Skullcandy’s claim to fame has been its bass-forward headphones offered at a relatively affordable price point. While the former point still holds true with the new Skullcandy Crusher ANC headphones, the latter is no longer accurate since these cans pretty much match up the price tag attached with other big-brand wireless ANC headphones.
Priced at Rs 24,999, the Skullcandy Crusher ANC headphones are now competing in the big leagues i.e. the premium category of headphones, and they do come in all guns blazing with features like adjustable bass response with haptic feedback and personalised sound. Despite this, do they come close to matching up to the likes of the Sony WH-1000, which costs merely 2K more, and the Jabra 85H? Let’s find out.
Build and design
The Skullcandy Crusher ANC headphones are encased in a hard-shell oval case with a coarse grey cloth finish. The case is appealing to look at and the Skullcandy logo at the bottom left side pops visibly. Within the robust case, you will find a cable for wired, passive usage, which is convenient for when the cans run out of juice, as well as a USB Type-C charging cable, which ensures that the cans are futureproofed. Our review unit was the deep red coloured variant and the Skullcandy Crusher ANC headphones come in another colour – black. The design of the headphones is rather understated and at this price point, we would have preferred a more striking, sleek aesthetic.
These circum-aural (over-ear) headphones sport an eggshell-like finish with the glossy Skullcandy logo embossed on either side of the headband. This does provide some contrast, but overall, the headphones sport an understated look with minimal design flourishes. The red coloured variant that we got did, however, turn some eyeballs, solely due to the atypical colour. Largely made up of plastic, the headphones, however, do not feel flimsy and they did not creek too much even when we flexed them substantially. The adjustment band has metal reinforcements within and the adjustment process, even when the headphones are on your head, is super silky and seamless.
Adorned with extensive plush memory foam in the ear cups and headband, the Skullcandy Crusher ANC fit comfortably and do not get uncomfortable even after hours of incessant usage. However, we found that the faux leather earcups do get considerably warm within a few hours, but nothing that causes massive discomfort.
Additionally, portability has also been kept in mind. The cans rotate 180 degrees at the hinge attaching the earcups to the headband. On top of that, they also bend inwards which significantly reduces the area needed to store the Crusher ANC. The right earcup features three large physical buttons, multi-faceted in their uses, a 3.5mm audio jack and a USB Type-c port. The left one features the elliptical power button, LED status indicator and the ‘sensory bass’ slider. The large physical buttons and toggles are incredibly easy to locate and operate owing to their positioning and of course, size.
Internally, you have 40mm drivers that reportedly deliver a frequency range of 20Hz-20kHz. Additionally, within this range, the bass response and haptic feedback can be adjusted by utilising the sensory bass slider we mentioned above.
As mentioned above, the physical buttons on the right earcup have various functions. The middle button works as a pause/play button for music and media, as well as a button to answer or reject phone calls. To activate your device’s voice assistant, you will need to press the middle button twice in succession. This is tricky sometimes since the headphones actually registered two successive presses on the middle button as single ones and simply paused the music. The buttons above and below the central one allow users to increase or decrease the volume and also skip tracks or go to the previous one.
On the left earcup, the elliptical button powers the device on when pressed for 3 seconds. A voice prompt is also present to let you know that you have successfully powered on the device, which we always appreciate. Additionally, the LED lights also turn blue when the cans are powered on. On the other hand, to power off the device, you will simply need to hold down this button for 4 seconds and the LED lights will go dark. You can also toggle the ANC (active noise cancellation) on and off by pressing the power button twice.
The headphones also feature ambient mode which lets you listen to your surroundings. To turn it on, you need to place your palm on the left earcup for three seconds. Once activated, the voice prompt will inform you of the same as will the LED lights which will glow purple. To turn off ambient mode, repeat the same process. We liked this feature since it is quite intuitive and works every time.
The left earcup also houses the sensory bass slider. This lets users control the amount of haptic bass – which is a combination of bass vibrations as well as actual low-frequency depth or response. The slider is large and easy-to-access (we actually accessed this one quite a bit, until we found an ideal setting. More on that later.)
The headphones can also be used as wired ones to eliminate any kind of connectivity stutters and continue listening even when the battery eventually dies out. The wire has in-line controls, although just sporting one button does limit the functionality. Nevertheless, it accomplishes the basics well, such as pause/play music, answering calls and more.
One of the more unique features that the Skullcandy Crusher ANC headphones sport is personalised sound via their accompanying app. This is especially useful for those who are hard-of-hearing and even those with minor hearing issues. While the feature isn’t necessarily new and is employed by a couple of headphones already, it is one that is, unfortunately, quite rare. To achieve this level of hyper-personalisation, you will need to pair your headphones to the accompanying Skullcandy app which is available on both Android and iOS.
Once pairing is successfully completed, the process initiates with various tones being played across different ranges. The audio calibration process is laborious and can feel tediously long, however, it helps create a custom sound profile which is specifically tuned to your hearing abilities. This allows individuals with varying levels of hearing sensitivity to listen to audio tracks as intended by the artist or composer. Upon completing the process, we found that the highs were accentuated a bit. While it didn’t make a world of difference in our listening experience, we’ve heard of instances where this feature has bettered the experience considerably.
Unfortunately, the app is rendered utterly useless after this sound customisation, since this is the only feature it offers. Not even a customisable EQ? Come on, Skullcandy! Also, the added option of being able to control ANC from the app could be a great option as well.
Another headlining feature on the Skullcandy Crusher ANC headphones is Sensory Bass. Not only do you hear Skullcandy’s signature bass-accentuating sound but you also feel it. The headphones employ four drivers to deliver thumping bass response and the levels can be controlled via the sensory bass slider on the left earcup.
You also get ANC (cue, the name), that has become a sort of standard on flagship headphones across various brands. You also get the option to go into Ambient Mode and enhance the sounds in your surroundings. Additionally, you have Bluetooth 5.0 for wireless connectivity. Alas, the connectivity is somewhat of an issue on these cans which lags and skips aplenty. We experienced some drawn-out lags in the music randomly while using the phone when the headphones were playing music, which is a shame. Fortunately, if you want a seamless listening experience, you can just shift to wired mode.
Another great feature is the built-in Tile Tracker where you can find your headphones on the Tile app if you ever misplace them. To activate Tile tracker, you need to simply press the power button and the middle button on the right earcup for one second. While we didn’t test this feature thoroughly, it did work just fine when we tested it once.
Coming to battery life, Skullcandy estimates it to be around 24 hours with ANC turned on, and they also have Rapid Charge which gives you four hours of listening by charging the cans for a mere ten minutes.
The Skullcandy Crusher ANC seem to exhibit a bit of a dual personality. Turn the sensory bass adjuster all the way down and you will have a pair of headphones that sound relatively balanced – very unlike Skullcandy’s traditional bass-forward sound profile, however, turn it up around 20-30 per cent of the way and you will actually ‘feel’ the bass and also hear distinctly ramped up bass response. In Chris Rea’s Call on Me, the bass guitar is strong and punchy while tracks such as Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson features bass beats with adequate thump and vitality. We enjoyed Sensory Bass at around 30 per cent the most, and anything above that completely destroyed the details in the vocals, mids and highs and the bass sounded muddled as well.
There’s an argument that could be made for the present 50 per cent of Sensory Bass on the slider to be made 100 per cent, since, under no circumstance, will a user want to set this to anything above 50 per cent as their default setting. If you want a boost in bass response and bass haptic feedback without sacrificing sound quality, do not, and we repeat, DO NOT venture beyond 30 per cent on the Sensory Bass slider. We attempted to listen to No Guidance by Chris Brown ft Drake, and the results were chaotic and simply, unbearable. We’re doubtful even bass fanatics will be able to tolerate this auditory abuse.
When it comes to performance in the mids and the highs, the highs are reproduced decently, however, the mids sound quite recessed and veiled over by the thumpy bass. In Mindstreet by Motherjane, this is clearly seen, the instruments and vocals are inadequately reproduced and this causes the track to fall flat dynamically in some parts where the mids are supposed to soar. Instead, you get overpowering bass that veils the mid-range instruments such as the electric guitar, and the vocals also suffer. In Selkies by BTBAM, the vocals are yet again lost in the medley of instruments. However, in Adele’s Skyfall, the vocals are well-preserved due to the lack of bass instruments overall.
ANC is a big selling feature of the Skullcandy Crusher ANC headphones. Unfortunately, the ANC results are strictly mediocre, if not substandard. The noise-cancelling circuitry does a fairly decent job with low-frequency rumble or sounds, such as train tracks. As long as the low-frequency sounds were consistent, they Crusher ANC masks them pretty well, deviate a little and the results go haywire. Mids and highs are not cancelled out efficiently and you will definitely be able to hear sounds such as a mechanical keyboard or office chatter even with ANC turned on.
The unrefined ANC circuitry causes the Skullcandy Crusher ANC headphones to suffer from another common pitfall – hiss. The hiss, while subtle, is audible, especially when no music is playing. Wind feedback is also sorely audible, especially when travelling on a train. At this price tier, such misses are quite unacceptable. Ambient mode, on the other hand, works pretty well and enhances background sounds quite efficiently. An argument could be made that this is merely because the ANC and passive NC is inefficient already, so the ambient mode is bound to be good, but we’ll give Skullcandy this.
Battery life is decent, nothing to really write home about. While Skullcandy rates the battery life at about 24 hours with ANC turned on, we got around 21 hours with ANC on our review unit before it died out. Our sensory bass level was set at 30 per cent for most of the duration, and the level of sensory bass will also affect the ultimate battery life of the unit.
Call quality is pretty competent on these headphones though. The receiver could hear everything being said crystal clear and there weren’t any signs of the customary distortion or muffling of sound which is often heard on wireless headphones and IEMs. When using a transcribing app, every word we said was picked up accurately by the microphone.
The price tag on the Skullcandy Crusher ANC headphones (Rs 24,999) means it is competing with the likes of flagship wireless headphones from brands such as Sony, Bose, Jabra and Bang & Olufsen, which cost about the same or slightly more. This price tag calls for legitimate quality over gimmicks and the ANC and sensory bass (at 100 per cent) on these headphones definitely feel like gimmicks. If you are intrigued by the idea of haptic bass feedback and mostly need ANC to mask low frequencies, then these headphones might be the ones for you. If not, wireless headphones such as the Bose NC 700 and the Sony WH-1000XM3 and even Jabra’s Elite 85H are way better contenders that require you to stretch your budget by a bit more. We’re hoping for a more compelling Skullcandy Crusher ANC 2.0 in the future that has worked out the kinks present in this model.