Skullcandy is known for its headphones and earphones that are as much cool-kid fashion statements as they are audio gear. Thus far, speakers have been more or less off the radar, but with the Bluetooth audio streaming Skullcandy Air Raid ($149.99 direct), the company brings its particular brand of cool to the portable speaker realm. From a design standpoint, it’s a winner—the rugged, water-resistant shell manages to look good in a way many speakers with the same shockproof credentials do not. As an audio system, it generally delivers a pleasing sound signature, with some nice richness in the lows, but it does tend to distort on certain genres at top volumes.
The Air Raid has a tough look to it—it’s all black, and has a chunky design, with large buttons for volume and pairing (on the front panel) and a wide switch for Power on the left-hand side panel. There are also two metallic loops, ostensibly for attaching carabiners or lanyards, though none are included with the speaker.
Measuring 3.5 by 7.3 by 2.5-inches (HWD) and weighing in at 1.8 pounds, the Air Raid has a rubberized shell that helps protect its plastic frame against drops—but is also removable (good news if you have pets, because it’s a bit of a pet hair/dust magnet). The two front-facing 2-inch, 5-watt drivers are covered by circular, plastic mesh grilles. The center pairing button doubles as a battery status indicator (it has an LED above it), and it also can control track skipping forward or backward when pressed at the same time as the + or – volume controls, or Play/Pause when pressed on its own.
The back panel houses the micro USB port for charging (an adapter ships with the unit), as well as the 3.5mm aux input. There’s no included 3.5mm audio cable, however, which is a bummer, nor is there any type of protective carrying pouch or case.
Skullcandy estimates a maximum battery life of 14 hours per charge—but more like 5 hours at maximum volume and 10 hours at more moderate listening levels, according to the company.
On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like the Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the Air Raid suffers from some mild distortion at top volumes. It’s not overwhelming, but it’s there, which is a slight bummer in this price range. Dialing the volume back either from the sound source (in this case, an iPhone 5s) or on the speaker itself will alleviate the issue, but anyone expecting gobs of deep bass response might be a tad disappointed.
The Air Raid is bit larger than some less expensive portable Bluetooth speakers available, but it’s still not a massive system. Therefore, expecting this thing to pack deep bass of any sort is a bit unreasonable. At moderate listening levels, you get a decent sense of the sub-bass sounds in that Knife track, but you don’t experience the full fury—you’ll need to spend more money on larger speakers if you want a Bluetooth pair that can pull that off.
On tracks with less sub-bass or more typical low frequency content, however, the Air Raid sounds far more powerful and confident—on these track, it can get quite loud without distorting, and sounds in the low and low-mid range are delivered with a richness that seems more in-line with this price range. Bill Callahan’s baritone vocals on “Drover” are delivered with an ideal blend of richness and treble edge, helping to keep the mix clear and defined.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop’s attack has a nice high-mid crunch to it, helping it pierce through the dense mix. Meanwhile the sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat on this track lack the deep bass presence that makes them so ominous, but there is plenty of low and low-mid information here to give you a decent idea of what you’re missing out on.
All told, the Air Raid can get quite loud for its size, delivering lows and low-mids with laudable richness, and the higher frequencies with enough clarity and brightness for things to feel balanced. But this is not a deep bass machine. If that’s what you’re looking for—better low-end in a Bluetooth speaker—you’re going to need to forego the idea of a small, portable design. The Boston Acoustics MC100 Blue is a solid option, but it’s a larger system.
In the still-fairly-portable realm, the Bose SoundLink Mini is a slightly more expensive option, but it delivers a more balanced and dynamic sonic experience (though it doesn’t have much in the way of sub-bass response, either). Finally, if you’re looking to spend less money, the Panasonic SC-NT10 and Logitech UE Mobile Boombox are both solid, very portable options, but you’ll be getting a slightly less powerful audio experience. For the $150 price, the Air Raid’s solid audio performance at moderate volumes helps overcome its minor distortion issues—considered along with its water-resistant, rugged shell, it’s a Bluetooth speaker still worth checking out.
|Wireless Remote Control||No|
|Type||iPod, Computer, Wireless, Portable, iPad, iPhone, Android|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc