Skullcandy Grind Fuel Earbuds Review: Great Sound, Outstanding Features

Rating: 8.5/10 ?
  • 1 - Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 - Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 - Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 - Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 - Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 - Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 - Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 - Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 - Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 - Absolute Design Nirvana
Price: $99.99
Skullcandy Grind Fuel earbuds in open case with a book, vinyl, charging cable, and Spotify on a smartphone in background
Kevin Bonnett

If you’re in need of a new pair of true wireless earbuds and only have $100 or so to spend, Skullcandy’s Grind Fuel earbuds are a solid choice all around. Although they are missing a couple of nice-to-have features, the powerful and robust buds are an excellent value.

Here's What We Like

  • Fantastic sound
  • Feature-rich buds and app
  • Spectacular battery life
  • Wireless charging
  • Comfy fit

And What We Don't

  • Buttons are tough to push
  • No ANC
  • No auto-pause/play
  • Loud system noises

The Grind Fuel earbuds tick a lot of boxes, including many you wouldn’t expect at this price point. Wireless charging? Check. Transparency mode? Uh-huh. Personalized Sound and customizable EQ? Yep. A solid IP rating and outstanding battery life? You got it. I could go on, but despite a few cut corners (they are just $100, after all), these buds do more than just nail the basics—they dare competing earbuds to step up their game.

Design and Fit

Top-down view of the Grind Fuel buds in their case charging with the lid open
Kevin Bonnett

As I unboxed the Grind Fuel buds, the first thing that caught my attention was the case—it seemed quite big at first. Instead of opting for the same tall thin AirPods-like case seemingly every other pair of earbuds comes in, Skullcandy went for a design that’s shorter and flatter (though it’s about the same size as other cases if you flip it sideways, so it’s ultimately not much bigger—just flipped 90 degrees). Given that the case gives you 31 extra hours of battery life, it’s actually pretty hard to complain about.

The case has a fantastic design that looks great and rocks a sturdy, premium feel. When you pop it open, that same great design continues to flow. You’ll see the slots for the buds and four lights in front of them that display the case’s current battery level. The top inside of the lid, meanwhile, has an orange pop of color that makes for a small but nice touch. The Qi-compatible case can charge either wirelessly or via USB-C, and it has a fast-charge feature that’ll net you an extra two hours of playback in just ten minutes.

The Grind Fuel buds in ear
Skullcandy

The buds themselves have an equally svelte design. Weighing in at just 5.2g a pop, they are lightweight, compact, and slim (and you’ll notice this when you put them on). They are absolutely comfortable enough to wear all day; however, I struggled to get a consistently good and natural-feeling seal with them. Instead, I was often stuck with that “clogged ear” feeling. This could simply be a problem with the bud tips and your mileage may vary here, though I tried out the other two included gel tip sizes to no avail.

Otherwise, my only noteworthy gripe about the buds’ design is that Skullcandy made their physical buttons quite tough to press. Anytime I needed to press one of them, doing so pushed them into my ear quite a bit; this wasn’t painful, but it was a bit uncomfortable and it might be for other folks, too (especially if it messes with the seal you just spent 30 seconds trying to get just right).

This might not be a big deal for other pairs of buds, but the Grind Fuels have incredibly robust button features attached to them that are too good to ignore for the sake of comfort. I’d love to see Skullcandy overhaul this button for future iterations. Your only other option here is to lean on Skull-iQ—the company’s voice-driven Smart Feature Technology that enables hands-free audio and management over a suite of features, like adjusting the volume, taking phone calls, launching and controlling Spotify, enabling noise canceling, activating a voice assistant, and more.

Out of the box, pressing either bud once pauses or resumes your audio. Long-pressing either bud starts or ends an audio-sharing session—a feature that allows you to share your audio wirelessly with another pair of compatible Skullcandy buds (presumably that your best friend is wearing while sitting near you). Pressing the left bud twice turns the volume down a bit, while doing so on the right but increases the volume slightly.

However, if you open the Skullcandy app (Android/iOS), you’ll see there is much (much) more you can do with the buttons. Scrolling down on the home page of the app, you’ll see an option called “Button Settings.” This lets you apply custom shortcuts for each button, with options like adjusting volume, activating Spotify Tap, playing and pausing audio, joining and sharing audio, activating your voice assistant, taking a photo, and more. You can also assign a specific action to each shortcut—like “Press 2 Times,” or “1 Second Hold.”

Performance and Sound

Let’s be clear: These aren’t going to knock the socks off of an audiophile’s feet anytime soon. BUT, for a hundred bucks, they deliver damn decent sound. They rock 12mm drivers, have a frequency response of 20Hz-20,000KHz, and a sound pressure level of 98-103dB. In my tests, they handle everything from hip-hop and new wave to punk and jazz with comfortable ease no matter whether I was listening quietly or cranking all the way up.

What’s really impressive, though, is how well they handle bass. A lot of buds at this price point struggle to produce quality bass or, worse yet, only let you hear the bass, not feel it. But the Grind Fuels? Nah—these provide a pretty satisfying bass response overall. It’s not a premium experience, by any means, but admirable for the price point.

The Grind Fuel buds next to each other facing different directions on a wooden table
Kevin Bonnett

Admittedly, though, you will need to turn on the EQ and get it tuned to your liking. The default soundscape is flat; even when you have sounds that are large and orchestra, with lots of elements, you can’t really hear the individual sounds. Customizing the EQ fixed this for the most part, and ends up (potentially) sounding better than the app’s three other EQ templates. Overall, though, the sound on these is fantastic and the average person isn’t going to notice most of these shortcomings.

It’s also worthwhile to go through Skullcandy’s Personal Sound hearing test. You’ll only need a few minutes and a quiet room to run it (wherein you’ll determine when you can hear beeping across low, medium, and high frequencies). As a result? You’ll get a Personal Sound profile that optimizes sound levels for your ears. While it might not sound super impressive, it ultimately improved how my audio sounded once I got it set up.

User Experience

Fortunately, one of the most annoying features of the buds is one that can easily be remedied on Skullcandy’s end by a firmware update: loud system noises. When you first pluck the buds from the case and put them in your ears, you’ll have to endure a bitingly loud ping, then an announcement about battery life, then another if you have voice controls turned on, and one more after that letting you know that they are, in fact, connected to your device. It’s … a lot, and it’s really loud. While I don’t mind the briefing, it’s gotta be shorter and quieter.

The Grind Fuels lack an automatic pause/resume feature. Though it supports Solo Bud Mode, this also means that, if you take one or both of your buds out, your audio will keep playing until you shut it off manually. And while they lack active noise cancellation, dual noise-reducing mics ensure a noise-isolating fit. I feel like they do a fair job of blocking out garden variety noises despite formally lacking ANC. Likewise, they also boast a Stay-Aware Mode, amplifying external sounds and allowing you to hear what’s going on around you without removing them.

Grind Fuel earbuds on table next to open case,
Kevin Bonnett

However, the buds have a lot of fantastic features, too, like automatically powering on and connecting to your device without issue or delay. They have an IP55 rating, so they’re protected against small amounts of dust, low-pressure water jets, and a little sweat. Should you misplace your buds (hey, it happens to the best of us), they rock Tile’s tracking technology and can be easily added to your items in the Tile app (Android/iOS). Also, Skullcandy’s app isn’t just full of cool and useful features—it’s gorgeous, well-organized, and easy to use.

Battery

If you stripped away every other feature these buds have and left just the battery life, I wouldn’t be (too) mad. On their own, the buds are good for nine hours. The case tacks on another 31 for a total of 40 hours on a single charge—that’s absolutely crazy! As I used them day after day for listening to music, watching TV and YouTube, and joining a fair amount of video calls, they did a good job living up to Skullcandy’s specs. On days where I listened to a ton of music at a loud volume, they still managed over eight hours. They’re great for all-day use, and I love that.

Once the case finally needed to be charged, I appreciated having multiple options for doing so. It supports both wireless and standard USB-C charging and even has a Rapid Charging feature that gives the buds two hours of battery life for 10 minutes spent in the case. That’s just enough time to add a little more juice for the commute home while you’re packing up at the end of your workday!

Final Thoughts

The more time I spent with Skullcandy’s Grind Fuel earbuds, the more I liked them. Though they have a few missing features and a couple of annoyances, it’s understandable given their low price and outstanding performance elsewhere. The buds offer great sound and a nice design, as well as several nice extras, and are a great option for anyone looking to throw a benjamin at a new pair of earbuds. I absolutely recommend these.

Rating: 8.5/10
Price: $99.99

Here’s What We Like

  • Fantastic sound
  • Feature-rich buds and app
  • Spectacular battery life
  • Wireless charging
  • Comfy fit

And What We Don't

  • Buttons are tough to push
  • No ANC
  • No auto-pause/play
  • Loud system noises

Suzanne Humphries Suzanne Humphries
Suzanne Humphries is the Commerce Editor for Review Geek. She has over six years of experience across multiple publications researching and testing products, as well as writing and editing news, reviews, and how-to articles covering software, hardware, entertainment, networking, electronics, gaming, apps, security, finance, and small business. Read Full Bio »

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