Noise cancellation isn’t just for the super rich

Mala Bharghava | Updated on: Nov 28, 2018
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The Skullcandy Venue headphones reduce outside noise and close you in with great powerful-sounding music

Quite evidently the world is getting to be a noisier place because audio gear offering noise cancellation is on the rise. The first name that will come to mind is Bose with its Quiet Comfort series and more recently Sony with some stellar-sounding headphones with clever sound handling techniques. But don’t write off Skullcandy even if it’s been most active with regular budget earphones and headphones. Bringing in the Venue at ₹18,999, Skullcandy can give its vastly more expensive rivals a sizeable headache.

The Venue headphones are over-the-ear and do a good job of enclosing your ears in soft foam all around, sealing them off from the outside world, without immediately making your ears go warm and itchy. This is especially important in our hot country where all over-the-ear headphones are likely to get sweaty and uncomfortable after a bit. We’re on the brink of winter, so perhaps that too helps.

The Venue has some foam under the headband to match the thick cushioning on the ear cans and they fit without clamping uncomfortably, but as with absolutely all headphones, my head is a little small for them so they slip forward a little if I look down. A more regular-sized head would wear them easily enough though. These headphones look sedate and understated and at a glance, quite classy. But feel around and you get a full sense of the plastic build. If you pull apart the two ends even a little, you’ll hear some alarming creaks. For all that, they seem sturdy enough unless something drastic is done to them. The pair I had a look at was in a plain and straightforward black with no accents anywhere. The Venue comes out of a very nice round carry case. It’s also lined with velvet on the inside and is a rather large-looking case, which is perhaps why it doesn’t have a loop for you to carry. They’re probably better for storage than for slinging around.

In the box, you get the headphones themselves — and they turn flat for a better fit but don’t swivel — a charging cable, and a 3.5 mm stereo cable to connect directly to a playback device. Pressing on the button between the volume controls will put the Venue in Bluetooth pairing mode and you don’t need any apps to do the rest. The buttons are just in the right place, but lack a little in the feel factor because you can’t really tell you’ve pressed them adequately. I mostly found the volume buttons unresponsive and couldn’t figure out whether this was because it was in some specific mode or not. On the right cup, you have volume, play/pause and virtual assistant trigger and on the left, power and noise cancellation buttons. You also have a slot for the 3.5 mm cable and one for USB charging. Incidentally, the Venue headphones have a great battery life of about 24 hours. Standby time is really good too. On top of that, they support quick charging with 10 minutes of charge giving you five hours of playback, which is quite enough if you’ve forgotten to top up before catching a flight.

Noise cancellation on the Venue is not bad. It muffles out but doesn’t silence things around you. Add to that the seal-in of the cushioned ear-cups and music playing at a good volume, and you’ll get the worst part of the outside noise out of the way. But here’s a peculiar thing — if you deactivate noise cancellation, the sound drops to what seems like 20 per cent volume, not usable as such because no one takes the trouble of wearing big headphones to listen to music you can barely hear. I tend to think this was a flaw with my particular unit until I checked and found others reporting the same issue.

However, it’s no sacrifice to leave noise cancellation turned on and get full-on sound, which is when you’ll find it’s of rather good quality. Some may feel the Venue sounds a little heavy on the bass, but that’s really how we like it here in India. The sound is powerful and driving, and though the mids and highs could do with a little more prominence, the overall sound is very satisfying. I loved listening to contemporary electronic tango tracks. Music with a lot of guitar such as Ali Farida Toure and Nils Lofgren sounded wonderful. Baroque classical like Bach’s violin concertos sounded good and wholesome. Blue Jeans by ZZ Top was particularly good, showing that vocals were nice and clear as well. If you’re not up to spending for a pair of active noise cancellation headphones that you’d only see in the business class on a flight, you should consider the Venue.

Price: ₹18,990

Pros: Great powerful sound quality, adequate noise cancellation, comfortable

Cons: Plastic build, buttons could be better, odd volume drop without ANC

Published on November 28, 2018

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