“Music You Can Feel” is Skullcandys motto. And you can take that literally, because when it comes to “feeling” music, hardly any of the American Lifestyle-Companies are kidding. While others give their headphones a modern bass tuning, Skullcandy simply builds a fat subwoofer into the earcups, which makes your ears flap. And that’s meant literally!
The new Skullcandy Crusher ANC follows in the footsteps of its low-frequency predecessors, the Crusher Wireless and the Crusher 360 to provide listeners with a depth of sound unlike anything you’ve experienced before.
To kick off our test, we loaded up our playlist and listened very carefully…
Before we delve into the sound spec, let us take a moment to appreciate the aesthetics on show. Upon opening the stylish black box, Skullcandy builds the drama with “Welcome to Deeper Dimensions of Sound” lettered across the inside of the lid, elegantly printed in glossy black on a matt black background. Under the lid it continues to convince with a dark grey fabric case serving as a safe home for the foldable headphones, accompanying mini jack and USB charging cable.
Plastic is the material of choice here, but the Crusher ANC is neatly processed, there is nothing to complain about here. The headband and replaceable ear cushions are made of imitation leather, with the former having a notch in the middle to reduce pressure on the head for those with sensitivity. I rate the wearing comfort of the earphones as mediocre – the ratcheting of the earpieces is smooth, the contact pressure is fortunately not excessively high, but after about 30 minutes I notice its weight of about 311 grams (without cable). Crusher’s auricles could have been a bit bigger for my taste, as when seated, my ears are partly under the pads.
In terms of control, this model has a multifunction button on the left side of the handset, which controls the pairing, battery check and active noise cancelling, as well as switching on/off. Directly underneath is the slider that lets us fade in the so-called “Sensory Bass” – but more about that later. In addition, the left auricle reacts to touch – if the finger(s) remain on it for a few seconds, the Crusher ANC activates its Ambient Mode to let sounds pass from the outside to the inside. On the right we find three buttons to control the volume, tracks and calls. So it’s all standard so far, even if you have to look into the small manual several times to make sure everything goes smoothly.
Pairing also takes place quickly, and the Crusher ANC can also connect to two end devices simultaneously, but only one of them can then take over the media playback.
The Crusher is not only equipped with Bluetooth 5.0, noise-cancelling and sensory bass, it is also Skullcandys first headset to be equipped with a personalised sound. Together with Audiodo, a Swedish company that has taken on the topic of “audio personalisation”, the Skullcandy App (free for iOS and Android) now offers an option to compensate for possible hearing deficits by testing. A series of test tones are played first on the left and then on the right, each of which must be confirmed with “Yes” or “No”. After a few minutes, two frequency curves are presented (for the left and right ear respectively), which immediately try to compensate for their own hearing impairments. Of course, it is also possible to create and save several profiles, which are stored in the headphones themselves. To be able to change or deactivate these hearing correction profiles – for example, if the Crusher ANC is connected to a Mac or Tablet – the app with the stored profiles must be used. The app, which was installed on an iPad in parallel for testing purposes, has a yawning void when it comes to hearing profiles.
The Skullcandy App has little else to offer. Besides the usual links to FAQ sections and privacy pages, the only other avenue worth chasing here is registering your Crusher ANC.
A practical possibility with the Crusher ANC is the ability to connect with Tile, a Bluetooth tracker. Once registered with the use of the free-to-download Tile app, you can see where your headphones are at any given time.
The Crusher ANC has its key selling feature right there in the name, but how good are its active noise suppression capabilities? In short, it’s mediocre at best. The ANC doesn’t suppress ambient noise as well as the (almost) equally expensive top dogs Sony (WH-1000XM3) or Bose (Headphones 700). The over-ears filter out low-rumbling frequencies more proficiently than high frequencies, but unfortunately, it’s not really state-of-the-art..
On the subject of noise, the Crusher delights with a clear presence of background sound. Logically, this doesn’t get any better when ANC is turned on.
Touching the left earpiece for a few seconds activates the Crusher’s ambient mode. Integrated microphones amplify and fade in ambient sounds so it’s possible to hear external noises like train announcements without having to take off your headphones. It works fine, but even here, the competition is ahead.
And how does it all sound? Different, depending on whether you’re using a cable connection, if ANC is on or deactivated, and whether the personalised hearing profiles are enabled.
First up, we carried out the test via Bluetooth, without ANC enabled, without hearing profiles activated and with the bass in a neutral position. Our high-resolution audio playlist performed well with the Crusher, but after playing a few classical pieces with these headphones, it becomes clear that these are not an audiophile accessory; but it doesn’t want to be. The bass-accentuated, warm tone gives the Crusher ANC a free and easy personality and suggests an ideal companion for everyday listening. The mids are a bit too dampened for my liking, but the highs tend to be on the livelier side of things, with the Crusher ANC keen to swallow transients when the material is rich in overtones. Nevertheless, the overall sound is relatively homogeneous, reproducing from the bass foundation, right up to the highest frequency floor without making any major blunders.
If I switch on my hearing profile, the overall sound changes in flavour toward something altogether more lively. It’s very nice, with the EQ of the hearing connection pulling the frequency limits up a little, at least in my case. Now we switch on the noise-cancelling properties and it is immediately obvious that the bass foundation is lowered, although it maintains its warm basic character. Finally, the classic mini jack cable. Things get even tamer here because, without power, neither the subwoofers nor the ANC, or indeed the listening profile, are active. The sound is altogether fine, but I can think of cheaper headphones on the market that express more radiance. Such a passive mode is of course always positive, because if the batteries are empty and there is no socket in sight, the playlist can still be processed – provided, of course, you still have a headphone socket.
It’s time to get back to the main highlight of the Crusher ANC. The bass control here wants to leave the humdrum of neutrality and immerse the listener with truly deep bass. And the Crusher ANC can certainly deliver in this respect. In our playlist, you can find all manner of bass bombs from the likes of Moderat, Missy Elliot and more, which all mutate magnificently into booming monsters thanks to the Crusher ANC. It’s certainly a lot of fun, even if there’s some serious rumbling and quaking vibrations going on.
The result of an extremely exaggerated bass is, of course, a more spongy frequency image that tends to swallow up any subtle nuances. However, if you don’t overdo it with the haptic bass, many old groovy numbers are granted new life with a more modern angle and extra detail. This result also reaffirms the mission statement of the Crusher manufacturers: Many tracks sound as though the band themselves were standing right in front of you, delivering an almost pure live experience.
And what applied in our Skullcandy Crusher Wireless Test also applies here. Video games and blockbusters also benefit from enriched audio experience and bags of added character with the Crusher ANC.
It might seem as though I’ve held back with the criticism so far in this review, but it’s time to get to the bad news. In fact, I’ve included an entire section dedicated to the downsides. Why? Well, while Skullcandy certainly entices with sweet specs and features here, it also offers up other things that leave a less pleasant taste in the mouth. There is the aforementioned background noise, which is always clearly audible; this doesn’t only distract from overall music enjoyment when the levels are low, with the external noise intrusion evident at higher volumes as well. The listening test also warrants a few red marks against it; due to the background noise intrusion, some very quiet tones are overshadowed and difficult to notice. Whether your own hearing is insufficient to register these tones or bustling background sounds have overshadowed them, the degree of accuracy of these tests certainly comes into question.
And now back to those sporadic dropouts in Bluetooth connection and persistent noises, not to mention that annoying crackling that kicks in when the device is switched on and off. As far as these nuisances are concerned, one can only hope that the manufacturers will make good in the future and rectify them with firmware updates. Another negative I feel worth mentioning is that Ambient Mode has a tendency to activate when it isn’t in fact wanted. During the test, we also noticed that if you put the whole of your left palm across the left earpiece, the Crusher ANC occasionally acknowledges this with a loud feedback loop. As such, you’ll want to be careful unless you’re keen for some seriously unpleasant ringing in the ears.
The Skullcandy Crusher ANC is a headphone with highs and lows. While its sound boasts a modern tuning and proves quite pleasing in general, the background noise that’s consistently present hinders your overall listening pleasure. However, the adjustable haptic bass will surely find many fans. If you’re finding the usual headphone offerings on the market a little humdrum, the Crusher ANC is bound to brighten your day. Often, the exaggerated bass doesn’t work, but when it comes to gaming and binge-watching, you’ll find yourself truly immersed in the action. The hearing correction capabilities of these headphones also make a welcome addition, although less successful is the mediocre noise cancellation properties, the lacklustre ambient mode, as well as the rather awkward implementation of the above-mentioned hearing test.
- Ear couplingOver-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)20 - 20.000 Hz
- Impedance32 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)105 dB
- Weight with cable322 g
- Weight without cable311 g
- Cable length120 cm
What's in the box
- Cable with remote control
- USB C charging cable
- Travel case
- available in black and red
- BT version: 5.0
- sound personalization via App
- adjustable bass
- Tile integration
- up to 24 hrs. runtime
- quick charge function "Rapid Charge"