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The Skullcandy Indy Fuel Earbuds Punch Above Their $100 Price Tag – Review Geek

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Rating:
8/10
?

  • 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

Skullcandy Indy Fuel Earbuds
Cam

One of the questions I get asked most often is “which true wireless earbuds do you recommend?” To which I usually reply with “what’s your budget?” I’ve had pretty set recommendations across a bunch of price points for a while now, but the Skullcandy Indy Fuel just shook things up in a big way. And, I love it.

Here’s What We Like

  • Excellent fit and incredibly comfortable
  • Good sound quality
  • Wireless charging at this price point is excellent

And What We Don’t

  • Weird charging issues when using a C-to-C cable
  • Audible Tile alarm is less than useful

I haven’t touched a set of Skullcandys in a solid 10+ years, but when the company announced four new sets of true wireless earbuds at the end of May, they piqued my interest. The two top-end sets, the Indy Fuel and Push Ultra, both feature wireless charging, water/sweat-resistance, and Tile tracking built-in—all for $99 per set.

That’s a solid deal, so I knew I wanted to check them out. I’ve had both sets for a few weeks now (the Push Ultra review is coming soon), and I’m impressed. The Indy Fuel are some of the most comfortable ‘buds I’ve ever worn, they sound good, and have features you likely won’t find in other ‘buds at this price.

In short, if you’re looking for a set of true wireless earbuds for around $100, these should go straight to the top of your list.

Case and Build Quality: Solid for a Benji

The Skullcandy Indy Fuel case with the earbuds next to it
Cam

Straight out of the box, the Indy Fuel look like pretty much like other stick-style earbuds. The case is very similar to AirPods Pro, though at nearly twice the thickness, it’s quite a bit bulkier.

It’s a simple black case with the Skullcandy logo on the front, which may be offputting to some people because of the “juvenile” look, but I kinda like it. The USB-C charging port is on the bottom, and the little lightning bolt on the back indicates that’s where the wireless charging coil is.

Just below the lid are a series of four LED lights to show the current battery level and charging status of the case. To get a quick glimpse of the level, simply flip the lid open. The overall feel of the case is nice—not quite as robust as the AirPods Pro, but at less than half the price I wouldn’t expect it to be. For the price, I think it feels good. The hinge is nice and snappy.

The Skullcandy Indy Fuel case next to the AirPods Pro case
The case is quite a bit bigger than the AirPods Pro case Cam

Before we move on the fit, I need to address a quirk with the charging. As I mentioned earlier, they have a USB-C port for wired charging, as well as support for wireless charging. But here’s where things get interesting: I couldn’t get them to charge at all with a USB-C-to-USB-C cable.

I’ve been using the same charging brick at my desk for phones, laptops, earbuds, and literally everything else that charges over USB-C for months, so I’ve never run into an issue where it didn’t work. But it didn’t charge the Indy Fuel at all, so I tried several other bricks. Then, in a moment of absolute desperation, I decided to try a low-powered bridge with a USB-A-to-USB-C cable. It worked.

I can only conclude that the other bricks were overpowered and the Indy Fuel doesn’t have the ability to throttle it. Or something. I don’t know, to be honest. But it’s definitely something to consider if you buy these, and the main reason they didn’t get a 9 out of 10 score. It’s also worth noting that the Push Ultra have the same issue, which I’ll of course mention again in that review.

The Skullcandy Indy Fuel case with the charging indicator lights illuminated
The battery indicator lights are hidden below the lid. Cam

But, considering the Indy Fuel gets about 30 hours of battery life between the buds and the case, at least it’s something you shouldn’t have to deal with that often.

Fit and Features: Maybe the Most Comfortable Buds I’ve Ever Worn

As I stated earlier, the ‘buds themselves feature stick design, á la AirPods or AirPods Pro. They have interchangeable silicone tips and ear wings, with three sizes of tips and two ear wings to choose from. By default, the medium tip and large wings are installed.

I absolutely love earbuds with wings like this, because they are significantly more stable than those without. One of the nicest things about the Indy Fuel is that they can also be used without the wings if you don’t like them—the design here really is the best of both worlds. I still don’t understand why more earbud manufacturers don’t do this, so hats off to Skullcandy for being one of the good ones.

When you find the right combination of tips and wings for your ears, the Indy Fuels have a stable fit and great seal. They don’t have active noise canceling (ANC) , but I found the noise isolation to be plenty good for most of my uses. In a lot of cases, I actually prefer good noise isolation to noise canceling anyway, so it works out well for me.

The Indy Fuel earbuds and all included tips + wings
Tons of fit options. Cam

But one of my favorite things about the fit of the Indy Fuel is that I can rotate them just a bit (with the stem slightly more forward) to break this seal and clearly hear what’s going on around me—almost like a passive transparency mode.

While we’re on that subject, it’s worth pointing out that these also have a built-in ambient mode. Like many other true wireless ‘buds, this activates the onboard microphone to allow in outside sounds. But along with those sound comes the common “hiss,” which many people find annoying.

The biggest annoyance to me is that ambient mode doesn’t work while on phone calls, which is when I generally want to get rid of that clogged ear feeling. I can’t stand taking phone calls with earbuds stuff into my ears for that reason, which is why I love the “passive transparency” thing I mentioned earlier. I’ve been using AirPods Pro for phone calls since they were released last year because of transparency mode, and I find that I like the experience on the Indy Fuel just as much. That’s really saying something.

Finally, let’s talk about built-in Tile tracking. It’s an awesome feature to have built into the buds (it’s not part of the case), but it’s also a pain in the ass to get set up. The Tile app (iOS, Android) had a very hard time finding the buds to start and has to do each one individually. Ultimately, it never found the right earbud from my review set, so if I lose it I’m pretty much out of luck.

But honestly, I might be out of luck either way. To locate the ‘buds using the Tile app, you can send an audible tone, which comes out of the speaker on the earbud. The biggest issue with that is that it’s just not loud enough to hear unless you’re really close to the earbuds. And it’s even harder to hear if they’re also in the case.

At least it can tell you the physical address of where your buds are, which might come in handy if you leave them somewhere. At the very least, it’s better than nothing.

Controls and App: Controls Are Fine, App Is Limited

The Indy Fuel uses capacitive touch controls, which might be off-putting to some users. The touchpad is on the outside panel of each earbud (not the stem like on AirPods Pro), with each side featuring mostly identical controls. Either ‘bud can be used in solo mode, which isn’t always a given on many earbuds, so it’s worth mentioning for users who like to live the one-bud lifestyle.

The Indy Fuel earbuds on top of each other, showing the Skullcandy logo on the left bud
The controls are on the Skull logo Cam

That said, the controls can be a bit convoluted and take some time to get used to:

  • Single tap: Volume up (right); Volume down (left)
  • Double tap: Play/Pause or answer/end calls (either bud)
  • Triple tap: Digital assistant (either bud)
  • Tap + tap and hold: Toggle ambient mode (either bud)
  • Double tap + tap and hold: EQ Mode (either bud)

Three EQ modes are available on the Indy Fuel: Music Mode, Movie Mode, and Podcast Mode. They’re each designed for the specific use suggested in the name, though the music and movie modes are fairly similar. Everything is thin on Podcast Mode to enhance the frequencies of the human voice, though, so I don’t recommend it for anything outside of podcasts. Honestly, you could just set it to music mode and leave it if you want.

Skullcandy offers an app (iOS, Android) for the Indy Fuel (and other buds), though it’s pretty basic: you can use it to toggle Ambient Mode … and that’s about it. The top of the main interface tells you which mode the ‘buds are currently in, which I thought was a toggle at first. It’s not, but I wish it were.

Otherwise, I’d like to see an option for a custom EQ. The Indy Fuel sound good on their own, but the option to tweak an EQ to the user’s liking is always a welcome one in my book.

Sound Quality: Balanced and Full

The Skullcandy Indy Fuel earbuds on a desk
Cam

I’ll be upfront about this: these are not the best-sounding true wireless earbuds I’ve heard (that would be the Jabra Elite 75t/Active Elite 75t), but they are the best sounding I’ve heard at this price point.

So, not only are they incredibly comfortable, but they sound pretty damn good. Don’t get me wrong here—you’re not going to be blown away on your first listen. They have a good balance between the most common frequencies, with nice defined bass (thanks to the excellent seal they provide when you get the right tips), but they’re not so bottom-heavy that they become muddy.

Treble is sharp without being shrill, though these are a little more mid-heavy than I prefer. Because there’s no custom EQ in the app, that means you’re stuck with what you get here unless you use an audio app with a custom EQ.

Overall, the sound quality is fine. It’s nothing great, but it’s good at this price point. I personally haven’t used a set of earbuds for $99 or less that sound as good, anyway.

Conclusion: The Best You Can Get at $100

The Indy Fuel case laying on a desk
Cam

To summarize, these are super comfortable, sound good, and last for days. The case is a little bulky, and there’s the “don’t use a high-powered charger” thing, but otherwise, I can’t really fault these much.

In fact, these have become the buds I reach for 100 percent of the time when I want to make a phone call, listen to music or a podcast, or pretty much anything else. I have AirPods Pro on my desk right beside them, and I haven’t touched the Pros since I got the Indy Fuel.

For $100, these have my pick for the best ‘buds you can get right now. In fact, they’re so good I would give them hard consideration even if you’re looking at buds that cost twice as much.

Here’s What We Like

  • Excellent fit and incredibly comfortable
  • Good sound quality
  • Wireless charging at this price point is excellent

And What We Don’t

  • Weird charging issues when using a C-to-C cable
  • Audible Tile alarm is less than useful

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