Skullcandy Crusher Review
The sound of doom goes BOOM BOOM BOOM
How far would you go for your unbridled love of monster bass? If you're the type that bombs bass until your trunk rattles, then the Skullcandy Crusher (MSRP $99.99) might just be the right goody for you.
Let me be clear: Purists will hate these things. Yet just about everyone I handed them to agreed on one point: The Crusher is pretty fun, even if it is completely indelicate.
Design & Features
Cool and comfortable
The Crusher comes in red, black, and white. The flexible band and boxy ear cups are made of shiny plastic. Cushy synthetic ear pads line both cups. A 4.42-foot cable hosts a one-button remote and mic, so you can skip songs or take calls—but you can't control volume. Happily, the cable is detachable, so if yours gets crushed, you won't need to replace the whole rig.
Now, about that vibrating feature: Believe me when I tell you that the Crusher will literally rock your skull. How? With a battery-powered, secondary driver that transmits vibrations to the head, which we perceive as bass. I asked my neighbors if the vibrations bothered them—it didn't. Users can lessen the vibrating effect or completely shut it off by turning a wheel on the side of the ear cup.
Traveling listeners will appreciate the light, collapsible structure, the microfiber carry case, and the aforementioned mic/remote. As with most consumer headphones, low frequency sounds like laboring engines will break the Crusher's sound barrier easily, but high pitched irritants like chattering coworkers are effectively blocked. As for sound leakage, the Crusher barely spills a peep. Unless you're blasting your beats, your mothers will never hear your indecent tunes.
Finally, the Crusher may conjure the image of a merciless wrestler, but that doesn't mean it can't baby your ears. The over-ear form is quite nice, with soft pads that rest comfortably against the head and cups that pivot on movable joints. With extended use, comfort does suffer a little, since the pads touch the tops and backs of your ears. My biggest complaint is the size, though. Folks with smaller heads won't be able to find a snug fit, so definitely see if you can try the Crusher on before buying.
As clumsy as a clattering spoiler on a Honda Civic
Vibrating headphones aren't for everyone, but I love the adventurous approach. The headphone market could use a horse of a different color, frankly. Speaking technically, though, the sound quality here is mediocre, at best. I ran tests with the vibrating feature off, at half power, and at max—the results varied. Bear with me while I walk you through.
With the vibrating driver turned off, users get stuck with downright skeletal bass. Drum kicks, bassoons, and even deep vocal altos sound very quiet. The midrange comes through nicely, so that middle notes on every instrument in the book are appropriately loud. The uppermost notes on a variety of strings, percussion, and brass instruments are difficult to hear, but at least the very highest notes ring out loud and clear: James Brown is anything but subtle as he screams, "HOT PANTS!"
So what happens when you turn the vibrating bass all the way up? Volume increases noticeably in the bass range, and the sub bass absolutely blasts off the charts. This is bass you can feel. Dub step and drum kicks will literally rattle your brain. Mids and highs stay more or less the same as before, though, so you really lose some needed emphasis there. Overall, the vibrating bass makes for rather clumsy, indelicate sound—though some will argue it's just plain fun.
When it comes to balance, I'll just discuss the most prominent errors: Without the vibrating feature, sub-bass favors the left ear to a notable extent—so that low-down sounds are about twice as loud in the left ear as in the right. Turn the feature on full-steam and sub-bass evens out, but high notes become noticeably louder in the right ear. Any way you dice it, you're stuck with imbalanced left and right speakers—but nothing that serves as a real deal breaker.
Have you wondered this whole time whether vibrating headphones come with audible distortion? Yup, they do. Surprisingly, distortion is least offensive with the vibrating driver functioning at max power. If you want to minimize distortion, just turn that bass driver all the way up.
In manner of ill-fated moth...
The Skullcandy Crusher promises bass you can feel, and that's exactly what it delivers. With the bass driver turned to max, music certainly loses some of its texture; upper notes on guitars, flutes, and the like really get lost in the shuffle.
And there are other bones to pick, too. My medium-sized head is too small for the Crusher; distortion plagues the sub-bass range to an audible degree; imbalances in volume occur between the left and right speakers at times. Worst of all, much better sound quality can be found for the same $100-dollar price.
Yet somehow I'm still drawn to the Crusher, like a doomed moth to an electrical Flowtron... I know for a fact that my teen brother would go nuts for these things, and they do lend an exciting, concert-like sensation to bassy music. As I ruefully stare at the Skullcandy Crusher's mediocre test results, I'm reminded of my mother and her militant curfews. Looking back, she was right to want me home past midnight. Yet that never stopped me from breaking into the neighborhood pool at 2 a.m., which was always a total, ill-advised blast.
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