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Skullcandy Indy ANC - Review 2021

It’s the year of noise-cancelling true wireless earphones, and we’re starting to see some decent models at relatively affordable prices. At $129.99, the Skullcandy Indy ANC earphones are somewhat splurgy amond the company’s generally budget-friendly lineup, but a bargain for true wireless in-ears with noise cancellation. Sonically, they deliver a mega bass sound signature, while on the active noise cancellation (ANC) front, they eliminate lows quite well and do an okay job with the rest of the frequency range. There are better options available if noise cancellation is your main priority, such as the equally priced Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro, but if you want acceptable ANC and intense bass depth, Skullcandy offers the combo at a reasonable price.

Plain Black Stems

Available in black, the Indy ANC earpieces are stems that dock into a rather bulky charging case. The earpieces have a secure fit, thanks largely to the combination of included eartips (there are three pairs in S, M, and L) and sleeves (two pairs are included) that add stability. Internally, each earpiece houses a 12mm driver delivering a frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz.

The earpieces have touch-sensitive outer panels that are relatively easy to control. But the layout of the controls is a bit counterintuitive, with single taps controlling volume instead of playback, and a longer press handling track forward or backward. We won’t go through the whole menu of commands and corresponding taps, but you can control playback, call management, track navigation, volume, voice assistants, EQ modes, and ANC on/off, all with taps and holds.

skullcandy indy anc lifestyle

The flip-top black charging case features the Skullcandy logo and status LEDs that display how much power the case is holding. An included USB-C-to-USB-A charging cable connects to the USB-C port on the bottom of the case. 

The Skullcandy app for Android and iOS is useful. It has a Personal Sound mode that measures your hearing and adjusts the audio accordingly; for many users, this will make sense to use, but it’s not essential to the operation of the earphones if it doesn’t sound appealing to you. Unfortunately, the EQ modes are limited to three presets that can’t be adjusted, including Movie, Music, and Podcast modes. In the app, you can also enable or disable Noise Cancelling or Ambient modes. There are no parameters to further adjust ANC or the ambient mics, however.

The earphones are compatible with Bluetooth 5.0, but support the SBC codec only, not AAC or AptX. They’re are also Tile-enabled (you can locate them using the Tile app).

Skullcandy estimates battery life to be roughly five hours with ANC or nine hours with ANC off, and the case holds 14 (with ANC) or 23 (without ANC) hours of extra charge. Your results will vary with your mix of volume levels and ANC usage.

Acceptable ANC, Bass-Heavy Audio

The earphones deliver solid noise cancellation for the price, especially when it comes to wiping out deep low frequencies. Like many budget-friendly ANC in-ears, some hiss is added to the signal—in fact, there’s a little more audible hiss here than usual. It’s not an unpleasant sound (think tape hiss or white noise), and even at this fairly obvious level, most people would describe it as faint. Regardless, it’s a hallmark of budget ANC. With music playing, you’re unlikely to notice the hiss at all, except during quiet passages.

The ANC fares decently when it comes to mids and highs. We tested it against a sound file of a busy restaurant, pumped through near-field monitors. The earphones did a solid job dialing back the mids to a substantial degree. Unfortunately, they struggle with the high frequencies, which passed through with relative ease. On the plus side, there’s no obvious difference in audio performance with ANC on or off, which is as it should be, but often isn’t the case with affordable headphones.

Skullcandy Indy ANC

Ambient mode works independently of ANC mode. The modes can’t be combined in any way, but they can both be turned off. The ambient mics do a solid job of picking up surrounding audio and delivering it at a realistic volume, with a focus on clarity—high-mids and highs get a slight boost, which aids in understanding what people are saying.

When it comes to audio, on tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the earphones deliver powerful low-frequency response, and at top, unwise listening levels, the bass doesn’t distort. If you like your bass significantly boosted, you won’t be disappointed.

See How We Test Noise-Cancelling HeadphonesSee How We Test Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the Indy ANC’s general sound signature. The drums on this track sound thunderous and huge—the bass is dialed up to a high degree here, threatening to overtake the balance of the mix. Luckily, there’s plenty of boosting in the high-mids and highs, balancing things out somewhat—the highs maintain a sense of detail and definition with the vocals, higher-register percussive hits, and acoustic strums. This is a fairly scooped out sound signature, in which the mids are pushed back, while the lows and highs are brought forward. Purists will want nothing to do with the Indy ANC, however, especially since there’s no EQ to adjust the sound signature with (other than switching between Music, Movie, and Podcast modes) modes.

On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives enough high-mid presence for its attack to retain some of its punch, but it’s slightly dulled—instead, the vinyl crackle and hiss that’s usually relegated to background status seem to take a notable step forward in the mix. The loop is also beefed up substantially in the lows, and the sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with serious subwoofer-like thunder. The vocals on this track are delivered cleanly and clearly, without much added sibilance—but at times the bass can feel powerful enough that it threatens to overtake the vocals and the general balance of the mix. 

Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, get a little more bass depth than they need. It could be way worse, but the lower-register instrumentation still takes a big step forward in the mix. The higher-register brass, strings, and vocals maintain their prominent place, however, with a bright, crisp presence that isn’t overtaken by the boosted lows. 

The dual voice-mic array offers average intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone, we could understand every word we recorded cleanly and clearly. The mics sound a little distant from the mouth, and there’s some typical Bluetooth distortion in the mix, but these are both common with true wireless in-ears. On a clear mobile connection, callers should be able to understand you.

A Solid Pair for the Price

Skullcandy’s Indy ANC earphones get plenty right, with a secure fit and decent noise cancellation for the price. Purists, or those seeking top-notch ANC, will want to look elsewhere for a more musically accurate pair, or one with slightly stronger ANC. For the same price, the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro earphones deliver more accurate sound and slightly stronger noise cancellation, earning our Editors’ Choice award for affordable models. On the higher end, our two favorite ANC in-ears are the $250 Apple AirPods Pro and the $280 Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, both of which deliver top-notch noise cancellation and sound quality, albeit at much higher prices.

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