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Skullcandy Barrel review: Specifications, Design, Build, Sound and Performance

The Skullcandy Barrel Bluetooth speaker promises to deliver room-filling sound at an affordable price, boasting features like 60-watt power, stereo sound, and physical controls. Priced at $180, it competes with other boombox-style speakers in the market. In this review, we delve into its design, functionality, sound quality, and overall performance.

Design and Build

The Skullcandy Barrel features a distinctive barrel-shaped design with bright orange side-firing passive woofers, giving it a unique aesthetic appeal. Available in black and Bone colors, its sturdy plastic construction ensures durability. The inclusion of a sturdy shoulder strap with metal carabiners adds to its portability, despite its 12-pound weight. The IPX5 rating provides splash resistance, suitable for outdoor use.

At a substantial 12 pounds, the 12-inch by 22-inch by 10-inch boombox isn’t exactly made for shoving in a backpack for camping trips or bike rides to the park. And that’s just fine, there are dozens of compact portable Bluetooth speakers out there for that. But considering the Barrel’s girth, it’s actually pretty portable if you don’t plan on carrying it too far (from the car to the pool party is perfect) thanks to its strong nylon strap that can be slung over your shoulder. The strap is securely fastened with high-quality metal carabiners, and my eagle-eyed colleague Simon Cohen pointed out that the buckle doubles as a bottle opener!

The last design feature to mention is the Barrel’s IPX5 rating, which means that the speaker isn’t waterproof (so don’t drop it in the pool), but it will withstand splashes and rain should a storm roll in during your party. Oh, and the “X” in the IP rating means that it hasn’t received a rating for dust resistance, so you should probably keep it out of the sand on the beach to err on the safe side.

The Barrel features a mediocre 12-hour battery (compared to the StormBox’s 30 hours and the Boom Plus’s 20 hours), but I don’t imagine many people will be lugging this big boy too far from an outlet. Sadly, however, the included AC adapter is big and the speaker doesn’t support charging with a USB cable.

Specifications

FeatureDetails
Sound QualityGreat sound quality for price
Power60 watts
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.3
InputsAux input, USB-A, USB-C
ControlsPhysical buttons
Battery LifeUp to 12 hours
IP RatingIPX5 (splash-resistant)
Weight12 pounds
Dimensions12″ x 22″ x 10″

Pros

  1. Great sound quality for the price.
  2. Powerful 60-watt output.
  3. Stereo sound enhances audio experience.
  4. Aux input allows for versatile connectivity.
  5. Physical controls offer convenient operation.

Cons

  1. Lacks a companion app for additional control.
  2. Bass boost feature could be more pronounced.
  3. LED lightshow may not appeal to everyone.

Buttons and Controls

The top surface of the speaker hosts various physical buttons for easy control. The LED light-change button adds a fun element with its music-synced pulsing patterns. Bluetooth pairing is effortless with the dedicated button, while volume and track controls offer multifunctionality. However, the absence of a companion app limits customization option.

Starting from the left, you have the LED light-change button, which changes of the colors and patterns of the light strip running across the front top of the speaker. Although a bit basic, the “light show” adds a bit of fun with its music-synced pulsing and movement that brings a bit of Cylon or K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider charm.

The Bluetooth button is next, and it gets the speaker easily paired by holding it down for a couple of seconds. The volume-down and volume-up buttons double as next/previous rack buttons when held down (in my test, though, this didn’t work with the Qobuz desktop app). And when you hold them both down together, a voice prompt lets you know the battery percentage (it’s also indicated by the four LED dots above the line of buttons).

The all-important play button not only pauses/plays when pressed, but activates the Barrel’s bass boost (and stays lit) when held. More on the bass boost in the performance section below.

The last button on the right is for power, which also activates the true wireless stereo (TWS) pairing for connecting another Barrel as a stereo pair. Holding the “play” and “+” buttons simultaneously lets you connect up to 99 other Skullcandy speakers (not in stereo) via the SKDY Multi-link feature. I was only sent a single Barrel, so I wasn’t able to try either of those features out.

Skullcandy does not support any of its speakers with a companion app, which means there’s no additional control over features like EQ, the LEDs, or connectivity. But honestly, while some EQ control would have been nice when using apps like Qobuz and Tidal that don’t have any built-in, I liked being able to control many of the Barrel’s functions on the device itself.

Inputs and Connectivity

The rear panel houses power input, USB ports, and a 3.5mm Aux-in, providing flexibility in connection options. Bluetooth 5.3 ensures stable wireless connectivity with a range of up to 10 meters. While the USB ports support device charging and audio input, there may be occasional issues with prioritizing connections.

Sound and Performance

Despite its 60-watt power, the Skullcandy Barrel delivers impressive sound quality, with clear highs and punchy bass. The Bass Boost feature enhances low-end frequencies, though it could be more pronounced. Regardless, the speaker maintains clarity even at high volumes, making it suitable for various music genres. With no need for extensive EQ tweaking, it offers a well-balanced sound signature out of the box.

For most of my testing, I ran Spotify through either my Bluetooth-connected iPhone or the Spotify desktop app from my laptop, with no EQ settings applied. I also connected my iPhone to the Barrel’s Aux input with a lightning-to-3.5mm adapter and played tracks from Qobuz, with good results across the board.

Starting with the bass test, I can report that the Barrel has it where it counts with big, punchy, and well-controlled low end across all kinds of music styles. I will point out here that the Barrel’s “Bass Boost” should just be activated at all times. Without it, everything sounds much less full. Unless you hate bass, just turn it on and leave it alone.

Conclusion

The Skullcandy Barrel Bluetooth speaker stands out for its affordability, robust design, and commendable sound performance. While lacking in certain features like a companion app and a more powerful bass boost, it excels in delivering room-filling sound suitable for both indoor and outdoor settings. Overall, it’s a compelling option for those seeking a portable boombox without breaking the bank.

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