Top positive review
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Navigator Is a Gem, and detailed comparison to other brands
on March 13, 2014
Skullcandy Navigator - a well-rounded gem (read down for other brand comparisons and review)
My search for great headphones started with the frustration of not being able to find a good cellphone wired (not wireless) headset. I decided after trying many bluetooth headsets and wired one-ear headsets that it was time for stereo headphones I could wear while working to listen to songs, and take calls without having to switch headgear.
My journey for now ends with the Skullcandy Navigator. I'm going to do a summary of features and quality and hopefully cover some new ground I don't see addressed in other reviews. One thing missing from many reviews is mic call quality so I'll also go over that here with some cool features depending. Many of these headphones have mic features built just for Apple & iPod, mentioning this right on the package but apparently eliminating Android, but I'm here to tell you I tested them with Android & Samsung Galaxy S4 & most of the mic features in fact work. More on that below. I'll also attempt a brief comparison to some common headphones available in the under $100 price range, especially those found at your local big box store. (Think the store that rhymes with "Rest Guy".) One of the few places left to try gear in a demo-environment anyway. : )
I've owned three of the following five items and spent some time testing the other two with regard to listening to music, and making calls. I spent more than enough time with each unit to make a solid review.
***** 4.5 stars
Appearance, Fit & Comfort
***** 5 stars
***** 4.5 stars
***** 4.5 stars
The Navigators have a very nice balanced sound. They crank loud and clean, with decent highs, nice midrange, and respectable bass. I would not say perfect sparkly highs, but decent. These are not studio audiophile headphones but they are very nice quality and will suit most users. These are not thump-happy bass cans but have good bass... and better bass than the Skullcandy Aviator. So save your money if you want the Aviator and get the Navigator because they have better bass, are smaller, and super comfortable. They sit on the ear not over the ear, but seal out noise and background as well as the Aviator does. Why you would spend the extra $40 on the Aviator is beyond me. I don't listen to hip-hop or rap, rather I'm more of a metal, rock, & pop person so these had enough bass for me in this price range.
From cans I've tried in the $50-119 price range, the Navigators are hard to beat if you want something with a great inline mic, great sound, comfort, looks, and portability. (**** As a quick sidebar--from prior experience I'll bet Sennheiser makes a better sounding set although not the set I address below, but I wanted something with an inline mic that functions as a true headset, as all of these do EXCEPT Sennheiser. I've also felt Sennheiser doesn't make the most comfortable headphones but I haven't tried them all. Another sidebar--If you are looking for a simply killer sounding set of cans without a mic, look no further than Beyerdynamic. Closer to the $200 range and up, but wow. Sheer amazing sonic bliss. Realistic unbeatable bass. Sparkly crisp highs, incredibly natural sounding. Listening to these cans may make you realize all others in the price range are inferior... but Beyers are big studio pro-headphones and don't adapt as well to walking, jogging, or anything active, so for that reason & price we won't go much further than this.)
APPEARANCE & FIT
The SkullCandy Navigators fit and look great, without being crazy-bling-overgrown. Not everyone wants to look like a high school kid with flashy cans on our head, yet these look cool enough if you live in that domain. They look nice & definitely are not your dad's headphones. They boast solid construction as well.
These fit on the ear but with soft memory-style foam (likely not true memory foam, but similar) so they kind of mold to your ears with a nice seal. This likely gives better sound isolation and bass than the typical on the ear headset that simply rests on the ear without sinking in. They block outside noise well. Perhaps not as well as over-the-ear cans but that's not always a bad thing if you use them for walking, jogging, etc. All in all plenty of background noise is blocked so no problems.
One advantage I've noticed of the on-ear headphone compared to the over-the-ear: the on-ear (Navigator) blocks noise incredibly well but in situations where you want a little outside noise awareness, you can move them a half inch or inch off the ear and get some environmental noise without compromising what you're listening to, or comfort. This is helpful if you're walking outside and you need to hear approaching cars, or if you are listening to music at home but also want to hear what's going on around you without total noise isolation. You can't do these things as well with a larger over-the-ear headset.
The Navigators are extremely comfortable. Perhaps the most comfortable blend of lightweight yet full-sized headset on the market. Did I mention comfortable? This by itself is a huge selling point. They fit my head great, and wont come off with most activity including moving your head around or even a little 'head-banging' just to push the issue. They should stay put for most work outs and jogging. They also do not fit too tightly with that 'clamped to your head' feeling as many headphones do. In all fairness, these may not be the most comfortable choice if you need a headset on your head eight hours a day in the office. I can take them on-off and take breaks between calls and music selections, and in this manner they function very well daily. In fact I forget they're on sometimes, another testament to their comfort.
A few things the Navigator has that the others do not: a quality in-line mic, fold-up capability, and detachable/replaceable cord. The cord is great because let's face it: when headphones die its usually the jack or the cord. With many cord options online, this is an easy fix that may save your cans from the trash can.
Finally, testing the mic. Ahhh.
I stood at the store and hooked my phone up to this and about five other headphones. I went into my voicemail and recorded messages for myself on each set, basically "calling" my own phone mailbox. This simulates what it would be like for the person on the other end hearing me talk. Later that night I listened back to them in a quiet environment and compared the voice quality. Verdict: It works great. Great. Sound quality on calls is terrific for an inline mic. This is critically important for those of us that want a quality headset for making business calls, but don't want the hassle of bluetooth. (Let's face it, bluetooth is a mixed bag: it requires charging, is easy to lose, prone to audio interference/static, and arguably bad for your health via jamming radio wave transmissions into your brain at close range. None of these issues matter with a wired headset like these mentioned here. Good wired headsets are like a landline for your cellphone. But I digress : ) )
The mic quality for calls is superb. Period. Standing still, walking outside, and driving on the freeway at 60mph (windows up). Its even pretty darn good at 30 mph with a window down a bit. I have Verizon. Anyway excellent mic quality. This was the biggest pleasant surprise with the Skullcandy. The Aviator also has a quality mic like this one which I tested. (Another surprise, some of the cheaper Skullcandy earbuds appear to have the same mic because I tested the mic and it sounded great, too).
Listening to others speaking is also excellent. Some stereo headsets give a weird tunneling effect on a phone call, especially in-ear buds, but not the case here with the Navigator. Would definitely work in a business environment as long as you accept the other inherent issues with cellphones (nothing beats a landline, right?) Some other great features I've found works with my Samsung S4 (Android, you will have to test it to see if it works on your particular Android device) is the mic allows me to control the phone with voice commands. I can control the music player with commands like "Pause, Volume Up, Play, etc" and if I hold down the call-end button on the mic my phone reads me updates through the headset while I'm listing to my mp3 player, such as if I receive a text or message. Of course this is all phone-dependent (but was a nice surprise with this headset coupled with my Samsung S$) and can be turned off. Note your phone may not support the extra features like voice commands. I'm just mentioning them because this headset it marketed solely at Apple users yet many of the mic features work on my Galaxy S4. These are all great, but the main reason I need the inline mic is simply to be able to make calls from my headphones. And that it does well. The combination of this mic and my phone cancel unwanted background noise extremely well. The volume buttons do not work with Android but the end call/play/pause button does work. Very cool. Something else cool--when you're listening to music and a phone call comes in, the song automatically pauses and it switches to phone mode so you can take or decline the call. So you're never going to miss an important call while rocking out to tunes, the call just breaks in for you to accept or send to voicemail. When you're done talking and hang up the call, the music starts up automatically. Again this is Android-based for me but the point is it works with these cans which Skullcandy basically markets towards the iPhone.
Above I deducted a half-star in FEATURES because the cord is the typical flat rubber kind, not the more premium thick cord or tangle-resistant braided cloth-style in some competing units like Eskuche. But since the mic is great and the cord is replaceable, this is a small issue. The SkullCandy Navigator also folds up making them smaller to stow, and comes with a small carrying bag. A pouch really.
Summing up, this is a great headphone set, one that will rock your music and is lightweight and stylish enough to take anywhere. The fact the sound quality is this good and the added feature of being able to make calls with a quality inline mic makes this a superb choice in this price range. Once again the mic is marketed toward Apple users, but it works great on my Android Samsung S4. This will become my main headset for music and making calls. Perhaps some other users can post comments if they've had success with other Android devices.
As far as I know the headphones (not necessarily the mic) will work with any device that accepts the standard 3.5mm jack supplied.
vs Eskuche V2 Control $59
The Eskuche V2 are nice headphones. Very retro-looking so its appearance may not be for everyone. These ARE your daddy's headphones (at least in looks)! What it may lack in looks is made up for in sound and mic. Very nice sounding cans with a super quality mic. The mic is just as good as SkullCandy's and will work great for phone calls. These are also marketed toward Apple but worked in my Galaxy S4 for calls & music player... like the SkullCandy, the volume buttons on the mic weren't compatible.
The Eskuche boasts a little more bass than the SkullCandy. The Aviators may arguably have better high end but its close. Little of this matters because most of us have equalization options in our phones or mp3 players to tweak it how we like. But for those that need it, the bass was a little better in the Eskuche. You can turn them up crazy loud and they are still clear and sound good.
The Eskuche are very comfortable phones. Not as comfortable as the Navigators, but I believe they are a little lighter-weight. They also hold tight to your head without slipping. They do have a nicer cord which is braided cloth, however the Eskuche does NOT have a replaceable cord.
The bummer for the pair I had, is the mic quit working the second day so I returned them. They do have more of a plastic feel than the Skullcandy. They do not fold up nor come with a bag. These were nice cans though for sure, until the mic died. Eskuche customer service via email was pretty responsive to my questions before my purchase. Sadly after I told them I was returning the pair for a bad mic, they never responded & that was the last I heard from them. (One of the advantages of buying at your neighborhood big-box is optional extended warranty if you suspect long-term quality issues) So be advised. Some online retailers may also offer this.
vs Skullcandy Aviator ~$119
Certainly a nice looking headphone, I'm not sure what the advantage is over the Navigator because these carry a higher price-point. As far as I'm aware the speaker specs are the same as is frequency response. If someone has different info please post. They are larger as far as the ear cups are concerned, so if you like the looks of larger cans you might like these. These are a little more ornate than the Navigator. They are over-the-ear style with good sound and noise isolation. If you need over-the-ear without mega-bass then get these bad boys. The mic on these also works great for phone calls.
These do not have the bass that the Navigator has but these have great mids & highs. I can't say for sure the highs are better, but they are very nice. Definitely not the bass that the Navigator has though.
vs Sennheiser Over the Ear headphones PX360 ~$59
Sennheiser makes great cans and some pro-level gear, just not sure these fit the bill. I didn't feel the sound quality nor comfort matched Eskuche or Skullcandy, which is really surprising... but if I recall these were only $59, the same price as the Eskuche, while both SkullCandy models mentioned here are a tad more. So keep that in mind. Just can't clap my hands for these Sennheisers, and there is no onboard mic I could see, but I've owned Sennheisers that were great. So don't count the brand out (you just may have to pay more for a brand like Sennheiser to match features in competing cheaper brands).
vs UrbanEars - Plattan On-Ear Headphones ~$55
The lightest of the bunch and least intrusive, these fit on the ears but are a closed-ear design. Super cozy and extremely comfortable. These look like normal, basic headphones. The ear cups are not quite big enough to cover my ears so there was no engulfing of my ears or full sound isolation that would be had with a true regular size, over-the-ear set like the Aviators. But big enough to provide good sound isolation.
The Urban Ears sound very good to excellent with music. I don't think they quite match the Eskuche or SkullCandy in sound but its very close. If you aren't an audiophile you may like these for the light and less bulky feel. The mic does work pretty well for calls, but I found it a tad sub-par when compared with the SkullCandy and Eskuche in phone sound quality.
If you don't need the mic and want a light "normal" looking headset, the UrbanEars may work for you.
vs Samsung OHS3303WE Earbuds (stock shipped with Samsung S4) ~$19-39
It wouldn't be fair to review headphones without one set of earbuds, so enter the very popular and common Samsung. These are the standard white earbuds you see everyone using with their Samsung Galaxy style phones. The music quality is flat out excellent. Really good. They are perhaps the best of the headphones listed here for listening especially for mids & highs. But these are earbuds, so they sit closer to your eardrum. By simple physics this means the speakers don't have to be as large to produce the similar sound. Highs are crisp and sparkly. But bass is always challenging with earbuds, if you can get a good fit in your ear canal these can produce really nice bass. But here's THE PROBLEM: the darn things do not stay in your ears no matter which ear bud size you select out of the two sizes supplied, nor how matter you drape them over your ears or secure them to your shirt with a clip!! They just don't stay in securely. They pull out, pop out, fall out. If you're walking or working out, its even more of a problem. Therefore, unless they maintain a tight fit in your ear canal, you will lose all bass. Once they start slipping out the volume drops and its just a pain.
This is troublesome because Samsung made a quality headphone that sounds great. Its just maintaining that sound is problematic and nearly impossible for more than one person in my household who has tried.
If you love earbuds and don't have these problems, these are a great set for music. The lightest of the bunch with a nice volume control inline.
The other HUGE negative with these is the built in mic. Its horrible. Shame on Samsung for not making a better mic with the included phones in their flagship S4 phones. The mic sounds more muffled and not as clear or loud as compared to all other inline mics mentioned in this review. I really didn't know how bad it was until I tried it against these other headsets. Is the Samsung mic good enough to make calls with ? Yes, barely it is. But I wouldn't use it in a business environment. It will get the job done in a pinch or talking to your friends or mom, but almost every other headset I've tried yields better call and mic quality. Listening is not the issue, its the mic picking up your voice which is muddled and lacks treble and clarity. The mic on these is actually in the earphone itself, not inline in the cord, which is where I believe Samsung blew it. The mic is just too far from your mouth. On all other headsets here, the mic is inline and closer to your mouth therefore better quality.
Well that's it, the Navigator is a gem and I don't see how you can go wrong with a pair. There is nothing really close in features and quality in this price-range from the models I tested. So it's the hands-down (or should I say hands-free) winner. You're a trooper for reading this far. Hopefully I took some of the research hassle out of your headphone search for the above models.
If I missed something or you have questions & additional info please post. Hope this helps someone, thanks for reading.