I try my best not to pre-judge one product based off another product from the same company, but we’re human, and we just about always have a preconceived opinion forming in our minds before we ever dig into the product. That was the case with the Skullcandy Roc Nation Aviator. I had previously listened to a lower cost product from Skull Candy and was thoroughly disappointed and I was expecting the same type of let down when trying this set out. Fortunately, my ill-advised preconceptions were ill-founded so read further to get my breakdown of these stylish headphones.
My friend over at partytimebaby.com, where you can find the coolest baby shower ideas , lent me another great pair of headphones. So, make sure you go visit his site after you’re done reading this review!
- Sound great
- iPod/iPhone controls
- Nearly silent to the outside world
- Easily driven by any music player – no amp required
- Goes loud without distortion (VERY LOUD)
- Ears get a little warm after extended use
Styling – 9
The first thing that will jump out at you about the Aviators is their styling. While I’m typically more interested in the sound coming out of the headphones, I have to admit I felt really cool just putting these things on. Unlike the Dre Beats Studios I reviewed recently, these were more about a different look than having that status symbol prominently displayed on your head. I borrowed these from my friend over at partytimebaby.com (he’s a bit of a headphone addict himself) and he opted for the brown with gold trim. These things are absolutely gorgeous – I didn’t think so when I first saw them, but they’ve grown on me like a stray cat. The details and workmanship in these are something to examine and enjoy. I’ve included plenty of photos so you can see first hand what I’m talking about.
Build Quality – 9
I’ve had these for about two weeks and I am very happy to report that these things feel like they were put together very well. Just because Skull Candy created a set of headphones that look great, they didn’t skimp on the build quality. The cord has a braided material that helps keep it tangle free, and terminates with a gold plated 1/8” TTRS with a built in mic. The iPod/iPhone controls are fairly large and have a nice tactile feedback to them. You can control your iPod/iPhone with the middle button that allows you to do the hold to voice activate your device. The headband is also well done. There are small incremental locking positions for the ear pads to help fit smaller heads (like mine) as well as people with larger craniums.
Comfort – 9
The Aviators are extremely comfortable. I’ve worn these for hours at a time with no fatigue whatsoever. As mentioned in my cons section, they do tend to make your ears a bit warm, but that’s to be expected with any set of large, on-ear headphones.
Isolation – 8.5
I’ll sum the isolation portion up by saying this – if you are frequently around a number of people, in an office environment or otherwise, these are about the perfect set of headphones. You can crank these up to intense volumes and you won’t bother a soul around you. On the other hand, if you want to be able to hear some of the chatter or possibly your phone, if you turn these down to more relaxed listening levels, you won’t miss a thing. These are a great combination of isolation both for you and for others around you. They don’t block out a tremendous amount of noise, but it’s respectable. I will say this – if you’re looking to drown out those around you, you’ll either need to crank up the volume, or reach for a different set of headphones.
Features – 9
If you are an owner of an iPod or an iPhone, you’ll love the inline mic, volume and iPod controls. The buttons are larger than most with good tactile feedback, and the middle button acts as your voice command and play/pause button for your iPod. I’ve used several headphones that have these features, but I felt they were laid out and executed very well on the Roc Nations.
Skullcandy Roc Nation Aviator Sound Quality
Bass – 8.5
I’m a bass lover, but I like more than just boom. These headphones deliver on both impact and accuracy. To my ears, the Aviators did bass just right. They might be a little boosted compared to what a flat frequency range is, but it was not distracting at all. The bass was so accurate that they were a pleasure to listen to. One thing I did notice is that as you cranked the volume up (to rather insane levels that would causing hearing loss in a short period of time), the bass volumes didn’t increase as incrementally as the mids and highs did. But, do not doubt for a minute that they sounded terrific. When I say that the bass volume loses step with the mids and highs, these are literally at listening levels that you SHOULD NOT SUSTAIN! If you’re listening to music at moderate to loud (and not insanely loud levels), you won’t even notice the mids and highs taking over. I played everything from classical, hard rock, metal, rap, R&B through these things. They kept pace with everything and begged for more. To be honest, this is what I thought the Beat Studios by Dr. Dre would be – the Roc Nations were better.
Midrange – 8
The mids in the Roc Nations were superb. There were only a handful of times where I felt there could have been a little more presence in some vocals, overall I was very pleased with how these sounded. Vocals from Adele, Josh Groban, Norah Jones, and many others sounded great. Electric guitars absolutely rocked in these headphones and just begged you to crank them up. If anything, the mids were a tad bit laid back which is nice for longer listening periods. You’re definitely getting a nice set of drivers here.
Treble – 9
Again, the Aviators shined in the higher frequencies. Instruments were crisp, clear and not overwhelming. Not once while listening to the Roc Nations did I feel ear fatigue from sibilant or harsh highs. Symbals, saxophone, tumpets, flutes, harps all sounded wonderful in these headphones. I literally listened for hours at reasonable to loud listening levels and not once felt like my brain was going to melt. Treble is a difficult balance for speaker producers to integrate well – too laid back and you lose detail, too forward and they are uncomfortable to listen to. I believe they hit the right balance with the higher frequency band in the Aviators.
Unlike many audiophiles who write reviews of products, I try to use the same equipment that 95% of the population is likely to have on hand. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love high end audio equipment, but, for budget reasons and for the purpose of bringing you reviews on products you’re actually liable to consider purchasing yourself, I stick with the following for most of my tests:
- PC – I use a headphone line out from the PC which many people do while at work – while this isn’t the optimal setup, I find that a high quality recording can yield a good result
- iPhone 3GS – I currently have an iPhone 3GS and find that while the internal amp lacks for power, overall it does a well enough job if the source material was recorded and encoded with a high enough bit-rate and quality encoder
- Fiio E11 (click for review) – This is a fairly low cost amplifier that is an incredible bang for your buck value – for headphones that need some extra juice or some low end boost, I pull these out every time – quick note – I DID NOT use this amp with the Roc Nation Aviators – they didn’t need them!
- IPad2 – basically the same as the 3GS, but I figured I’d mention it
- Asus Transformer Android Tablet – again, many people use their tablets to listen while they’re at lunch, or just chilling watching some Netflix (if anyone’s still subscribed after their latest stumbles!)
One of the first titles I play nowadays to find out how I’m going to feel about a set of speakers is He Won’t Go by Adele. This is one of my favorite songs and one that I’ve become intimately familiar with. From her luscious voice, to the subtle bass line, to the odd beat of the song, this has quickly become one of my favorites. The Roc Nations did proud by this song and basically opened up the rest of my music library to be explored. The Aviators did wonderful capturing the body of her voice and the emotion and the anticipation that song creates. These headphones provided a very satisfying listening experience with this track and a number of others that followed. I turned these things up as loud as they would go while listening to Janet Jackson’s Black Cat , and man, what a freaking treat that was! That song sounds like it’ll burn you it’s so hard and electric, and it really gives a headphones a good run. The Roc Nations proved that they were up to the test as my ears gave out before those babies did! Dave Matthews Band, Everyday sounded incredible, from his unique vocals to the instrumentation, this was a very engaging song. Eminem’s Cinderella Man has a smashing type of beat attack that can really sound terrible on a bad set of speakers but the Skull Candy’s rolled on through like it was nothing. They never broke a sweat. There just wasn’t a song that I listened to that I felt let down by these headphones and I tried out a LOT!
If you’ve made it this far, you’ll know by now that I really enjoyed these headphones. From their build quality, to the sound, to the styling, there was just not anything to fault on these. Maybe they could be a bit more inexpensive, but couldn’t everything? Would I buy these for myself, absolutely . I personally prefer in ear monitors to over the ear, but if I was in the market for a new set of over the ear headphones, these would be at the top of my list.
Consider the Skullcandy Roc Nation Aviator Headphones If…
- You want a pair of over the ear headphones with a built in microphone and iPod/iPhone controls
- You want over the ear headphones that are comfortable for hours on end
- You want unique styling
- You want incredible sound for a reasonable price
You Should Look Further If…
- You want to impress your friends with how much money you spent (see Beats Studios by Dr. Dre)
- You don’t have an iPod or an iPhone – I believe they have models without the built in controls which cost less