Skullcandy Proletariat Noise Cancelling Headphones with LINK Technology

I should start this review with the statement that anybody who travels
needs
a set of noise reducing headphones. But the fact is that NR headphones
shouldn’t just be used when sitting on a plane next to a frustrated
parent who is holding a squalling baby. NR headphones are a great way to cut out
any obnoxious background noise, they can make things quiet enough that the
wearer can sleep, relax, or even work more productively in the noisiest
environment. When used in conjunction with a set of NR headphones, digital music
players can put the listener inside their own personal music studio – with no
external noises to mar the quality of the audio.

Today I am going to tell you about the

Skullcandy Noise Cancelling Headphones with LINK Technology
, which I have
been using for the past month.


Specifications:
Driver units – 40mm
Frequency Response – 20Hz – 20kHz
Impedance – 32 ohms
Sensitivity – 121db/mW (when power is ON)
115dB/ mW (when power is OFF)
Noise Reduction Level – up to 18dB at 300Hz
Power Supply – 2 x AAA batteries (included)

Included in the package are the headphones, a LINK handsfree device, a dual
plug adapter, 2 AAA batteries, a travel pouch, warranty information, and a
user’s manual.


LINK Technology simply refers to the ability of these
headphones to connect both to the user’s digital music player and to their
mobile phone when using the included LINK cable. This add-on allows calls to be
made and taken while the headphones are being worn.

According to the Skullcandy site, "The market for these headphones is anyone
who wants to enjoy their music without having to hear the noises that are
present around them all the while being able to answer cellphone calls hands
free. The Proletariat NC is like having your own personal phone booth. The
headphones are the only noise cancellation headphones that use Skullcandy’s
award winning LINK system, making it possible for the user to listen to music
without outside noises and take phone calls into their headphones, all hands
free."

The LINK JACKED system consists of a "Super-Sensitive" microphone built into
an approximately 2" long x 1" wide plastic clip-on remote control. The device
has a black plastic button which can accomplish several different functions
including "connect, disconnect, last-call redial, voice dialing, mute, etc.,"
depending upon "the specific functions of your particular cellphone." On my
phone, pressing and holding the black button brings up the "Say A Command"
prompt through the voice dial function. Pressing the button again ends the call.

The wheel controls the volume of the music, and the attached cables are long
enough to allow the phone and music player to be tucked in separate pockets.

My mobile phone is a Samsung A900 and while it is not specifically listed in
the list of
compatible mobile phones
, everything fit and worked correctly. However,
while calls made through the headset sounded absolutely fabulous on my end – as
if I were in an isolation booth, it was so clear – persons on the other end
complained of crackling and allover poor sound quality, as if I were talking
from inside a barrel. Here is an example of me talking, see what you
think:

Sample while
sitting at my desk

There seemed to be no point in recording a sample while driving – I don’t
think it could have possibly sounded any worse. Therefore I would have to say
that in my testing the LINK performed poorly. That’s not to say that it wouldn’t
work better with a different phone…but I don’t think it should make that big
of a difference. It’s a good thing I wanted these for their noise reducing
properties while listening to music, because that is the area in which the
Proletariats excel.

These headphones are sized to completely cover the wearer’s ears, with
earcups measuring 3.75" tall x 3" wide. These earcups are generously padded in
soft material that feels like leather, and they are easily the most padded and
most comfortable earphones I have worn in years – taking me back to the days
when I wore my father’s huge hand-me-down Sony headset.

The left earcup has a sliding battery compartment…

…that when opened reveals a slot for the two included AAA batteries. I am
still on my original pair of batteries, which seems pretty good considering that
these are not a brand that I recognize and I have used this headset for hours on
end. At the base of the left earcup is the jack for either the regular headphone
jack cable or the LINK handsfree device cable.

The volume adjuster controls the volume of the music through the headset –
whether or not the power is turned on.

With no music playing, when the headset is turned Off, there is a sound
dampening effect that is immediately evident simply because the headset is
covering the wearer’s ears. Music coming through the headset while it is turned
off sounds fine, but perhaps a little bit muddy and dull; which can be
compensated for by adjusting the digital music player’s equalizer settings.

Switching the slider to the On position activates the headset’s noise
reducing properties, and there is a immediate feeling of sound pressurization
and quiet. It is as if the cone of silence has been lowered…

But if music is playing – whoa. The music is clearer, louder, and the
sound is incredibly good. The headphones sit securely on the wearer’s head, and
through the many possible adjustments a very comfortable fit is quickly
possible. I can sit for hours with these on my ears; there is no crushing pain
like I have received from smaller headsets, and there is no fear of accidentally
knocking loose the speaker – which is a common sensation for me when wearing
earbuds.

Considering that such a big set of headphones is being made and marketed for
travelers, they should be collapsible – and these are. The Proletariats fold in
the center of their leather-touch padded headband, and the joint above the
earcups also folds inward. The earcups can then be further turned inward at a 90º
angle (not shown in this picture) to allow them to easily tuck inside the travel
pouch – a bundle measuring approximately 5.5" tall x 4" wide x 4" deep. They are
obviously more bulky than a slender set of earbuds would be, but their noise
reducing properties and comfortable fit make the extra space a worthwhile
trade-off, at least for me.

If you have been looking for a noise reducing headset that is compact,
delivers great sound and is reasonably priced, then these definitely fit the
bill. Unless your phone is listed specifically as compatible with the LINK
device, you might want to save the extra $20 and get the

unLINKed version
. I have a trip to Thailand coming up in September, and I
fully intend to spoil myself with the isolation provided by the Proletariats; no
crying babies, chatty seat mates, or engine noise for me…maybe I’ll even be
able to sleep! :0)


Skullcandy Noise Cancelling Headphones with LINK Technology
are available
from Headphone World and other
retailers.

 

Product Information

Price:149.95
Manufacturer:Skullcandy
Retailer:Headphone World
Requirements:
  • A digital music player
Pros:
  • Excellent noise reducing capability
  • Great sound
  • Collapsible for travel
  • Very comfortable
  • Long battery life
Cons:
  • LINK Technology did not work well with my phone
Posted in: Audio, Video, TV Gear

11 comments… add one

  • Judie August 29, 2006, 9:09 pm

    Post your comments here on the Skullcandy Proletariat Noise Cancelling Headphones with LINK Technology.

    http://www.the-gadgeteer.com/review/skullcandy_proletariat_noise_cancelling_headphones_with_link_technology

    Just click the POST REPLY button on this page.

    1
  • jiraffe August 30, 2006, 4:56 pm

    Judie, or others,

    Can you compare the Skullcandy Proletariat (SC-NCL $149 list but $109 at Amazon, SC-NC $99 list but $75 at Amazon) to the leading competitors: Sony MDR-NC50 ($199 list but $125 at Amazon), Bose QCII ($299 list), or the Plane Quiet Solitude ($199 list)?

    2
  • Judie August 30, 2006, 7:10 pm

    Ha! Based on price alone I would go with the SC-NCs! ;)

    I don’t have the other headphones to compare, so hopefully others can write in with their experiences. :0)

    3
  • sigh September 2, 2006, 2:58 pm

    hi Judie,

    Just to give you some update. The Skull Candy looks exactly like the Creative HN-700. Right down to the jack, Volume control, On/Off and Power LED. The main difference is that the Creative HN-700 does not comes with the LINK Technololgy cable.

    Given that the HN-700 cost about half the Skull Candy, it is hard to justify it as a good buy.

    A link to the Creative HN-700 for comparison:
    http://www.creative.com/products/product.asp?category=437&subcategory=439&product=11392

    4
  • Charlesn September 5, 2006, 2:40 pm

    <<< I have a trip to Thailand coming up in September, and I fully intend to spoil myself with the isolation provided by the Proletariats; no crying babies, chatty seat mates, or engine noise for me…maybe I’ll even be able to sleep! >>>

    A very unsatisfying and (dare I say) inaccurate review, Judie. Unless Skullcandy has managed a huge breakthrough in NR technology, there is NO active NR system (including Bose, which remains the gold standard, though at a hideously expensive price) that will silence crying babies, chatty seat mates, etc. It’s unfortunate that you would lead your readers to believe otherwise. Active NR cancels noise in a fairly specific frequency range–hence, they’re very effective at silencing engine noise and other background sounds at a similar frequency. It does little for crying babies and the sound of speech, in general. I know because I recently returned a set of the latest Bose headphones, after expecting them to provide the kind of noise isolation that I get from Etymotic. It’s not even close. With Bose NR engaged, I still was perfectly able to have a conversation with the flight attendant.

    I’m sure that the pads which surround the ears on the Skullcandy ‘phones are providing some passive reduction of external noise (which you also get from the Bose), but anyone expecting the “silence” you’re suggesting will be seriously disappointed, especially if that crying baby happens to be in the seat behind you. The best in current noise reduction (and the only type which provide something approaching true silence) is the passive isolation provided by in-the-ear-canal ‘phones from Etymotic, Shure, Ultimate Ears, etc.

    This is not to say that the Skullcandy ‘phones (or others employing active NR) are “bad” at what they do–they’re not–you just need to approach them with the right expectations.

    5
  • Judie September 5, 2006, 2:47 pm

    Sorry Charles, I am going to have to disagree with you. With music playing through the headphones and the NR switch ON, I felt and continue to feel sufficiently isolated.

    I am curious as to whether you were using the headphones with music or without?

    6
  • Charlesn September 12, 2006, 1:34 am

    Judie, I did listen with music but that’s somewhat beside the point. If you put on ANY over-the-ear headphone with a decent seal around the cups, then crank up the music, you’ll have a sense of aural isolation from outside sounds. The real question is, how much better is the isolation if you have noise cancelling headphones?

    What I’m saying–and what all the literature about noise cancellation says–is that it can effectively cancel much steady-state sound within a particular frequency range: sounds like engine noise, a/c systems, the background buzz of office fluorescent lamps, etc. It is not very effective at all at cancelling impulse sounds of varying frequencies like speech, crying, etc. If you doubt this, put on a pair of noise cancelling headphones with the switch off and ask a person near you to speak. Now turn the switch on and ask them to speak again. Hear much of a difference? No, you won’t.

    I would advise readers looking to purchase any brand of noise-cancelling headphones to make sure they can be returned after trying them. The marketing is definitely ahead of the technology.

    7
  • Patryn121 September 21, 2006, 10:37 pm

    As someone who flies a lot and has nerve deafness (resulting in a permanent ringing in my right ear) I look at headphones for two purposes.

    1. Will it quiet down the engines and ambient noises so I can keep my music volume to an acceptable level that won’t cause more injury?
    2. Is it comfortable enough to wear for extended periods outside of planes, like sitting and reading a book?

    I’ve had quite a few versions of Noise Canceling headphones from Bose to Sony and Skullcandy is my first test of their line.

    Without going into much detail I’m throughly impressed with the SC from comfort, actual use, and in a minor point called feedback. When you turn on cheap NC phones from anyone you’ll usually hear hissing in the background. There is none of that here in the SC. It’s comparable to a higher end Bose set I use and one really cool feature they added is the removable headphone cable! Thank goodness! If you’re sitting down and not listening to anything the cord gets in the way. But on a practical side I can use different lengths of cable depending on what I’m doing. Short cable for riding on a subway or car, longer cable when I’m on the riding lawnmower continuously looking over my shoulder or an even shorter cable when I’m riding my bike.

    You definetly get what you pay for and with the SC you get a lot more than what you pay for. They won’t make me throw away my $300 set but they’ll definetly make me throw away almost everything else. I’m throughly satisfied with their fit and finish and detail work.

    I found a pain on the internet for $45 without the LINK option. For $45 you’ll be hard pressed to find a better deal for headphones without NC let alone including. If you want a decent set of NCs but not exactly sure how often you’d use them then I recommend the SkullCandy Proletariat. Whatever the reason I’ll bet they’ll put a smile on your face.

    8
  • Patryn121 September 26, 2006, 2:45 pm

    [QUOTE=Charlesn]Judie, I did listen with music but that’s somewhat beside the point. If you put on ANY over-the-ear headphone with a decent seal around the cups, then crank up the music, you’ll have a sense of aural isolation from outside sounds. The real question is, how much better is the isolation if you have noise cancelling headphones?”

    Here’s another way to think about it. Before I used NC’s I’d get on a plane and turn my iPod to the max just to hear it clearly. And at that level it didn’t cut out any noise from people, babies, and ambient sounds. With NC’s the ambient sound was “for all practical purposes” gone. As for the human elements the NC’s lowered, not eliminated, babies crying, but turning up the music I only needed it about halfway up to hear clearly what was being played. From then on the music drowned out the rest of the noises and by the time I’d landed I wasn’t so stressed from the noise of the flight.

    I’ve been using the Skullcandy NC’s on trains and subways and throughly enjoy them. I’ve had the in-ear canal style ($350) and while it cut out the noise effectively I didn’t find them easy to put on after returning from the restroom, for example.

    All I’m saying is the NC’s can be found for $45, and they match in quality to several sets of $200 pairs I’ve tried. It’s not often you can find such a great deal and that’s why I’m excited and happy.

    9
  • goofeyfoot October 26, 2006, 12:08 pm

    I disagree with what Charles says, but only partially.

    He is right when he says that you will not be able to block out the voice of a loudmouth or baby sitting directly next to you. From what I have read dynamic wavelengths of sound can’t be blocked out because they don’t repeat enough for the canceling technology to trap them. That much, I agree with.

    However, the headphones do block out low-volume vocal hubbub, clinking coffee mugs, typewriter sounds, etc. from the background.

    Try this experiment. Go to your office or work station – anywhere people are working all around. You need someplace where there is steady, quiet, background conversation and related people noises. Something like the typical cubical farm is ideal.

    Situate yourself in a place where you can hear the background chatter coming from different directions, but try to stay in an area where you can’t hear clearly any one or two conversations verbatim. Those bad boys are, as Charles says, here to stay.

    Then put the headphones on and turn off the noise cancel feature. For now, leave the music off because that makes valid comparison impossible, at least without special equipment.

    Note how, even with the ear cups in place you still hear the verbal droning in the background. It’s like a low, dull humming. You can’t tell what people are saying, but the mindless nattering is still there and I would make the case that it is even more annoying with passive headphones than without because your ear can’t resolve any specific words. All you hear is muddy, midrange noise, giggling and the like.

    Anyway, now flip on the circuitry. Most of the babble is now gone. It evaporates into a mild, white noise which is not very disturbing. The white noise sounds sort of like your cd player if you turn on the power supply without inserting a disk.

    So Charles is partly right. Distinct conversations from the loudmouth right next to you manage to get through and probably always will until you inject a foam plug directly into either your ear canal or your rude neighbor’s cake hole.

    But the steady rumble of indistinct office-wide murmuring, cell phone calls, and the like goes down considerably with these headphones using the circuitry. You will never get all of the prattle. But a good portion is toast.

    On top of that, almost <u>all</u> mechanical noise spawned by fans, ventilators, photocopiers, etc. virtually disappears with the circuitry on. In fact, once you use noise canceling headphones, I think you will be surprised as to how much aural refuse is out there.

    I work on a cubicle farm and these headphones have made a tremendous difference. I think if you try my experiment you will agree that the noise cancel feature does work.

    I have not tried these phones in an airplane or a subway and I seriously doubt that the circuitry is as effective because there’s just too much racket going on. But the headphones do work well in the kinds of office contexts where many people work. I would also suspect that in the airplane context, you would see a dramatic reduction in engine, fan and background noise.

    Obviously, if you play music into your headphones, the difference is even better. What I especially like is the fact that with noise cancellation, you don’t have to crank the volume to shunt out the garbage.

    Have not tried any other noise canceling headphones, but I definitely like the SkullCandy brand.

    Thanks for reading.

    Michael

    10
  • TheMaskedTato December 29, 2008, 10:02 pm

    Do these headphones sound okay even when the NC is not on? Like if one wanted to just use headphones to listen to music and did not need the NC at the time, would these headphones function well in that regard? (Basically, are they like normal NC-less headphones when the NC is not turned on?)

    11

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