Skullcandy has been a headphone company for a long time, but lately it’s been looking to get into gaming products. This started with the company’s acquisition of Astro Gaming, which makes our Editors’ Choice A50 wireless gaming headset. Now, Skullcandy is releasing its own line of gaming headsets, lower-end than Astro’s headsets and more targeted toward affordability. The Skullcandy PLYR 2 is its first wireless gaming headset, and it’s built very much like a scaled back Astro A50 with a very reasonable $129.99 (direct) price tag. However, that price cut means it takes a big hit in audio quality from its alternatively branded bigger brother.
The PLYR 2 features a wireless module shaped vaguely like a hockey puck with a glowing white skull on it. It has USB, mini USB, and 3.5mm audio ports on the back, and a notch around the sides for holding the included cables when not in use. To set it up, connect the longer USB-to-mini-USB cable from your computer to the puck, then plug in the shorter cable from the puck to the headset to charge it. The receiver uses USB for both power and audio; unless you’re connecting it to a media player or other audio device, you won’t need the 3.5mm port.
The headset is lightweight, though a little bulky thanks to the over-the-ear earcups, and slightly tight-fitting to boot. It’s almost entirely plastic, and the matte finish and light weight of the headset can make it feel flimsy and cheap. However, it held up well in our tests, and has proven resilient when dealing with the standard bending and dropping a gaming headset usually endures. And thanks to its light weight, it won’t weigh your head down.
The right earcup holds the Power button and a four-way rocker switch that controls volume and balance between voice chat and game volume. The rocker switch isn’t ideal for changing those settings, since it’s a little sluggish compared with a wheel. The left earcup holds the flip-down microphone, which is on a flexible rubber arm. When it’s up, it clicks into place and mutes the microphone, so you don’t have to worry about whether it’s picking up your frustrated expletives.
Gaming headsets aren’t known for amazing audio quality, and an inexpensive wireless headset like the PLYR 2 won’t please audiophiles or users who want powerful bass. With our bass test track, The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” bass synth notes distorted slightly but noticeably, and didn’t have the power or depth found in the wired, more expensive, Mad Catz Cyborg F.R.E.Q. 5. When watching video, dialog on the PLYR 2 sounds slightly bright, thanks to the headset’s mildly forward treble response. It also doesn’t offer surround sound audio, but that’s not a big deal for gaming headsets; even when headsets have discrete drivers for each channel, they can’t produce nearly the imaging and sense of direction that a real surround sound home theater system can.
For gaming, the PLYR 2 does the job, but it lacks the bass punch expected when playing games with lots of explosions. I played Team Fortress 2 with the PLYR 2, and while my Soldier’s rockets sounded suitably loud, they lacked a sense of depth or weight. I could hear team chat relatively clearly, but the blunt, loud bass washed out some of the speech’s texture, and the bright treble made dialog sound slightly crackly. The game/voice rocker switch lets you tweak that balance, but it still leaves the PLYR 2 with middling low-end.
The wireless range of the PLYR 2 is excellent. I walked the full length of the PCMag Lab, a solid 50 feet, before the audio began to crackle and fade out. The range is significantly better than a Bluetooth headset’s 33-foot maximum range, and edges out the dedicated wireless gaming headsets we’ve reviewed in the past.
The Skullcandy PLYR 2 wireless gaming headset is affordable and offers plenty of functionality, but at the expense of sound quality. The weak, hollow bass and bright treble disappoints, but its $130 price tag for wireless gaming and voice chat make it a tempting headset if you want to cut the cord. Logitech’s G930 wireless gaming headset costs slightly more, but it offers much better sound quality and is a better choice overall. If you really want to splurge, get the high-end Editors’ Choice Astro Gaming A50 wireless gaming headset; it costs over twice as much, but it sounds much better and is clearly worth its price.
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