Skullcandy brings the boom with its $99.99 Crusher headphones. Outfitted with the company's Sensation55 driver technology, which causes the cans to literally vibrate, it feels like you're walking around with a large subwoofer on your head. But the skull rattling serves a greater purpose, adding even more oomph to an already deep bass signature. Read on to discover if the Crushers are pass or play.
Plastic, plastic and more plastic is what you can expect when you pick a pair of the Crushers. It looks a tad cheap at first glance, but Skullcandy classes up the presentation with small flourishes, such as tiny decorative skulls and fancy stitching. The top of the headband is made of a matte, white plastic with Skullcandy spelled out in glossy white lettering, while the underside is matte black.
Like many headphones on the market, the Crushers' earcups fold inward, creating a compact shape that's easier to toss into the included cloth bag. The headphones are available in black, white and red. For an additional $10, users with more exotic tastes can check out the snakeskin and Realtree Camo variants.
The Crushers' durability impressed us. After we twisted the band and almost bent it backwards, it snapped right back into shape.
The matte white material from the headband extends down to the earcups, which are made of a glossy white plastic. A small metallic skull is located at each end of the headband where it connects to the earcup. The band is slightly articulated, which lets you twist the cups to ensure a more comfortable fit.
The ear pads are made of foam and covered by black faux leather, accented with handsome white stitching. To accommodate the amount of bass the headphones can kick out, Skullcandy outfitted the bottom part of both cups with a bass port. The left earcup also holds the audio cable jack and a slider to adjust the bass sensation feature. A hidden switch on the right cup lets the user remove the ear pad to access the battery compartment.
The Crushers ship with a 50-inch audio cord that has a built-in mic and line-in remote. The large plastic remote consists of a single black button emblazoned with the company's trademark skull. You can use the button to answer or ignore calls and play or pause music tracks. The remote works effortlessly with Android, iOS and Windows phone devices.
When we first donned the Crushers, we felt an uncomfortable pressure around the top of the earcups, which was mostly alleviated by adjusting the extenders on either side of the band. Once we found a comfortable position, the headphones' cushy synthetic-leather-wrapped padding surrounded our ears in pillowy softness. We wore the headphones non-stop for two hours with only a little discomfort along the tops of our ears.
The Crushers weigh 8.35 ounces, compared to the 13.75-ounce Razer Kraken Forged Edition. Keep in mind, though, that the Skullcandy headphones are made of plastic, while the Razers are constructed from aircraft-grade aluminum.
Skullcandy outfitted the Crushers with the Sensation55 driver to create "bass you can feel." Powered by a single AA battery, the driver technology attempts to imitate the rumble of a large subwoofer by generating vibrations to correspond with the low end of a track. A built-in amplifier adds even more oomph to your audio.
Initially, the Crushers' vibration-accompanied bass was disconcerting. That feeling melted away after one song; from then on, it felt like standing near a large woofer in a club — powerful and weirdly pleasant. If it's too much for you, though, you can dial down the intensity of the rumble effect using the slider on the left ear cup.
In addition to the Sensation55 driver, the Crushers have a pair of custom-designed, 40mm neodymium drivers called the REX40. While the Sensation55 driver accentuates the bass, the REX40 delivers the actual highs, mids and lows.
For our tests, we used the headphones with our Nokia Lumia 928 and Xbox Music. Without engaging the bass slider, the headphones offered clear highs and mids. The violins on the opening bars of Frank Ocean's "Thinkin' 'Bout You" sounded full and gorgeous, as did the singer's haunting falsetto. However, the headphones weren't as loud as we would have expected. When we listened to Ludacris' "Slap," the normally searing electric guitar sounded distant, as did the plinking of piano keys.
We were pleasantly surprised to find that the cans don't overwhelm the track with copious amounts of bass. The low register is definitely tuned louder than the highs or mid-range, but the headphones don't distort songs in favor of the low-end at higher volumes. We heard deep bass on both of our test tracks.
By comparison, the Razer Kraken Forged Edition headphones, which cost three times as much, were louder but not as clear as the Crusher headphones. Listening to the "Slap" track on the Krakens, we could barely hear the snare drums, while the Crushers delivered muddy, yet audible snare sound. The organ from "Thinkin' 'Bout You" was also more detailed on the Skullcandy headphones.
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If you value clear audio, we don't recommend listening to the Crusher with the bass slider set to maximum. The skull-rattling vibration is intense, but not unpleasant. However, the added bass immediately swamps the track. The electric guitar on "Slap" didn't stand a chance against the thumptastic bass, leaving a garbled sonic mess in its wake. With the bass slider on the Crusher set to 100 percent, the Krakens delivered the cleaner soundscape.
We next set the Crusher's bass slider at 50 percent, and while we still felt the vibrations, our test tracks sounded warmer and fuller. The violin opening on "Thinkin' 'Bout You" was robust, and though the bass sometimes threatened to overwhelm, this setting was the Crushers' sweet spot.
Overall, we like the Sensation55 drivers and their tactile audio effect. The additional bass does fill out audio that would otherwise sound hollow. However, we recommend keeping the slider at half strength for the optimal effect.
During our testing, we made a few calls to cell phones and landlines with the Skullcandy Crushers, and the calls were loud and clear on both ends. People looking to add some bass to their phone conversations will be disappointed to learn that the effect is disabled when answering a call.
A single AA battery powers the Crushers' built-in amplifier and bass effects, and this battery should last about 40 hours. We used the headphones consistently over the course of a weekend with the slider at 50 percent, and the cans thumped along with no signs of stopping.
In the interest of preserving battery life, the company added a smart circuit that cuts off the bass effect when a music source isn't detected, or if the audio cable is removed from a smartphone or computer. Since the battery only powers the bass effect, listeners can keep rocking even when the battery dies.
It would be easy to write off the $99 Skullcandy Crusher headphones as a gimmick. However, for a reasonable price, music lovers get headphones with a durable, storable frame, and loud, surprisingly well-defined sound. While it may be off-putting for some, the bass effect adds a tactile dynamic to audio that's unexpectedly satisfying. While they're not the prettiest cans on the block, the Crushers are a solid choice for music lovers looking for affordable headphones with an enhanced listening-experience.
Accessories Type: Over-Ear Headphones
Battery Type/Life: AA battery/40 hours
Weight: 8.35 ounces
Company Website: www.skullcandy.com
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