Skullcandy iCon 2 headphones
Some people prefer earphones that blend in so much no one can tell they're even being used, while others like their ear cans to stand out from the crowd. If you fall into the latter crowd, the Skullcandy Icon 2 headphones will probably be right up your alley. This on-ear model lists for $29.95 and features Skullcandy's typical eye-catching design. The earphones offer a couple of fun and useful extras, but the sound quality won't impress many users, and the fit may prove to be an issue for active pursuits.
As for the style of the headphones, it's clearly aimed at a younger audience and is much more likely to appeal to teens than their parents. What is certain is that the Icon 2 earphones are far from boring-looking, with seven loud color options to choose from, including a rather soothing Aqua Print model and the death-metal-appropriate Able Black. The prints may be loud, but they were also clearly done by some talented design folks, and they even include some snap-on earpiece "plates" for changing up the look a bit from time to time. There's also Skullcandy's signature black-and-gold bandanna, purportedly for keeping your face toasty on the slopes (though we much prefer a soft fleece for such things).
Unlike the Icon Soft headphones, the Icon 2s don't have the leatherette pad wrapped around the headband, opting instead for a rubberized inner lining. This is actually a blessing in disguise as it keeps the band from sliding around as much during activity. That said, the earphones still don't feel secure enough for their active ends (namely, snowboarding), though having a beanie on over or under them might help some. Really, though, it's the skull-embellished nylon earpads that are slippery, so keeping the music port in place could be a challenge. On the plus side, they don't exert much pressure on the head, so they're fairly comfortable.
Descending from each Icon 2 earpiece is a color-coordinated Y-cable that terminates in a gold-plated straight plug. The wire is coated in cloth and is thick, meaning that the cord is probably exceptionally durable--an impressive feat for earphones in this price range. Also, the left cable features an inline mic and call answer button for using the Icon 2 as a stereo headset with the iPhone and other music phones, which is another nice feature for the price.
The big issue with the Icon 2 earphones is the sound quality: they simply don't deliver on the audio front, offering performance about on par with stock earbuds. Bass is practically nonexistent, certain tracks come across muffled and fuzzy, and music sounds thin and anemic overall. The upshots are that some songs come through clear with no distortion, there's no noticeable background hiss, and the call quality through the mic is decent. Plus, the Icon 2s are quite cheap, so we're not really expecting stellar sound, and they do offer a hit of youthful style in a shape that's appropriate for kids who don't want to stick things into their ears.