Fashion headphones with celebrity backing seem to be the new hotness. The trend was, of course, started by Skullcandy with the Snoop Dogg Skullcrushers back in 2008, while more recently Monster's Lady GaGa-branded Heartbeats earphones brought the trend to a very different audience. Latest on the bandwagon are the Skullcandy Aviator headphones - in this case teaming with Jay Z via his company, Roc Nation. Far be it for us to suggest that Jay-Z's involvement with the Aviator's is tangential at best, but we certainly can't come up with a good reason to think otherwise.
The first thing you're likely to notice about the Aviators is their high price - over £160. That's intimidating enough, but given these headphones are around $150 in the US, it's also slightly rude to those of us in the UK. This puts them not only in the region of the Monster Beats, but perhaps more pertinently up against intimidating competition such as the Sennheiser HD598, Audio Technica ATA-A700 and Grado SR125 headphones - audiophile-grade competition, in other words.
That's a problem for the Aviators right from the off, as Skullcandy doesn't exactly have a reputation for making audio quality the foremost of its considerations - aesthetics are generally the defining factor of a Skullcandy product. On that front the impression the Aviators make will be a matter of taste - arguably whether you have any or not. It's not that they look especially bad, but rather that some aspects of the design are a little, well, strange.
Take the semi-translucent black plastic covers on the back of each earpiece. Ostensibly these give you an interesting look at the inner workings of the Skullcandy Aviators, but actually they're so tinted that in most situations you can barely see through them - plus, there's hardly anything to see inside anyway. We're also not fans of the way the rails on which the earpieces' position is adjusted - letting them fit on just about any size of head - stuck out of the bottom of the cups - it looks cheap.
Also cheap is the in-line remote, which as well as being placed too high up the cabling for our taste, is made of some horrendously cheap-feeling plastic. As well as failing to live up to the expectation that a £160-plus price tag inevitably sets up, this remote also fails to impress with its buttons - especially the play/pause control, which has almost no feedback to its action.
One positive comes courtesy the reasonably stylish and well made carry case that is included. Fold the phones into themselves and pack them into this zipped case and you have a relatively compact bundle for easy transportation. However, considering the very point of this type of headphone is that they're going to spend most of their lives slung round your neck, this is a meagre consolation.