The wireless noise-canceling headphone market is more saturated than ever, which is great for consumers because there are more options. It also means that you don’t necessarily have to pay $300+ for a solid pair of headphones. Enter Skullcandy’s first wireless noise-canceling headphones, Venue, which cost $180. As an audio company, Skullcandy has had a stigma for being geared towards younger crowds, specifically those involved with outdoor or extreme sports, but it has taken a more bespoke, fashion-focused line with these noise-canceling headphones. The Venue headphones come in either black or white and lack the giant skull logo (although a small skull is there) that the company is known for. However, the Venue headphones have a couple neat tricks, including fast charging and compatibility with Tile’s app so you can easily find them in case they’re misplaced.

The Good: The noise-canceling ability of Skullcandy’s Venue headphones is its standout feature, as it does an admirable job of blocking out most ambient noise whether you’re listening to music or not. The headphones have a number of on-button controls that let you do things that normally require you to break out your smartphone, such as play/pause and skip tracks. There’s a quick access button for your smartphone’s virtual assistant, too. Even though the Venue headphones still charge via micro-USB, it can still fast charge: a 10-minute charge gets you another five hours of juice. For those comfortable using the Tile app, the headphones essentially act as another Tile device so you can track them down if they’re lost.

Who They’re For: Anybody who wants noise-canceling headphones, but doesn’t want to spend more than $200. The black models are bespoke and have virtually no branding on them, so you might be able to pass them off as Bose or Sony headphones.

Watch Out For: These aren’t audiophile-grade headphones and the audio quality won’t blow you away. When listening to more expansive tracks with a range of vocals and instrumentals, the midrange and high-end can sound muddled. The audio can bleed through when played at high volumes, meaning your neighbors can hear you. There aren’t any swipe gestures – which is a good thing – but the controls aren’t super intuitive, so you’ll need to at least read the owner’s manual once (or twice). The earpads are comfortable, but the build quality of the headband doesn’t feel premium. Headphones aren’t collapsible, so they’re not as travel-friendly as they could be.

Alternatives: There are plenty of other noise-canceling headphones to choose from, however, most will be more expensive. If sound quality and noise-canceling are most important for you, go with the Sony WH-1000XM3 ($349) or Bose QC35 IIs ($349). If you’re looking to spend even less on noise-canceling headphones, Anker’s Soundcore Space NC ($100) are also a very good, even though their audio quality and overall design leaves a little to be desired.

Verdict: Skullcandy’s foray into the noise-canceling realm is a solid first effort. The Venue’s active noise-canceling ability is particularly impressive, even if its audio quality won’t blow you away. The on-earcup controls could be more intuitive and I wish they were collapsible (aka more travel-friendly), but there’s a lot to like about Skullcandy’s Venue headphones. The Tile integration is nice for those who tend to misplace your headphones and the quick-charge ability is super convenient. Listen, these won’t beat Bose’s and Sony’s high-end models in many competitions, admittedly, but for half the price that’s kind of expected. Plus, the bespoke, all-black design might even get some people to mistake them for said Bose or Sony headphones.

What Others Are Saying:

• “Venue’s sound is very clear. There is some sound bleed when ANC is activated — you can hear what someone’s listening to through Venue if you’re sitting close to them. Still, we found the noise-canceling far better with Venue than with Beats Solo.” — Lauren Barack, PUBLICATIONNAME

Key Specs

Impedence: 32 ohms
Driver: 40mm
Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20KHz
Total Harmonic Distortion: <0.1% (1mW/500Hz)
Battery Life: up to 24 hours

This definitive guide to the best noise-canceling headphones of 2018 explores everything you need to know before buying your next pair of headphones. Read the Story