REVIEW – Skullcandy SLYR Gaming Headset

Buzzing Your Ears –

Skullcandy has a wide assortment of audio products designed for all budgets and needs, from the higher end Mix Master series to smaller ear buds.  Their newest product, the SLYR, is designed for gaming with its mic support for 360, PS3, and PC but the lower sound quality, basic design, and rats’ nest of wires does not impress.

I am assuming that SLYR is short for SLAYER; I am not sure why the vowels were removed and the name Slayer is somewhat misleading as I do not think anyone is going to be murdered from this unit but are three models to choose from.  The only difference is cosmetic: black, blue, or white. This unit retails for $80 and comes with a one year warranty.  The official Skullcandy website also offers free shipping.

The overall design is somewhat simple and straightforward.  Besides the unique ear cup shape, I think this design is rather tame for a Skullcandy model.  But the simplicity is welcomed and makes the unit easier to use.  The translucent casing gives the unit a nice accent and the plastic shell is quite sturdy.  Compensating for different skull sizes, the unit can easily be adjusted for taller heads and firmly adjusts into place.  However, the ear cups are actually quite different from most models as it is shaped with a tighter fit over-the-ear design instead of going with a more general rounded cup shape.  People with larger ears might actually have trouble or discomfort with this unit. I did experience discomfort about 45 minutes into a gaming session as ear cups felt a little too tight and pushed my eye glasses into my temples.  The top head band, on the other hand, remained comfy.

Comfort is undoubtedly an important aspect of any headset but so is the sound quality.  Unfortunately, this Skullcandy unit is subpar in the audio department.  First, this unit is merely stereo.  It is not 7.1 or even 5.1.  But given the price, this is more understandable.  Secondly, there is a constant buzz noise that is beyond annoying. Even after adjusting the volume and playing around with the mixer options, it just would not go away. This is by far the biggest flaw with the unit. I have experienced buzzing headsets before, and this SLYR unit is not as potent, but the buzz is still ever-present and irritating.

There is also nothing special about the sound quality even if you can listen through the irksome hum.  Other brands, like the booming bass of Beats Audio or the increased clarity of Able Planet’s Linx Audio system, generate a functional marketing gimmick to separate themselves from competition; Skullcandy seems to be a little more concerned about the cosmetic style of the product than the sound quality.

This is a wired headset so be prepared to fumble with a couple dozen feet of wire in order to properly hook this unit up to your 360 or PS3.  The package comes with everything that is needed to install this unit to your favorite game console and the small bi-fold instruction manual does a good job explaining the set up process; it even reminds the user to change the easily forgettable settings on the PS3 hardware.  However, there are a lot of wires to mess around with.  Let’s say we are going to hook this up to an Xbox:

–          The headphones need to be connected to the mixer dongle via an audio cable.

–          The headphones needs to be connected to the 360 controller via an Xbox headset cable for online voice chat

–          The mixer needs to the connected through composite pass-through or via HDMI depending on the installation

–          Then the mixer needs to be connected to a USB port in order to draw power to the unit

Is it difficult to install this unit?  Not really, it is just messy.  The mixer cable is long, probably around a dozen feet (give or take) so reaching from the TV to the living room sofa should not be an issue.  However, this long cord eventually will need to be stored away when not in use making it a double edged sword. Combine this with all the other cables necessary to connect this unit, and there is going to be a cluster of wires lying around – be warned.  And switching between 360 and PS3 requires cumbersome re-installation.

The mic stashes away from the left ear cup when not in use (it is not removable and can only be moved up and down) and the mixer control dongle is intuitive.  The mixer control is basically a mini analog stick that allows the user to quickly modify volume, change the game to voice balance, and to mute the microphone.  There are also three different sound options that can be toggled at any time from the switch on the left of the mixer: bass mode, supreme mode, and precision mode.  However, there is little difference between supreme and precision modes but the mic quality seems to be on par with any standard Microsoft made Xbox Live headset.  Also, the mic is always on even when tucked in the up position; muting is only selected via the dongle.

Besides the constant buzz, I didn’t really have any issues connecting the SLYR to my 360 or PS3 as I have these systems connected through HDMI.  Unfortunately, when I used the component pass-throughs to connect this headset to my Wii, I experience nothing but trouble.  The Wii is not high def so there is no HDMI option here.  Instead, I used the included stereo pass-throughs in combination with my component cables and got a horrible screeching noise from the headset.  I tripled checked to make sure that I had everything connected properly and I even played around with Wii’s limited audio options from the main menu but still had issues.  I could not get the composite pass-throughs to work.  Either these included connections are low quality, my component cables are not compatible, or the headset just wasn’t built properly. Either way, the frequency doesn’t match when using the pass-throughs. This is a major flaw and could potentially upset a lot of users.

For an $80 stereo headset, I am not too impressed.  Fumbling around with a spaghetti string of wires is never a good time, the constant electric buzz feels like an earwig is in your ear, and the component pass-throughs do not seem to work.  If you plan on playing 360 or PS3, there are better options out there. However, I think this headset works much better in PC applications because you only need to plug in the USB connection and are less likely to trip over long cords.  Besides, if you are going to play games like Halo 4, Black Ops 2, or Skyrim, you owe it to yourself to get a surround sound headset instead of basic stereo anyway. And if you are looking for a headset to use with your Mp3 player, you will probably want to look elsewhere as the inclusion of the mic is a feature you won’t want.

 

Positives:

–          Multisystem support

–          Comes with everything you will need

–          Three different color options

–          Mic tucks away flush

–          Easy to use mixing dongle

–          Sturdy design

 

Negatives:

–          Must draw extra power from USB which creates constant static noise

–          Component pass-through doesn’t seem to work

–          Mic is only muted via dongle, not from stow away position

–          Mic is not removable and can only be adjusted vertically

–          Can become uncomfortable within about an hour of use

–          Sound quality is nothing special and only stereo (no surround sound)

–          Tons of wires to deal with

–          $80 is a higher price point for this headset

–          No way to easily switch between 360 and PS3 without re-installing

2.5/5

Not As Good As: Astro A50

On Par With: any lower priced Logitech headset

Wait For It: a wireless version

By: Zachary Gasiorowski

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