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In partnership with Skullcandy
I’ve been taking a look recently at Skullcandy’s flagship wireless noise-cancelling headphones, the Crusher ANC, to see how they perform on a range of different metrics: How do they sound? How do they feel to wear? Are they easy and intuitive to use? Do they represent good value for money? As a side project, I’m particularly interested in tracking down the best headphones for indoor cycling with the surge in popularity of exercise bikes such as Peloton and I was interested to see how the headphones would perform for that. So, let’s take a look in detail and see how they stack up.
If you just want the quick answer, however, then it’s safe to say that I’m a big fan of the Crusher ANC. Sound quality is amazing (especially with the adjustable bass control, which I love). They’re comfortable to wear for long periods and for hot ‘n’ sweaty exercise classes on the bike. The Active Noise Cancelling works a treat in cutting out distracting background noise and they connect easily to Peloton and other exercise bikes.
Want more? Ok, then let’s dive in.
What do Skullcandy say
“Adjustable Sensory Bass: you don’t just hear it, you feel it”
“Active Noise Cancellation: eliminates outside noise to keep your music crystal clear”
“Personal sound profile based on your unique hearing”
What do I like about the Crusher ANC headphones
There’s a lot to like about these headphones and, as we’ll see in a moment, not a lot to dislike. When I was researching this article, I took a look over the product page on the Skullcandy website and noticed a review, from “Alan K”, which simply said, “Good”. Alan had also given the headphones 4 Stars so, I suspect, he’s something of a Master of Understatement. For me, the Crusher ANCs have got “Goodness” coming out of their comfy ear cups (with a side of “Amazingness” too).
Bass control slider is awesome
I must admit that I’d taken the whole, “you don’t just hear it, you feel it”, claim with a slight pinch of salt and pepper when I first heard it. Hey, I did a whole year of Law at college, so I know all about advertising “puffery” whereby companies make inflated claims about their products that aren’t based on objective facts. And, so, it was with a smug and rather jaded look on my face that I pressed play on my go-to track for testing out the bass on audio devices: James Blake’s Limit To Your Love (it starts off slow and gentle before the bass kicks in at around 55secs).
I recommend you try this test for yourself with the Crusher ANCs. I also recommend that you ease yourself in gently with the volume and the bass control….because….WOW! When that bass comes in you not only feel it but your ears and your head will start to vibrate. It’s incredible. Next stop, try “Angel” from Massive Attack’s 1998 epic album, Mezzanine – you’ll get the same awesome bass as you listen to an album that was the soundtrack to many a college party that I remember (and plenty that I don’t, probably).
Having the level of bass control so readily available at your fingertips – and the slider is literally the biggest control on the Crushers – is a powerful feeling indeed. I love being able to fine tune the amount of bass with every track as it’s played. Though I will admit to keeping it on maximum setting most of the time…
Noise cancelling feature blocks out distraction
The ANC feature (which stands for Active Noise Cancelling) was something that I was keen to try out as it has particular relevance for Peloton use. Whilst the advertised (and well-parodied) image of Peloton is of a young woman working out by herself in a large and empty house, whilst filming a grateful thank-you video for her husband, the reality can often be a little different.
Many times you might be struggling to hear the Peloton instructors (or your own music) over other background noise. It could be traffic noise, possibly it’s kids arguing with each other, or the bike might be in the same room as the TV. It could even be a husband shouting about the lack of a thank you for the expensive gym equipment he bought at Christmas for his wife. Whatever it is, you’ll be grateful you’ve got the active noise cancelling feature in play.
In non-tech language (so that I can understand it), active noise cancelling works by taking in the ambient sounds through a microphone (on the outside of the Crusher’s earcup). It then phase-inverts this by 180 degrees (possibly using magic) and plays it out through the headphone speakers. The sounds waves of the ambient noise are then cancelled out by these opposite waves. The result? Silence. Or near-silence anyway, and I’ll mention this more in a moment.
My overall impression of the ANC feature was very positive. As I write this, I’m sitting in our backyard. Around me, folk are mowing lawns, trimming hedges, and screaming at their kids to come inside and tidy their rooms. Because I’m wearing my headphones with the ANC engaged, I can’t hear any of this. Bliss.
Personal sound profile gives a richer sound quality
Download the Skullcandy app on your phone (which is simple) and connect up your Crusher headphones (which is even simpler). You then activate the personal sound profile, which will take you through a series of audio tests for each ear. These determine the best settings for your device to give you the optimum listening experience. Once you’ve completed the test you can turn the personal sound profile on and off at the touch of a button on the app. The difference? Well, here, the sun’s out and I’m feeling more mellow, so I’ve moved to The 1975’s “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You). Turn the personal sound profile on and the track instantly becomes richer and it has a warmer, more multi-layered sound quality. It sounds great.
The headphones look great and are comfortable to wear all day
Open the carrying case and you’ll see the Crushers safely nestled inside on a soft fluffy bed. They look inviting, don’t they? Take them out and you can see they have a chunky and solid feel to them, a feature that Skullcandy headphones are known for. They feel great in your hands and the hinges and adjustable head band are smooth to operate. The earpads are comfortable and there’s also a pad on the inside of the headband.
I’ve been testing the headphones in Fearless Black and they’re also available in Deep Red. The black color looks good and there’s a discrete Skullcandy logo on each side in silver. Overall, these are headphones that I believe look good on me and, if I’m being totally honest, probably improve my looks…
“these are headphones that I believe look good on me and, if I’m being totally honest, probably improve my looks…”
The over-ear design fitted comfortably over my (quite sizable) ears and the heaphones were comfortable to wear for long periods of time. They were also comfortable to wear whilst working out on the bike and didn’t slip around like some I’ve tried. The over-ear design also helps to seal in the music and there was very little leakage, even with the volume turned up high.
Putting the headphones on my kitchen scales and we see that the Crushers come in at a little under 11 ounces (307g). Settle them into place on your head and you can tell you’re wearing them but they don’t feel heavy and actually that weight helps to give them a solid feel (vs the flimsiness you might experience wearing a cheapo pair of headphones).
The overall impression you get with the Crusher ANCs is that you’re wearing a very premium and comfortable pair of headphones. That feels good.
They’re easy to operate (even whilst mid-workout on the Peloton)
All the controls on the Crusher headphones are tucked away on the rear of the earcups, with two sockets on the underside of the right earcup, one for a 3.5mm AUX cable (if the battery runs out) and one for a USB-C charging cable (to make sure it doesn’t).
The left earcup has a power button, which also doubles up to pair the headphones with your device. This earcup also has my favorite control: the bass slider. On the right earcup, there are three buttons. The center button is used to play/pause music, take and end calls, and activate the voice assistant. Flanking this are two buttons, the top being used to turn volume up or skip forward a track, and the bottom button to do the opposite. All the buttons are super easy to find and operate with your thumbs but not so prominent that you accidentally skip over your favorite track or turn the headphones off mid-call.
Pairing with a Peloton bike and other Bluetooth-enabled devices is incredibly easy and can be done either through the device (for example, on your phone’s connection settings) or via the Skullcandy app. On many devices I find this pairing-up quite hit-or-miss, involving random button pressing and cussing. Not so with the Crushers, where the process was simple and quick.
Looking at the Peloton specifically, the standard choice you have with the bike is to rely on the integrated speakers or use their recommended Urbanears Sumpan earbuds. Both of these options work *fine* but are very limiting. The integrated speakers aren’t particularly powerful, which is disappointing if you love your loud soundtracks (hey, they’re good for keeping your mind off the pain in your leg muscles!) Unfortunately, you’ll likely find that they’re potentially not loud enough to drown out background noise, such as traffic. Or, that they’re too loud so that they wake up sleeping children or neighbors. The Sumpan earbuds do the job, though the sound quality isn’t great and the cord (at 6 feet long) can easily get caught on either the bike or you, trapping you or tripping you. As a side note, if earbuds are your go-to listening device, then I’d suggest taking a close look at Skullcandy’s Push Ultra true wireless earbuds. I’ve reviewed these recently specifically looking at whether they’re good for mountain biking (they are!) At the same time they’re also great to team with your Peloton.
Are these the best headphones for Peloton bikes? I don’t know, but I’ve tried out lots of different options on the bikes and the Crusher ANCs are easily the best I’ve found.
Battery life is fantastic
Skullcandy claim that the battery on the Crusher ANCs is good for 24 hours. But that’s assuming that you’ve got the volume and bass control set way up at the maximum. In practice, you’ll likely have both set much further down the scale, with a corresponding extension to the battery life. I’ve found that 35+ hours isn’t unusual (even with my love of bass). Of course, this is with a brand new battery and you may well find that this doesn’t hold its charge so well over time. Even with a significant reduction in the battery life though it’s highly probable that you won’t have to charge these headphones up too often.
Sweat won’t stop them
Skullcandy don’t claim any level of water-resistance to the Crushers and there’s no hint of an IP rating in the tech specs. That being said, I’ve thrown a lot of sweat at these headphones in testing and they just smile and carry on playing the tunes. The padding on the earcups/headband and the plastic casing can easily be wiped down with a damp cloth or towel after you’ve used them to keep them in great condition.
What do I dislike about the Crusher ANC headphones
We’ve talked about all the features I love about the headphones. There are a lot, but there a few aspects that I’m less keen on. Let’s take a look at these now before looking at who I think the headphones are a great buy for.
Active Noise Cancelling is fiddly to turn off and has a background hiss
The Active Noise Cancelling is an excellent feature and works very well. That being said, when you first activate it, there is a slight background hiss that plays through the speakers. It’s not loud, it’s just…there. Then, once you hit PLAY on the first track, it disappears. Is it a big deal? No. Would it make me choose a different pair of headphones? No. As I’ve said, the ANC feature is a real bonus and I’m happy to put up with a little hiss because generally, when I’ve got the Crushers on, I’m playing audio.
Note that the ANC can be a little tricky to deactivate (to place your order in the coffee shop or listen to a co-worker, for example). The ANC/Power button is the smallest one on the Crushers (on the left earcup, just above the bass slider) and it take a bit of practice to confidently find and press it.
Premium price for a premium product
At North of 300 bucks, the headphones are at a premium price (vs say Bose QuietComfort 35 ii, though cheaper vs Beats Studio 3, for example). Are they worth it? To me, yes, they definitely are. For the sound quality (especially that bass control), the comfort and the styling these are an easy purchase for me. Add in the fact that they make my teenage daughter incredibly jealous, and the price is no barrier at all.
Lack of waterproofing
I’ve talked about the lack of waterproofing on the Crusher headphones and I hate to harp on about this given that I can appreciate the difficulty in keeping moisture out with the style of buttons on the earcups. It’s worth mentioning though as this might be a consideration if you plan on wearing these for a rainy workday commute (though you could always pull your jacket hood up and solve this issue). As I’ve said though, I’ve given the headphones some fairly rigorous and very sweaty testing on the exercise bike and they just keep smiling and playing the tunes.
For sound quality, premium feel, robust build, and ease-of-use, I’d definitely recommend these Skullcandy headphones. Yes, the price is premium, but then so is the product. I’ve bought plenty of cheap headphones in the past which have never lasted all that long (and never had great audio in the first place).
The Crushers have proved to be a worthy ally in my sweaty Peloton sessions and they’re excellent when teamed up with other exercise bikes too. Plane travel? Awesome. Train commuting? Awesome. Gaming? Amazing. Sitting at the computer writing blog posts? Yep, can definitely agree to that one.
Are these the best headphones for bass and noise cancelling? I don’t know. What I do know is that I love them. I can slide the bass waaay up high for my favorite tracks. I can’t hear my wife shout at me to come in and tidy my room.
Sorry, Skullcandy, you can’t have these headphones back.
“Sorry, Skullcandy, you can’t have these headphones back”