The Shredders be Happy with Skullcandy's Grind
Skullcandy Grind ($59)
I do keep my ear out for Skullcandy headphones. Not because I think they're going to produce an amazing sounding headphonethough it's possiblebut because they sell a lot of headphones and I want to know if they're treating all those sk8ers right. With the Grind, I think they sure 'nuf are.
That's not easy to do with a $59 headphone, I mean, how much can you really expect for $59? The answer is "not much". The trick is to know what to deliver, and what not to deliver. If there's genius in these headphones, those choices are where it lies.
Let's start with: this is a headphone for 15-25 year olds that skateboard or snowboard; self-identified "shredders" that film each other with Go-Pros as they relentlessly catch air. The Grind needs to be able to take a beating; it needs to be able to be thrown in a backpack without a second thought; it needs to be able to hang around the neck comfortably as you pedal and swoop down the street on your BMX bike; and it needs to survive if you forget it in your bed and flop down on it later.
The Grind does appear quite bullet proof. The headband is a single piece of stainless steel without any hinges that might fail. Yes, that means they can't fold up and become smaller for transport, but remember, this is an exercise in lowering cost, and most young folks will be perfectly happy to throw them in a back pack or wear them around their neck. It does make sense to be bullet proof rather than convenient in this case.
The headband slide adjustment mechanism is buried in the ear piece, but in my clear, white unit it's easily visible. It's a single plastic part that captures the slide groove of the headband, and basically seats in a ball joint at the center of the ear piece. The tricky bit is that it appears to be essentially floating free, but limited in movements by loose clearances with various interlocking openings and bosses on and around it.
The end result is an ear cup can move freely enough to adjust to your ears, but if over stressed in any direction comes up against very sturdy limitsthe main one seems to be the metal of the band going through the hole at the top of the ear piece. It can sound a little creaky when you manually move the ear cups, but it didn't make noise for me in normal use. The headband adjustment and swivel mechanism self adjusted easily, and the build seems cheap and durablejust what the doctor ordered.
The ear pads consist of a pleather cover with an array of medium sized holes over a donut shaped piece of foam underneath. I've had mixed results with pads of this typeboth comfort and sound quality can be hit or miss. I'd say the Grind pad is really well done at this price point with decent feeling pleather, and just the right size and amount of memory foam. Couple that with spot on caliper pressure, easy ear cup angle adjustment, and properly shaped and ample headband pad, you'll find the Grind a very comfortable headphone to wear.
One unusual feature of the Grind is that the remote control and mic are not on the cord, but rather are mounted on the left ear piece itself. In the close-up photo of the outside of the ear piece above, you can see the red multi-function remote button next to the headphone jack, and the little black part toward the front of the ear piece is the mic.
I did exchange emails with the primary Grind project engineer who said it provides a button with a known position rather than having to feel for it on the chord. Also, action sports folks sometimes run the cable inside their shirt or coat making a cable mic/remote difficult to use. I reckon there's probably also less mechanical noise from the mic mounted on the ear piece when the user is active while on the phone. Dandy features for its intended audience, me thinks.
The Grind is available in four colors: black; white (which is white with clear ear piece covers); blue; and a multi-color combination called "locals only". Accessories are non-existant with the Grind, you get the headphones and the cable and that's it. At this price I don't have a problem with that.
Right then, on to the sound...