Review: Skullcandy's Slyr headset delivers sweet sounds at a sweet price
At a Glance
The Skullcandy Slyr might be short a few vowels, but it doesn’t skimp on performance or comfort. Audiophiles can likely do better for music and movies, but this headset is tuned for gaming, and delivers a strong value proposition —whether you’re on a console, handheld device, Mac or Windows PC.
As far as appearances go the Slyr is relatively tame for Skullcandy gear. I reviewed the black variant, which sports yellow accents on translucent side panels and inside the ear cups (it’s also available in blue and white, if you’re feeling a bit more ostentatious). The Slyr's plastic body is sturdy, but I’ll admit it doesn’t really inspire confidence. The ear cups wobble a bit too freely, rattling against the frame whenever I moved the headset around. The wide range of motion is doubtlessly intentional and ensures a comfortable fit but I’d still prefer a more rigid chassis, particularly when yanking the headset on or off my head. The headset’s band offers a fair deal of flex, sliding comfortably around my skull and latching on firmly without pinching. The Slyr is one of the most comfortable headsets I’ve ever worn: it’s very light, with thick foam padding that didn’t feel sweaty or bothersome after lengthy gaming sessions.
The audio quality is great; the headset lacks support for 7.1 surround, but that's not surprising for a headset in this price range, and given the virtual surround sound implementation offered in most games you probably won't even notice. Music and games both sound excellent through the Slyr, which capably pumps out bass and hits high notes without distortion. The headset can get very, very loud, and when cranked up too far there’s a slight but perceptible hiss in the background. I was told by bystanders that the audio didn’t bleed out of the foam cups very much, but I never cranked the volume up too loud.
The headset is simple and largely devoid of bells and whistles, which is actually rather refreshing. The left side of the headset hosts the audio input jack and the fold-out microphone, but the headset controls are relegated to the GMX In-Mixer dongle attached to the cables, a hands-breadth from the headset jack. The GMX offers a square four-way nub that controls the headset volume, adjusts the audio and voice volume levels, and mutes the microphone. A switch running along the side of the dongle serves as a simple equalizer, and offers three modes: Bass, Supreme, and Precision. I generally left it in the default “Supreme” position, which offers a nice flat audio profile. Precision mode is a bit punchier, drawing out positional cues like footsteps in games. Bass mode does what it says on the tin, but I found its heavier sound often distorted music and movies.
The microphone folds out of the left cup, lining up with my mouth and picking up my voice clearly. I’ve owned many headsets, and most had detachable microphones — that’s generally fine, but when there’s a sudden call-to-arms while playing an MMO or I just wanted to shout a quick “Hello!” or “Watch out!” to a friend, not having to futz around on my messy desk for a dongle to plug in was a nice change of pace. The microphone’s short stick also remained well out of the way, but it doesn’t mute itself when you tuck it into the earcup so you’ll want to make sure you’re muted before making disparaging comments about your teammates.
The Slyr is a wired headset, with cables that are ludicrously long. I hate wires, but they weren’t too troublesome here; the length was a boon when I needed to reach across my living room to plug the headset into my Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, and left enough wriggle room for comfortable movement. The headset draws power from its USB connector, so you’ll need to plug that in too. On a PC the Slyr only needs that USB connection, and the extra length isn't an issue; I simply pushed the cable into the rat’s nest behind my desk and promptly forgot about it. A 3.5mm cable connects the headset to the GMX dongle, and you can connect that cable to other devices like a phone or tablet when you’re on the go; the Slyr's compatibility with all devices is a strong benefit, and certainly worth the cost of entry.
Should you buy this headset? I’d say yes — wires will always give me pause, but the relatively cheap price you pay for the excellent audio quality of the Slyr outweighs the convenience of being able to walk around with it on your head. Compatibility with a broad variety of devices is a definite plus, and the demure design means I wouldn’t really feel silly wearing these in front of witnesses. Great audio, a palatable price tag, and universal compatibility make for a great value, and you won’t be disappointed with Skullcandy’s latest headset.