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Are you a low-end junkie? Do you normally turn down the treble and crank up the bass in your car? Is your favorite iPod EQ setting “Bass Boost?” If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions then you’ll want to check out the Skullcrusher headphones by Skullcandy.
The genius behind these headphones is a company well known to snow and skateboarders called Skullcandy. The Park City, Utah based company makes everything from helmets and backpacks to MP3 players and DJ headphones like the Skullcrushers. Knowing one’s target audience is critical to the success of a business and SkullCandy has this down cold. All of their products feature enhancements specifically tailored to the active audio lover. For example, Skullcandy’s helmets even have built-in headphones.
All About The Bass
What makes the Skullcrushers unique is not its innovative folding design. Not even its comfortable leatherette ear-caps that nearly seal the outer ear from ambient noise. It’s the BASS!
Skullcandy takes a different approach to standard audio equipment, such as headphones. Their Skullcrushers headphones can produce a powerful thumping bass normally reserved for high-end car audio systems.
Attached to the headphone wire is a small amplifier that powers and processes a bass subwoofer inside the headphones. Yes, there is a subwoofer inside these headphones! Housed within each headphone cup are two 30mm speakers: primary and bass drivers. The amplifier powers a basic crossover that gives the subwoofer gets its “oomph.”
Comfort, Fit & Construction
The Skullcrusher has a distinctive folding design in which the ear cups flip up and inward toward the headband. This allows for compact storage with the included pouch, an accessory its competitors similarly include. Consumers are demanding more comfortable headphones; as poor fit can simply ruin the listening experience of a morning commute. The ear cups pivot slightly for added comfort and are secured by a wide, adjustable headband.
Audiophiles seeking a headphone substitute for drowning out the noise of public transportation will take solace in the Skullcrushers. These headphones make the need for noise-canceling headphones moot. An adequate amount of insulation blocks most ambient noise. Consequently, this degree of sound insulation also inhibits the ‘breathing’ of the ear cups, which are likely to cause to one’s ears to overheat. This is a common complaint among ear cup style headphones and really comes down to your personal preference. Additionally a thin layer of foam padding guards each headphone speaker grille so the plastic speaker wall does not chafe the ear.
True audio nerds will take delight in learning that the driver magnets are constructed of neodymium, a rare earth metal (Atomic Symbol: Nd) also found in the standard iPod and other high-end headphones.
Overall, the Skullcrusher is a sturdy set of headphones and has several nice touches including gold plated connectors that compliment the thoughtful details throughout. Depending upon individual bass tolerance, the user will want to take breaks from the thumping bass and the ear heating aspect.
For my tests, I connected the Skullcrushers headphones to an iPod and, separately, to an Apple PowerMac G4. Admittedly, I was initially skeptical of the vibrating subwoofer feature as something of a marketing ploy. But when the amplifier is turned on, the sound is nothing short of wonderful. My ears were treated to new frequencies from familiar songs I had never heard until I tried these headphones. It’s actually worth listening to your library again with the Skullcrusher just to sample what you have been missing.
It’s a different story when the amplifier is turned off, however; sound becomes ‘tinny’ and muted. It’s a marvel how so much better sound is produced from headphones with a single AA battery attached. It’s amusing to see your friends’ reactions when you serve up more bass once they try on the Skullcrusher.
I played The Crystal Method‘s Legion Of Boom and Tweekend albums to evaluate electronica. I also played Foo Fighters‘ One By One to sample hard rock with the Skullcrushers. For the gaming test, I played a few rounds of Unreal Tournament.
My music listening experience shows that the amplifier performs well at boosting kick drums and bass guitar. Not every percussion instrument is boosted. Snare drums in particular do not cause the subwoofer to vibrate. While the vibration is certainly innovative, I had to take an aspirin after nearly 20 minutes. Turning down the vibration seemed to help.
Given the profound difference in sound with and without the bass amplification, it seems the speakers must be somewhat responsible for the difference. Remember the two drivers? The primary seems to focus on high frequencies, hence the ‘tin can’ sound when amplification is turned off. So the amplifier must contain a crossover, which makes the bass driver seem responsible for the lifelike sound when the feature is turned on.
Pros & Cons
The good and bad of Skullcandy’s Skullcrushers headphones.
- Ideal for bass heavy music like hip-hop, electronic/trance
- Excellent for gaming (if you can handle it)
- Ear cups nearly isolate the outer ear from ambient noise
- Not ideal for heavy metal or rock music listening
- ‘Tinny’ when amplifier is off
- No independent volume control switch on amplifier
The retail price of $90 seems rather steep for headphones sold by a company without a legacy of producing signature audio products. In other words, Sennheisers they ain’t. But for an innovative product, Skullcandy’s Skullcrushers give a generous boost to bass frequencies, which is atypical of comparable headphones.
I recommend the Skullcrushers as an additional pair of headphone for gaming and playing bass heavy music. While the headphones are comfortable enough for everyday use, the vibration can be overwhelming for some people at full setting. It all depends on how much you love bass.
Nary a word has yet been mentioned in this review about the gaming experience with the Skullcrushers. This is a subjective area where some users will not appreciate any perceived sound quality. In my opinion, these headphones perform well at frag games like Unreal Tournament, where explosion sounds are rife. This is the only gaming arena in which these bass blastin’ headphones have audio utility. Again, be prepared to turn down the vibration while playing games. Otherwise you may find yourself dizzy once you’ve been fragged.
The Skullcrushers headphones are a worthy attempt at producing the home theater experience in headphones and at a reasonable price. If you love bass, then get a pair of headphones with a built-in subwoofer like the Skullcrushers. They will literally pump the bass into your skull until you drool.
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