Celebrity Headphone Deathmatch - Skullcandy
For the last ten years Skullcandy has been making inroads into the youth cultures. By placing inexpensive and colorful headphones in skateboard, surf, bicycle, and other action sport shops, and by selling headphones like fashion accessories (think sunglasses), I think they've been largely responsible for developing pop-culture's view that headphones are cool. This is an enormous accomplishment, and they've profited well from it. In 2010 they were ranked as the number two headphone maker in the U.S. with 14% of the market, second only to Sony with 23%.
The problem a headphone enthusiast like me has with Skullcandy is that historically their products are about style, not sound quantity. That has been changing significantly of late, and Skullcandy has really impressed me with some of their new products. I've spent some time talking to managers there, and I hope to visit their facility soon because a lot is going on. Skullcandy has been making some moves.
They've brought their design and R&D in-house, and will now be an ODM manufacturer. I talked with Jamie Oman (VP of Product Development, R&D, Quality), who explained they were aware of the perception that their products were flashy and cheap, but they were taking major steps to improve product build and sound quality. Controlling product as an ODM from inception to finished manufacture is really the only way to accomplish that.
Skullcandy has recently pumped up their design and development capacity by staffing development teams and building the acoustic labs they'll need to produce high quality product. I must say that I'm mighty impressed with the first two products launched under this new ODM effort.
Skullcandy Mix Master ($299)|
In my opinion, these are the best sounding celebrity headphone. Though I'm not really a fan of the Darth Vader styling, I am a fan of their comfortable fit, decent isolation, and great sound. The've also got numerous DJ features including: mute button; mono when cups are turned; and DJ cable. An iPhone compatable cable is also included. If you're in the market for a celebrity headphone, I'd say these, and the V-Moda V-80, are the ones to get.
If you're not particularly interested in celebrity cans, I find the Shure SRH840 and Audio Technica ATH-M50 better sounding and isolating sealed headphones, and less expensive as well. For DJs, I'd say the Pioneer HDJ2000 and Sennheiser HD 25-1 II are close, but not quite as good sounding. The Beyerdynamic DT 1350 bests them to my ears.
Skullcandy Roc Nation Aviators ($149)|
This is another great headphone from Skullcandy, and like the Mix Master, it's not just a good celebrity headphone, it's good against any headphone in this class. The sound of these headphones is even and very pleasant. They do a very good job of delivering a natural timbre to vocals, and they don't get harsh or strident. Thier only downfall is they don't isolate well, and though they have satisfying bass, it doesn't extend well into the lowest octaves.
The look of these headphones is fabulous. Echoing the styling of Aviator sunglasses, these headphones are available in amber and black color schemes with see-though lenses (the word Skullcandy uses to describe the outside cups of these headphones), and in iPod white with opaque lenses.
Slightly better sounding celebrity headphone alternatives would be the House of Marley Exodus and the V-Moad V-80.
V-MODA is next ... woot!