Skullcandy MixMaster DJ Headphone IRL Review- The Skullcandy MixMaster is another celebrity endorsed headphone spurned by the success of Beats by Dre. Its apparently designed by Mix Master Mike, a DJ who has mixed artists including the Beastie Boys. TBH this is one of the ugliest headphones I have ever owned. They took the idea of making things visually cool and decided to make it EXTREEEEEEEEEEEEEME. Its pretty much the opposite of the styling that I would prefer in a headphone. Why do I own it? I read a very very glowing review on InnerFidelity that really emphasized how good the low end was on this. At the time, my primary audiophile can was the Shure SRH840. While I loved its detailed response, I was looking for a funner headphone for tracks with big fat beats. After looking at this ugly headphone, I was quite unconvinced this was something I would be interested in. There were a few things that I hated about it- it seemed excessively large for its drivers- it reminded me of the trend in vehicle design to have HUGE chassis, but the same specs overall (motor..etc). Basically just making it heavier and bulkier without good reason. The other thing I hated was the chrome. I am not a fan of chrome. The chrome on this is incredibly gaudy. And its just plastic, so it makes it look extra chintzy. Finally, it was a Skullcandy product. While I try not to be a technology snob, there are certain brands that no matter what they pump out, I will have some disdain to (which I guess makes me a technology snob). Skullcandy was definitely up there. However, a recent interview with Skullcandy reveiled that they had taken a whole different stance in their engineering and were actually trying to bring up the sound quality, vs. just pump out massive amounts of brightly colored headphones that appealed to adolescents trying to show a sense of individuality with their choice in colors. It sounds like I am mocking this generation, but I am not. I absolutely was the exact same at the time (I would have different colored ear cups for my Sony MDR-Q33/Q22 headphones so that I could customize the look on my ears…similar to getting different phone cases in the current age). I can’t remember what impressed me about this interview- it might have been the fact that Skullcandy was reaching out to Head-Fi users for feedback rather than some kids at a skateboard park (I sound like a snide grandpa now). Anyways, when I saw these go on sale for less than a third of the MSRP, I thought it was worth a go (that might have been because I missed out on a good sale on the B&W P5 Gen 1 and made me more trigger happy). The following is my IRL review of the MixMaster.
Design- I said a lot about what I thought of this design in the intro. I still think I hate it a lot. It hasn’t grown on me at all. It certainly stands out for being a nice color change in a sea of mostly black headphones on my rack, but that’s about it. I don’t even like the shade of red on this headphone (which was the only saving grace on the Sony X-factor headphone I recently reviewed). There are MASSIVE branding icons all over this- the Skullcandy logo is in huge giant splotches all over. Surprisingly, for a celebrity headphone, the MixMasterMike logo is much more subdued- you can see it in the headphone joints, inside the cups and on the case. I cannot believe how much plastic went into this. Its like Skullcandy decided that they wanted to make sure both the user, and the people around the user, and the people in the next street over knew that this headphone was being worn. Everything just seems unnecessarily excessive. Its really ugly. I have never worn these out in public. I sound shallow, and I am shallow. I don’t want to wear these out, even in a quiet study session. Serious fail. I don’t think I have ever seen these out in public worn by anyone. Aside from looks, I quite like the folding mechanism- they made these extra foldable so they do get nice and compact despite being massively fat.
Build Quality- This model has actually been known to outright snap in half on the headband. I haven’t had this problem yet and maybe that’s a reflection of how little use they get right now. The plastic has kept it together with no visible signs of wear. The pleather still remains supple and shows no real signs of wear. The joints actually are quite well made- they have just enough resistance to be reassuring. No creaking really overall- the smoothness is actually a huge step over the X-Factor headphone and a real slap in the face to the Sony MDR-7520s which creak like mad on your head. Seriously, as much as I hate the design, the build quality seems reasonably well. Since I haven’t had the headband snapping issue, and Skullcandy has been really good issuing replacements, I would say build quality is a big plus over here for the can. It still pales in comparison to the professional DJ headphone Beyerdynamic DT1350, but nothing else I own can touch that headphone in build quality. Does the SKullcandy feel like a 349 dollar headphone – probably not to me, but its definitely not a crappy 100 dollar DJ headphone either.
Comfort- I’ve never found these to be particularly comfortable or uncomfortable. The bigger issue is probably that the hinge sits on the temple of my head and that makes the cups fan out a little bit from my ears. It never feels like I can get a good seal with these on ear pads. Other than that, clamping force is moderately strong. I don’t wear these for long listening sessions, as they do build some fatigue, but its nothing awful (I’m looking at you, Nixon MasterBlaster). The pleather cups are decently breathable and actualyl very very soft so they feel good on the ear lobes. The headband is moderately padded- no complaints here.
Sound Isolation- I’d say average with these ones. Nothing ground breaking here, and nothing awful here. Not something I would buy to necessarily drown out outside noises.
Other- The accessories is actually a decent section here- its comes with one coiled and one straight cord. The straight cord is for iOS users with a 3 button remote. The coiled remote is for DJing (although I always wonder if people actually use this to DJ). The carrying case is actually really well built. A bit on the big side, but easily one of the better cases I have had for headphones. The materials just feel like a good quality choice. Also comes with a cleaning cloth, but thats probably more for the black version where fingerprints show up much more easily (the red one doesn’t really do this). Other things I like- the removable cable and being able to put it in any ear cup side is nice (you can apparently daisy chain multiple headphones this way as well). The mute button is actually pretty useful – its nice to have a single easy access button to quickly tune into the outside world and tune back out. I do often forget about this button though as it is the only headphone I have that has this, so frequently I think my headphones are broken but they are not.
Sound Quality- the big giant question I hate answering- its good. Its good enough primarily for mainstream pop/EDM music/hip hop. Particularly because the low end is reasonably detailed and fun, and the highs are rolled off so that they don’t become piercing. This is not a detail headphone. However, it doesn’t lose too much detail from the low end and rolled off highs. I like this headphone for EDM in particular because it doesn’t become fatiguing over a long listening session. That being said, I usually end up switching them out, because these sound pretty unflattering with other kinds of music like acoustic/vocals. Which means its a picky headphone and you really need to be particular about what kind of music you choose for these. You don’t need to worry about recording quality though- they just aren’t that revealing to require that level of source. I also think these respond well to an amp. It just seems to thump a long with a little more gusto.
Conclusion- this is a mixed bag for me- they are surprisingly good for a company that makes unsurprisingly meh headphones (although that seems to be changing). However, that statement is relative- I don’t think these compete with 300 dollar plus headphones and they really should have been priced closer to 150 or so. I also really really hate the design. However, the headphones do have some merits, particularly with EDM music and pop, and maybe that’s where they should reside. Since that’s not my only music preference, they do require switching out with other headphones, and so I can’t quite have an hours long listening session with them. Build quality is quite good and the accessories are great. I don’t think I would buy these again though. I just don’t think the sound quality is good enough, and really hate the chrome.