Skullcandy Crusher Wireless Headphone Review: An exceptional, thrilling, value-packed portable Headphone
UPDATE: Skullcandy has just announced the Hesh 3, if you’re looking for something like this headphone but a little cheaper and without the Crusher feature!
Skullcandy just completely broke my upcoming “Holiday Headphone Buyers Guide” article. This $200 over- ear headphone is hard to beat, and leagues better than the original Crusher.
Earlier this year, Skullcandy released the Grind Wireless. It took the already-great Grind headphone, and added good Bluetooth functionality, and kept the price relatively cheap.
Now, here we are again!
Same concept, higher level of execution.
The Crusher Wireless takes the goofy haptic bass feedback idea from the original Crusher, throws everything else out in favor of a new ground-up design…and ends up being one of the best value wireless headphones I’ve ever used.
Other premium headphone makers named Beats should be scared. This hits their target sound and market at a cheaper price point.
Two things to talk about here: sound with and without the haptic bass feedback turned on. (It’s controlled by a slider on the back of the left ear cup.)
Without the bass slider on, the Crusher presents a lovely, slightly warm sound, with plenty of detail throughout the frequency range. Soundstage is decently wide for a closed-back headphone, and highs are present and detailed without any grain or fatigue. You could use them like this forever and be totally happy with their sound quality.
Or, you can slide that little slider up and go to crazy awesome stupid bass town.
Each ear cup contains one of Skullcandy’s in-house designed 40mm drivers…and a second 34mm driver that kicks in when you use the bass slider. I think that slider is actually controlling a crossover system, similar to how you’d feed a subwoofer in a home theater. As you push the slider up, the bass frequencies slowly transfer from the main drivers to these bass-specific drivers.
The bass that the haptic drivers produce is intense, controlled, punchy, and sometimes amazing and hilarious. The box for these says “Bass You Can Feel,” and it’s true. Especially when cranked all the way, you’ll feel the bass in your body a la a traditional speaker system. It works exactly as advertised. And then some.
I tried the original Crushers a few times in stores, and I found the bass feature to just be an unsatisfying rumble/vibration gimmick. The Crusher Wireless takes it to a whole other level, and executes this idea properly. If you’re a bass-head, you’ll be in heaven, and if you’re not, these still sound great with a little slider tweaking.
For the record, I think the area near the center of the slider is a good happy medium. You still get some of the nuanced bass texture from the main driver, and a good bit of thump from the secondary system.
So the sound is good. With or without the bass feature.
Fortunately, everything else is pretty good too.
The Crusher Wireless takes the subtle design language of the Grind and runs with it. Gone are the flimsy plastic, lacking adjustment sizes, and awkward proportions of the original Crusher.
Instead, everything here screams premium value.
The headphone is made of plastic parts with metal reinforcement, like basically everything else.The earcup backs have a nice soft finish on them, a great detail. The top of the headband is leatherette, and the bottom is a cushy rubber, with a little cutout to help prevent a hotspot forming on the top of your head. It feels good.
I think the ear pads are probably Skullcandy’s best effort at pad design so far, in any of their headphones. They’re big ovals, with a soft leatherette covering on the outside, and a ring of high- quality cloth on the inside to help prevent sweat build-up. The padding is memory foam, and even though the clamping force of the headphone is rather tight (probably to help bass response), these pads stay cushy and comfy for long sessions, no problem. Just make sure you get a balanced fit, or that clamping force is going to bug you after a while.
Isolation is exceptional for a non-active pair. I’m using them in a loud room right now, and while they don’t isolate nearly as well as something like the QC35 or MDR-1000X, they still do a great job. I’d rate their isolation at the top end of the market for passive pairs.
The overall look is classy, subtle, and elegant, and just plain cool. I think it’s the nicest-looking headphone in Skullcandy’s stable.
This is where the Crusher Wireless really sticks it to the competition, particularly for their price. The battery life is rated at 40 hours. Yes, awesome!!! That matches the industry-leading Beats Solo 3 Wireless.
Bluetooth range is not as good as that model. But then, most headphones don’t have the Solo 3’s range. I tested the Crusher at a Class 2-standard 30 feet before losing signal.
Also, the core Bluetooth chip seems to be similar to the one used in the Grind Wireless, meaning it doesn’t support any fancy codecs like AAC, AptX, or LDAC…but who cares? I don’t really care. I don’t expect that in this price range, and sound quality is great. Pairing is handled manually and completes quickly. If you’re an audiophile, the wireless transmission probably won’t be quite up to snuff for you, but as these are really cheap for the number of features you’re getting, I think it’s an okay trade-off.
Okay, more good stuff. The Crusher Wireless folds down for easy transport. It includes a tough drawstring canvas bag with a soft cloth interior. Seriously, the interior is so nice to feel. It feels like a teddy bear. It’s strangely nice and kind of unnecessary. The inside of the bag also contains two pockets to hold the two included cables.
The first included cable is a standard micro USB for charging. The second is Skullcandy’s “Mic 1” cable, a 4-pole 3.5mm cable with a single-button remote and micrphone.
Thank. Goodness. For. This.
SO MANY Bluetooth headphones come with a secondary cable that doesn’t have a microphone. Meaning, if you run them using the cable, you can no longer use them to take phone calls. This is a problem even at the highest-priced end of the market. Your battery dies? You want to use the cable for any other reason? Enjoy having less functionality! I don’t get this at ALL.
I’m looking at you Bose QC35. And MDR-1000X.
The port for the 3.5 mm cable is 100 percent standard, so any typical replacement cable you’d like to use will work, if you don’t want to use the included one. Excellent!
Oh and get this: The haptic bass drivers still work when you run the Crushers powered off, using the cable. I thought they’d need to draw power from the battery, and that they’d only work in Bluetooth mode, but Skullcandy surprised me. This headphone is feature-complete whether you use it wired or wirelessly. And I love it for that. Everyone else please pay attention.
The cable enables basic chat support on both the PS4 and Xbox One through the controller jacks, and the button and mic work on both Apple and Android devices. You’ll have to mute the mic on Xbox through the software, and on PS4 you’re out of luck because Sony still doesn’t have a dedicated mute button in the OS. Aside from the bass slider, the Crusher Wireless features three other buttons for controlling the headphones in Bluetooth mode. There’s volume up, volume down, and a play/pause/answer call button. The volume buttons can also switch tracks. These are the same buttons used on the Grind Wireless, and just like on those headphones, they’re the only component that seems a tiny bit out of place, due to their chunky design. They’re chintzy and a little cheap feeling.
At $200 you’d be really hard-pressed to find a better-sounding, better-built, more fully featured wireless headphone. I’m not sure that there is one right now. UPDATE: Sometimes the Sony MDR-100ABN has been on sale for around 200 bucks. That’s insane, and a much better deal than this Skullcandy. Just saying.
This is a better value for the money than every Beats product on the market(unless you need to use your headphones 100 yards away from your device). It competes well with Bose and Sony’s higher-priced models, as well as those from many other audio companies. It has the premium touches to warrant its price compared to lower-end models, while still presenting an amazing value for the money.
And no one else has the fun, energetic, stereo haptic bass feature. Which you might hate. But it’s fun to play with.
This is a best-in-class/market- leading sort of headphone, and I got so excited about them after just a few minutes of use, that I spent the rest of the night pushing them through all my usual audio tests to bring you this review.
If you are considering a headphone purchase in the $200 range, here you go. Decision made. Especially if you like bass…but even if you don’t, it’s nice to have that slider there just in case you need to disappear into a dance club inside your head for a bit.
I imagine these won’t be leaving my bag for a long time. They’re my new favorite portable headphones, by far. Obligatory selfie incoming…
I bought mine at Best Buy. You can see Skullcandy’s page about them here.