After I had discussed my somewhat adulterous love affair with both mix-style and Skullcandy headphones, I noticed a huge spike in traffic for the search term “fake mix-style”. Intrigued, I decided to do a bit of sleuthing on my own, and discovered that not only were there mix-style knock-offs, but that they were cheap and readily available on the local market.
So, how do you tell a fake mix-style product from the real deal? I still have a spare headset purchased from Tokyu Hands Shibuya during my last Tokyo trip, but I also went out and bought one of the fakes from a local dealer that I found online, so that I’d be able to conduct a proper investigation.
I will not be divulging who it was or where their store is, but a bit of creative Googling will yield you some answers. In fairness to the shop-owners, they will tell you outright that you are purchasing a counterfeit, but not all sellers are as forthcoming as they are so this post aims to protect you from the unscrupulous ones.
Please note that in all succeeding photos, the ones on the left are pictures of the genuine mix-style, while those on the right are from the counterfeit.
Let’s start with the packaging. AFAIK the printing and the stickers on both boxes are identical. However, the box on the original has a stiffer body — both the cardboard and the clear plastic window are more resistant to squashing compared to the box for the fake. The quality of the paper also feels different — the original feels weightier and the inside lining sports a very faint yellow tinge, while that on the fake feels more flimsy and is flat white on the inside.
Another huge tell-tale sign is the cable that connects the headphones to the sound jack. On the original mix-style, the cable is attached to the headphones, but in turn it is attached to an extension cord about a metre long that terminates with another sound jack. On the fake, the cord leads from the headphones directly to the jack in a metre-long stretch.
Moving on, a quick inspection of the leather insulation for the headphone cups reveals that while the originals are clad in a smooth, buttery genuine leather shell, the fake comes with wrinkly synthetic leather that feels hotter to the touch and is more prone to inducing sweat in and around your ears. The ear cups on the original are also wider by a couple of millimetres compared to the counterfeits.
When you look at the headband, you will notice that the original actually comes with a slightly narrower headband compared to the fake. The plastic also feels more sturdy in the genuine mix-style than the fake. The most telling sign however is the embossing of the brand logo on the inside of the right-side headband for the original mix-style; the fakes do not bear this embossing on either sides of the headband.
Last but not least are two non-physical indicators to help you tell the originals apart from the fakes: sound quality and price point. The bass is richer and more punchy with the original mix-style, while the treble is more peaky on the imitation mix-style which sometimes interferes with bass quality. As for the pricing, there is a huge disparity between the two: the original is worth about JPY 4000 (or PhP 2000), while the counterfeit only fetched a price of PhP 500.
If you’re looking to invest in a pair of good-looking midpriced headphones, it pays to do your homework ahead of time. Good luck and I hope you score your own pair of mix-style headphones very soon! :D