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Skullcandy’s Hesh ANC headphones have something in common with actual candy
Bass heavy, feature light
Clearly designed for comfort, the Hesh ANC headphones from Skullcandy are tacitly a great choice for gym cans or extended wear. Holistically the set is let down by an underwhelming tuning choice, which at times live up to the namesake by hurting my teeth.
Even if you know nothing about headphones, you’ve probably heard of Skullcandy. The manufacturer is known for their relatively affordable audio tech, and wide availability in the Australian market makes them a common consideration.
Marketed as a powerful, budget option, the Hesh ANC headphones are “for those more concerned with sharing a great playlist than showing off our status”, at least according to Skullcandy. But I wouldn’t be too sure these are the best headphone option for music lovers looking to save some cash.
How much do the SkullCandy Hesh ANC headphones cost in Australia?
The RRP of Skullcandy Hesh ANC headphones in Australia is $249.95, but you can pick them up for under $200 from most retailers.
Skullcandy Hesh ANC: Sound quality
At first listen the Hesh ANC headphones offer up some impressive bass, and a relatively clear treble for the most part. While the heavy bass makes an impression straight away, the mid-tones tend to get muddy and lost. For most tunes, the vocals and rhythm guitar sounded far away and I found myself reaching for the volume button to try and grasp more of the melody. Even running these at full volume I was just chasing the music, but constantly felt like I was listening through a wall.
Listening to Carly Rae Jepsen's "I Didn't Just Come Here To Dance", you can distinctly make out three levels of bass on the Hesh ANC. Similarly, in Childish Gambino's "3005" the sub-bass still gets picked up clearly. However on tracks that need that definition in the mid-tones such as Nina Simone's "Feeling Good", and The Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" the vocals sound distant and you miss out on the melody altogether.
Up to a certain register, the treble balances out well with the bass, but as the high-notes get higher the audio begins to reverb and squeal. Portishead's "Humming" is a cacophony of treble which was tiresome to listen to through the Hesh ANC. You know that feeling of nails on a chalkboard? I know that candy can hurt your teeth but I wasn’t expecting it from Skullcandy headphones.
The microphone however is clear enough to take phone calls, or hop on a Zoom, but like the audio itself, can sound a bit distant.
Having powerful bass and treble with low mids is often referred to as a v-shaped tuning, and is common on cheaper headphones. Hefty bass is a staple in the Skullcandy audio family, with exier sets like the Crusher Evo offering multiple levels of bass. Unfortunately in this case it makes for an underwhelming audio experience, one that could be fixed if the headphones had a customisable EQ.
Right now the only Skullcandy over-ear headphones that allow for customisable sound are the Crusher Evos, which can be tuned using the Skullcandy app. I’d love to see these features rolled out to the rest of the family, but for now you’ll need to opt up if you want more control.
Skullcandy Hesh ANC: battery and performance
Rated and tested to last 22 hours per charge the Hesh ANC headphones have a significantly shorter battery life than other over-ear headphones around this price point. With fast-charging that gets around 3 hours out of 10 minutes on the charger, it isn’t that much of a deal breaker but there are other sets that will outlast these by almost double.
Practically speaking the charge wasn't a huge issue. I got through around a week before needing to charge them up again, but if you're juicing up for a long-haul flight then they may not last.
They’re reliable however, with quick and consistent pairing even when switching between devices. Even though they don’t have multi-point, the pairing process is quick enough to not be burdensome for use with more than one device.
Skullcandy Hesh ANC: Design
Straight out of the box, the Hesh ANC are cozy like your favourite hoodie. Your perfect fit, soft in all the right places, comfortable for hours kind of hoodie. Sporting a contoured headband with extra padding on the crown, and soft sponge ear pads that cup the ear, these cans won’t bug you throughout the day.
Part of the comfort comes from how light they are, but also because they sit loosely on the top of my head. But what is a boon for longevity does a disservice to their fit. While the Hesh ANC are secure as long as you keep your head upright, they tend to slip off your head during a headbang, or even if you gently lay down. Although I found these mostly fine for use in the gym, when it comes lifting that involves being horizontal they would slide off. Good for squats, not for bench press.
The most uncomfortable aspect of the form factor is where the control buttons sit. Placed at the bottom, towards the back of the right headphone, the controls are awkward to get to at first. They’ve opted for a single panel design with the button symbols protruding to indicate where to press. Personally I find this too subtle and need to run my thumb back and forth multiple times before being able to figure out which button I need to press. Individual buttons are easier to navigate blind.
Are the Skullcandy Hesh ANC worth buying?
Unfortunately the comfort of the form-factor isn’t enough to send you running to the store to buy Skullcandy Hesh ANC headphones. Even at the discounted price close to $200, they’re still asking a lot for one-size-fits-all audio quality, and they're behind on battery life.
They are by all means good enough for the less audiophiliac listener, especially if you’re into bass-heavy music. But, if you’re interested in more variety on your playlists and longevity in your devices then these may not be for you.
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How we review over-ear headphones
When we review over-ear wireless headphones, there are five main considerations:
- Sound: Do they sound good? Audio quality is pretty important for headphones, after all.
- Comfort & Design: Are they comfortable to wear over extended periods of time?
- Features: How long does the battery last? Is the connectivity reliable? Is the noise-cancelling good?
- Vibe: What's the overall experience?
- Value: Are they good for the money?
While audio products can be quite subjective for many reasons, we have standardised testing procedures across the team designed to help us look at the category in a consistent way. You can read more about how we review over-ear headphones here.