Skullcandy ANC 2 Grinder Review

Skullcandy ANC 2 Grinder Review

The Skullcandy Crusher ANC 2 Noise Canceling Headphones ($229.99) cost less and last longer than their predecessors, but the main draw here is the insane amount of bass they can pump out. If that’s the type of signature sound you’re looking for, and you appreciate a comfortable, sleek design, you can end your search here. Just keep in mind that competing headphones like the $329 Bose QuietComfort 45 offer much better active noise cancellation (ANC).

Understated style

Available in matte black, the Crusher ANC 2 over-ear headphones are refined and modern. They feel comfortable during long listening sessions thanks to the generous memory foam padding in the ear cups and fabric-lined headband. I never felt fatigued from the clamping pressure and my ears never felt uncomfortably hot during testing.

Internally, the 40mm dynamic drivers provide a frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz. The headphones are compatible with Bluetooth 5.2 and support AAC and SBC codecs, but not AptX. Bose offers the same choices, while even more expensive alternatives like the Sony WH-1000XM5 ($399.99) and Sennheiser Momentum 4 ($349.95) include the higher-end LDAC and AptX Adaptive codecs, respectively.

(Credit: Tim Gideon)

The headphones sport a range of push-button controls, with a dedicated power button (in red) and a dial to adjust the bass effect on the left ear cup. Skullcandy actually uses two sets of drivers: the 40mm dynamic drivers we mentioned above and a pair of haptic drivers that produce vibrations (much like passive bass radiators on loudspeakers). -Bluetooth speakers) in concert with frequencies between about 10 Hz and 150 Hz. Turning the dial up or down changes the amount of vibration, but does not affect the main motors. If you press the button, it alternates between the 20%, 50% and 80% settings. You can also simply turn off the dial and adjust the sound through the app’s five-band equalizer.

The side panel of the right earcup has a set of three buttons. The middle button handles playback, calls and Spotify Tap integration (depending on how many times you press it or how long you hold it), while the outer buttons control volume. An additional button next to these switches between ANC On, ANC Off and Stay Aware (transparency) modes.

As for connections, the left earcup houses a USB-C port for the included USB-A to USB-C charging cable and a 3.5mm headphone jack for the included audio cable. You also get a hard-shell zippered case with a fabric-lined exterior that easily fits headphones and cables.

Accessories Skullcandy Crusher ANC 2

(Credit: Tim Gideon)

Skullcandy estimates that the headphones can last around 50-60 hours per charge (depending on your ANC usage), but your typical volume level also affects that figure. The company claims you can get four hours of listening time from just 10 minutes of charging.

Skullcandy Crusher ANC 2 app experience

The Skull-iQ app (available for Android and iOS) lays out its myriad of controls in an accessible assortment of tiles that sit below an image of the headphones and a battery reading on the main screen. The app might seem slightly overwhelming in scope, but some sections are more essential than others.

First, the Voice Command and Voice Assistant sections. These should have been part of the same tile, but, essentially, you can choose between Alexa or iHeartRadio voice assistants and change their language. The app also lets you use Skullcandy’s built-in voice control technology – once you activate it, the headphones will listen for the wake-up phrase “Hey Skullcandy” and can perform basic operations.

Skull-iQ app EQ settings

(Credit: Skullcandy)

In the Button area, you can assign almost any control to most physical buttons. I love this level of customization, especially because you can reset everything to the default layout with a single tap.

The Crusher tile allows you to adjust the intensity of the bass effect. Tap the Hearing Modes section to adjust levels for ANC and Stay Aware modes. On the EQ screen, you can choose between Music, Podcast, and Movie presets, as well as create a custom signature with up to five bands.

Skull-iQ App Detailed Settings

(Credit: Skullcandy)

Otherwise, select the Personal Sound tile to measure your hearing, the Spotify Tap option to set up this integration, and the Take Photo section to allow the headphones to work as a shutter release button for your camera. The multipoint tile helps you set up a connection with multiple devices at once, while the Find with tile option activates a built-in location-based feature that helps you find your headphones if you lose them.

In the settings menu, you can disconnect the headphones, adjust the app language, update the app, and access basic customer support resources.

Average noise cancellation

In testing, the four-mic system provided only decent noise cancellation. For best results, be sure to set the ANC slider to the maximum level in the app.

The earphones are somewhat reminiscent of low-frequency humming noises like those of an airplane, but these sounds are still quite audible. A more complex recording of a crowded cafe didn’t sound much different with ANC on or off either; most of the mids and highs are passed through cleanly.

Simply put, Skullcandy’s ANC implementation doesn’t come close to that of the Bose QC45 headphones in any of the tests above. Unfortunately, ANC mode also affects audio playback: bass response is richer and fuller when active. You may enjoy this sound signature more, but the noise canceling modes should ideally never influence the sound signature.

Stay Aware mode doesn’t present environmental noise as clearly as some others we’ve tested, but you can adjust its level in the app and you shouldn’t have major issues hearing your surroundings.

Bass response trumps everything else

For testing, we left the bass boost feature on as it’s one of the headphones’ main selling points. Additionally, the headphones lose some of their low-end punch when turned off. For reference, we mostly settled for a setting of around 50%.

On tracks with intense sub-bass content, such as The Knife’s “Silent Shout”, the speakers produce very heavy bass with dramatic vibrations. At full volume, these rattles are uncomfortable. Keep the volume and bass levels lower if you want some semblance of balance. For due diligence, I tried the headphones at full volume and with the bass at its highest – I wanted to throw them out of my head immediately once I did. The bass vibes at a gig can be fun when you feel them all over your body, but you feel queasy when they’re just on your skull.

Interestingly, the pair can’t quite replicate all the sub-bass at the 34-second mark of Kendrick Lamar’s “Loyalty.” The last note of the descending bass progression is just too low for pilots to handle. Something weird happens as a result – you get a huge amount of vibration for the first two notes, then that rumble just goes away. At maximum bass level, the effect is the same for the deepest bass, but you don’t notice it as much because the drum loop takes a huge step forward. All this to say that there is a technical limitation to implementing bass at the lowest sub-bass levels.

Skullcandy ANC 2 Grinder horizontal view

(Credit: Tim Gideon)

“Drover” by Bill Callahan, a title with much shallower bass, reveals the sound signature better. At bass levels of 50% or more, the battery sounds absurd. They resonate so much that they overpower everything else in the mix. At 10%, however, the battery still gets thunder without ruining the richness and crispness of vocals. Use these lower levels to maintain a more reasonable sound signature.

Orchestral tracks, such as John Adams’ opening scene The Gospel According to the Other Mary, seems a bit ridiculous. At very low bass settings you can enjoy these tracks somewhat, but anything above the 20% threshold causes random audio artifacts (such as unintended rumble) to emerge. It just doesn’t gracefully complement typical stereo recordings of orchestral music.

The mic array works quite well and I could understand every word of an iPhone test recording. The signal was strong overall, but other headphones offer slightly better clarity.

Bass beyond reason

The Skullcandy Crusher ANC 2 headphones don’t cancel noise as well as the competition, but that’s not really their goal. The reason to get them is their exaggerated bass response. You get some flexibility in bass sound intensity, but you should opt for a different option if you prefer a more reasonable sound signature. The Bost QuietComfort 45 earbuds, for example, are a great alternative as they offer best-in-class noise cancellation and sound nicer (but still with advanced bass), but at considerable extra cost. But if you just want to feel the vibrations in your brain, nothing we’ve tested in recent memory comes close to those crushing cans of Skullcandy.

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