Headphone brands such as Beats Audio and Bang & Olufsen might be popular today when it comes to styling, but nothing quite catches your eye like a pair of Skullcandy headphones. It isn't just their flashy colours and distinct looks; Skullcandy is also known for its unabashed love for excessive bass. Heavy bass isn't necessarily for everyone, but you'll find a sizeable number of people who want exactly that in a pair of headphones.
Enter the Skullcandy Crusher ANC. A stepped-up version of the Skullcandy Crusher headphones, this pair of headphones features the familiar bass slider that lets you set exactly how much thump you want, as well as one big addition - active noise cancellation. Priced at Rs. 27,999, the Skullcandy Crusher ANC goes up against the two big guns of this segment, the Sony WH-1000XM3 and the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. Does the Crusher ANC have what it takes to challenge the current champions? Find out in our review.
Skullcandy has a typical aesthetic that tends to focus on colours and its distinct skull face logo, rather than on edgy design or build quality. The Crusher ANC sticks to this, and looks quite similar to the Crusher wireless headphones. There are some key differences that set the two apart, such as the slight bulge in the ear cups and noise cancellation microphones on the new model.
While there's nothing wrong with how this pair of headphones looks, it isn't exactly what you'd expect of a premium headset. In our opinion, it looks a bit cheap and ordinary when compared to options such as the Sony WH-1000XM3 and Jabra Elite 85h. We also didn't like the maroon colour of our review unit very much, but there are other colour options - black, and black/tan - which look a bit more sophisticated in our opinion.
The headset is big and comfortable. It completely covered our ears when we put it on, offering decent passive noise isolation and minimal sound leakage even at high volumes. We had no trouble wearing the headphones for hours at a time, thanks to the thick padding around the earcups and on the underside of the headband. The headphones fold inwards for easy storage, and come with a snug carry case, a cable for wired listening, and a USB Type-C cable.
The right earcup of the Skullcandy Crusher ANC headphones has the volume and playback controls in the form of physical buttons, as well as the USB Type-C port for charging, and the 3.5mm socket to connect the audio cable for wired listening. Double-pressing the playback button triggers the voice assistant on a paired smartphone.
On the left earcup are the power button (which also controls noise cancellation with a double-press) and the sensory bass slider. This lets you adjust how punchy the bass sounds, and only works when the headphones are powered on, regardless of whether you're using Bluetooth or the audio cable to connect to a source device. Finally, the outer part of the left earcup has a touch sensor that controls the ambient mode. This turns off noise cancellation and lets sound from outside filter into the headphones.
While the ambient mode feature did allow some outside sound in, we didn't like how easy it was to accidentally trigger it. Often, while using the bass slider or adjusting noise cancellation, our hands accidentally rested on the left ear cup and triggered ambient mode, which meant that we needed to be particularly careful when we used the controls.
The Skullcandy Crusher ANC headset uses Bluetooth 5 for connectivity. It has a 40mm dynamic driver on each side, and a frequency response range of 20-20,000Hz. There is an additional pair of drivers which are responsible for the powerful bass. While these aren't exactly subwoofers, they do function in nearly the same way with significant driver excursion and flexibility.
The headset supports the Qualcomm aptX HD Bluetooth codec. Sound quality was naturally best when using this, and still decent when using AAC instead. With the basic SBC codec, there was a bit of shrillness and some loss of detail across the frequency range.
Skullcandy has an app (available for iOS and Android) that shows the exact battery level of the headphones and lets you create multiple personalised sound profiles for different users. Sound is adjusted based on what the app deems suitable for you based on a short test, and this had a positive impact for us. The Crusher ANC felt significantly more detailed for us after setting up a sound profile.
The Skullcandy Crusher ANC promises battery life of up to 24 hours, but in real-world conditions we found it to be much lower. With noise cancellation switched on and the bass slider set to a reasonable level, we were able to get around 17 hours of listening, which isn't bad, but isn't very good either considering the Rs. 27,999 price tag. Skullcandy also claims that 10 minutes of charging will give you three hours of listening. A full charge took us around three hours when plugged into a laptop.
When it comes to sound quality and performance, the Skullcandy Crusher ANC is unique and unlike everything else in this price bracket, thanks to its hardware as well as its software. The additional element of ‘sensory' bass gives the headphones a completely different sound that might come across as blasphemous to purists and audiophiles, but makes casual listening a whole lot more fun.
We used a OnePlus 7T Pro (Review) with the Skullcandy Crusher ANC for much of this review, relying on the Qualcomm aptX HD Bluetooth codec. While the incredibly powerful bass was very entertaining, it did lead to a bit of listener fatigue, and we occasionally needed to turn down the bass slider to give ourselves a break.
Sensory bass is undeniably the biggest party trick we've seen on a pair of Bluetooth headphones of late, and it's a very effective one. Changing musical tastes and user preference towards strong low-end response in headphones makes the promise of powerful bass an enticing one, and the Skullcandy Crusher ANC delivers on this promise.
With the slider at just 25 percent, the Crusher ANC delivers what is easily the punchiest and most intense bass we've heard from a pair of headphones. Turning this up slowly made for increasingly aggressive, yet tight and detailed low-end response, to the point that we could quite literally feel the headphones shaking on our head. The bass drivers in the headset are mounted with a fair amount of flexibility, which allows for the same kind of excursion you'd expect from a decent subwoofer.
Listening to a high-resolution version of 9000 Miles by Pendulum with the bass slider at around 50 percent was an experience like no other. The combination of aptX HD with the FLAC file format made for aggressive bass that retained detail and tonal accuracy, and turned this already powerful drum-and-bass track into what you'd expect to hear if you were watching Pendulum live in concert.
When the bass is set too high, it does overpower the rest of the frequency range, despite the dual-driver set up. Fortunately, you have the option to turn it down, and we found the 20 percent level to be ideal. This allowed for the primary drivers' responses to be heard clearly, while adding just a bit of low-end reverb and punch. Listening to Gotye's State Of The Art at this level made for clean, detailed, and engaging sound.
Moving on to David Guetta's Dirty Sexy Money, with the bass slider set to zero, we were able to hear a decent amount of detail and sparkle in the sound. The low-end is a bit ‘turbocharged' even at this level, but the highs hold their own alongside. The mid-range is audibly suppressed owing to the V-shaped sonic signature and drive of the sensory bass, but it isn't too bad, and didn't affect our ability to hear vocals clearly. While the sensory bass does largely characterise the sound, the headphones do hold their own even with this feature turned all the way down.
Priced at Rs. 27,999, the Skullcandy Crusher ANC goes up against the some of the best headphones in the space, including the Sony WH-1000XM3 and Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, both of which are well regarded for their noise cancellation capabilities. The Crusher ANC doesn't quite live up to those expectations when it comes to noise cancellation - it simply doesn't cut out as much noise as it should.
While it does reduce some of the noise it's supposed to, such as the hum of an air conditioner and the engine roar of a cruising airliner, it doesn't quite cut these out as cleanly as its competitors can. We usually heard some sibilance with noise cancellation on, which wasn't completely masked by the music. Essentially, the active noise cancellation made only a small difference to listenability, without offering any of the quiet it was supposed to.
We also tested these headphones on voice and video calls, and while sound was decent on both ends, we found callers' voices to be a bit too soft.
The Skullcandy Crusher ANC is an impressive offering as far as headphones go. Although we weren't particularly impressed with its styling, some of the controls, and the active noise cancellation, the Crusher ANC more than made up for all of that with its completely unique approach to sound. This pair of headphones takes the idea of strong bass to a whole new level, offering clean sound combined with refined, yet powerful aggression.
What makes this so unique is that everything is in your control - you get to decide if you want too much bass, just enough, or none at all. However, whether all of this is worth Rs 27,999 is the big question here, and for the most part, we have to say it isn't.
Options such as the Jabra Elite 85h, Sony WH-1000XM3, and Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are much better value for money, offering better styling and superior noise cancelation. Those are all better choices in the premium segment, in our opinion, and would offer a better overall experience.
On the other hand, if you are looking for the kind of earth-shaking bass that Skullcandy has on offer, it might be worth trying out at the Skullcandy Crush Wireless. Priced at just around Rs. 9,000, these headphones offer similar sound quality and specifications, but don't have active noise cancellation.
In conclusion, while we did thoroughly enjoy our time with the Skullcandy Crusher ANC, we simply can't recommend it at this price, especially considering that some of the best options in the same category are available now for less than Rs. 28,000.
Price: Rs. 27,999
Ratings (out of 5)