Skullcandy’s latest bass-shaking Crusher headphones come equipped with ANC – but they’re not without their faults
- Sensory bass is great fun
- Personalised sound profiles
- ANC is poor
- Unbalanced sound
- Touch sensitivity is over-sensitive
Skullcandy has always held a reputation in the headphone world for being one of the more stylish brands on the market. With its Crusher ANC headphones, however, the Utah-based company aims to combine style with substance, adding noise cancellation to a great looking product.
This isn’t the first Skullcandy Crusher – there have been two models before this one – but this is the first with ANC (active noise cancelling). But does ANC make sense in a bass-heavy pair of headphones like this?
Skullcandy Crusher ANC headphones review: What you need to know
The Skullcandy Crusher ANC headphones are over the ear wireless headphones and, as with so many on the market, they come with Bluetooth connectivity and that new active noise cancelling feature.
But these are wireless ANC headphones with a twist. The Skullcandy app allows you to build a Personal Sound profile and upload it to the headphones, equalising the sound across your left and right ear and applying an EQ depending on the sensitivity of your ears across the frequency spectrum.
There’s also Tile Bluetooth-based location tracking, to help you track down the headphones if you lose them or they’re stolen. Plus, they also include a feature called “sensory” bass. Effectively, this amplifies, for want of a better phrase, “regular” bass by activating vibrating motors in each ear cups, creating a physical sensation as well as an auditory one.
Skullcandy Crusher ANC headphones review: Price and competition
The Skullcandy Crusher ANC headphones retail at £250 which is pretty standard for a pair of premium active noise-cancelling headphones like this. If it’s Skullcandy you’re looking for specifically, the Venue has ANC technology and sell for £150. The Crusher Wireless Immersive Bass Headphones don’t have ANC but do have Adjustable Sensory Bass. These are £140.
If you have this sort of money to spend, however, you’re better off looking at the Bose QuietComfort 35 II and also the Sony WH-1000XM3, which are both among the best wireless ANC headphones we’ve tested. At a slightly higher price of £259, the Beats Solo Pro are another choice if you don’t mind on-ear headphones.
Skullcandy Crusher ANC headphones review: Design and features
The Skullcandy Crusher ANC headphones are available in a variety of different colours: black, black and tan, and a deep burgundy colour. They’re more Beats than Bowers & Wilkins in design and they feel a little Beats-esque when it comes to build quality. The headband and earcups are clad entirely in smooth plastic, all in the same colour.
They don’t feel particularly cheap, though – the headband is steel reinforced – and the colours are pretty muted in comparison to some of the bright purple and wavy green efforts that Skullcandy has graced us with in the past.
The headphones are mostly straightforward to use as well, with buttons that are large and easy to identify by feel. There’s no confusing the power from the volume buttons on the right ear cup since the power button is concave and the volume buttons are convex. The slider to adjust the sensory bass setting – on the left ear cup – is easy to adjust and isn’t knocked out of position easily either.
So far so good. What I don’t like, however, is the touch-sensitive control on the left earcup. By holding your hand over the cup, you can toggle between the ANC mode and Ambient mode, which turns off ANC and pipes through audio from the outside world using the headphones’ microphones. The problem is that this control is over sensitive and far too easy to activate by mistake; a simple button would have sufficed.
Aside from that one issue though, I’m a fan of the design. They look good without being garish, they’re easy to use and comfortable, too. They don’t clamp too tightly around your head and the fake leather pads feel soft and forgiving.
Skullcandy Crusher ANC headphones review: Sound quality, noise cancellation and battery
It’s perhaps no surprise that the Skullcandy Crusher ANC are most at home with bass-heavy music. The experience of listening to hip-hop and electronic music, in particular, is really accentuated by a thick, heavy low end. The Sensory Bass only heightens this experience, and live recordings feel seismic through the Crusher ANCs.
Sensory is an apt adjective too: with sensory bass turned on, the Crusher ANCs turn listening to music into feeling it. The bass rumbles through the ear cups as it would through the subwoofer in a speaker set-up and even leaving the sensory bass down to pretty minimal levels can give a kick drum a bit more whack. The bass slider adds a lot of fun to your listening experience; it can be irritating having to toggle it up and down depending on the song you’re listening to, though, as it doesn’t suit all types of music.
The Crusher ANCs are not built for music lovers seeking the ultimate listening experience but the SkullCandy app does allow you to tailor your listening experience depending on your hearing.
Perhaps even more impressive than the Sensory Bass features is the ability to tune the headphones, semi-automatically to your own hearing. Install the accompanying app and you’re invited to undergo a simple hearing test; the app firing out beeps at different pitches and volumes for both left and right ears and asks which you can hear. Then it tweaks the EQ accordingly. This dramatically improves the balance of the bass, mids and trebles that you hear; it’s well worth doing before you start as it really does improve the audio quality.
Even with the sound personalised, however, the overall sound quality is not as good as you’ll hear, say, with the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. The mids and trebles of the Crusher ANCs are nowhere near as spacious and music can sound flat if it isn’t overflowing with bass. If you’re a perfectionist trying to hear the music as it was intended, these are not the headphones for you. The low-end sounds exciting but it does get a touch messy with the sensory slider turned up.
Likewise, the noise-cancelling is another aspect that sounds better on paper than in practice. There’s an audible hiss once you enable the feature and the headphones don’t block out as much background chatter as rivals in the same price bracket. The wind can also affect the ANC at times — there’s a strange kind of feedback on a gusty day when the headphones’ microphones pick up the wind — which is a slight annoyance.
There are many things I like about the Skullcandy Crusher ANC headphones. They’re comfortable, user-friendly and the sensory bass makes them fun to listen to. The sound quality itself is fine for the most part and if you’re into bass-heavy music or mobile gaming these headphones can transform your listening experience.
If you’re looking for something a little less earth-shaking, a little more Hi-Fi, however, it’s perhaps best to look elsewhere, and with less than impressive ANC, they lag behind the best in this price bracket. These might be worth a look if for those who truly love your their bass, but most people will be better off opting for the Sony WH-1000XM3 or the Bose QuietComfort 35 II – they’re better all-rounders.