Medusa 5.1 USB Headset
This is the USB flavor of the Medusa 5.1 headset (also reviewed here with comments on some of the headset's physical characteristics, which are the same for the 5.1 USB version) from Speed Link. Like its bigger brother it comes with full 5.1 surround sound, but the difference between the two is that the USB version is driver run unlike the non-USB flavor which is connected to the soundcard itself. This gives the USB version the advantage of being far more portable, since bringing it to a LAN is a simple matter of plugging in the USB cable and having the driver software installed. This also means that machines (laptops in particular) which do not have a 5.1 soundcard installed can still take advantage of positional audio.
Installation of the driver software is painless and the software interface which facilitates advances settings as well as testing is simple to use.
The disadvantage of the Medusa 5.1 USB is the fact that a USB device may consume system resources, which can be a fatal blow for high-end peripheral gear and for gamers who want to dredge every frame out of their systems. However, our tests using 3DMark 2005 did not show any discernable difference in frame rate when we used the USB headset.
The headset comes with a very handy device that acts as a quasi coat-hanger that can be attached to the side of the computer screen or any other surface for use as a hanger for the headset when not in use. For its simple throwaway value this scores the Medusa 5.1 USB some brownie points, as in the past we've been using a screw half stuck out of the wall to hang our headsets...