Music producer and designer Raza Bashir helped in the evaluation of the product for this review.
While we argue about video game visuals on almost a regular basis — next gen vs current gen, polygon counts vs textures — one of the battlegrounds that is quickly becoming an important differentiator is audio. This generation brought us ethereal audio experiences like Dead Space and BioShock, and communicatory aspects of Call of Duty and Halo became staples of the online experience. It’s important to have a dedicate audio device that delivers a game’s intentions as accurately as possible, especially if you’re playing late at night with the rest of the family asleep. Headsets are, by all intents and purposes, the best way to do that.
But maaaaaan can they get expensive.
Skullcandy’s newest line of headsets, the PLYR 2, aims to bring good quality with a good price. For equipment that doesn’t break the $130 barrier I wasn’t expecting to be blown away. The PLYR 2 doesn’t seem like it should be a premium piece of kit, but I was pleasantly surprised at just how flexible and well-designed that it was, so much so that I can recommend it above headsets that are much more expensive.
The PLYR 2 delivers a nice, clear, powerful sound. It’s on par with a superior set of earbuds in terms of quality: The highs are thick, the Treble feels terrifically enhanced, and the lows allow for even subtle whispers to come through clear. Overall it’s easy to rate it as very good to excellent in hitting the highs and lows and can be considered a master at the contrasts, where consumers will look to first. The mid range is neutral to subdued at best, but that tends to be a range that studio headphones specialize in, not gaming-specific ones. It’s very good for deep, bassy audio, but can sound a bit rich without tweaking the device settings.
There is good passive outside noise attenuation. It blocks sound but doesn’t cancel it, and works best in environments with low-to-medium background noise. In homes it’s perfect, but it would be a concern at a LAN event or tournament. Thankfully there are good controls built into the headset, that allow volume to be adjusted for both main game audio and separate chat channels. The foam inside the cans is confortable and soft, and the ribbon that sits on top of my head is also padded. They’re comfortable and light enough to where they’re not uncomfortable after long sessions.
The set I received was a striking electric yellow and black combination, mixing nice technical textures with enjoyable graphic elements. The set is made of plastic, but doesn’t feel like they would break any time soon. There are some sharp edges and diagonal lines but nothing that would cut hands. Find a stand to prop these up on your entertainment center, as these are headphones that you’ll want to show off.
Setting up is simple in most cases. I found it easiest with the Playstation 3, where the USB dongle connects to the console and transmits the audio wirelessly to the headset. The Xbox 360 and Wii U require the connection to take place via the controllers and a standard stereo cable. In all cases there is no discernable lag in audio delivery. There was no issue with setting up the voice chat, either. It worked fine in every situation I used it. The PLYR 2 has a nice wireless range, too. It’s at least 40 feet. I was able to walk to a couple of floors without degradation, and could only measure 40 feet without needing to go outside. This is a plus when there’s a need to take a break and grab some food or use the bathroom and still wanting to hear what is going on in multiplayer matches or in-game audio.
On PCs, the story is a little different. The PLYR 2′s USB dongle works, but it only seems to transmit in mono… unless a second stereo mini plug is plugged into it. It’s an added cord that is needed, and requires an open headphone jack in your PC.
Surprisingly, one of my favorite features wasn’t the audio but the chat microphone. It’s set up on a snake-arm that can be adjusted and twisted around, but once flipped up the chat instantly shuts off. It’s a great way to replace a button press, and it’s one that is highly appreciated when frustration in competitive games sets in. Don’t expect to be wowed by the audio quality from the microphone on your PCs though: I tested it on Skype and Google Hangout and it sounded tinny at times. It should be fine for short bursts in games when there are other game sounds coming through and it’s not as noticeable.
The PLYR 2 surpasses what headsets of its class typically achieve. It’s affordable and yet it provides a terrific audio experience for consoles. It works on portables and on phones, coming in crisp and clear each time. It has great range, looks great, and at under $130 it’s a good option for gamers who want to get started with home audio beyond their TV speakers. Apart from a few quirks in the microphone and the missing mid-range, the PLYR 2 is hard not to recommend for beginner gaming audio enthusiasts.
This review is based on a retail unti sent to SideQuesting by Skullcandy.