Skullcandy Crusher ANC 2 review: A rapper’s delight | TechHive

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If bass is ace in your book, you’ll dig the Skullcandy Crusher ANC 2. Playing music on this headphone feels like you’ve strapped a pair of 12-inch subwoofers to your head. Its noise cancellation pales in comparison to the higher-priced competition, however, and it’s far from being a high-fidelity component. Basalt Crusher

Skullcandy Crusher ANC 2 review: A rapper’s delight | TechHive

The Skullycandy Crusher ANC 2 is aptly named. It will almost literally crush your ears with its thumping bass response, but its active noise cancellation is pretty weak sauce.

Skullcandy says it’s targeting “tech-savvy audiophiles” with this headphone, but most audiophiles eschew active noise cancellation, and I don’t know of any who would seek out an audio product that so zealously overemphasizes a given frequency range the way the Crusher ANC 2 does the low end.

But for those looking for a headphone with massive amounts of thump, this is the one to buy. Note: Walmart sells these headphones in a box labeled Crusher ANC XT 2, but the same product is inside.

Skullcandy has a bigger-than-average bag of tricks when it comes to voice commands.

The Skullcandy Crusher ANC is equipped with 40mm drivers with a frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz (no tolerance given). So, as you might expect, it delivers more than adequate bass response even without enabling the Crusher effect.

This review is part of TechHive’s in-depth coverage of the best noise-cancelling headphones.

The headphone is less impressive at producing higher frequencies; in fact, the jangly guitar and Hayley Williams’ vocals sounded rather flat while listening to Paramore’s “Big Man, Little Dignity,” from the band’s album This is Why, streamed from Tidal.

Turning to tracks with more bass emphasis, I listened to Gorillaz’ “Tarantula,” from its Cracker Island album. With Crusher mode engaged at 20 percent, the bass guitar and kick drum stomped all over the synthesizer arpeggios and the drummer’s hi-hat. I had a similar experience listening to Pharrell Williams’ vocals on Daft Punk’s “Lose Yourself to Dance,” from Random Access Memories (10th Anniversary Edition), streamed from Qobuz.

Skullcandy’s branding is surprisingly understated given the over-the-top nature of its Crusher haptic bass feature.

According to Skullcandy, the Crusher drivers operate at frequencies from 10- to 150Hz, with a peak around 40Hz. I found the Crusher effect downright unpleasant at anything higher than 20 percent. At 50 percent and above, the pressure from those haptic drivers—the source of that thump—began to feel as though someone was rhythmically slamming their cupped hands over my ears.

The Crusher ANC 2 is outfitted with four microphones that monitor environmental noise, so the headphone can cancel it out. I didn’t detect a major difference in audio performance toggling the feature on and off (using a slider on the right-hand earcup), which means the headphone wasn’t negatively affecting the music I was listening to.

The large thumbwheel on the Crusher ANC 2’s left-hand earcup adjusts the level of “Crusher” haptic bass effect. Depressing the thumbwheel turns the effect off.

But Skullcandy’s ANC wasn’t highly effective at masking undesired sounds. It removed at least some of the low-end rumble from the simulated aircraft cabin noise that I played on external speakers, but it was almost entirely ineffectual at masking the high-end shoosh.

The same slider can enable a Stay Aware mode for those times when you want do want to hear what’s going on around you. This uses the headphone’s mics to pipe outside sound into the headphone, so you can hear traffic noises if you’re walking, and for those times when you want to listen for announcements of a PA system or speak to someone without doffing your headphones. If ANC is an important headphone feature, you’ll want to stick with the higher-end offerings from Sony or Bose.

Skullcandy has a bigger-than-average bag of tricks when it comes to voice commands. It not only has Alexa onboard, but you can also speak commands for play and pause, volume up and down, and to skip forward and back on your playlist. You can give the headphone device-specific instructions, such as “Hey Skullcandy, ANC On,” “Hey Skullcandy, Stay-Aware off,” “Hey Skullcandy, more [or less] Crusher” to adjust the level of the headphone’s bass-boosting Crusher effect.

You can also initiate Spotify and iHeart radio music streaming by saying to the headphone: “Hey Skullcandy, Spotify” or “Hey iHeart, play….” There’s even a setting that lets you use voice commands to take a photo with your phone’s camera. None of these features—apart from Alexa—require a broadband connection.

The Crusher ANC 2 is a comfortable headphone with generous memory foam padding in its earcups and the top of its headband.

Even with its headband and yoke being fabricated mostly from plastic (the upper headband is stainless steel), the Crusher ANC 2’s 11.8-ounce weight puts it on the heavier end of the spectrum. The Sony WH-1000XM5, by comparison, weighs just 8.8 ounces.

I nonetheless found the Crusher comfortable to wear for long listening sessions, thanks to the 10-position, indexed headband; the generous amounts of memory foam underneath the patent-leather cushions on its earpads; the padded twill fabric on the underside of its headband; and optimal clamping pressure.

You’ll need to remember that the Crusher’s orange power button, its thumbwheel for dialing in the amount of Crusher effect, its USB-C charging port, and its 3.5mm aux input are located on the left-hand earcup, because the black-on-black markers identifying the left and right elements of these cans are nearly impossible to see. That memory will be useful when you store the headphone in its case as well.

Shaped surfaces on the Crusher ANC 2’s buttons make them easy to differentiate while you’re wearing the headphone.

Three buttons on the right-hand earcup handle play/pause and answer/end phone calls (middle button); volume up (top button); and volume down (bottom button). A slider beneath that third button toggles ANC on and off and enables Stay Aware mode, which pipes in some ambient sound into the headphone to increase your situational awareness.

Skullcandy says buyers can expect up to 60 hours of battery life with noise cancellation disabled, and up to 50 hours with ANC turned on. A 10-minute “rapid charge” delivers up to four hours of battery life. The headphone has no “sleep” mode, however, which means its practical battery life will be much shorter if you don’t remember to turn the headphone off when you’re not using it.

On the bright side, the headphone will operate passively if you connect it to a source using the provided 3.5mm audio cable.

The right-hand/left-hand indicators are too small to see, and the monochromatic color scheme doesn’t help.

The Skullcandy Crusher ANC 2 is outfitted with a Bluetooth 5.2 radio and exhibited excellent range both when connected to my Dell laptop and to my iPhone 12. Support for multi-point connections meant I could listen to music on the laptop and either make or take phone calls without first needing to disconnect.

The headphone is outfitted with dedicated mics for phone calls and voice commands; in other words, it doesn’t use the same mics for ANC purposes. During phone calls, people at the other end of the call sounded clear, and they said the same of my voice. But they also said they could hear some of the noises in my environment—including my chihuahua barking as the letter carrier came to my front porch to deliver mail.

There’s support for the AAC and SBC codecs, but Android users will miss being able to use any of the aptX codecs. Sony’s high-resolution LDAC isn’t supported, either.

Skullcandy IQ, available for Android and iOS, is a full-featured app that lets you make precise customizations to the Crusher ANC 2’s feature set.

One of the app’s most interesting features is Personal Sound Processing, in which you wear the headphones while taking a hearing test developed by Mimi Hearing Technologies. Based on the results of this test, the app suggests a custom EQ setting for you, which you can tweak using three presets (“softer” or “richer”), plus an “intensity” slider. I didn’t find the personalization to be particularly effective, so I just turned it off.

Noise cancellation isn’t much of a reason to buy the Crusher ANC 2 headphone, but the rest of Skullcandy’s app offers a lot of customization features.

A separate Equalizer mode has EQ presets for music, podcasts, and movies, or you can create your own EQ mode by adjusting five sliders (for low, low-mid, mid, high-mid, and high frequencies). You can save this custom EQ and recall it later by touching the Custom button, but you can store only one of these custom modes.

The app also lets you re-map the Crusher ANC 2’s buttons and its thumbwheel. The volume-up, volume-down, and middle buttons can be programmed to perform actions with single-, double-, and triple presses as well as 1-second holds.

The thumbwheel is limited to custom actions based on a double-press; a single press rotates between setting the Crusher level to 20-, 50-, and 80 percent; a long press toggles Crusher mode on and off.  

Skulllcandy provides a much-better-than-average hard-shell case for storing its Crusher ANC 2 headphone, which folds up to form a more compact size.

Skullcandy provides a zippered, twill fabric-covered hard-shell case with its Crusher ANC 2 headphone, with a space to store the included USB-A-to-USB-C charging cable and 3.5mm audio cable.

The case is lined with a soft fabric, and the headphone’s articulated earcups fold in to make the unit smaller. The L and R markings inside the case will help you orient the headphone correctly when storing it—if only the headphone’s earcups were so well marked.

With a $230 asking price, the Skullcandy Crusher ANC 2 is not an inexpensive headphone, but it’s much cheaper than the top names in over-ear noise-cancelling headphones; namely, the $400 Sony WH-1000XM5, the $400 Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2, and the $329 Bose Quiet Comfort 45.

Each of those headphones delivers better noise cancellation and–perhaps more importantly–more faithful audio reproduction than the Crusher ANC 2. But Skullcandy’s headphone is very well built for the price, it also has a strong feature set and a great app that offers a raft of customizations.

The Crusher ANC 2’s real claim to fame, however, is its polarizing Crusher haptic bass feature. There really is nothing like it, and listeners–and gamers–who value thump over all will completely dig it. I know my 16-year-old grandson does.

Skullcandy Crusher ANC 2 review: A rapper’s delight | TechHive

Primary Jaw Crusher Michael is TechHive's lead editor, with 30+ years of experience covering the tech industry, focusing on the smart home, home audio, and home theater. He built his own smart home in 2007 and used it as a real-world test lab for product reviews. Following a relocation to the Pacific Northwest, he is now converting his new home, an 1890 Victorian bungalow, into a modern smart home.