The iPhone doesn’t do stereo Bluetooth audio, so your only option for both hands-free calls and music is a wired stereo headset like the Skullcandy iPhone FMJ. At $79.95, these lightweight in-ear headphones compete with stylish midrange models like the V-Moda Vibe Duo. However, the “Full Metal Jacket” headphones look cooler than they sound; while they beat the pants off the iPhone’s included earbuds, the sound quality is merely adequate for the money.
The FMJ has a compact in-line mic and send/end button on the left cable and an 3.5mm gold-plated plug that fits in the iPhone’s recessed headphone jack. The headphones come with silicone and foam tips, both of which fit our ears comfortably. They achieved a good seal in our ear canals without being overly intrusive; the silicone tips did a pretty good job blocking noise, and the foam tips helped the FMJ shut out train rumble, street noise, and voices better than many models at this price. The thick cables rarely tangled, and the mic is located at just the right distance from one’s mouth. Also included is a low-profile protective case with a zipper, rigid sides, and a mesh pocket that holds the extra tips.
FMJ Audio Performance
We achieved a comfortable listening level with our iPhone’s volume turned up about two-thirds to three-quarters of the way. The strong bass tended to overpower the highs on these earbuds, while the mids were simply weak; we mitigated this somewhat by changing some of the iPhone’s EQ presets. Ella Fitzgerald’s voice wasn’t quite right in our ear in her intimate jazz duets on Ella Fitzgerald & Joe Pass . . . Again: While Ella’s unmistakable voice is very prominent on the album, the iPhone FMJ makes her sound a little less so. On hard-driving songs like Primus’ “Tommy the Cat,” the music sounded muffled because of the recessed mids and overwhelmed highs, but the kick drum and electric bass still had lots of impact. Rap and electronica have lots of low-end thump. Yo-Yo Ma’s Bach: Six Unaccompanied Cello Suites fared best, being in just the right range for these headphones.
When a call came in on our iPhone, we pressed the FMJ’s in-line button, which paused the music and switched to the call. The button was almost flush with the mic module’s surface, so it was difficult to press the button by feel. Voice quality via the earbuds was very good: The in-line mic transmitted our voice clearly enough to be understood, though in windy conditions it sounded terrible because the FMJ lacks any sort of noise cancellation like that in Shure’s Music Phone Adapter. At the end of a call, the audio switched back to music automatically. While it lacks volume control, you can also use the button to pause or play music when you’re not on a call and press it twice to skip to the next track.
Skullcandy iPhone FMJ Verdict
The Skullcandy iPhone FMJ is a good set of noise-isolating earbuds with the added benefit of iPhone compatibility and an in-line mic and call button. We wish the mic was more accurate and the sound better balanced, but the FMJ’s comfort and beefy bass will satisfy casual listeners. The V-Moda Vibe Duo is very similar in performance and comfort, but at $99.99, they’re a bit pricier.