Skullcandy Indy ANC true wireless earbuds review
Quick verdict: Skullcandy's Indy ANCs are great-sounding wireless earbuds that sit snugly and securely in the ear, but their noise-cancelling capabilities could be better.
- Great audio quality in music and movies
- Impressive bass and volume output for wireless earbuds
- Stability gel covers deliver a secure and comfortable fit
- Noise cancellation is lacklustre
- Battery life with ANC on is a little lower than average
- Considerably more expensive than non-ANC Indy earbuds
Active noise cancellation technology is working its way into an increasing number of earbuds these days, from Apple's AirPods to Samsung's Galaxy Buds.
Now Skullcandy is getting in on the trend, updating its long-running Indy earbuds line with the Indy ANC wireless earbuds. Is it a worthwhile upgrade? Let's find out.
- Small buds nestle securely inside the ear
- Excellent stability covers prevent the buds from slipping even under violent movement
- Multiple gel covers accommodate a wide range of ear sizes
The Indy ANC earbuds follow the standard design approach of small round buds sitting atop short stems. Unlike Apple's AirPods and other competing products, the buds eschew the large, disc-shaped design in favour of smaller bulbs that sit deeper inside your ear. Each bulb is angled so that it nestles comfortably around the folds of your ear.
To ensure a stable and comfortable fit, the Indy ANC buds come with gel covers that fit over the end of each bulb. There are three sizes: one for small ears, one for medium ears and one for large ears. For me, the medium-sized covers gave a snug fit that didn't feel too tight.
Along with the bulb covers, you get two sets of stability gel covers that wrap around the larger circular section of the buds. These covers extend above the top of the buds and hook into the upper folds of your ears, preventing the buds from slipping around. One set of the covers is for small ears, the other for larger ears.
I was really impressed by the stability covers. No matter how wildly I moved my head, they kept the buds firmly in place within my ears. Aside from the obvious comfort benefits, this ensures audio always sounds at its best, maintaining a strong seal against ambient noises that I never need to readjust. And because they're just covers, you can remove them completely if you don't need them or you simply don't like how they feel.
Once secured, the Indy ANC buds are light enough that I easily forgot I was wearing them after a while. Even after hours of use, I felt no pinching or discomfort. This was a welcome change from most earbuds I've used which require regular readjustments to keep them from slipping around.
Folks who spend a lot of time outdoors will be glad to know the Indy ANC buds sport IPX4 water resistance. This certification means the buds can handle splashing water without suffering any damage. Light to moderate rain and sweat shouldn't cause any issues, though you should still try to avoid any contact with liquids whenever possible.
A good charging case is essential for any pair of wireless earbuds, and the one included here is solid. It's nice and light for easy storage in your pocket or bag, while its metal exterior protects against any bumps and scratches it might suffer in transit.
Oddly, Skullcandy has built the case with a curved bottom that prevents it from standing up on its own. It's instead built to be laid flat, since the back of the case is where the wireless charging components are located. Lay the case down on a wireless charging pad, and you don't need to worry about plugging in the USB-C cable to juice it back up.
- Excellent audio quality in music and movies
- Impressive bass and volume output for a pair of wireless earbuds
- Noise-cancelling is pretty weak
The Skullcandy Indy ANCs are a prime example of how far wireless earbuds have come in recent years. Despite their compact size, they're able to pump out powerful, high-quality audio that doesn't feel like a compromise from a full-sized pair of headphones.
I tested the buds with a broad range of music tracks across different genres, and the results were universally excellent. Tunes from heavier artists like A Day to Remember and Parkway Drive sounded appropriately big and beefy, with an impressive amount of bass for a pair of wireless earbuds. Softer tracks from the likes of ABBA or the jazzy Paradise Killer soundtrack were equally sublime, delivering sharp highs alongside clear, powerful vocals.
Speaking of power, the volume output on the Indy ANC buds is quite decent, especially compared to a lot of other wireless earbuds. There's no peaking or other aural artefacts with the volume cranked up, and the audio mix maintains a clear delineation between different channels throughout.
Movies fare just as well. Watching Bad Boys for Life, every growl of a revving engine and bark of a fiery explosion rang through with satisfying force.
Skullcandy has equipped the Indy ANC buds with a few different modes of operation, and these have a considerable impact on audio quality. First up is the "Personal Sound" mode. This mode leverages Audiodo technology to customise sound output to your ears. You take a quick audio test that plays a variety of tones in each earbud to confirm whether you can hear them or not, and the tech then tunes the audio output to account for that. For me, this made a noticeable difference. The audio mix in music and movies sounded larger and more full with no appreciable loss to audio quality.
Activating noise cancellation also affects audio quality. Turning it on greatly improves the bass and fullness of audio content, and it even slightly increases volume output. Turn it off, and the audio sounds comparatively tinny and empty, especially in content with a lot of bass.
For as effective as the Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) is in boosting audio quality, it isn't particularly great at actually blocking out ambient noise. Despite boasting a four-mic array, I noticed very little difference in the volume of background sounds with and without ANC on. At best, certain sounds would come through slightly muted, with bass frequencies experiencing the most significant muffling. Even then, it never had enough of an impact to markedly change the listening experience.
Battery life on the Indy ANCs is pretty decent, with a caveat. Leave noise-cancelling off and Skullcandy claims up to 32 hours of use: 9 hours from the buds themselves and an extra 23 hours from the charging case. Those figures drop dramatically if you want to enjoy the audio enhancements noise-cancelling offers. With ANC on, battery life tops out at 19 hours: 5 hours from the buds and 14 hours from the charging case. 19 hours isn't terrible by any stretch, but it is less than a lot of other competing ANC wireless earbuds like Sony's WF-1000MX3s or Apple's AirPods Pro. My testing backed up these figures, with the battery lasting a little longer if you kept the volume at lower levels.
On the plus side, a low battery shouldn't catch you by surprise thanks to the voice alert that plays when the juice is about to run out. Charging is quick and easy, too. Along with wireless charging support, the case offers rapid charging, providing 2 hours of runtime from just 10 minutes on charge.
Wireless performance on the Indy ANCs is solid. The Bluetooth connection remained strong and stable throughout my testing, allowing me to leave my phone at one end of my house and walk to the other without experiencing any dropouts or signal interference.
If you plan on using the Indy ANCs for making a lot of phone calls, be aware that the microphone quality is pretty mediocre. That's partly to be expected from a pair of wireless earbuds situated so far from your mouth; other buds such as the EPOS GTW 270s offer much clearer vocal pick-up, for instance.
- Touch controls provide convenient access to playback functions
- Ambient mode is a neat idea that needs more work
- Tile support is handy for folks who travel with a lot of tech
The Indy ANCs are versatile earbuds with a healthy supply of extra features, most of which you can customise through the Skullcandy mobile app. Before everything else though, you need to pair the buds with your device. Thankfully, this is a painless process. Just drop the buds into the charging case, wait for their LEDs to flash red, then remove them again. From there it's a simple matter of selecting the buds in the Bluetooth menu of your device.
Once the buds are synced up, the Skullcandy app provides a clean and concise interface for toggling Personal Sound, Noise Cancelling and Ambient modes. I covered the Personal Sound and Noise Cancelling features in the previous section, so let's discuss Ambient mode.
Ambient mode is essentially the opposite of noise-cancelling: It lets peripheral noises filter in when you're listening to music or on a call. It's designed for when you need to be aware of your surroundings, such as when you're navigating traffic on foot or simply need to keep an ear out for the doorbell. I found it to be most effective for voices, with conversation coming through louder and clearer when Ambient mode was active. It's far from a night-and-day difference and sounds other than speech received little to no identifiable amplification. The idea is neat, but I wouldn't rely on it for hearing what's going on around you.
While the Skullcandy app doesn't offer a full-blown custom equaliser, it does let you switch between three EQ presets: Music, Podcast and Movie. Music is the default and offers what I found to be the best mix of highs, mids and lows. The Podcast preset drastically reduces bass while boosting vocals, and the Movie preset amplifies dialogue and makes small tweaks to other frequencies pertinent to films and TV.
Outside of the app, most of the Indy ANC's features and functions can be controlled using touch surfaces on each of the earbuds. By combining taps and long presses, you can adjust the volume, change music tracks, pause and resume playback, answer and end phone calls, change EQ modes and toggle both ANC and Ambient mode. The touch surfaces are relatively small and can be tough to reliably hit, but they're responsive enough for making occasional adjustments without needing to pull out your phone.
It can be all too easy to lose track of wireless earbuds given their compact size, so Skullcandy has armed the Indy ANCs with support for Tile finding technology. Using the Tile mobile app, you can ping misplaced buds so they start playing sound, helping you track them down. It's limited by Bluetooth range, of course, so you'll need to be in relatively close proximity for the feature to work.
Should you buy the Skullcandy Indy ANC wireless earbuds?
- Buy it if you want excellent audio quality and top-notch comfort.
- Don't buy it if you're looking for powerful noise cancellation.
Active noise cancellation might be the big new addition to the Indy ANCs, but it's not what makes them worth considering. Audio quality is where the buds shine, delivering impeccable clarity alongside surprisingly powerful bass and volume output. The stability gel covers help preserve this optimal audio experience at all times, keeping the buds from slipping and jostling while maintaining a comfortable, barely-there fit.
If it's noise-cancelling you're after, you may want to look elsewhere. The buds don't block out a whole lot of ambient noise, and you're paying a sizeable premium over the non-ANC models of the Indy earbuds.