[Hardware Review] Ready PLYR1

Has Skullcandy made good use of the Astro engineers?
Author: Aram Lecis
Published: August 4, 2013
When the hipsters over at Skullcandy decided to make a move into the gaming headset sector they took the direct route by purchasing ASTRO. Why bother competing when you can just absorb the company that already on top? Astro’s $299 A50 headset is considered the cream-of-the-crop and Skullcandy was able to take that technology and integrate it into their own lines.

Thus was born the Skullcandy PLYR1, PLYR2 and SLYR line of gaming headsets. The line is roughly analogous to Astro’s A50, A40 and A30 headsets, only at about 66% of the price. There are definitely little touches to the Astro line that shows you where the money goes; whether those touches are worth the cost is a matter of personal preference.

I have used the PLYR1 headphones as my primary headphones over the last 2 months. During that time I played through The Last Of Us, Remember Me and Tomb Raider and spent a good bit of time playing online in Battlefield 3. I’ve probably had the PLYR1’s snuggling my ears for around 50 hours at this point.

Inside the box (retail $179.99) you’ll find the sleek 2.4GHz wireless headset with asymmetrical ear pieces that are contoured to match the natural shape of your ear. There’s also the base unit/mixer that also doubles as a stand for the headset. You’ll also find the USB cables, one for charging the headset through the base, and another to hook the base up to your PS3 (or other gaming system of choice, these work on anything). There’s also a relatively low-gauge optical audio cable to enable passthrough from the unit to your receiver. You’ll have to supply the optical cable to run from the PS3 to the base unit.

When I evaluate a set of headphones I end up focusing on 3 things. Comfort, sound quality, mic quality and build quality. Let’s take a look at how these babies rated.

Comfort – The PLYR1 is designed to completely enclose your ear in a soft cloth/foam earpiece to maximize both comfort and sound purity. My ears are a bit on the large size and they were a bit of a tight squeeze as the Skullcandy ‘phones are noticeably smaller than their Astro counterparts. The headband isn’t much, just a small bit of cloth covered foam under a hard plastic shell, but surprisingly I was able to wear the headphones several hours at a time with no real discomfort. My ears would get a little sweaty late in some sessions, although someone with smaller ears might be less affected by that.

Sound Qualty – The mixer accepts both Dolby Digital 7.1 signals as well as old fashioned PLIIx for those older games you might want to play. That signal then undergoes Dolby headphone encoding to remix that sound for the best headphone experience. That all gets pushed out the 2 40mm Neodymium drivers (just one per ear) and into your brain for what is a more immersive experience than most home theater systems. There’s also a 3-position EQ switch that essentially makes the sound treble-y, bass-y or balanced and they all sound fine in the right environment.

Overall I found the quality to be really great. The range of the speakers is excellent and explosions really resonated in my ears. I would routinely walk around my house wearing the headphones with the menu music from Remember Me playing through them and the dynamic range of the orchestra was breathtaking. In-game chat mixed well with game audio and I found myself using the ‘phones even in times when I normally would just listen to the stereo. My only complaint at all is that I never felt like they got quite as loud as the could have.

Mic Quality – If there is one thing I am perpetually wary of it is Bluetooth mic that isn’t made by Sony. I’ve felt burned by units from Turtle Beach and Triton in the past because the mics would routinely cut in and out or just sound terrible. For that reason alone my headset of choice before now was a wired set of Sharkoons.

The PLYR1 has a very nice fully flexible mic that does a job of staying exactly where you put it. Another nice feature is that when you flip it up it mutes which is a bit easier to do on the fly that hunt around for a small button or switch on the headset or a wire. While I obviously couldn’t listen to myself, the reports I got back from my friends are that the sound was solid and rarely got staticy or cut out. I wouldn’t say they were perfect, but they were certainly solid the vast majority of the time. I ran into an issue one time where I simply couldn’t get them to be loud enough for my friend to hear me without shouting. No amount of shutting things off and adjusting PS3 audio settings could get it fixed. Next time I went to use them they were fine though and the issue never came back.

Build Quality – If there is one place you can see the difference between these and the ASTRO A50’s it the quality of the product. If there is a piece of metal anywhere in the PLYR1’s I couldn’t find it. It’s all plastic all the way here, and while it IS high quality plastic they still feel a little fragile and cheap. The volume/balance controls are a simple plastic hat switch that gives the impression you might snap it off if you get a little too rough. Even the foam, while quite soft and comfortable, feels like you might tear it if you were not careful. I don’t mean to infer these are junk, just that they aren’t on the same level as the high-end equipment. On the plus side, this makes the unit pretty light and certainly helps with the comfort factor.

Final Thoughts – For the first time in a long time I have a new primary set of headphones. The PLYR1’s proved to have superior audio quality (ASTRO was a smart purchase) and a nice comfortable feel even during longer game sessions. The mic was almost on par with my wired headset and I was able to use it even in chat intensive games like Battlefield. Yes, if you spent another $120 you would get something that is built a little more solid, but for superior sound on a (relative) budget the PLYR1 is a steal.

Verdict – Buy It!