Skullcandy has been a lifestyle brand with a focus on modernizing audio products for a long time now. In stores, I mostly saw their huge range of earbuds, headphones, ... A big part of them were meant for low budget consumers. Since some time ago I realized at IFA 2016 that Skullcandy actually has some great higher end products. Also their portable speakers are getting more and more popular. Today we received SkullCandy's Barricade XL speaker which is water resistant as well as shockproof.
Packaging, Design & Features
The speaker is well packaged and comes with the usual quick manual, warranty information and an USB to micro-USB cable. We're still waiting for companies to include AUX cables as a norm.
Skullcandy's Barricade series have three variations, this one is biggest version (Obviously indicated by the XL sign). All three speakers are waterproof and rugged, the only difference is the power output which is essentially twice the power of one regular Barricade as it packs not one, but two 10 Watt drivers for some stereo audio experience.
The speaker is available in black or grey with yellow accents. It's a quite bulky design and has a comparable shape to a cube, but slightly longer on the ends. Which is pretty much the opposite of for example the more flat Creative Roar series or elongated speakers from JBL, KEF, Bose, ... Making the speaker very solid and stable on multiple standing positions, but makes it more difficult to carry in flat backpacks and such. Skullcandy did however include a carrying tag to easily attach the speaker on things you carry with you.
Robust, that's what came to mind when we took our first look at the speaker. All sides are covered in a thick layer of rubber, except for the front which has a grill protecting the insides with additional waterproof cloth beneath it. This speaker can take a punch like no bluetooth speaker I saw before. The rubber seems to allow scratches, grease spots, ... pretty easily, our sample even had some scratches on it out of box. On the back there's a passive bass radiator protected by a plate of rubber, but there are some fissures to leave the pressure. In terms of weight, it's quite heavy compared to some other speakers. The case is said to have an IPX7 rating, which means it can be inserted one meter under water for up to 30 minutes. With the buoyant design, it's the perfect speaker to use around the swimming pool. Note: I found out that after exposure to a lot of water or a coninuous exposure to splashes, the cloth behind the grill gets so wet that it actually allows water to get behind it, resulting in a muted sound and light cracks (slowly moving wet cloth) on bass tracks.
The forces at work in buoyancy. Note that the object is floating because the upward force of buoyancy is equal to the downward force of gravity.
On the top ponel, there are some controls including an option to pair two of these speakers and the speakerphone function; Volume, skip and pause controls are also found there. Going a bit to the side, you'll find the power button on the corner of the speaker which can also be used to check the battery by pressing it shortly. An animated battery with 3 LEDs shows the battery level. On the side, there are a few connectors; USB, micro-USB, AUX in and AUX out. We're a little dissapointed as there's no option to charge the speaker using an adapter straight from the wall, which results in longer charge times. A snap-shut cover protects the panel with connections against water impact.
The design allows the listener to use speaker firing audio in forward position or in upfiring direction by tilting the speaker on it's back.
Performance & Battery
Skullcandy's Barricade XL has a very deep sound signature producing a noticable bass boost in sub-bass tracks. There's a noticable bass presence even on lower volumes. On max volume we heard a little distortion, we also found that the speaker is much more stable upfiring than frontfiring. Not only because the speaker's bass is more centered, but also because the material seems to have more grip on the surface this way. For its size, the speaker is able to deliver a laudable, deep and warm sound which easily fills a room. The internal passive radiator helps creating a well-marked sense of bass depth. It's not as loud as few speakers in the same price range like for example the creative Roar series and JBL charge 3, but it's quite close.
In some bluetooth speakers with over extended bass response, we get a muddy sound, forgetting about high-mids and totally abandoning clarity profiles. This speaker does not desert these audio standards with firm high-mid sound profiles to back the bass boosted profile. This way clear vocals and subtle guitar strums remain like they were meant to be played. The delineation of the sound signature is balanced and left a good impression in our opinion. Due to the bass presence, the speaker has a pretty spacious sound, more powerful than most of its size, but the loudness is also limited because much of the power output goes to the lower frequencies. The depth of the casing does leave a warm, spacious sound.
The sound profile is meanly meant for bass lovers, which is mostly appreciated by younger people. Classical music lovers won't appreciate the bassy undertone as much as people who listen modern pop, hip hop, rock, and electronic music.
In terms of battery life, Skullcandy states that the speaker can play for 10 hours without problem, depending on your volume settings. We used the speaker fully charged at a moderate volume setting of ~70% and we were able to play for just over 9 hours of music non-stop. This is decent for a speaker in this price/performance category.
Overall this speakers packs a punch for the price. With its impactproof casing that can take a punch and is resistant to water, it's easy for users to take it elsewhere in every kind of environment. The military grade strap provides options for carrying it arround how you like it the most. The shape however, makes it a difficult product to carry around in somewhat flatter backpacks. Used rubber is pretty easily scratched and greased, but delivers great reduction on impact.
We'd love to see other options to charge the speaker faster than just the micro-USB port. The battery itself has a decent playback time, allowing the user to play music over 9 hours on decent volume settings.
The delineation of the sound signature is balanced and left a good impression in our opinion. Due to the bass presence, the speaker has a pretty spacious sound, more powerful than most of its size, but the loudness is also limited because much of the power output goes to the lower frequencies. Few speakers in the same price category seem to be louder than this speaker. The depth of the casing helps resonate the audio output giving a warm sound output. The main target audience is youth who listen to modern pop, hip hop, rock and electronic music with a bassy undertone.
A well earned Silver Award for the Skullcandy barricade XL.
More Information about our awards and High resolution versions can be found here