgrade to your mobile device's stock earphones.
The Skullcandy Fix is shaped like a set of regular earbuds, with angled sound nozzles on each earpiece, making them very easy to insert in your ear canal. The earbuds are made of a fairly cheap-feeling plastic, and they have tiny pinholes to provide airflow so the large drivers can provide beefy bass. The silicone eartips have the Skullcandy logo embossed on them, and they come in three sizes. The inline Mic3 controller works with iOS devices and controls volume, playback and Siri. (Android users can purchase the Mic1 variant of the Fix.)
The Fix earbuds are available in a variety of color schemes: Pink/Gray, Red/Gray, Blue/Black, Black/Chrome, White/Chrome and Athletic Orange. A Yellow/Black Mick Fanning and an all-black Eric Koston are also available, but cost $59.
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Comfort and Stability
Running and working out failed to dislodge the Fix earbuds, which stayed in comfortably even after we left the gym. The headphones transmit a lot of "cable thump" — the noise you hear as the cable hits your body when you move. However, using the included clip to secure the cable to clothing helps minimize that distraction significantly. The inline mic is very easy to operate by feel, thanks to the contoured, 3-way button.
Hip Hop and dance hits are the Fix's forte, letting the low end shine. On Jay-Z's "Holy Grail,” the sibilants in Justin Timberlake's voice sounded a bit harsh, and some of the mids sounded a little hollow, but the deep bass when Jay-Z enters was powerful. New Young Pony Club's "Ice Cream" had plenty of thump to it, while Tahita Bulmer's vocals were front and center in the mix. The Fix's bass doesn't extend as deep as higher-end buds like the B&W C5 (which, at $179, cost more than three times as much), or even the Beats by Dre urBeats ($99), but the excellent in-ear seal helps make the most of the bass these buds do offer.
Rock and pop also fared reasonably well on the Fix. Paul McCartney's voice on "Only Mama Knows" sounded crisp, though the violin soloist in the intro and the cymbals were both on the shrill side. The entrance of the bass and kick drum is dramatic enough, though not as intense as on pricier earphones. On "Mr. Big Stuff,” Jean Knight's vocals seem to be competing with the bass a bit, and the horns are a bit too edgy, but the overall effect is mostly pleasant, especially since these are not meant for critical listening.
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Small group jazz like John Coltrane's "Blue Train" isn't totally overwhelmed by the bass, though the piano is a little muddy and somewhat buried in the mix. On big-band tracks like Maynard Ferguson's "MacArthur Park" the horns sound a little brighter than they should, especially the trumpets, and the electric bass is tubby, overshadowing the rest of the music.
If you listen to classical music while you work out or skate around, you may actually enjoy the boosted bass, which wasn't as offensive on our classical test tracks as one might think. Wynton Marsalis' trumpet on his rendition of the Hummel Trumpet Concerto in E flat sounds quite good overall, though much of the orchestra's midrange detail is missing.
Isolation, Calls and Controls
The eartips provide average noise isolation, and voices sounded clear enough on both ends of a cellular call. The inline mic is just a few inches below the earpiece, so it picked up our voice without too much background noise. The 3-button controller is fairly unobtrusive and very easy to operate by feel.
At just $49, the Skullcandy Fix is a satisfying set of in-ear headphones for use outdoors or at the gym. Keep in mind that these are not designed for quiet, analytical listening, so what seems like a minus (such as exaggerated bass and highs) can actually come in handy when working out. If you want more detail (and less exaggerated bass), check out the Sennheiser CX685, which are around the same price and fit very securely, though they lack a mic/controller. While twice as expensive, the $99 Beats by Dre urBeats are also a worthy competitor, especially in the bass department if you can overcome their somewhat difficult fit. Overall, the Fix offers a strong combination of price, features, comfort and stability.
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