Skullcandy Crusher ANC 2 headphones review

In a world where audio companies take themselves a bit too seriously, it’s nice that a company like Skullcandy manages to mix things up with a bit of playfulness. The company started out in the ski town of Park City, Utah, focusing on the outdoor action sports market. A bit of that backcountry adventurousness carries over to the Crusher ANC 2 headphones, a device with a patented punch that almost makes it feel like a subwoofer is placed atop your head. Does this bass impact deliver more than a gimmick? Read on to find out!

Inside the cardboard box you get a reasonably compact travel case, its size dictated by the way the headphones tuck in to “hug” each other to take up less surface area when being transported. There’s a USB-C charging cable, the usual paper paraphernalia encouraging you to visit the website for more detailed instructions, and an auxiliary cable for use with 3.5mm audio output. Let me, yet again, applaud those manufacturers that still keep this feature alive, as there are a number of times when simply being able to plugin rather than going wireless is a boon.

Bluetooth pairing is a breeze, and while it took a bit to find the right app to download from the Google Play store, when installed everything was easily configured. Several devices I have tested have a “personal sound” mode, where a custom EQ is based on a short hearing test, but none seem to be as effective as the implementation done here in partnership with Mimi. After a few minutes the sound was dialed into personal taste, much easier than tweaking an EQ if that’s your usual mode.

The sides of the headphone have a slew of buttons. At first this is a bit overwhelming, but I soon appreciated being able to quickly adjust a specific parameter without having to memorize a convoluted sequence of multi-push or long-push like on other models.

At 332g these aren’t the lightest of headphones, but even after a few hours they were reasonably comfortable to wear. The pressure of the pads against my ears wasn’t too egregious, and the pads are comfortable enough and provide a decent amount of passive noise cancellation all on their own.

What definitely sets these headphones apart is the built-in transducer that Skullcandy calls its “crusher”. Unlike other bass-heavy products that can’t be easily tuned, there’s a rotary dial that allows you to tweak this augmented bass to your own satisfaction, particularly useful when going between different tracks with different levels of low-frequency information. Rather than simply an EQ boost, this is the equivalent of a bass-shaker that you see in some cinemas, essentially a vibrating driver that gives even more a sense of deep bass and quite literally vibrating your head in time with the music.

Yes, at 100pct the crusher is nothing short of obnoxious, and it’s a far cry from anything you’d call “neutral” in terms of general sound signature. Still, I can’t argue that it’s a lot of fun to throw on a track from Hans Zimmer with his preposterously low drum sounds, or my go-to test record, Peter Gabriel’s Up album, with its mix of synthesized and acoustic bass sounds. Throwing on some 808-heavy tracks was also fun, even for old mixes from likes of Run-DMC.

After the novelty wore off there was still a benefit to dialing in a bit of that boom, and by clicking the dial you can quickly set it to 20%/40%/60%/80%, rather than rolling back and forth constantly.

While big bass is the driving factor here, the regular drivers do a decent, if slightly uninspired, job of presenting tracks. The soundstage is average, and it’s extremely easy to have the mid-range drowned out when the crusher mode is overwhelming just about everything. Out of the box neutrality leaves a bit to be desired, but thanks to its robust modes of equalization you can dial back in some of those more anemic frequencies, aiming for a more satisfactory sound.

Turning on Noise Cancellation does give a bit of that “sucking” feeling in your ears that some models, particularly over-the-ears, are sometimes known for. The frequency response also changes notably, so I’d recommend disabling ANC if you’re listening in more quiet environments to get the most out of this model. In noisy environments, such as planes, the job was adequate, but even at high volume there was still quite a bit of external noise leaking through in frequencies that could be distracting such as crying babies and the like.

I’ve got to say, I had little hope that these “crusher” headphones would be anything more than a cheap gimmick, but I admit I had quite a lot of fun finding tracks to really test out the big-bottom bass. I’m not sure these would suit as your only pair, given that when critical listening is required they don’t do a particularly good job of sticking with what’s on the original mix. Still, for most people, especially those on the go or using them as part of a gaming rig, there’s plenty here to recommend beyond the novelty of its bass performance. Thanks to its ample external controls, its rich modes of customization, and its comfortable fit, these are absolutely a pair of unique headphones worth giving a listen, and they just might make your favourite tunes a lot more fun than the duller models on offer from the competition.

Shop the Skullcandy Crusher ANC 2 headphones at Best Buy Canada.

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