The Crusher ANC is shipping now for $320.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Over the years Skullcandy has brought the concept of bass you can feel to its line of vibrating Crusher headphones. Its latest model, the Crusher ANC, is the first to have active noise cancelling, USB-C charging and a custom tuning feature. In development for three years, according to Skullcandy, it also offers improved sound and a more premium look and feel, which you’d hope for in a headphone that retails for $320 (£250). It’s available now in black and deep red, with a black and tan version coming exclusively to Best Buy on October 6. No word yet on Australian pricing but expect it to be in the AU$400 range.

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I’ve been playing around with an early sample and the first thing I noticed about it is that when you turn off the sensory bass (there’s a slider gives you a greater degree of control over just how much bass you want to feel), the headphone sounds more balanced than last year’s Crusher 360, with better bass definition and better overall detail. It’s also comfortable, with memory foam ear pads and decent padding at the top of the headband. That said, at 10.9 ounces (308g) it isn’t the lightest noise cancelling headphone and it’s not as comfortable as the Sony WH-1000XM3 or Bose’s noise-cancelling headphones. (Its noise-cancelling is pretty effective, but not quite in the same league as the Sony or Bose Noise Cancelling 700 Headphones).  

Read more: Best noise-cancelling headphones of 2019

Skullcandy says the active noise cancellation not only muffles ambient sound but “plays a critical role in keeping the broader bass range absolutely pure.” There’s also an ambient aware mode that turns off noise-cancelling and allows you to hear what’s going on around you. The other bonus feature is the inclusion of a Tile tracker so you can locate your headphone using the Tile app on a mobile device. That Tile tracking feature is also available on Sennheiser’s new Momentum Wireless 3 headphone.

The company is touting the personal sound feature that gives you the option of calibrating the headphone to your hearing (you just have to do the hearing test once and your profile is saved to the headphones). But ultimately what makes the headphone unique is the sensory bass feature that’s at the core of Skullcandy’s “Music you can feel” Crusher marketing slogan. As the headphones vibrate on your head, you can literally feel the bass.

The slider for adjusting the amount of sensory bass.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Some people love the sensation. Others are less thrilled with it. Personally, I like it more with movies and gaming. With music it can lead to some distortion, particularly if you crank the slider up for maximum vibration. A track like Nirvana’s All Apologies turns into a muddy mess that you can feel. However, it can add a new dimension to hip hop and electronic dance music (EDM). The club comes to your head so to speak.

Battery life is rated at up to 24 hours, plus there’s rapid charge feature that gives you three hours of playtime from a 10-minute charge via the headphone’s USB-C port. A cable for wired listening and a decent carry case are included (the headphones fold flat into it).

It’s certainly a different kind of headphone listening experience. As I said, it’s not for everybody — and the headphone is probably a little too expensive — but it’s easily the best Crusher to date, with more refined sound and sensory bass. 

I’ll post a full review after I’ve spent more time with the Crusher ANC and jury tested it with other CNET editors, if only because it’s fun to see people’s reactions to a headphone that vibrates on their heads.  

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