Helmet audio review: Koss KSC75 vs Skullcandy Cassettes vs Outdoor Technology CHIPS - Snowboarding Forum - Snowboard Enthusiast Forums
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Old 06-16-2015, 09:06 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Helmet audio review: Koss KSC75 vs Skullcandy Cassettes vs Outdoor Technology CHIPS

Now that i have all 3 of these helmet audio solutions, i can give a comparison review that might help others trying to decide on what helmet audio to get. I believe the Skullcandy Cassettes are the same speakers as the Gyro Drop-in helmet audio system, but feel free to correct me if i am wrong.

I am testing these in a Sandbox Classic helmet with Audio earpads. For the KSC75 and Cassettes i used a Jabra Clipper bluetooth adapter. This is supposedly water resistant (havent had issues on the snow) and has simple button arrangement to be almost glove-useable. Almost, because sometimes i would hit volume up when i wanted to pause etc.

Audio source was either my phone, or a Sony Walkman MP3 player (NW-S15), which i got to save phone battery on the mountain. Music was hip hop, rap, and EDM/Dance music

And i should say up front that i dont have perfect hearing. Fairly sure thats tinnitus that is causing me to hear a constant high pitched TV sound... but i do like music and i *can* still hear whats going on around me!

First i will review each one individually, and then a comparison at the end.

Koss KSC75

I got these first after seeing a recommendation on here, and the fact that they are so cheap (2000yen here in Japan, US$15?). I removed them from the ear clips and took off the foam padding, then I cut and resoldered the leads to be nice and short so there would be no dangling wires (Jabra clipper on the helmet chin strap).

The sound out of these was clear but felt a bit light on the bass when out on the snow. If i pushed them against my ear i could hear it better but since they are smaller than the helmet audio pockets they sort of float around in there and arent always nice and aligned. I also felt that they werent all that loud, i was always at 80-90% volume, whether attached to the Clipper, or wired directly to my phone.

First set actually died on me after a season on the snow. Thought it was a loose wire on my soldering, so i pulled them apart and butchered one to pieces before giving up and buying another pair.

Skullcandy Cassettes

I wanted more bass than then KSC75s offered, and based on a shop test of some (other) Skullcandy headphones, I figured Skullcandy was all about bass heavy speakers.... So I bought a pair of Cassettes on Amazon for US$22.

These came with the most flimsy headphone wire I ever seen and came with a cheap feeling headband. Never mind because i wasnt interested in that, popped em out of the headband and into my helmet.

Firstly they are big. A little bigger than the Audio pockets in the Sandboxes allow for. Also the supplied lead sticks straight out so its kind of in the way and feels like it would get broken easily. I planned to solder up some right-angle jacks on a short lead to overcome that, but i am not sure if that project will ever happen actually.

They are louder than the KSC75s, but surprisingly, less bassy. Its more treble and midrange, and after listening to these the KSC75s feel quite muffled actually.

But the size means they press into my ears a little much for my liking. But maybe on other helmets it would be good (if you dont need much bass). The lack of bass reproduction on these means i dont think these will see much use from me. Was quite disappointed actually!

Outdoor Technology Chips

I resisted these for a long time because of the price. $130 is a lot for helmet audio, even adding up all the things i have spent on so far. There was also the question of whether these could dual-pair (MP3 player, and Phone). But then a forum member PSA'd that skiershop on Ebay (skiershop-com on eBay) was selling them for $65. Sssoollld! (actually sold out i believe).

Firstly yes they can dual pair. If you pair them to a device with no Hands Free Profile (HFP), i.e. most plain MP3 players - but not ipods that have iMessage/Facetime, THEN pair with your phone, then both will connect. Music and all sounds come from the MP3 player, but when you get a call on your phone it will pause the music and route it through the speakers. Great for not getting all facebook/message notifications interrupting your music, while keeping the actual urgent calls available.

Next up, they are louder than both the cassettes and ksc75s. Not just in treble/midrange, but also bass (nice and bassy). Full volume is actually painfully loud for me, so i would mostly have this at 60-70% i am guessing. Its just very good quality audio all through the range. I definitely prefer the sound of these over both of the other options, and soon found myself wishing i could use these speakers outside of my helmet!!

Battery life on these is quoted at 10hrs playback. I havent had these out on the mountain but i suspect it will be fine for a full day. The Jabra clipper is rated for 6hrs, and that definitely cuts out towards the end of the day.

Controlling these is simple... Short taps, double taps etc, definitely glove proof as each ear only has one button.

Would i pay $130 for these? Actually i still think that is a bit too much for helmet-only audio. If they came in a headband like the Cassettes do then it wouldnt be such a painful outlay, but if you can find them on special, or if you get a discount coupon (which they do a lot) then definitely recommend this option.

So there you have it, i guess it might have been an obvious conclusion (Chips #1, then KSC75s and Cassettes last), but i hadnt heard from anyone who had all 3 so decided to write it up.
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