keskiviikkona, maaliskuuta 21, 2007

Review of Skullcandy Proletariat NC headphones

I recently got myself Skullcandy Proletariat NC headphones. The "NC" stands for noise canceling. "Proletariat" stands for affordable.

The price at Digitoday Shop was 79 euros (shipping included.) This is much cheaper than noise cancelling headphones generally cost, which is over 100 euros, often more than 200.

I was initially tempted to go with Sennheiser's PXC 150 but I did not like the extra enclosure for batteries and noise canceling electronics. I already dislike the one wire from my iPod to the headphones, two would be unbearable.

The Skullcandy headphones are a bit bulky for outdoor use but they contain all the electronics and batteries in the headphones themselves.

The sound quality is fair. It is nowhere as good as my old Koss SportaPros, but much, much better than the Koss Plugs (which, in turn, are better than the headphones that come with iPod.)

The noise cancel feature really works. You can still hear sounds from your surroundings, only their level is much subdued. This means that music/podcasts can always be played at a normal volume level, regardless of the noise that surrounds you.

This is great. Before these headphones I was cranking up the iPod volume close to the max when listening to Science@NASA podcast while walking in Helsinki city centre. I had to constantly reach into my pocket to adjust the volume depending if I was sitting in the train, walking on the street, escalator or traveling in the subway. Sometimes I would just pause the iPod until I got past a particularly noisy location.

With these NC headphones I can set the volume level to something confortable to my ears and I never have to touch the volume setting during the commute. I should have gotten NC headphones years ago. I should kick myself for not doing that.

I have found a problem with the headphones: They are very sensitive to electromagnetic interference. Walking near high-voltage wires, like the ones at train station, causes a low, loud pulsing sound to emit from the headphones. The sound is so loud that I switch the NC circuit off when that happens. It only takes me a couple of minutes to get into the train or far enough from the powerlines.

The headphones are also sensitive to radio interference of mobile phones. While traveling in a train car full of commuters, each carrying a mobile phone, every couple of minutes I hear the same TA-TA-TA-TA-TA sound that you get if you place your mobile near the loudspeakers of your computer.

This is pretty annoying. None of the reviews I read on the Internet mentioned this. I think it would have been worth the money to get the Sennheisers after all, if they do not suffer from the same problem. (But how would you know?)

Also, the Skullcandy headphones are targeted to people with small heads. I have a fairly big hat size and the Skullcandy sits very tightly in my head, too tightly to be comfortable for extended periods.

Summary: Noise canceling is great but they should have been better shielded from radio interference.

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