Skullcandy G.I Rasta Stereo Headphones Page: 1
Introduction

When it comes to headphone styling, most manufacturers hardly ever venture outside the safe confines of either a plain black or white headset. After all, misjudging the market and producing headphones that nobody would be seen dead wearing will hardly do sales figures any good. However, for a Swedish based company aptly named "Skullcandy", breaking this bland headphone 'code of conduct' seems to be the very roots on which their company is based upon.

Today I've been given the opportunity to take a look at their immensely colourful "G.I Rasta" Stereo headphones. Featuring a 41mm driver and 90° swivel speakers, the specifications certainly seem impressive and may even appeal to budding DJ's. However, before we get started, let's get acquainted with Skullcandy the company:

Launched in January, 03, Skullcandy is the fastest growing and hottest new brand of consumer electronic and audio products. In a category dominated by decade old companies, Skullcandy is a fresh, new brand built on cool design and unique products.

Skullcandy is the result of a bunch of snowboarders, skaters, surfers and x-pro athletes getting together to create products that work for their personal lifestyles. The people behind Skullcandy have been involved in product development for over a decade. Beside Skullcandy they have developed a host of other snowboard related products including gloves, outwears, backpacks etc. Riders that support our work are among many, Terje Haakonsen and Mark Frank Montoya.

Our products feature a full line of unique specialty headphones, such as our bass amplified Skull Crushers, Stereo Headphones, and Noise Canceling headphones. The line also includes a unique series of Audio Link Packs. These bags are specially designed to use while performing extreme sports and listening to music. To the most impassionate riders the new Skullcandy Hydration Pack includes an inbuilt water tank. As we continue to expand our line for 2007, it’s time to take the brand to the next level.


Specifications

Heading over to the G.I Rasta pages of the Skullcandy website provided us with the following details on the headphones:

Arm yourself with the G.I DJ style headphones from Skullcandy. Designed for those who demand the most from their gear, the G.I's premium quality 41mm drivers and super stealthy paint will keep you tuned in and out of sight.

• 41mm superior driver.
• Soft leather touch earpads.
• Extra earpad set.
• 90 degree swivel speakers.
• Leather headwrap.
• Home stereo adapter.
• In-line volume control.
• Travel bag.

I found it quite funny that Skullcandy call the colour scheme of the G.I Rasta's "Stealthy". As you will see over the next page, the Rasta's are quite possibly the most lairy set of headphones you're ever likely to encounter, and certainly won't do you any favours if you're trying to blend in with the background (unless you're on the set of Rainbow).

Skullcandy G.I Specs

The above picture taken of the G.I's packaging provides us with much more information on the technical specifications of the headphones. As you can see, the G.I Rasta's have a frequency range of 100-18,000Hz, an impedance of 50ohms and a maximum input power of 400mW. On paper this seems to make the headphones sound quite restrictive, especially when you consider that the headset we are comparing the G.I Rasta's today has a frequency response of 10-27,000Hz and a maximum power input of 1000mW. However, let's save the analysis for the testing phase of the review, and move on to the appearance of this funky headset.

Skullcandy G.I Rasta Stereo Headphones Page: 2
Packaging

When you've got something as eye catching as the G.I Rasta's (and indeed the whole Skullcandy range), the last thing you want to be doing is hiding them away in a closed box. For this reason, Skullcandy have rightfully decided to place the G.I's inside a moulded plastic blister packet that provides good protection for the headphones while also allowing them to be fully on show.

Skullcandy G.I Rasta Packaging Skullcandy G.I Rasta Packaging

Skullcandy G.I Rasta Packaging Skullcandy G.I Rasta Packaging

Love them or hate them, you can't deny that seeing these headphones hanging from a retailers shelves would probably make you stop abruptly and gawp at their technicoloured appearance for several seconds before moving on. Skullcandy have done a very good job of keeping the packaging interesting, rotating one of the earcups by 90° so that you can get a good look at all sides of the headphones.

The top and bottom of the packaging feature cardboard inserts with the latter insert featuring a brief blurb on the features of the headphones with some more detailed technical specifications around the rear.

Skullcandy G.I Rasta Contents Skullcandy G.I Rasta Pouch

Skullcandy G.I Rasta Earpads Skullcandy G.I Rasta Bottle Opener

As already mentioned in the specifications on page 1 , the following items are included with the headphones:

• Extra earpad set.
• Bottle opener (not listed)!
• Home stereo adapter.
• Travel bag.


Appearance

As you will have already seen from the images above, the G.I Rasta headphones certainly aren't for the feint at heart. Using a combination or bright green and black for the back of the driver units along with yellow, green, red and black for the leather headband, the Rasta's certainly got a mixture of love and hate from the OC3D staff.

Skullcandy G.I Rasta Headphones Skullcandy G.I Rasta Headphones

Skullcandy G.I Rasta Headphones Skullcandy G.I Rasta Headphones

Despite being constructed entirely from plastic, the G.I Rasta's feel extremely well made. The rotating earcups do not move unless force is applied, and no parts of the headphones rattle or have any 'give' in them.

Skullcandy G.I Rasta Headphones Skullcandy G.I Rasta Headphones

To help extend the life of the G.I Rasta's, Skullcandy have fitted the drivers with removeable earpads. This is a welcome feature as many pairs of headphones I've owned in the past have suffered from serious wear on the earpads eventually ending up leaving little black bits of leather on the side of my face!


Skullcandy G.I Rasta Stereo Headphones Page: 3
Test Setup

As the Skullcandy G.I Rasta headphones are not designed for one specific market, I will be testing them on a total of three different set-ups. A variety of music (Rock, Chart, Rap, Garage & Hardcore) will be used on each test set-up with my personal opinion on the reproduction of the audio being noted at each point.

Test set-up 1: Sony QS STR-DB1080 Reciever, Technics 1210 MK2 Turntable, QED Phono Leads.
Test set-up 2: Creative Audigy 2 Soundcard, Windows Media Player.
Test set-up 3: Apple IPod 20gb - 4th Generation

For comparison I will also be using a pair of mid-range Technics RP-F290 headphones. A comparison in their specifications can be seen below:

  Skullcandy G.I Rasta
Technics RP-F290
Driver Diameter
40mm 40mm
Frequency Range
100-18,000Hz 10-27,000Hz
Max Input Power
400mW 1000mW
Impedance 50Ω 20Ω


Comfort Results

After wearing the G.I Rasta's for a total of 8 hours over the space of 3 days, I must admit finding them slightly uncomfortable. The faux leather ear pads certainly are very soft, but the circular shape of the ear cups means that the headphones do not cover your whole ear, instead squashing your ears flat up against the side of your head. This is also compounded by the fact that the headband is quite rigid and can lead to your head feeling like its been in a vice.


Sound Results

On all three of the sound systems tested with the G.I Rasta's, one thing was apparent - these headphones are designed for BASS. On low frequency tracks such as "Leviticus - Burial", the G.I's managed to produce masses of the stuff at high volumes without any distortion. Now I have to admit being quite a bass junkie, but on playing Hot Chip's "Over and Over" I found myself turning the bass levels down just to prevent the feeling of the hairs in my eardrums being flattened! Of course, good headphones are about more than just good bass reproduction, and with this in mind I moved on to some more sonically challenging tracks...

Starting off with Massive Attack's "Unfinished Sympathy", the Skullcandy G.I's disappointed in so many ways. Not only was there a distinct lack of any high range frequencies, but vocals seemed distorted and the song as a whole sounded like it was being played back from an old cassette. Moving on to Nickelback's "This is how you remind me" didn't improve matters, once again sounding like I was listening to the track wearing a pair of earplugs.

Switching between the Skullcandy and Technics headphones was almost a night and day difference, with the Skullcandy's not being able to come anywhere near the full frequency range output of the Technics. Overall, there's no way I'd consider the G.I Rasta's for anything more than giving yourself a headache with the excessive bass levels.


Skullcandy G.I Rasta Stereo Headphones Page: 4
Conclusion

If Skullcandy's primary objective with the G.I Rasta's was to produce a set of headphones that could literally blow your eardrums with excessive bass, then there's no doubt in my mind that they've achieved this task. However, even with bass heavy tracks, the G.U Rasta's manage to miss out on the whole top end of the frequency range, leaving vocals and treble sounding like you're listening to your music with earplugs in.

The G.I's do however feel quite sturdy, and despite being made from plastic, have no parts that rattle during use. The removable ear pads are certainly a good idea too, considering I've banished many sets of good earphones to the dustbin after the earpads started to fall apart.

Priced between £18-32 depending on the site you visit, it's certainly hard to comment on the price of the headphones compared to others in a similar price bracket. However, when put side-by-side to the Technics RP-F290 test headphones, priced at just under £25 around 2 years ago, the Skullcandy's just don't even come close in terms of audio quality.


Pro's
• Solid construction.
• Unique looks. Also available in other colours.
• If you're only interested in bass, these may appeal to you.
• Able to handle low frequency tracks at high volumes without distortion.

Con's
• Looks may not appeal to some (or many?).
• Totally unable to reproduce any high frequencies.
• Vocals and Treble muffled.
• Not very comfortable.


Reviewed Award


Thanks to Skullcandy for making this review possible. Discuss this review in our forums.