The Skullcandy Lowrider is clearly a headphone that's been designed with image to the fore rather than technological advancement. That said though, they sound surprisingly good. The midrange is generally sharp and frimly detailed, bass is only average but the overall quality of sound is pretty good for the price.
Design-wise they're clearly aimed at streetwise youngsters, snowboarders and the like, with their attention-grabbing colour schemes (they're available in about two dozen different colours). They have a great portable design and fold in on themselves for transportation or storage and the ear cups have some wonderfully comfortable padding, though I found them a bit on the small side.
The Skullcandy Lowriders have a distinctive sound for their price and are extremely comfortable, even over long periods. They're very portable too but in truth the overall sound quality was not as good as the PX100 or the c-Jays. The small ear pads mean they tend not to do a great job of covering the whole ear, meaning that a lot of the detail gets lost at demanding stages. Bass for instance sounds a bit underpowered, so if you'd rather invest in sound quality than style, you'd do better to spend just a little bit extra.
Price: £30 Website:In The Shade Type: Closed back headphones Weight: Unknown Sensitivity: 100dB
Foldable design, extra padding Minus points
Shocktastic colour schemes
SONY MDR NC6
The SONY MDR NC6 is the low-end option for Sony's noise cancelling headphone range. But while they might talk the noise cancelling talk, they don't seem to be able to walk the walk in the same way as their higher-specced brethren and I found the functionality just was not there. Rather than cancelling outside noise, the function seemed to do little more than offer a volume boost. Which is all very well, but not really what you expect to be paying for when a set of headphones promises noise cancellation.
From using the SONY MDR-NC500D and listening first-hand to the quality of the digital noise cancellation (powered by a single AAA battery, not supplied) I felt let down by the NC6's performance. Sound quality was little more than bog standard, didn't deliver enough bass and there was even a creeping suspicion of distortion on some tracks.
If you really feel the need to try noise cancellation without the price tag, by all means give the NC6s a go, but I felt that neither sound or comfort were up to scratch. The lack of padding on the strangely shaped headband made even wearing these a pain.
Noise cancelling function, swivel design Minus points
Uncomfortable, poor sound clarity
I enjoyed listening to most of these headphones, some of which were really comfortable. If this is a major factor for you I would swerve towards the Jays, the Creatives or the Sennheisers as they all are very easily worn with the Jays and the Sennheiser PX100 having the added benefit of being ultra portable. I particularly took a shine to the toughness of the Jays design - pop them in the supplied bag and they are good to go.
Sound quality was a different matter with several of the headphones suffering from noise leakage due to their open back design or else poor noise isolation. I found the best for this were the Creative AURVANA Live! by a country mile as the cans fit well around the whole of the ear, however this leads to the Creatives being larger and heavier than the others in the test. I would recommend the c-Jays as they come with the a choice of different sized pads which will allow you to adjust them for different situations. They also seem to weigh next to nothing and can all be squeezed into the handy carry bag.
Sound quality was best on the c-Jays and on the Creatives. The fact that the latter are closed back with ear-surrounding cans means that even the lowest noise can have the same chance of being audible in noisy locations. I really noticed better vocals and a crisper all-round sound which maybe was slightly overpowered by bass at some points but all in all a very good pair of cans.
I would have to say however that my top pair within this test are the Jays c-Jays they are on a practical par on most points with the Creative AURVANA Live! but they have the benefit of being much more transportable and when not being used can easily fit away into a pocket or backpack with no fear of breaking them. So for an iPod upgrade and ideal next step, it's the Jays c-Jays.