The Skullcandy 50/50 is a canalbud earphone headset. Read our Skullcandy 50/50 review to find out if the sound produced is worth the £49 inc VAT asking price.
Skullcandy 50/50: canalbuds
A quick refresher: canalbuds such as the Skullcandy 50/50 are headphones that in essence split the difference - in design, and often in price - between traditional earbuds and in-ear-canal (“canalphone”) models. Since they fit partially in the ear canal, they can block some external noise and form an acoustic seal that improves bass performance. However, they don’t block as much sound as true canalphone models, and, as with canalphones, getting a proper fit can be tricky, the cord can produce unwanted microphonic noise in a listener’s ear, and using the headset function can be weird due to the occlusion effect of having your ears plugged while talking.
The Skullcandy 50/50 (named, according to Skullcandy, because they’re “half mic, half bud, and all boom”) comes with pairs of small, medium, and large rubber eartips, as well as a circular, black-nylon carrying case. The 50/50’s earpieces are primarly white plastic with green-plastic and metal accents (including the Skullcandy logo).
The righthand section of the Skullcandy 50/50’s green cables hosts a white, Apple-style, three-button (control, volume up, and volume down) inline remote/microphone pod. A white-plastic piece connects the left and right cables, and the cable ends in a white-plastic, straight miniplug. The plastic feels dense and resilient, and it should hold up well in active use. The 50/50 is also available in black/chrome, white/chrome, black/blue, and black/red versions.
The Skullcandy 50/50’s earpieces are easy to fit properly in the ear, and they rest at a moderate depth that provides good isolation from outside noise. However, the earpieces hurt my ears after an hour or so, thanks to the large, short earpieces - though this issue may be specific to my ear anatomy. The 50/50’s inline remote works well, although we had a little trouble distinguishing between the three buttons; we would have preferred the buttons to be better defined.
Skullcandy 50/50: audio performance
We tested the Skullcandy 50/50’s audio performance in a variety of settings (home, office, street, and bus) listening to both compressed and lossless music. We used the 50/50 directly out of an Apple iPhone’s headphone jack as well as through a HeadRoom Total BitHead headphone amplifier. Listening to the 50/50, there was no doubt that the headset was designed to focus on bass.
In terms of pure bass volume, the Skullcandy 50/50 beat out other bass-heavy models such as the Radius Atomic Bass, Klipsch Image S4i, and V-Moda Vibe II. Low bass was excellent - kick drums sounded the best we’d heard on canalbuds, and managed to suggest some of the physical impact you’d get from a large set of speakers. Mid- and upper-bass were over-emphasized, however, making many recordings sound muddy. Switching to Comply eartips tamed the 50/50’s bass a bit, but it was still much more than we wanted. When not overwhelmed by the bass, midrange and treble frequencies sounded good and were well-defined.
(The one place this extra bass was welcome was when gaming on the iPhone: The 50/50’s low end enhances explosions in action games such as N.O.V.A. and gives more kick to the bass-heavy soundtracks of games such as Canabalt and Geometry Wars.)
In our testing, the Skullcandy 50/50’s microphone performance was below average. Compared to the iPhone’s included earbuds, as well as to the best microphones, test recordings were on the quiet side and sounded thin due to a lack of lower frequencies. A friend confirmed this assessment in a test call, commenting that we sounded “distant” compared to the Apple iPhone 4’s built-in microphone. In other words, we wouldn’t buy the 50/50 primarily for phone calls, but it’s fine for taking the occasional call while you’re listening to music.
NEXT: our expert verdict >>