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Skullcandy Asym Review

31 August 2010

About six months ago I ordered a set of Skullcandy Asym headphones. For logistical reasons they finally caught up with me in July. I’ve now given them a fair enough trial to form a pretty informed opinion on them.

Being headphones, it seems logical to start with their primary function, to deliver music to my ears. Sound quality is typical of mid-level skull candy. It’s good, but certainly not pro-level. An audiophile would scoff at them. Fortunately for me, I’m not an audiophile. I appreciate good sound, but don’t demand the best, especially when I’m out for a run or a ride. Compared to many cheap earbuds I have purchased, sound quality is considerably better, delivering a crisp, clear sound. They lack the lower end of the spectrum, but that is to be expected with nearly any earbud style headphone.  The more fair comparison is to other earbuds in the same category. I have tried sport and running specific buds from JVC, Sony, and Nike, and the Asyms easily surpass all of these on sound quality.

After delivering sound to my ears, the next goal of the Asyms is to stay put when I’m exercising, which is why I bought these in the first place. Unlike most sport specific buds that I have tried, the Asyms do not have any kind of plastic clip, or hinge, or any retention feature whatsoever. Instead the cable comes out of the top of the bud at an angle that creates a loop over the top of the ear. Compared to any clip, hinge, or molded plastic or rubber retention device which never seem to be quite the right size or shape, the cable on the Asyms forms a natural loop that provides just the right hold. I have used them now for road runs, long trail runs, and on my road bike. After an hour of running, when other headphones begin to lose their grip as things get sweaty, the Asyms stay put. Even on the gnarliest of trail runs, where I jumped off of rocks and bounced from one side of the trail to the other, they stayed exactly where I want them. On the bike, it was nice to be able to put on a pair of headphones without creating an intricate loop system around my helmet straps in a futile effort not to need to constantly readjust and replace the buds on the road. With the Asyms I just put them in, strapped on my helmet, and rode off, without thinking about them again. Wind noise was a bit of a factor, but due to their relatively flat profile, less annoying than with many headphones I have tried, either sport specific or not.

Depending upon where I am running or riding, I often go with one earbud out so I can hear what’s going on around me – for example, if a car is coming to run me down. On the bike, it’s not a problem to do this with the Asyms as I can just loop one side around the strap of my helmet a couple of times and everything stays put. Running with one bud in seems to be the Asym’s undoing though. Without fairly even tension on both cords, they require constant readjusting. I found similar problems if the cord got wrapped too far around my body. My remedy for this was to turn the volume down a little further than normal and run with both sides in. The only other slight issue I encountered is with cord length. The cord on the Asym is SUPER long. On one hand, this was great, because I could put my iPod in the pocket of my running shorts and it was long enough to not constantly dislodge the buds – no small feat for someone as tall as me. On the other hand, even on the bike I had to wrap the cord a couple times around my iPod before tucking it into my jersey pocket to keep it from getting tangled up. Running with my Nano in an armband required some magic to wrap and position the cord to prevent it from becoming completely unwieldy. I could imagine for someone shorter than me the cord could be a constant annoyance. My one recommendation for improvement would be a shorter cord accompanied by an extension, as you see with so many sport specific buds.

Long story short, after a long, frustrating – not to mention expensive – search for a running earbud that I was happy with, my search is over. I would recommend the Skullcandy Asyms to anyone who, like me, needs music as a distraction from the monotony of long, solo runs or rides on the road.

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