Skullcandy Crusher Evo wireless headphones $199 The Good Huge • thumping bass • Long battery life • Built-in Tile tracking • Unique Personal Sound system
The Bad Bass slider can drown out sounds • Overall sound quality is just OK The Bottom Line Skullcandy's new bass-heavy headphones mostly deliver the goods, even if more expensive competition provides richer total sound quality. 😎 Cool Factor4.0 📘Ease of Use4.0 💪Performance3.5 💵Bang for the Buck4.5
Back in high school, I had friends who spent what little money they had tricking out their otherwise modest cars with bass systems that shook you to the bone, regardless of how bad it might have made everything else sound. Skullcandy's new Crusher Evo over-ear headphones come with a similar philosophy.
For $199, the Crusher Evo headphones set themselves apart from the competition with a physical bass slider and an oddball "Personal Sound" feature that claims to adjust sound levels for each individual users' ears. Add in standard Skullcandy features like a sizable battery capacity and built-in Tile tracking and you've got a pretty good value product, at least on paper.
But headphones are more than a list of features. Do Skullcandy's new Crusher Evo headphones deliver on their promise of bringing crunchy, unparalleled bass and personalized sound, or is it all bark and no bite?
The Good: Huge bass, Personal Sound actually works, giant battery capacity
There isn't much to distinguish the Skullcandy Crusher Evo headphones from the competition at an initial visual glance. These are pretty normal-looking over-ear headphones with foam ear cushions and a piece of rubber insulation on the interior of the top side so your head isn't directly exposed to the metal band. Overall, they're relatively light at just under two pounds and they're comfortable enough to wear for hours at a time without getting worn out.
Things start to get interesting when you play with the onboard controls. The right side has three buttons arranged vertically, with the top and bottom ones controlling volume and the middle button pausing playback with a quick press. Hold the volume buttons and you'll either skip ahead or backwards.
Meet the bass slider.
IMAGE: ZLATA IVLEVA
On the left side, there's a power button and a curious vertical slider that you'll use to adjust the Crusher Evo's signature bass output. If bass is all you care about, these are the headphones for you. Turning the dial up to just about 20 percent of its max output results in booming bass that will legitimately make the headphones shake while on your head. It's awesome. I hardly ever dared to go up all the way because, at that point, the music is nearly drowned out and it's almost unpleasant to experience. But only almost.
To be clear, I love that a pair of headphones allows you to turn up the bass that high, even if I don't think you should. It really brought me back to those high school days, with people showing off their bass systems by playing the worst garbage you've ever heard just because it was loud. I'm talking video game dubstep remixes, people. Just terrible. Anyway, if you were worried about Skullcandy not fulfilling its promise of gigantic bass on the Crusher Evo headphones, everything is fine.
The other major selling point here is the Personal Sound system I mentioned earlier. Bear with me here because it's a little strange. Once you pair the Crusher Evos with a phone, open the Skullcandy mobile app and you'll be prompted to take an audio test to set up Personal Sound. The app will play a series of beeping noises at varying levels of volume in both ears, prompting you to answer whether or not you can hear them. After a couple minutes of this, the app registers a Personal Sound profile with a somewhat inscrutable chart, seen below.
I don't know exactly what this means, but it makes my music sound better.
It's weird, but I'm here to tell you that it does make a difference. Flipping Personal Sound on and off in the middle of a song highlights the effect, as more subtle instrumental elements that are tougher to notice with default settings rise up to make themselves known with Personal Sound turned on. Bruce Springsteen's "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" is usually my go-to for testing headphones because it's a densely orchestrated rollercoaster of chaos, and Personal Sound deepened the audio mix to bring out background instruments that were less noticeable without it.
Of course, a side effect of this is that the default settings sound a little flat. They're not terrible by any means, but if you want the best sound quality the Crusher Evo headphones can deliver, I recommend using Personal Sound at all times.
To top it off, Skullcandy included the two best features from the recent Push Ultra earbuds: built-in Tile support and a gargantuan battery. To use the former, simply download Tile for iOS or Android and follow the onscreen instructions to pair the Crusher Evo headphones with the app. Once you've done that, you'll be able to see their location on a map or make them play loud noises if you've misplaced them. It's exactly the same as it was on the Push Ultras, which isn't a bad thing. Losing $200 headphones would really suck, so it's nice that Tile makes that more difficult to do.
Skullcandy rates the Crusher Evo battery for 40 hours of playback and I can't dispute that at all. I used them daily for at least an hour or two (often more) over the course of a week and never had to plug the headphones in to charge. The USB-C charging port provides several hours of playback off less than an hour of charging time, too, which is an added bonus. It's tough to argue with a pair of headphones that won't get lost or die on you.
The Bad: That bass can flatten the sound
There aren't many things to dislike about the Skullcandy Crusher Evo headphones. Based purely on their merits, the only thing I can really point to is that the aggressively strong bass slider is a little too necessary.
While it's a lot of fun to listen to a pair of headphones that rumbles along to the music as it sits on your head, there are times when that's not going to be the best idea. If we were still working in the office, I don't think the people sitting next to me would appreciate that for very long. Unfortunately, the sound quality is just...OK without the bass turned up at least a little bit. The Crusher Evo headphones rely just a bit too much on their ability to amplify bass with the slider. When it's turned all the way down, the sound quality isn't nearly as impressive.
Volume and playback buttons.
IMAGE: ZLATA IVLEVA
Personal Sound definitely helps, but it's not enough to fully compensate for the mild lack of bass when the slider is at zero. On the other end, turning the bass up even a little too high during playback can flatten or drown out the non-bass elements of a song. Finding the right slider level is a delicate balance that can be disrupted by switching from one song to another. I didn't have to constantly fiddle with the slider between songs, but it happened a few times too many for my liking.
I should also mention that Skullcandy didn't include noise cancellation in the Crusher Evo headphones. It wouldn't be fair to hammer the headphones too hard for this, as the Crusher ANC exists for that purpose (at $320). The Evo's $200 price tag is cheaper than most good ANC headphones by at least $50 to $100. But it's important to understand that outside noise can bleed in while listening to the Crusher Evo headphones, even if the foam ear cushions block some of it out. This is far from a deal-breaker, but with ANC coming to more and more headphones, it's something to note.
Skullcandy's latest Crusher Evo headphones are a nice option to have for people who want over-ear headphones without spending a fortune on them. The onboard bass slider is more than just a goofy novelty, providing plenty of thump that you just don't get from the competition. It's a unique sensation to feel like you have a subwoofer on your head.
Overall sound quality isn't elite, but the Personal Sound system is a distinctive approach that uses software to enhance the auditory experience when the hardware can't do that on its own. Unfortunately, the bass can easily feel like too much even when it's turned up just a little in certain situations, and the audio quality with the slider all the way down is only alright. Still, a humongous battery capacity and native Tile tracking add plenty of convenience that other, more expensive headphones don't have.
Those who value pure sound quality and noise cancellation should probably consider the $250 Microsoft Surface Headphones from earlier this year instead. But if you love bass that makes your bones rattle, you won't go wrong with Skullcandy's offering.