Let's face it, Skullcandy don’t do anything by halves. Their headphone range is right in your face, and with this marketing approach they have definitely captured that Marmite feeling — you either love them or hate them, and that’s before using them in a clubbing DJ environment.
Their newest model, the Mix Master has just seen a full worldwide release endorsed by no–other than Mix Master Mike of Beastie Boys fame. In its original form they have been around for a while but there are now a few variations for DJs to choose from, with the prize for the most collectable going to the Kid Robot Mix Master edition — a very rare and, in the black form, rather nice-looking pair of headphones. DJ Mag Tech has been lucky enough to get a very loud exclusive red pair for test purposes, and in true Skullcandy fashion we have to tell you that these stand out from afar. But it's not just about the looks: ultimately for the DJ, it is how they perform that will make or break a pair of headphones.
Celebrity-endorsed headphones are all the rage at the moment, with a new pair being released nearly every week. In this crowded market, though, something has to stand out to grab the attention for your hard-earned cash, as these phones are never priced at the cheap end of the market — and the Mix Masters are no exception, coming in at £249.
One of the standout features of the Kidrobot and Original Mix Master Mike headphones is the rather nifty DJ-specific feature that switches the headphones from stereo to mono when one of the ear cups is twisted, sending both the right and left channels into the driver that’s still over your ear.
This is great for split-cue mixing, as it means that both the separate audio signals from the mixer can be auditioned directly into one of your ears to establish if the mix is tight or not. There is also a rather clever mute switch placed into one of the ear cups that allows the DJ to turn off the entire signal going to the phones — ideal for monitoring the sound of the room without having to remove the headphones off your head. Another nice feature is the ability to connect the headphone cable — of which you get two — into the right or left ear cup, one coiled for DJ-specific business, the other straight for standard general listening duties.
The build of the Mix Masters is an interesting area of debate. Whilst they are very well made, look cool and sit firmly and securely on the head, they are mainly an all-plastic construction which may raise concerns as to the durability and the abuse that these phones can take. Skullcandy have highlighted the fact that the plastic used is a highly durable shatterproof variety, and are more than capable of taking a good beating.
By using plastic, it has made the headphone very light, unlike the Dre Beats Pros — roughly in the same price bracket — which requires users to have the neck muscles of a body builder due to their heavyweight metallic construction. So there may be some method to the madness. I'm not heavy handed but I was worried when twisting and folding up the Mix Masters that I might do them a mischief. Once again, I suspect this falls under the whole 'like us or hate us' ideology of Skullcandy who are not afraid to be controversial.
Aside from the all-plastic construction, it has to be said that the Mix Masters do look like a quality product, with the attention being in the detail and quality of sound. In use, the Mix Masters sound good: a nice wholesome bass response, detailed midrange and clear top end, with nothing too sharp — a good balance for DJ-specific headphones, all delivered via a 50mm driver. I wouldn’t use these phones in the studio as I don’t think the sound is accurate enough as they are 'coloured', but for DJing and general listening there is a nice tone to the phone which helps the music sound quite dynamic. Above all they are loud, which is a welcome necessity for club environments. The only little quibble is that when pushed to extremely loud levels the sound breaks up a little, but there isn’t really any need or benefit to be listening to music at these intense levels!
Skullcandy’s Mix Master Range of headphones go a long way to showing another side to this company that shouts out pro end user. They're clearly marketed at DJs and electronic dance music enthusiasts with a decent amount of spare cash to burn as they are not cheap, but what you get is a pair of headphones that do have attitude. If you decide to go for the limited edition Kidrobot variation, you get a free collectors Kidrobot Chrome toy to boot.
|Ease of Use||9.0|
|Value for Money||7.0|
Well thought-out DJ features, nicely designed headphone.
Mostly plastic build, expensive.
Skullcandy’s Mix Master Headphones are a pleasant deviation from their usually over-the-top styling, offering good sound and performance in a functional form whilst still keeping an element of the Skullcandy ethos.