Fashion earbuds are the latest trend in the headphone market, and we're not unhappy about it. Of course, it helps if the hot-looking listening devices also provide good sound quality. Skullcandy brand headphones are certainly made with style in mind, but the company's iPhone FMJ earphones don't have us convinced on the substance. These earbuds definitely look cool, and the sound quality is passable, but still not quite what we expect from an $80 pair. On the plus side, call quality is solid, so if you're not a stickler for musical audio excellence and just want something that does its job across the board, the iPhone FMJ does the trick.
The design of the Skullcandy iPhone FMJ earphones is both stylish and functional, so let's start with the fun stuff. Our test sample came in shiny chrome, and that color designation applies to everything, save the gold-plated straight plug at the end. The nice and thick 41-inch cable is shiny silver, as are the various accents up and down the cable and the earbuds themselves. The chrome-like coloring is definitely eye-catching, but no less cool are the teeny, tiny skulls that are etched into the end and around the edges of each earpiece. The iPhone FMJ is also available in black and silver, which seems like a dupe, but that version actually features brushed metal earpieces. All of the models have the little skull artwork, but it's really difficult to see on the silver set.
Now, the iPhone FMJ earphones may look super stylin', but a prospective buyer should know that they may not be comfortable for all users. The earpieces have rather large apertures, which can put pressure on the cartilage of small-eared users. Skullcandy does include some various fittings--two sets of foam and one set of silicone--to help with a secure and comfy fit, and the foam variety helps somewhat with the discomfort. You also get a hard-shelled, zippered carrying case for storing the 'phones. While you are using them, you can take advantage of the inline mic and call button for taking and ending calls. In testing, we found that call quality was quite good. (Note that these earphones will not work with standard MP3 players because of the third audio band on the plug that is necessary for the mic-in function.)
Audio quality, on the other hand, was mixed. Acoustic and folk rock sounded quite good, with nice, shimmery guitars. High-end clarity was generally very good, though a lot of hard rock sounded muddled, and new wave came across overly bright. Mids were solid in some cases, but seemed deficient in others. Richness and warmth were similarly on and off, depending on individual songs--we couldn't even narrow it down to certain genres. At first, we found bass to be lacking, but upon switching to the foam ear fittings and achieving a proper seal with the ear, the low-end perked up. In the end, we found the quality to be passable in most cases, and either subpar or great in others.