Rightly or wrongly, Skullcandy have always felt like a fashion brand rather than a serious headset maker. The swathes of brightly coloured, entry-level headphones hanging from the racks in HMV probably doesn’t help with that, but it’s entirely at odds with the fact that they also make decent-sounding pieces of kit that have found many fans over the years. Still, nobody would have expected what we’re getting with the Skullcandy Crusher Evo; a premium-build, premium-appearance pair of headphones with audio that puts them right into the conversation dominated by the likes of Sony and Bose.
The first thing that tells you this isn’t your regular Skullcandy set is the absence of giant white skull logos across each earpiece. Instead, the largely black build is subtle and subdued, and looks every inch the top-end set. All of the highlights are grey, from a pair of small grey skull logos on the head band to the padding beneath it. The one moment of colour is the fluorescent orange power button, which might sound a bit odd, but fits in perfectly in the scheme of things.
Skullcandy have really gone to town on the Crusher Evo, and the matte black plastics are complemented by an unusual felt covering at the top of the headband and sumptuous leatherette ear cushions. The one element that I keep catching as I put them on is that the cushioning beneath the headband is covered by a waterproof rubberised layer. It’s soft and pliable enough that once it’s on your head you won’t think anything of it, but it adds an odd tactile element to the headset when it’s in your hand. Personally, that’s not the worst thing as it’s another element to help set the Crusher Evo apart from the competition.
There’s a smattering of controls across the rear of each earpiece. The right-hand side features three buttons, covering your main media controls of volume, play/pause and track skipping. The left houses that brightly coloured power button, and the control for the Crusher Evo’s secret weapon – a slider that dictates how powerful the haptic rumble effect is.
If you’ve never come across this before, haptics in a headset produce a physical rumble to help add depth and enhance realism where you wouldn’t normally experience it. It falls into the same bracket as the little rumble many smartphones give when typing, or the rumble of a game controller in your hand. In the case of headphones like the Crusher Evo, it adds a thump and a physical element to the bass elements of whatever you’re listening to. Want to feel like you’re at the club while listening to Deadmaus? Or that the explosions in The Fate of the Furious are happening around you? You want haptics in your headphones.
The Skullcandy Crusher Evo boasts the best example of the technology that I’ve come across so far. Sony’s Pulse headsets, and Razer’s Nari Ultimate, made convincing use of the head-thumping tech, but the Crusher Evo gives the most variable and the most usable rendition yet. You can access settings at the top end that I genuinely don’t think a human being can withstand for any length of time, but through the opening increments I found that music, movies, sports and video games gained a meaningful level of depth that you simply couldn’t get without haptics.
The Crusher Evo gives you a pair of connection, with both Bluetooth and 3.5mm available, with the wired connection still letting you use the haptic technology so long as there’s life in the onboard battery. The only downside to using it in this manner is that it introduces a low-level hum to the headphone’s output; it’s not audible when there’s sound coming through it, but it is there. If you’re out of juice the Crusher Evo will happily function as a straight pair of headphones too, meaning the music never has to stop, though the thumping will have to.
Just like Sony and Bose, Skullcandy have an app for your Android or iOS device to help customise your experience. The Equalizer settings are fairly limited, with a minimal three different options available for Music, Movies and Podcasts. You can of course utilise your device’s own equalizer options as well, so it’s not as limiting as it potentially could be. You can however personalise the Crusher Evo’s sound output further, with the app taking you through a series of hearing tests to customise the audio exactly to your own hearing.
It’s something we’ve seen from Samsung’s recent mobile phones amongst others, and it really helps to lift the audio output to match your own ear’s deficiencies. The Crusher Evo sounded great before I ran through the customisation; it was even better afterwards.
It would be easy to overlook the audio given how much focus people are likely to place on the haptics, but the Crusher Evo delivers an excellent listening experience no matter what content you’re funnelling into your ears. The new Royal Blood track was a wonderful test-bed for picking out the details of the top end above a thumping bass line, while a Sunday evening of NFL action was brought to life by the added depth of every tackle.
Mobile gaming was similarly assisted by the Crusher Evo’s excellent performance, and whether it was the crack of nearby gunfire in PUBG Mobile or the clash of swords in Genshin Impact, the Crusher Evo brings a realism to proceedings that’s hard to leave behind. This really is a headset that’s very easy to live with, and during testing became a welcome companion at home and on the move, no matter what I was doing.
While there’s no active noise cancellation, the well-weighted seal over your ears and the powerful audio means you’ll be unlikely to hear anything from the outside world other than the most intrusive noises. There is however built-in Tile tracking technology so you never have to lose your headphones again, which is perfect if you’re like me and all of your worldly possessions simply walk away from you when you put them down. There’s also an in-built microphone that’s perfect for making calls, though you may want to grab the haptic slider if any of your friends sound like Barry White. Unless, of course, you like that sort of thing.