It’s amazing how feature-packed and luxurious gaming headsets have become.
Not to date myself, but in the early morning years of my youth, a gaming headset was something that only PC gamers used, and unless they were “ballin,” it wasn’t much more than a cheap pair of headphones with a microphone attached. Time and technology, however, have dramatically changed the gaming headset landscape. Not only have features and designs improved, but prices have soared to almost ludicrous heights.
Enter Skullcandy, with its new line of gaming headsets. Although it has recently acquired the mighty Astro Gaming, Skullcandy is creating its own lineup of gaming headsets aimed at players who might not want to burn all of their holiday money on just a headset. The collection is comprised of three headsets: the wired SLYR, and the wireless PLYR 1 and PLYR 2. I’m taking a look at the $129.95 PLYR 2.
The PLYR 2, with all of its Web 2.0 naming, is a solid headset, but lacks the some of the features and the flair of some other over-$100 units. Within the slick package is the following:
- PLYR 2 headset
- Wireless audio transmitter
- 2x USB to mini USB cables
- 3.5 mm to L/R (red and white) RCA pass through cable
- 2.5 mm audio patch cable for Xbox 360
The PLYR 2 is made almost entirely of plastic. That keeps cost down — and we all love that — but it doesn’t make the headset feel like it’s worth the $130 price tag. That’s not to say that the PLYR 2 feels like it’ll snap in your hand, but its build is something to keep in mind if you tend to hurl headsets across the room after getting pwned in Halo 4.
The bulk of the review unit’s earcup is matte white that’s highlight with glossy white lines and glossy black skulls. The top band is the same matte white with the word “SKULLCANDY” in glossy white. The plastic used to adjust the position of the earcups is a very bold matte red. The bottom portion of the earcups, where most of the hand interaction takes place, is also glossy white. The mic boom is a matte black rubber.
The pads on the PLYR 2 are soft, plush material that’re wrapped in simple black cotton-like cloth. The headband pad is much softer than the pads in the earcups – to the point where the headset felt like it wasn’t being fully supported and the excess pressure pushed down a bit too much on my ears. It wasn’t enough to make me stop wearing them immediately, but it was certainly enough to make its presence known.
Feature-wise, the PLYR 2 hits most of the necessary points, but there are few that are conspicuous by their absence. Let’s start with what this headset gets right: it comes with a built-in Li-On (lithium-ion) battery that’s rechargeable via USB. I’ve looked at more expensive headsets that have many more bells and whistles, but they lack this essential feature. This is a big thumbs up for Skullcandy.
PLYR 2 has a number of features, too. On the outside of the right cup lives a 4-way analog nub that controls volume levels and game-to-voice ratio. For those that aren’t familiar with game-to -voice, it’s a control that adjusts the level of incoming chat to sounds that are coming from whatever media you’re taking part in so it’s easier to hear all of your friends trash talk. It’s a cool, useful feature.
At roughly $130, I don’t expect legit 7.1 or even 5.1 surround sound, but give me something. Even virtual 5.1 surround sound would have done the trick.
The wireless base puck has two USB ports on the rear side: one mini to power the puck and one full size to run a cable to the headset to charge it. The headset is fully functional while charging. A 3.5mm audio jack resides on the back of the puck. What I really would have like to see here is a digital audio jack like TOSLINK. In an age where most, if not all, media we consume is digital, a digital jack would be welcome.
On the backside of the right cup is the EQ3, a sliding switch that lets you select one of three built-in EQ presets: Bass Mode, Supreme Mode, and Precision Mode. The presets are permanently set and are not replaceable or editable, which is regrettable as the ones built-in mostly let you choose how hard the bass hits. Being able to adjust the bass is a handy tool as Bass-Mode feels like a sub-woofer strapped to your head. Fine-tuning would have been much appreciated.
Also sorely missing is surround sound in any form. At roughly $130, I don’t expect legit 7.1 or even 5.1 surround sound, but give me something. Even virtual 5.1 surround sound would have done the trick. The Playstation Pulse, which retails for just $20 more than the PLYR2, has virtual 7.1 surround.
I ran into a few head-scratching moments during setup and testing. To connect the puck, you plug the mini USB into the system for power and, get this, you need to connect the 3.5 mm to RCA cables to the composite A/V cables that came with the PS3/Xbox 360.
That raises a question: does anyone use or even have the composite cables that came with their system? Chances are no, and just about everyone with either of these systems is using HDMI exclusively. Fortunately, I had my PS2‘s combination component/composite cables on hand which worked as the PlayStation business-end hasn’t changed between the two systems. The only situation where I could see this as a necessary connection option is for those who own the first-generation Xbox 360 that doesn’t have HDMI.
Next, you plug the RCA cables into the pass-through cables, but you don’t actually plug the pass-through cables into anything. In my case, they just hung about as my TV — and newer slim LED TVs — either use dongles for composite or have ditched it all together. That’s not the kind of solution I’m willing to pay $130 for until I win the Powerball.
Setup on the PS3 and Xbox 360 are nearly identical with the exception that the Xbox 360 requires the use of the 2.5 mm patch cable to connect the headset to the controller for chat. Technically, that does render the headset wired instead of wireless, but we’re not going to nitpick. Setup to a computer is a little simpler and much cleaner. The 3.5 mm to RCA cable is replaced with audio patch cable that’s 3.5 mm male on either end. Of course this cable isn’t actually included, but a quick trip or a dollar store yielded a six-foot version of exactly what I needed.
Aside from the highly questionable puck setup/connection, the PLYR 2 headset has good audio quality. It’s not great, but unless you’re listening to studio-quality music, you might not notice. I found that the bass heavily unbalanced and hit way too hard, especially with the EQ in Bass-Mode. The Precision EQ mode is the only one that comes pretty close to balanced.
Skullcandy has managed to deliver a workable wireless headset in the PLYR 2. The unit does what it’s supposed to do fairly well….
I tested the PLYR 2′s mic works on both the PS3 and PC and it worked quite well. I didn’t hear complaints from anyone that I talked to using it. When I performed some recordings and played them back, they sounded as clear as one would expect from a phone call with good reception.
The battery-life on the headset is good, but during my testing was nowhere near the claimed 15 hours of use. I could see that working if that amount of time was broken up into smaller chunks. The PLYR 2 lasted roughly 8 hours of continued use before I heard the beep of a dying battery (the headset beeps when the battery gets to 15%, just like a dying cell phone). So given that I had 15% left at 8 hours, I would say that 9-10 hours should be expected of continuous use.
At the end of the day Skullcandy has managed to deliver a workable wireless headset in the PLYR 2. The unit does what it’s supposed to do fairly well, but there are some serious faults and glaring omissions that don’t warrant a price tag of $129.99. If the PLYR 2 were at the same price point as the SLYR, which is $89.99, then most of the missteps could be overlooked. I would almost like to hope that the PLYR 1 will fix all of my gripes with the series, but fixes to an existing product shouldn’t cost consumers an extra $50.