The FMJ has long been Skullcandy’s top-of-the-line in-ear headphone. Once offered in two sizes, the FMJs are now sold only in the larger 11mm size ($70 per pair). The bigger FMJs produce a big, bold and at times spectacular sound—almost to a fault. In short, the FMJs are exciting, but perhaps not as accurate as Skullcandy’s less expensive Titans.
Compared to Skullcandy’s less costly Titan earbuds ($50 per pair, also reviewed in this issue), the FMJ 11mm’s presentation provides clean and powerful though somewhat overemphasized bass, slightly too prominent highs, and somewhat recessed or withdrawn middle frequencies. While the FMJ’s tonal balance is more accurate than that of many earbuds I’ve heard, the fact is that it is not quite as accurate as the lower-priced Titan. Over-all, however, the FMJs offer arguably more energetic dynamics than the Titans and a good measure of detail—detail that would be even easier to appreciate if the earphone’s bass, mids, and highs were a little more evenly balanced.
To appreciate the FMJ’s strengths, try firing up “Shake Everything You Got” from Maceo Parker’s Roots and Grooves [Live] [Heads Up], a track that features razorsharp slap bass licks, sizzling percussion, and a horn section to die for. The FMJ’s really click on this material because their bass thwack does full justice to the slap bass, their highs show off the intricacy and power of the percussion, and the horns have enough oomph to cut through the mix in spite of the FMJ’s midrange reticence. But on tracks that feature female vocals, such as “How Do You Stop” from Joni Mitchell’s Turbulent Indigo [Warner Bros./WEA], you may find— as I did—that the upper register of the singer’s voice sounds more prominent than the middle and lower register does.
The metal-jacketed FMJs weigh the same as Skullcandy’s Titans, though subjectively they seem a bit heavier. I had no problem achieving a good seal with the standard eartips.
The FMJs are the second least expensive earbuds in our survey, and as such they offer very good value for money. Their strengths are their dynamic punch, good levels of detail, hearty bass and crisp highs. If you listen mostly in quiet environments, then you might find that Skullcandy’s new Titan would be the more natural-sounding choice, but for noisy environments the FMJ’s voicing has enough extra bass and treble to cut through the sonic haze in a pleasing way.