Feel free to tote these semi-comfortable cans all over the city—you certainly didn't buy them for their audio quality.

In the short term, the Skullcandy Hesh headphones aren’t all that uncomfortable, though those of you with larger ears are going to have a hard time getting the ear cups to fit the way you’d like. Over time, if the fit isn’t working perfectly, it’s only going to get worse, as these things trap heat like it's their job. Additionally, the clamping force on these are a bit high, so expect some fatigue over time.

Thankfully, maintenance with the Skullcandy Hesh is easy.

About the only thing you can do to customize these cans is to either replace the cable, or buy a pair with the design you want. After your purchase, you’re pretty much set with what you can do to them, so plan accordingly. Though they come with no adapters, you shouldn’t need one for the Skullcandy Hesh, as just about every mobile device we’ve seen uses a 3.5mm (1/8th inch) jack, and the Hesh has the appropriately-sized plug. The cord length is your standard 3.93 foot affair, and the microphone is near where your mouth will be, which makes it a decent option for smartphone use. If someone is calling you, all you have to do is pinch it and it will answer your call (at least it should on an iPhone), and you can use your headphones like a headset for your smartphone.

If you want to stow your cans while you’re out and about, there’s a neoprene carrying pouch that you can drop your cans into. The headphones are a bit bulky, but if you have a messenger bag or backpack, this should be of no consequence if you have room in there. Thankfully, maintenance with the Skullcandy Hesh is easy. If you get a gunky buildup of earwax on the mesh, simply wipe it down with a rubbing alcohol-soaked cloth. If you cable breaks, you can head on over to your local electronics store (or Amazon) and grab a male-to-male 3.5mm audio cable to replace it.

Ouch

Maintaining bass frequencies, the Skullcandy Hesh drop most of their mids and high notes precipitously after 1kHz. For reference, that means the entire highest third of a piano will sound muffled, as well as almost half of a guitar’s notes. Unless you only care about bass, these are bad headphones in the frequency response department.

Unless you only care about bass, these are _bad_ headphones in the frequency response department.

The Skullcandy Hesh also show a bit of distortion in higher notes, though you’re unlikely to hear it given the frequency response problems noted above. In addition to a bad frequency response, the wild channel shift to the right ear—in the only frequency range you can hear well—is just frustrating. Terrible, even. You will definitely notice your music sounding louder in one ear than the other in inconsistent fashion.

Due to the materials used and the difficulty in getting a good seal, the Skullcandy Hesh does not offer very good attenuation, and you’ll notice a bunch of noise from the outside world getting into your ear canal. For example, engine noise and low voices will get right through.

These aren't for your ears, they're for others' eyes.

Despite their snazzy looks and general appeal to those youngins who think appearances matter more than performance, we’re forced to play the part of grumpy old geezers and pooh-pooh these headphones. They have very poor audio performance, even for the low price.

However, far be it appropriate for us to try to say that someone’s predilections are somehow objectively bad, as there are all sorts of differing preferences out there, but these headphones have an inexcusably low performance in terms of audio quality. Possibly their only saving graces include the removable cable, and the value brought by aesthetics if that matters to you.

If you don’t care so much about audio quality, and more about how you’re going to look on the street with your slammin’ new cans, the Skullcandy Hesh is probably your go-to for the entry level. However, if you’re looking for at least passable audio performance, you’d do well to keep looking.

These headphones are big on style, tiny on performance. While we understand that they are clearly attempting to straddle a line between "self" and "other"—as in, pleasing for you to listen to, pleasing for others to see—they fail on what we'd consider to be the most important aspect of any headphones: audio quality. Here's how.

Its frequency response was by far its biggest drawback.

Ideally, we like to see bass, mid, and high frequencies in harmony with one another—nothing really stealing the spotlight in terms of volume. At the very least, frequencies should be mostly audible, even if they're de-emphasized in favor others.

The Skullcandy Hesh headphones fail to do this in a rather spectacular fashion. Rather than maintaining an even frequency response and boosting their bass tones, they severely underemphasize their mids and highs to the point of sounding only an eighth as loud as the rest of your music. Everything from about 2kHz to the highest notes you can hear are going to be buried hard and fast beneath the bass. Any sibilance, almost all of your harmonic overtones, piccolo, flute, clarinet stand completely subservient to bass tones. You'll be turning your music up to hear most of the song, and the some notes will be dangerously loud.

You might as well just listen to the right channel only.

That huge bass emphasis we mentioned? Yeah, it's pretty much all in the right speaker. There's about 10dB of volume emphasis on all of your bass and half of your mid tones, meaning that everything will sound twice as loud in your right ear than the left. By the time they even out in channel preference, you've gotten into frequencies that are drastically under emphasized. Needless to say, this is terrible. It's almost the opposite of the expected purpose to be served by the product.

Meet the testers

Chris Thomas

Chris Thomas

Staff Writer, Imaging

@cthomas8888

A seasoned writer and professional photographer, Chris reviews cameras, headphones, smartphones, laptops, and lenses. Educated in Political Science and Linguistics, Chris can often be found building a robot army, snowboarding, or getting ink.

See all of Chris Thomas's reviews
Chris Thomas

Chris Thomas

Staff Writer, Imaging

@cthomas8888

A seasoned writer and professional photographer, Chris reviews cameras, headphones, smartphones, laptops, and lenses. Educated in Political Science and Linguistics, Chris can often be found building a robot army, snowboarding, or getting ink.

See all of Chris Thomas's reviews

Checking our work.

We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

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