Before I get started, I really want to thank Skullcandy
for getting in contact with me and giving me the chance to review the SLYR, as well as the A40+Mixamp 2013 Edition, and A50s on their Astrogaming
side.... They have been very communicative, and understanding. Can't thank them enough.
I'm sure that pretty much anyone interested in headphones know the Skullcandy brand. Their name is instantly recognizable, and their headphones can be found in many stores, ranging from their very entry level headphones, to their higher end Aviator and Mix Master headphones. They do not have a shortage of headphones, and as such, have been the target of a lot of criticism for not catering to audiophiles but to the domestic market. Personally, I can easily say that I do not have a lot of experience with Skullcandy products. My first pair of Skullcandy headphones were a pair of Ink'd IEMs that I bought ages ago loved. I didn't know a thing about headphones back then, but I do remember liking their sound signature, and their cheap price. The next product I had some time with was the Lowriders...a PINK pair, I had bought for my then girlfriend, hahaha. I have never been a fan of on ear headphones, and the Lowriders couldn't stay on my head. I honestly couldn't tell you if they were halfway decent or not. I have a slippery dome it seems, lol. I wasn't exactly pleased with them, and their build quality was quite lacking from what I'm used to today, but they were very inexpensive, and my girlfriend liked them well enough.
Anyways, my point is, I don't have a bias for OR against Skullcandy. What I DO know is that they have made great strides in improving their line and becoming more serious about the quality of their products. I can surely appreciate any company doing that. With the arrival of the SLYR, PLYR, and PLYR2 (with help from Astrogaming, which is well known in the gaming community, and which they now own), it's hard to not be curious about what Skullcandy has up their sleeves for us gamers.
So I'm approaching these headphones with a completely open mind. Okay, maybe not completely open. I do have ONE bias: I don't expect much from headsets
. With as many headphones as I have owned and tested, gaming headsets have been, for the most part, disappointing. Save for the Sennheiser PC360 (which remains the best headset I have used, and still among the best competitively even among the amazing headphones I have owned), the next best headset for me was the Tritton AX720 which was decent, but not 'good' overall. They are excused as they come with a Dolby Headphone decoder box which more than makes up for their lack of pure sound quality. Everything else was borderline forgivable to 'blegh'. So, with that bad taste in headsets overall, the SLYR had an uphill battle, and that's before I even opened the package. Still, I was excited.
Hmm, the Skullcandy SLYR (pronounced Slayer). Upon opening the package and taking them out, I was still neutral. They were unassuming, and relatively stealthy in a dominantly matte black finish with sort of yellow/green 'windows' on the cups. From what I have seen of earlier Skullcandy designs, they tend to be fashion statements, with lots of urban/street flavors, etc. The SLYR is humble looking in comparison. I actually like this. I tend to prefer a more classy approach to my headphones, rather than ones that scream at you. The SLYR still has an edgy design to them with sharp angles, but it's not 'loud'. It's hip for the younger kids, but still reserved enough for adults.
So that was my first impression on looks. Looks are not my top priority in a headphone. Comfort and sound first. How did they fare? Well, as soon as I put them on, I immediately thought: "Crap, these are on ear." I'm not a fan of on ears. Still, the pads were very soft, and they weren't pleather. Things I DEMAND in a headphone nowadays. I absolutely avoid pleather/leather like a plague. Then I realized, with a little bit of adjusting, the SLYR is actually circumaural/over ear! YES! Very happy about that. Certainly not the biggest cups, but they did fit my ears well enough (bigger openings than the Creative Aurvana Live, and much deeper pads). The SLYR is off too a good start, and I haven't even heard them yet.
As with every headphone I buy, my first listening test is ALWAYS music. Gaming comes later. I fired up some songs, let my ears adjust to their sound signature and soon after, I knew; Skullcandy meant business
. These don't just sound like a good headset. They sound like a good headphone. PERIOD
. I absolutely did not expect this sound coming from an $80 headset
. The first thing that I immediately noticed was the balance between the bass, mids, and treble. I am not exaggerating in saying that headphones
costing 3x the price of the SLYR can't manage to find such a great balance between fun and balance the way the SLYR does. I mean it. With the Sennheiser PC360, you get a really good and overall neutral-ish tonal balance, with not much sticking out of place, but not being exciting tonally. The SLYR on the other hand manages to sound balanced, with the right amount of bass emphasis and energy to make them exciting. They are forward sounding headphones, with not a hint of boredom in it anywhere. The Creative Aurvana Live sounds considerably more reserved in direct comparison, darker, and warmer. (which I had on hand at the time of review). While the CAL was still more refined overall, I have to say, I preferred the sonic signature of the SLYR. It was immediately more engaging and exciting. The SLYR isn't the fullest sounding headphone I've heard, nor the most refined, but they definitely got the balance right for my ears.Bass
: To be honest, I expected to have more bass than they did. I expected bloated bass. Bass that gets in the way of detail. This is NOT what I got. Instead, I got punchy, impactful, energetic bass that is quite present, but never overwhelming. It also has good speed and decay. Quite impressed with the SLYR's bass. A very good start. If I had to give the bass a quantity
, I'd give them an 8. Plenty of bass for me. Not perfectly in line with mids and treble, but it's a GOOD emphasis.Mids
: I'm used to v-shaped curves, with bass and treble emphasis, and recessed mids. Yet, the SLYR has some pretty up front mids next to the typical v shaped can. Can't pinpoint if it's the smaller soundstage, or just the mids in general, but they certainly weren't what I consider really recessed. Maybe just slightly so next to the bass, but I'd say they're pretty in line with the treble. They are pretty forward in the sense that vocals are near you basically at all times unless a song purposely mixes them further back.Treble
: You either expect dull, veiled treble, or treble that is too sharp, too spiky, too peaky. Again, the SLYR surprises in it's sonic characteristics. The treble is energetic, but it's not harsh. It's very close in balance to the mids for me. It is RARE for treble to be in the safe zone between too soft, and too harsh. The SLYR is DEFINITELY in that safe zone. I honestly wish the DT990's treble had a similar line. That's right.Amping
: As to be expected, the SLYR is a very efficient headphone, and I didn't feel they needed any extra amping.Soundstage
: This is definitely the only aspect of their sound that I was personally not entirely happy with. Part of it is because I'm grown so accustomed to open headphones, with an airy, wide/deep soundstage, and going back to a closed headphone's soundstage and typical closed headphone signature is a bit jarring. After getting used to the closed headphone sound, I'd still say the SLYR's weakest aspect is the soundstage. It's relatively small even comparing other closed headphones. I have VERY little experience with closed headphones, and I feel that out of the few I have on this guide, the SLYR is near the bottom in terms of soundstage. Thankfully, everything else is so good, so this drawback doesn't hurt as much. Still, it is small, and everything sounds pretty packed together next to other headphones in direct comparison like the CAL and A40s (the two main headphones I had on hand).Positioning
: Now that we're getting into the gaming side of this review, the first thing to discuss is positioning. Since I feel that positioning is very dependent on soundstage, I feel they did suffer just slightly compared to my faves. That is the nature of closed headphones (with the exception of the D7000, and DT770s which have some truly large soundstages for closed headphones), and the Pro 900 which, with the aid of S-Logic helps give a sense of depth not typically found on closed headphones, though not by much. The SLYR does place positional cues properly around you, though with the lack of soundstage, there isn't much space between you and the virtual space to make pinpointing easy. Still, it does a good job. Not great. I was able to dominate pretty easily in Call of Duty 4, and didn't feel lie I was at all hampered by the SLYR's positional cues. I didn't feel like they gave me a huge advantage compared to some of my fave headphones, but they did their job well. Again, good. Bear in mind, the SLYR was definitely marketed as a stereo headset with a mixer that plugs into RCA cables. I'm fairly certain that those who play in stereo will have VERY little to complain about.Clarity
: The SLYR is a warm headphone, but with enough crispness to say that they are plenty detailed for gaming. The closed design hurts clarity again only compared to open headphones like the PC360 and K701. As a closed headphone, I found them to have a nice balance between fun and detail-whoring, so I'd say that if I had to rate clarity separately, they'd get a 7 (good). I doubt there will be any complaints about clarity, especially at their price range.Comfort
: Pads? Soft, deep, comfy velour. They could definitely be bigger as larger ears MIGHT make these on ear ear headphones. Clamp? Not too loose, not too firm. I find them just right. Weight? Very light. Check. They stay relatively in place at all times, with not a lot of readjusting needed. A huge win here.Microphone
: The microphone is permanently affixed to the SLYR, but like the PC360, you swing it upwards. Unlike the PC360, the mic on the SLYR tucks away nicely into the cup, and is relatively well hidden when not in use. it's also small, but sensitive enough to pick up my voice quite easily. My voice came through clearly on my PS3 device settings, so I have very little to say about it, other than it does it's job well. It may be just a little too sensitive for my setup, as I have a large, noisy fan near me, and the mic picks it up unless I sit further back than what I'm used to. Still, that shouldn't be an issue for most people.Build Quality
: The SLYR is made out of all plastic. The plastic feels sturdy enough for my taste, somewhat reminiscent of the PC360 plastic. I have more faith in tossing these around than I would the Creative Aurvana Live. Assuming you're not abusing the hell out of the SLYR, I don't see these breaking with normal use.Accessoriers
: The SLYR comes with a stereo mixer. Think of it as a stereo alternative to the Mixamp, with the ability to mix voice/game audio at your desired levels, with three different EQ presets. One bass heavy, one flat, and the other treble heavy. I personally don't have much use for the Mixer since I own the Mixamp and prefer gaming in Dolby Headphone surround, but I did test the mixer and found the presets to work relatively well, and the mixer to also work pretty well in mixing game and voice without a lot of distortion. If anything, the closest alternative to this Mixer is the Steelseries Spectrum Audio Mixer, which retails for $40 and is for the 360. The SLYR's mixer works for both the 360 and PS3 (as well as PC). I didn't find a need for the EQ presets as the SLYR already has such an agreeable sound signature.
The Mixer has a very lengthy cable terminated in RCA jacks with piggyback female inputs. The Mixer is powered by a standard USB plug, and comes with a 3.5mm input for ANY headphone, as well as the 2.5mm input for the 360's controller for chat audio. The SLYR comes with a detachable 3.5mm male/male cable (a bit on the short side, IMHO) that carries chat audio. You can indeed use your own 3.5mm male/male standard audio cables, though the entry on the headset side may not accommodate thicker plugs. I found that the CAL's extension cable fit, but the first gen Astro 3.5mm cables didn't. I used the CAL's extension on the headset side, and my own 3.5mm male/male cables on the female end of the CAL's extension cable when using the SLYR for music on my main headphone setup (non-gaming). Basically, you will want cables with thin 3.5mm plugs if you want a lengthy cable for the SLYR. I don't know where to get lengthy ones that also carry voice audio, unfortunately.Value
: $80 gets you a damn good headphone that just so happens to actually be a headset. Convenience, comfort, and a relatively forward, engaging, and still balanced tone makes the SLYR the very first headset in the sub-$100 bracket that I recommend to anyone who absolutely needs a headset.Final Impressions
: While the SLYR isn't perfect, and aren't as refined as to what I'm personally used to (hello "Head-fi standards"), I must say that even with my higher end tastes, I really, REALLY like the SLYR from the sound, all the way to the comfort. These are great for music, great for fun gaming, and good enough for competitive use. Skullcandy's first serious gaming headset gets a solid B from me, and have made me a true believer. I can't wait to see what else Skullcandy has up their sleeve. If their $80 headset is this good, I have high hopes for their higher end models. One last thing that you will want to know: I prefer the SLYR over the A50s.
Fun: 7.5 (Very good. They really did a great job in finding a great balance between fun and balance. Very impressive for this price)
Competitive: 7 (Good. They absolutely do their job. I'd say stereo gamers will particularly love them, kind of like how I personally see the M50s if a little better in terms of positional cues. For us virtual surround gamers, I'd still say they are worth looking into if you absolutely need a headset.)
Comfort: 7.5 (Very good. Those with larger ears may have to use them as on ear as mentioned before, though they are still comfy in that way.)