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Let me be clear: Purists will hate these things. Yet just about everyone I handed them to agreed on one point: The Crusher is pretty fun, even if it is completely indelicate.

Cool and comfortable

The Crusher comes in red, black, and white. The flexible band and boxy ear cups are made of shiny plastic. Cushy synthetic ear pads line both cups. A 4.42-foot cable hosts a one-button remote and mic, so you can skip songs or take calls—but you can't control volume. Happily, the cable is detachable, so if yours gets crushed, you won't need to replace the whole rig.

Believe me when I tell you that the Crusher will literally rock your skull.

Now, about that vibrating feature: Believe me when I tell you that the Crusher will literally rock your skull. How? With a battery-powered, secondary driver that transmits vibrations to the head, which we perceive as bass. I asked my neighbors if the vibrations bothered them—it didn't. Users can lessen the vibrating effect or completely shut it off by turning a wheel on the side of the ear cup.

Traveling listeners will appreciate the light, collapsible structure, the microfiber carry case, and the aforementioned mic/remote. As with most consumer headphones, low frequency sounds like laboring engines will break the Crusher's sound barrier easily, but high pitched irritants like chattering coworkers are effectively blocked. As for sound leakage, the Crusher barely spills a peep. Unless you're blasting your beats, your mothers will never hear your indecent tunes.

The Crusher may conjure the image of a merciless wrestler, but that doesn't mean it can't baby your ears.

Finally, the Crusher may conjure the image of a merciless wrestler, but that doesn't mean it can't baby your ears. The over-ear form is quite nice, with soft pads that rest comfortably against the head and cups that pivot on movable joints. With extended use, comfort does suffer a little, since the pads touch the tops and backs of your ears. My biggest complaint is the size, though. Folks with smaller heads won't be able to find a snug fit, so definitely see if you can try the Crusher on before buying.

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As clumsy as a clattering spoiler on a Honda Civic

Vibrating headphones aren't for everyone, but I love the adventurous approach. The headphone market could use a horse of a different color, frankly. Speaking technically, though, the sound quality here is mediocre, at best. I ran tests with the vibrating feature off, at half power, and at max—the results varied. Bear with me while I walk you through.

With the vibrating driver turned off, users get stuck with downright skeletal bass.

With the vibrating driver turned off, users get stuck with downright skeletal bass. Drum kicks, bassoons, and even deep vocal altos sound very quiet. The midrange comes through nicely, so that middle notes on every instrument in the book are appropriately loud. The uppermost notes on a variety of strings, percussion, and brass instruments are difficult to hear, but at least the very highest notes ring out loud and clear: James Brown is anything but subtle as he screams, "HOT PANTS!"

So what happens when you turn the vibrating bass all the way up? Volume increases noticeably in the bass range, and the sub bass absolutely blasts off the charts. This is bass you can feel. Dub step and drum kicks will literally rattle your brain. Mids and highs stay more or less the same as before, though, so you really lose some needed emphasis there. Overall, the vibrating bass makes for rather clumsy, indelicate sound—though some will argue it's just plain fun.

Overall, the vibrating bass makes for rather clumsy, indelicate sound—though some will argue it's just plain fun.

When it comes to balance, I'll just discuss the most prominent errors: Without the vibrating feature, sub-bass favors the left ear to a notable extent—so that low-down sounds are about twice as loud in the left ear as in the right. Turn the feature on full-steam and sub-bass evens out, but high notes become noticeably louder in the right ear. Any way you dice it, you're stuck with imbalanced left and right speakers—but nothing that serves as a real deal breaker.

Have you wondered this whole time whether vibrating headphones come with audible distortion? Yup, they do. Surprisingly, distortion is least offensive with the vibrating driver functioning at max power. If you want to minimize distortion, just turn that bass driver all the way up.

In manner of ill-fated moth...

The Skullcandy Crusher promises bass you can feel, and that's exactly what it delivers. With the bass driver turned to max, music certainly loses some of its texture; upper notes on guitars, flutes, and the like really get lost in the shuffle.

And there are other bones to pick, too. My medium-sized head is too small for the Crusher; distortion plagues the sub-bass range to an audible degree; imbalances in volume occur between the left and right speakers at times. Worst of all, much better sound quality can be found for the same $100-dollar price.

Yet somehow I'm still drawn to the Crusher, like a doomed moth to an electrical Flowtron... I know for a fact that my teen brother would go nuts for these things, and they do lend an exciting, concert-like sensation to bassy music. As I ruefully stare at the Skullcandy Crusher's mediocre test results, I'm reminded of my mother and her militant curfews. Looking back, she was right to want me home past midnight. Yet that never stopped me from breaking into the neighborhood pool at 2 a.m., which was always a total, ill-advised blast.

Opinions only take you so far when it comes to auditing a product, which is why we rely on science. Time in the lab produces the results we need to fairly rate a gadget, and we like to share our findings right here.

The Skullcandy Crusher took longer to test because of its settings: We ran tests on this product with the vibrating driver turned off, halfway up, and all the way up, to see what it could do. We found mediocre performance across the board.

The boom boom doom

Since I ran tests with the vibrating feature off, at half power, and again at max, I have a few more results to report than usual. I'll walk you through them.

Without the vibrating feature, the Crusher's bass is more like the ghost of bass—like Hulk Hogan without his tan. Sound in the 20Hz to 200Hz range—where drum kicks, electronic sub-bass, and low brass/woodwinds live—is extremely anemic compared to what most consumer headphones offer. The 500Hz to 2kHz range looks great, meaning the bread-and-butter midrange notes are properly emphasized and audible. Above the 2kHz mark, volume plummets once again, making it difficult to distinguish the uppermost notes on strings, woodwinds, brass, and other instruments.

The Crusher's frequency response with the vibrating driver in the off position

With the vibrating bass functioning at maximum, volume increases moderately in the bass range, and rips off the charts in the sub-bass arena. Portions of the sub-bass range are upwards of 20dB louder than with the bass feature turned off, whereas higher bass notes of around 100 to 200Hz are just 5dB louder. You can feel this bass. Meanwhile, the rest of the frequency response stays the same as before, meaning those underemphasized high-mids (around 2kHz) are completely overwhelmed. Sorry, flautists.

The frequency response with the vibrating driver functioning full force

So what about with the vibrating feature at just half power? Everything stays the same except that instead of a more-than 20dB leap in volume around the 60Hz sub-bass range, you get a 5dB jump in volume for bass across the board. Again, mids and highs stay right around the same vicinity as before.

The frequency response with the vibration feature in the half power position

The Crusher is no match for sub-bass distortion, evidently.

When it comes to distortion, I bet the results aren't what you thought they'd be. Distortion is less of a problem with the vibrating driver working at max power!

To minimize the distortion, turn the vibration feature all the way to max.

Every setting suffers pretty bad distortion in the sub-bass range, but the problem bleeds into the 100Hz range too, if you don't turn the vibrating feature all the way up. Weird.

Distortion with the vibration feature turned off completely

With the vibration feature at half power

Thus, to minimize distortion, crank that wheel. I should mention that the sub-bass range is the least perceptible portion of the range though—so these issues shouldn't crash your party completely unless you have a practiced ear.


The Crusher does a great job blocking out high frequency noise pollution like nearby conversations or whining cats. In fact, these headphones can make such irritants as much as 1/8 less loud than they would otherwise be. Low frequency bothers like grumbling engines are a different story, though, easily breaking the Crusher's sound barrier.

Meet the tester

Virginia Barry

Virginia Barry

Former Managing Editor


Virginia is a former Managing Editor at She has a background in English and journalism. Away from the office, Virginia passes time with dusty books & house cats.

See all of Virginia Barry's reviews

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