Laptop Mag Verdict
Good audio quality, active noise cancellation and built-in Tile tracking come with underwhelming call quality and finicky touch controls for a semi-decent pair of earbuds.
Deep, clean sound
Easy-to-use companion app
Decent Active Noise cancellation
Hit-or-miss touch controls
Limited EQ settings
Mediocre call quality
Average battery life
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Price: $129 USD / £99 GBP
Connection type: Bluetooth 5
Driver diameter: 12mm
Frequency response: 20Hz - 20KHz
Skullcandy started by making headphones that only emo kids like me would buy. I grabbed a pair of Ink’d cans from Virgin Megastore (or Hot Topic for those across the Atlantic) for listening to far too much From First To Last while borrowing my Mum’s straighteners.
Luckily, the brand grew up with me, beyond those embarrassing years of looking like Ben Stiller from There’s Something About Mary. And nowadays, Skullcandy is churning out some seriously attractive products, including the bestselling Indy True Wireless earbuds, which have now been updated with active noise cancellation.
The Indy ANC True Wireless Earbuds pack good sound quality and come with a simple companion app, a wireless charging case, and tile integration, a package that results in a decent pair of earbuds, provided you’re OK looking past a few problems.
Skullcandy Indy ANC Noise Canceling True Wireless: Availability and Price
These earbuds are available for $129.99 in the U.S. and £99.99 in Britain. They are available from Skullcandy directly or your standard array of retailers like Amazon, Best Buy or Currys PC World. You’ve got two colours to choose from — Black or Feisty Pink — but expect more shades to become available soon.
Skullcandy Indy ANC Noise Canceling True Wireless: Design
Have you owned or seen a pair of Indy earbuds since the first generation in 2019? Then chances are these are going to look very familiar.
The matte-black finish with the trademark skull logo means it's difficult to tell these apart from previous models. Plus, the longer stems make for a similar design to the competition, most notably the AirPods. But as they say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The combination of ear tips (available in three sizes) and rubber sleeves with ear hooks provide a nice seal and keep the Indys firmly locked in my ears without sacrificing comfort across several hours of use. Even during more strenuous tests, like when I went for a jog, the buds stayed firmly in my ears and the IPX4 sweat and water resistance protected them from my body moisture.
The case is also identical to previous generations of Indy, but now with wireless charging capabilities. For context, it's slightly wider than the AirPods charging case and a matching shade of matte black to the earbuds (2.5 x 2.2 x 1.1 inches).
Skullcandy Indy ANC Noise Canceling True Wireless: Controls and digital assistant
In the absence of buttons, Skullcandy programmed a bunch of touch controls into the Indy ANCs, from tapping to change the volume and holding for two seconds for skipping tracks, to a three-second hold for activating the voice assistant.
Speaking of digital assistants, firing them up is simple and the microphone is decent at picking up smaller phrases across both Siri and Google Assistant. But any long message responses, especially those made outside in loud environments, can be a struggle.
There is no on-ear detection for listening through a single bud, which gives you an extra thing to worry about when making sure they both have enough battery. But solo bud use is possible by putting the one you’re not using back in its case.
Skullcandy Indy ANC Noise Canceling True Wireless: Active noise cancellation and transparency mode
The big difference in this newer model of Indy is the inclusion of active noise cancellation, making this the first pair of truly wireless earbuds from Skullcandy to offer the feature.
Are they perfect? No. The buds do not block out louder noises and there is a slight hiss with ANC turned on. But they do eliminate some of the more common noises, like people chatting and the general hubbub of public transport.
While I haven’t put these to much of an office space test, a close equivalent is walking around the local supermarket, which proved they could block out the tannoy announcements and a kid having a rather aggressive tantrum when his parents said no to buying Reese’s Pieces.
There is also an ambient mode that makes the most of Indy’s built-in microphones to make everything around you a little more pronounced. It worked well; I could hear my partner whispering from a few feet away after enabling the ambient feature.
Skullcandy Indy ANC Noise Canceling True Wireless: Audio quality
When it comes to sound quality, Skullcandy has always been the kind of company to put bass first — crafting deep audio that often comes at the sacrifice of clarity in the higher tones.
The Indys, however, offer a better-balanced sound through its 12mm drivers, breathing life into the guitar solo in Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ “Fortune Faded” while keeping the bass nice and warm, and maintaining the clarity of the vocals (or the spoken word of podcasts).
Anything in the mids, like the synth part of many Enter Shikari tracks, received some emphasis, but when compositions get complex, they are the first to sound washed out, much like many other earbuds in this field.
This is very much apparent when you throw more genres at them. Anything that’s a little lighter on the number of instruments and vocal tracks like hip hop and r&b sounds great with the added oomph of bass. Throw something like classical music, however, and they lose the real depth of the string section in Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.6.
Skullcandy Indy ANC Noise Canceling True Wireless: App and special features
The Skullcandy app has a relatively simple set of sound options that let you pick from music, podcast and movie modes. Unfortunately, I struggled to tell the difference between them. It would have been great to get a greater level of customisation with a proper EQ.
You’ll also find sound personalization features courtesy of Audiodo technology, which takes you through a set of tones in each ear to measure and analyze your hearing and provide an optimized experience for you.
The secret sauce comes in finding your misplaced buds. Being especially clumsy, one of my worst nightmares is losing an earbud. With AirPods, Apple answered this with Find My Buds. But Skullcandy took a different route and actually has the upper hand with more universally compatible Tile features.
With location tracking and the option to ring your missing bud, my greatest fear is no more.
Skullcandy Indy ANC Noise Canceling True Wireless: Call quality and connectivity
Of course, sound quality is only half the story in making a great pair of true wireless earbuds. They need to be good at taking phone calls and easy to pair while maintaining a stable connection.
The latter of these, the Indy ANCs nails handily. Bluetooth 5 means pairing is easy and the connection is strong, stretching up to a 10-meter distance in my own testing before stuttering. Once paired, turning them on and reconnecting is seamless and takes just a few seconds.
And then there’s call quality, which, across my experience of previous generations of Indy buds, has always been their greatest weakness. Does that continue here? Unfortunately, yes.
The new models provide a marked improvement in how my voice comes through, as people could actually hear me, but two problems that have plagued Indys of old are still prevalent. The first, you sound like you’re underwater, making someone with a thick Nottingham accent like me difficult to understand sometimes. And second, the microphone picks up the slightest gust of wind like you’re watching the first five minutes of Twister.
Skullcandy Indy ANC Noise Canceling True Wireless: Verdict
So, all-in-all, the modest updates do make Skullcandy’s Indy ANC earbuds better than their previous iteration. But is that enough?
They’re comfortable to wear for longer stints, adding noise cancellation is warmly welcomed, and the sound quality is decent. But these wins are balanced out by underwhelming call quality, touch controls that can be frustrating at times, and average battery life.
That makes for quite a confusing purchasing decision, which depends on your main motivation for grabbing a pair of these earbuds. If you’re looking for solid all-rounders, you should start your search elsewhere. For the extra cash, you could pick up a pair of AirPods Pro or WH-1000xM3, which outperform these across the board.
But for those hunting for a decently priced mid-tier option, the Skullcandy’s first foray into noise cancelation is worth a look.
Jason brings a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a writer at Laptop Mag. He takes a particular interest in writing articles and creating videos about laptops, headphones and games. He has previously written for Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you'll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn't already.