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Skullcandy PLYR 1 Wireless Gaming Headset Review

7 July 2013

The first game I played with Skullcandy's PLYR 1 headset was The Last of Us.

That's not a point in its favor, or a knock, for that matter. Rather, it's a funny coincidence. The Last of Us is the best PlayStation 3 game I've ever played. Skullcandy's PLYR 1 headset is the best gaming tech I've ever used.

Now, I'm not much of an audiophile, and Sony's official Bluetooh mic has always done the job where multiplayer gaming was concerned. So maybe the PLYR 1 is built for me; its $180 price tag is a remarkably agreeable price point for what one might assume is a mid-level headset. Except the PLYR 1 is anything but mid-level, boasting deep, thunderous bass, confident treble extremes, and design that emphasizes usability and convenience while never sacrificing style or function.

Earlier this year, we crowned the king in this space, the ASTRO A50s, with a perfect 10 out of 10. The PLYR 1's sound quality is cut from the same cloth (expectedly so, given the PLYR 1 was designed from scratch by ASTRO engineers after the company's acquisition by Skullcandy). Gunshots ring in your ear with frightening resonation. Footsteps echo through the hallways of your ear canals. Music--from games and your own collection--rings with thrilling fidelity. The microphone picks up your voice with impressive clarity (though a very low static hum can be heard on both PS3 and PC).

The auditory pleasures are supplemented by a three-position equalizer switch on the bottom side of the right ear cup. Bass Mode, Supreme Mode, and Precision Mode deliver largely what you expect, with respectively reduced bass levels and increased treble amplification. I played a host of games and music while testing all three modes, and all three perform well under different circumstances. From the extreme highs of gunshots in The Last of Us to the soaring orchestral score of Final Fantasy XIV, there's a mode to ensure you're squeezing every last decibel of astounding quality out of the PLYR 1's over-ear phones. These ear cups don't just produce phenomenal sound: a radial control on the right ear cup allows on-the-fly volume adjustments and balance shifting between game and voice volume levels.

Actually, alongside ever-so-slightly tinny highs, this control module represents one of the only faults I can leverage against this hardware. The dial itself protrudes from the headset much like the Xbox 360 controller's infamous D-pad. The same difficulties with that design arise here; namely, uncertainty of directional precision. But this problem is compounded by the dial's smooth, unmarked surface. It's difficult to make volume adjustments without feeling like your forefinger is about to slide off the module. For that reason, I only dared to try while my single-player games were paused and I had time to push the dial from the outer edge, which is really the kind of motion that should've been catered to from the get-go.

Despite this niggling oversight, the PLYR 1 headset is an absolute dream to use and wear. Bulk, weight, and comfort are considerable factors for wireless headsets that house internal batteries. You'll certainly feel the snugness of the PLYR 1, at least right out of the box. For the first couple play sessions, the headset's fit was quite tight around my ears--enough to be uncomfortable with any other unit. But the PLYR 1's supremely thick, soft padding made sure I never felt uncomfortable pressure on my head, and that initial tightness has since loosened considerably. Now, I can wear the set for hours.

On top of it all, weight and bulk have never been an issue. The PLYR 1 isn't much heavier than your average bicycle helmet, and any bulk is nothing more than equal share in a visual design that's striking, whether you opt for the black or white model.

All of this would be enough for an easy recommendation, a sterling justification for the PLYR 1's $180 price tag. But when you realize how well the PLYR 1 handles its function, and how conveniently it slips into your gaming arsenal, it becomes a bargain.

Lightning-fast wireless audio with remarkable range and no interference. A simple optical connection and USB cable to your PS3, and even less--a single USB--for use with your computer. A microphone that auto-mutes in the upright position. Automatic power-off to save battery. Not that you'll need it--with intermittent charging, my unit has never powered off from an empty battery, despite eight-plus hours of use without plugging in.

What are we missing? How about a near-assurance from ASTRO General Manager Jordan Reiss that the PLYR 1 and its ilk will work with PlayStation 4 when it launches this holiday?

That last bit isn't a for-sure thing yet, but in Reiss' words, there's no reason it shouldn't. And there's no reason you shouldn't own the PLYR 1 wireless headset--except if you already own the basically perfect ASTRO A50s.

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Kyle Prahl is a PSU Managing Editor and Communication Studies major at the University of Minnesota. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

-The Final Word-

If you don't already own the market-leading ASTRO A50s, Skullcandy's PLYR 1 Wireless Gaming Headset is the next best thing--terrific sound, ultra-convenient, and much cheaper to boot.
  • Sound is stellar. WOW.
  • Ease-of-use and PC compatibility
  • Stylish and comfortable
  • Weird volume dial design
  • Tinny treble extremes
  • Snug out of the box
9.5
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