Sells for $180.
Before I get started, I again want to thank Gernard Ferril at Skullcandy
for getting in contact with me and giving me the chance to review the PLYR 1. This makes the 4th product I've received from them, which I'm absolutely thankful for. The PLYR 1 (pronounced "Player 1") is Skullcandy's flagship gaming headset with all the bells and whistles you'd come to expect from a top of the line headset. It's almost fully wireless (save the XBox 360 controller/chat cable), with Dolby Headphone 7.1 virtual surround decoding, and a base/decoder box that doubles as a headstand. Basically, this is an alternative to fully decked out wireless headsets like the Astro A50s.
I have an unboxing video posted up on my new channel, HERE
. It will give you a solid idea as to what to expect.
PLYR 1 features:
Dolby 7.1 Surround (Dolby Headphone)
3 EQ presets: Bass Mode, Supreme mode (flat response), and Precision Mode (for extra air, treble detail)
Pivoting Boom Mic (non-removable)
The base/decoder box/headphone stand has:
Dolby Headphone button
Aux In (for external devices)
Optical Out (passthrough)
USB input to charge the headset
Mini USB for powering the base.
The PLYR 1 headset itself has:
Master knob with the voice/game volume balance, and volume up and down.
EQ preset slider with 3 settings
USB input for charging
2.5mm input for Xbox 360 controller/chat input
Non-detachable boom mic (flexible), mutes when flipped upBuild Quality
: The PLYR 1 is made up of some pretty durable plastic, heavier, and more solid than the SLYR. The design reminds me a lot of the newer Denon line, but without the horrible 'lip' at the ear cups. The PLYR 1 is a very nice looking headphone. Not extreme in it's design, but not understated either. I prefer it's design over the Slyr's. It's cups are non-glossy, textured in a street style pattern. The underside of headband is padded with soft cloth-like material, plenty to keep the headband from being uncomfortable. The left cup houses the microphone which is long, malleable, and easy to position any way you'd like.
The right cup houses all your buttons/functions. The power button is quite easy to find. The EQ preset slider is placed on the front side and isn't the easiest thing to find, though with some time, I didn't have any big issues finding it.
The Voice/Game/Volume 'stick' is placed near the power button, directly on the face of the right cup. I'm not the biggest fan of the stick, as it feels a bit analog and can be harder to 'feel' if you're adjusting the volume up/down or the V/G balance, basically not knowing if I'm hitting up or right if I move it somewhere in between the two, etc. My solution (as I never use a mic) is to immediately adjust the V/G balance all the way to the game audio side (G), which the headset confirms with two beeps. from there, I adjust the volume. If you adjust towards the voice side (V) all the way, you'll get a single, higher pitched beep. You'll want to adjust for game audio first, just to make sure you're getting a signal. There are instances where the headset drops audio completely (usually when switching a source, or a game booting up), and if you adjust for voice first, you won't hear game audio either way.
I understand Skullcandy wanting to have all these functions in one 'stick' for simplicity, but in the end, I felt it would have been better off having some buttons to press to separate each function. It ended up being harder to use over simple buttons, personally. I guess with time, it'd be second nature, however.
The ear pads are made up of the same material as the headband padding. Very soft, with plenty of depth, but a bit on the small side, so bigger ears may need to 'tuck' inside to have a circumaural fit.
On to the base/decoder box/headphone stand. The base is incredibly light. I personally would've wanted a heavier base, so it wouldn't slide around so easily, but that's more of a personal issue, as I'm constantly having to readjust the cables (using various sources for testing). I also would have preferred the power and Dolby button to be placed on the front, since there are times when you'll be switching from Stereo (for music) to Dolby (for games and DVD movies). Dolby Headphone doesn't discriminate and adds it's processing to all signals, which isn't a good thing for music and other 2 channel sources. It's a minor hassle having to reach around the back to switch it on/off.Comfort
: The PLYR 1 is a pretty comfortable headset overall. It's not as featherweight as the Slyr, but it's relatively light. At first, it can be quite clampy, which makes the PLYR 1 lose out on points, but after leaving it stretched over my headphone amp, it loosened up. I think I overdid it though, as it was a bit TOO loose. I ended up placing a rubber band around the headband for a night, and it allowed the PLYR 1 to clamp to my head again. It's at a decent clamp, not as bad as it was when I first wore it.
The headband has a generous amount of extension, so it should fit all but gigantic heads. The pads are incredibly comfortable, and plenty deep, though they are a bit on the small side. They could stand to be quite a bit wider/longer to allow bigger ears to fit in without issue. The headband padding is just as good as the ear pads, and is an absolute non-issue.Accessories
: Headset, base/decoder box, optical cable, 2.5mm (Xbox 360 chat cable), two usb cables. All you will ever need with the PLYR 1, though if you want to use external sources, you will want cables that terminate into 3.5mm to plug into the base's AUX IN.Isolation/Leakage
: Like the SLYR, it's not the best at isolation/noise leak. It's not as bad as an open headphone, but I would expect better. Comparing it directly to Mr. Speaker's Mad Dogs, you can clearly tell that the PLYR 1 was lacking in noise control compared to the MD.Microphone/Chat
: I'm not very experienced with headset mic capabilities, but I personally didn't have much if any issue with the microphone on the PLYR 1. It's malleable design ensures that you can position it any way you'd like to get it to pick up your voice properly.Sound
: The PLYR 1 shares a lot with the SLYR. This was confirmed by Gernard Feril (Skullcandy rep) via email.
Our aim was to offer the great wired SLYR acoustic experience but in a wireless format with Dolby Surround, so far it seems like we have achieved that.
I asked if they shared the same drivers and frequency response:
Yes, we had to make some modifications to the PLYR sound due to the added mass in the ear cavities (batteries and PCBs), but our target curves were the same for both.
So, the strengths and weaknesses of the SLYR were more or less the same in the PLYR 1. The PLYR 1 is a lively, energetic headphone, with boosted bass, but not overly so. Unlike it's relative the Astro A50s, the PLYR 1 has less prominent bass which doesn't intrude it's mids or treble. It's a bassy headphone, make no mistake, but it doesn't hamper it's sound quality the way the A50's bass did.
Unlike the SLYR, I personally feel the PLYR 1 has less congestion, and a better sense of space. The sound breathes easier than the SLYR, which sounded a little more closed and two dimensional in comparison.
The wireless through it's optical input is incredibly silent, with no discernible noise/hiss/hum. My only other wireless experience came with the A50 which had some background noise. The signal on the PLYR 1 (save for audio drop outs when launching PS3 games, which I'll touch upon later) was constant, distortion free, and clean.
The 3 EQ presets are as follows: (confirmed by Skullcandy's Head Engineer)
Preset 2 is a flat, true response EQ curve. That is how the headset was acoustically tuned. EQ1 and EQ3 flavor the sound. EQ1 has a significant (8dB) low bass boost (sub 200hZ), with some modifications to the sound elsewhere. EQ3 is more subtle and was meant to emphasize the gaming details. I added a moderate sub 200hz bass boost to emphasize explosions, but I wanted to avoid a “muddy” sound. I also added a moderate treble boost to highlight gaming details.
EQ1 (Bass Mode): It considerably recessed the mids, and gives the PLYR 1 a massive bass wallop. 8db is an overwhelming amount of bass, personally. I think 4db could have sufficed for bassheads, as the PLYR 1 is already bassy. I honestly didn't care for this preset. However, it is still better than the A50's bass heavy presets, which were just...not good at all.
EQ2 (Supreme Mode): The most natural of the 3, being mostly linear, though not completely. Like the Slyr, it's still bass emphasized, but as mentioned earlier, it's a nice bass boost that doesn't hamper the mids or treble detail.
EQ3 (precision Mode): This mode is slightly more v-shaped than EQ2, with a slight bump in bass and treble. The bass boost is subtle, and the treble boost adds a nice amount of air to the PLYR 1. The mids get ever so slightly pushed back, but it's benign, as the PLYR 1 still sounds relatively well balanced, despite the rise of it's higher/lower extremities. This mode has the most soundstage and air of the three, though ultimately, I still slightly prefer EQ2.
Before I get into the specifics of the PLYR 1's sound, I need to mention that I'm basing the majority of this review on the PLYR 1's EQ2 (Supreme Mode) preset, as that is it's inherent tonal balance without any EQ.Sound Issues
: I found EQ1 and EQ3 to have distortion embedded in the signal when running Sinegen frequency sweeps. EQ2 had no such distortion. The distortion/noise isn't noticeable while gaming, and I had zero problems playing in EQ3, but just take note that the noise may be there. It's mostly in the lower octaves (most of the bass) that distorts pretty noticeably on Sinegen. Again, it wasn't noticeable while gaming.
Another issue is that the Auxiliary Line In on the base has some background hum that gets louder as you raise the volume. Regardless of source or cable, the hum remained. It reminded me of the hum I had on my Schiit Lyr tube amp. Ultimately, it's not a big issue while gaming. The hiss off the Mixamp Pro (2013) and Mixamp 5.8 were more noticeable than the low hum off the Plyr 1's Line In.
The last sound issue I had with the PLYR 1 is that the signal would drop indefinitely when going from the PS3's XMB into launching a game. It never dropped WHILE gaming however. On those occasions when I would lose audio, I'd either press the DH button or powered off/on the base/headset, which would then get the signal back with no further issues. I'll have to do more testing to see if it's just an issue with the PS3 switching from LPCM to Dolby Digital which causes the audio to drop.Bass
: Like the Slyr, the PLYR 1 has a very full, lively, and fun amount of bass. I can't say anything I didn't already mention about the Slyr: "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
: Again, like the Slyr, the PLYR 1 has similar mids: I'm used to v-shaped curves, with bass and treble emphasis, and recessed mids. Yet, the (Plyr 1) has some pretty (decent) mids next to the typical v shaped can. Slightly recessed next to the bass, but I'd say they're pretty in line with the treble. The SLYR's mids are slightly more forward, though I'm sure it's due to the more compact and intimate soundstage.Treble
: Again, I felt the treble to be very much like the Slyr: "The treble is (ever so slightly) 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 (PLYR 1) is DEFINITELY in that safe zone."
The treble may be just a tad smoother than the SLYR, though it's close.Soundstage
: The soundstage on the PLYR 1 is decidedly closed, but it's pretty airy and spacious despite being closed. From memory, it has a better sense of air and space than the SLYR, and so it performs a bit better for competitive gaming. In direct comparison to the Mad Dogs (which at the time of this review I was re-reviewing), the PLYR 1 sounds more open and spacious, though the Mad Dogs have better depth. On EQ3, the PLYR 1 gained a subtle amount of air and perceived soundstage.Positioning
: The relatively decent soundstage for a closed headphone works better than the more congested SLYR's soundstage. Positional cues were relatively easy to pinpoint, though the soundstage depth wasn't stellar, and the imaging wasn't as clean and precise as some of the better headphones reviewed. If I were to score the positional cues, I'd give them a 7. Good.Clarity
: The PLYR 1 isn't the most detailed headset or headphone I've heard, but for the purpose of gaming, it's pretty good. The flat preset is somewhat on a tonally neutral to slightly warm side, and I found the perceived clarity to be better on EQ3, despite it being more V-shaped.Value
: For $180 MSRP, you get a solid wireless headset which includes it's own Dolby Headphone decoder and headphone stand. If you're a gamer and just want one very simple and affordable solution for ALL your gaming, music, movie needs, the PLYR 1 is going to be pretty hard to pass up.Final Impressions
: The PLYR 1, like the SLYR is a winner by Skullcandy. I was very pleased by it's sound quality for music, gaming, and movies. Have I heard better? Of course. However, the PLYR 1 has a tonal balance that just resonates with my particular tastes. There are almost no headphones I have reviewed outside of Skullcandy's own SLYR that has the bass/mid/treble balance that I deem near PERFECT for my taste. The higher end cans I have reviewed have better quality, but their tonal balance isn't as dialed in to my tastes as the SLYR and PLYR 1. Paired with the fact that the PLYR 1 is wireless (and a very good wireless signal at that) makes it a must have for those looking for simple all in one solutions, despite a few drawbacks/issues with it's functionality and EQ presets having some distortion.
Fun: 7.75 (Very, Very Good. there's nothing I can say about the PLYR 1's sound signature except that it's incredibly fun to listen to with all forms of media.)
Competitive: 7.25 (Good. Due to a bigger soundstage, and sense of air that allows positional cues to stick out better than the SLYR, the PLYR 1 makes a better gaming headset overall. Depth isn't excellent, but overall, it does work quite well.)
Comfort: 7.5 (very Good. Initially a bit clampy, after some trial and error, the PLYR 1 is a pretty comfortable headphone, though some with bigger ears may have an issue with the small diameter of the pads.)