Skullcandy GI (2011) Review

The Skullcandy GI over-ear headphone line is definitely not a new comer to the Skullcandy product line, but it has been tweaked over the years. As such, I think it is appropriate for an update.

I first purchased a pair of these stylish (and winning-est; no Soldier has ever lost while wearing them, after all!) over-ears back in 2008 during my college years. I have since purchased another pair, for reasons I will get into below. I will be reviewing the current incarnation of the product, with some highlights as to what has changed, and what hasn’t.

So here we go…

Features:

These over-ear DJ style headphones come with a soft drawstring storage pouch and a removable minijack (1/8″) to ¼” jack adapter. A pair of 40mm 20-20(20Hz-20KHz) drivers provide the headphones with their punch and a soft set of ear pads keeps the hard plastic off your ears. The ear pieces are also 90 degree articulating, which Skullcandy bills as “DJ articulation”.

You’ll find about 4 feet of nylon braided cable to work with, but in a departure from the previous models, there is no inline volume control. Though I rarely used the feature, I did enjoy having the option to quickly silence my device without needing to fumble in my pocket or get to the volume control on the PC, depending on the application. This kind of feature has been more prevalent so it seems strange to drop the feature at this point.

Also notable is the lack of bottle opener hidden in a pocket on the head band, which wasn’t ever a selling point (hopefully), but is a feature I went out of my way to use frequently.

Build Quality:

As I stated above, these are my second pair, specifically because the yoke on my initial pair (the yoke is the y shaped piece that holds the ear piece to the head band) snapped off the ear piece, with only desk use and transport under its belt. And by transport I mean back and forth to class, not whipping down the slopes at your local ski/boarding resort and taking the short cut over the table top.

The build quality hasn’t been addressed or changed with the updated product. They haven’t fallen apart on me yet, but I’m no more confident in the product than I was the moment I pulled my old pair over my head only to have the ear piece come away still in my hand. The ear pieces are entirely composed of plastic which, given the 90 degree articulation, always concerns me. Relying on plastic construction for small hinged components is not a best practice. Though I haven’t seen this product fail at that particular location, I believe that’s only because the yoke broke on me first.

These headphones are just not made for any of Skullcandy’s primary demographic they seem to market to. I can only imagine how many pieces the product would be in after any kind of sporting accident.

Audio Quality:

Sound quality has remained fairly positive. I always find that the low end bass is usually lacking in headphones, but this pair offers a respectable punch. Treble also rings pleasingly, but has a tendency to begin distorting at high volume.  This can be mopped up with your EQ settings, but will cause problems if you’re using a flat profile or if there isn’t much control available with the device you are using. For the cost of these headphones, I am pleased.

Despite the use of sealed drivers, these headphones have a horrible time both isolating outside noise as well as keeping your music in. At low to moderate volume you will be contending with background noise unless you are in a quiet location. As a result, you’ll find yourself boosting the volume to cover up ambient noise, and at that moderate to high volume you will be sharing your tunes with everyone around you.

One last annoying audio quality issue, these headphones are VERY susceptible to vibration transmission through the cable. If you’re at low to moderate volume and your cable is sliding across your jacket, collar or zipper, you will hear it in the left ear piece. I don’t recall this being an issue with the old set, and bay be due to the move to a braided nylon cable sheath, with the texture of the braid causing more vibration while the cord slides across other material.

Comfort:

Comfort may be another issue with this product. The original pair I owned began to cause a numbing ache in your ears. This has been improved somewhat with the new model I have, but I have yet to fully break in the new ear pads. I expect once the pads have deflated a bit I will experience the same discomfort during longer use. That is purely speculation at this point, though.

SUMMARY:

These headphones are decent, but they just don’t hold up well to rough use or any use involving sports or the likes.

I also want to touch on customer service, which I’ll do here as I don’t really know if it’s deserving either a pro or con… Their responsiveness has improved over the years, but if you go the email route and wait for results, you have a better chance of playing the lottery to recoup your loss. Always follow-up with a phone call. I have found the staff is much more pleasant and responsive to work with by phone. They also seem to be aware of their products breaking for no reason, as there have been no questions any time I return broken products claiming material defect (I have had other products from them break as well). They also offer 50% back even if you broke them due to your own negligence, which seems like a poor business model, but a positive for the consumer.

In all, these are by no means audiophile quality, but a solid choice for perhaps a dedicated desk set at work or elsewhere. Don’t expect much from these if you’re looking for a set of over-ears to accompany on the slopes or at the skate park. They may fit the look you’re going for, but only if they’re still on your head. They won’t give you street cred when they’re in pieces on the pavement.

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