I’d be the first to admit that I have never been snowboarding. I’m such a klutz that it takes very little imagination to picture me lying flat on my face in the snow or worse – lying broken at a tree’s base. So would it make me a total poseur if I said that I am intrigued by much of the snowboarder’s gear I’ve seen on the web? Of all the sports, they seem to have the coolest musically integrated gear.
Today I’ll take a look at one such piece of equipment, the Skullcandy , a set of DJ style headphones with a built in MP3 player that are named for, and endorsed by, the famous snowboarder – or MFM as he is known.
picture courtesy of the Skullcandy site
Let’s take a look at the MFM Mp3 Headphone’s specifications, and then we’ll jump into the hardware and use of the player…
-Built-in detachable MP3 player with direct USB upload/download
-DJ style headset with 90 degree swivel earcups
-Plays MP3, WMA & DRM files
-40mm power driver
-Auxiliary audio jack with detachable connection cable
-Optional battery pack instantly turns the built-in MP3 into a portable MP3 player
-Monochrome LCD display
-512MB Flash memory for music or data
-Built-in voice recorder, with voice activated recording (VAD) support
-ID3 Tag Support
-Deleting files is possible from the device
-MP3 Player can be used as a mass storage device
-Headphones can be used with other audio devices
-MP3 player can be used with other headphones
Included in the packaging were quite a few goodies: the headphones, the detachable USB 512MB flash-based MP3 player, the MP3 player battery holder, an extra set of earpads, a black vinyl travel bag, an AUX audio cable, three AAA batteries, a user’s manual, several Skullcandy stickers and a Skullcandy stencil.Included in the packaging were quite a few goodies: the headphones, the detachable USB 512MB flash-based MP3 player, the MP3 player battery holder, an extra set of earpads, a black vinyl travel bag, an AUX audio cable, three AAA batteries, a user’s manual, several Skullcandy stickers and a Skullcandy stencil.Included in the packaging were quite a few goodies: the headphones, the detachable USB 512MB flash-based MP3 player, the MP3 player battery holder, an extra set of earpads, a black vinyl travel bag, an AUX audio cable, three AAA batteries, a user’s manual, several Skullcandy stickers and a Skullcandy stencil.
Included in the packaging were quite a few goodies: the headphones, the detachable USB 512MB flash-based MP3 player, the MP3 player battery holder, an extra set of earpads, a black vinyl travel bag, an AUX audio cable, three AAA batteries, a user’s manual, several Skullcandy stickers and a Skullcandy stencil.
The headphones come with a set of gray earpads in place, the extras included in the packaging are white.
The MFM headphones are predominantly composed of glossy white plastic with silver plastic accents. The strap is padded with “Skullcandy” embroidered white vinyl…
…and the inside of the strap is covered in padded mesh fabric.
The arms are adjustable, stretching from 13″ when totally closed (measured from earpad joint to earpad joint)…
…to 16″ from earpad joint to joint. This should allow plenty of room to fit the headphones over a puffy hairdo or a winter hat.
The right earphone holds the battery compartment which takes two of the included AAA’s.
These batteries actually provide the power to run the MP3 player when it is installed in the headset.
The removable earpads are approximately 2.5″ across when measured from the inside; the entire cup is approximately 3.5″ across with 0.75″ padding. These earpads are quite comfortable when worn for long periods of time, and while they are not necessarily meant to be noise reducing, they do have a dampening effect on exterior noise – similar to cupped hands over one’s ears.
The earpads pop off to allow cleaning or changing.
The base of the right earphone has an on/off switch which controls the battery power to the MP3 player when it is installed. The left earphone has a 2.5mm Line-In jack which fits the included AUX audio cable. The other end of the cable has a 3.5mm jack to fit in the standard jack on most digital music players, should you want to use the headset with a different player.
Here is the feature that sets the MFM headphones apart from any other – the integrated 512MB MP3 player.
As can be seen here, the player plugs into the headphones via a 3.5mm jack while the USB plug tucks into its own port.
The fit of the MP3 player into the earphone is snug and tight; once installed, the MP3 player is fully docked and ready to operate.
But let’s pull the MP3 player back out for a moment and look at its features…
This glossy white plastic player is approximately 2.5″ long (or 3″ including the USB tip) x 1.25″ wide x 0.7″ thick, and on its own it weighs 0.9 ounces. On its own, this player does not have any means of power as there is no internal battery. The microphone for voice recording is seen on the bottom left edge of this picture.
The left side of the player has a hold button to prevent unwanted button presses; the right side is plain. Next to the USB tip is a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The bottom of the player has a pressable toggle switch. When the toggle is pressed and held the player will turn on, a quick press will pause the selection, or the player can be turned off by once again pressing and holding the toggle button. Jogging the toggle to the right or left will advance to the next selection or track, and jogging to the left will reverse the selection or track.
The shiny silver buttons on top of the player are as follows, from left to right: Menu – which allows the user to select between the main categories Music, Voice, Voice Recorder, File Navigation, and System – as well as all of their sub-categories. Choices are selected by jogging left or right with the toggle button and pressing in. The plus and minus buttons simply control volume levels, and there is a 1.5″ wide x 0.5″ tall LCD screen on the player’s face.
The player’s back is plain, except for the ridge that is used to lock it into both the headset and the standalone battery pack.
The battery pack holds that last AAA battery, and it measures approximately 3.1″ long.
Due to the battery hump, it will make the player approximately 1.25″ thick when it is installed. There is a null port for the USB tip to plug into, and a plastic loop through which a neck lanyard can be attached.
The MP3 player snaps into the battery pack, and although it adds bulk to the device it is a nice option. Of course, the perfect solution would be to place a rechargeable battery inside the MP3 player itself – one that would recharge when the player is plugged in a computer’s USB port.
For times when you want to use the MP3 player in this standalone battery pack, you’ll need your own set of 3.5mm earphones.
The player is plug & play, and files can be transferred to and from the MP3 player when it is inserted in a computer’s USB port.
The player will open as a mass storage file, and inside will be segregated folders for music and voice recordings. Music or data files may be dragged and dropped; if they are in folders, the structure will be preserved.
Since the hard drive is 512MB, it will hold a bit over 100 songs – depending upon the individual song’s lengths. While this is plenty of music for an afternoon snowboarding (or working in the yard for that matter), it seems a bit weak. I think that a minimum of 1GB should have been included, but I can be pretty greedy when it comes to memory. 😉
When the MP3 player is plugged in a computer’s USB port, music can be played and synced through Windows Media Player.
On the MP3 player there are five Menu sections, accessed by tapping the silver Menu button on the front and then jogging the toggle switch to the left or right. Choices include Music, Voice, Voice Recorder, File Navigation, and System. Although the player is listed as having a backlight, and although there is an option in the System menu to shorten or lengthen it’s shine time, I was never able to get it to come on. During my testing the screen was basically a non-backlit monochrome LCD – which was fine except when in a darkened room.
The song title and artist names scroll across the bottom of the screen when a track is playing, and icons display the play mode, bitrate, track number, type file, play mode, EQ setting, and battery remaining. Music sounds very good over the player and through the MFM headphones. The various EQ settings allow you to pick one that best fits your music style; my favorite was Studio, other choices included Flat, Monitor, Arena, and Club.
Toggling to the voice record option on the menu will start the recorder, as shown here. Pressing the center of the toggle button will start and pause the recording. Voice recordings are saved as WAV files and may be replayed on the device or transferred to the user’s computer.
I found that the quality of the voice recordings was “okay” at best. In a quiet room, a speaker’s voice can be recorded and understood later from up to about 10 feet away. Personal voice recordings done from a foot or two away are best. “Note to self…”
Overall I am pretty impressed with the entire setup; obviously it is not perfect but at the same time it is pretty darn cool. Not having a cable attaching the headphones to a separate digital music player has been very liberating, and I can see why this option would be popular during active sports. Music playback sounds very good, whether through the headphones or your own earphones.
If a future version includes a rechargeable battery in the MP3 player and more memory, then I won’t even notice that the backlight doesn’t glow and the voice recorder is for close range only.
The Skullcandy is available directly from the manufacturer as well as from other retailers.
What I Like: Integrated MP3 player in a comfortable set of DJ style headphones, lots of MP3 playback options, MP3 player can be used separately, built-in voice recorder, headphones can be used separately
What Needs Improvement: Could not get the backlight to work, voice recorder is only good for personal recordings, small size of hard drive – would prefer a minimum of 1GB, would like to see a rechargeable battery in the MP3 player