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Benchmark Results: Frequency Response And Microphone Quality

Eight 5.1- And 7.1-Channel Gaming Headsets, Reviewed
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We’re going to start with the objective benchmarks, and since these measurements don't show up on Tom's Hardware every day, we're going to give you a little background information first.

Perhaps the best way to understand speaker frequency response is to learn how it is measured. An audio signal is played over the speakers; it’s a signal that equally covers the entire audio spectrum at the same level. The speaker output is then measured across the part of the spectrum that humans can hear, from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. The resulting data turns into the product's tested frequency response. A perfect speaker in perfect conditions would generate a completely flat response line, reflecting the test signal. Peaks and valleys in the graph mean that the speaker isn’t playing back all portions of the audio spectrum equally.

Granted, testing headsets presents unique challenges. In order to simulate the most accurate listening experience, we implanted our microphone into the ear of a test dummy. Unlike full-sized speakers, there is no theoretically-perfect response curve for headphones. Ideally, though, we’ll see slight curves that don’t accentuate or mute parts of the audio spectrum. Keep in mind that our frequency response measurements are most useful as a comparison between the headsets we’re testing, and not as absolute representations of a reference response.

Before we present the results, here’s a quick legend of the audio spectrum:

  • The sub-bass range is from 20 to 60 Hz, and it isn’t heard so much as it's felt. Sound in this range provides a sense of power.
  • The bass range is from 60 to 250 Hz. This is where you can hear the bass rhythm, especially between 90 to 200 Hz. 
  • The lower mid-range is from 250 to 500 Hz. This is also called the bass presence range.
  • The mid-range is from 500 Hz to 2 kHz. This is where you can hear instruments and vocals.
  • The upper mid-range is from 2 kHz to 4 kHz. Higher instruments and most vocals are heard here, and the human ear is very sensitive to changes in this range.
  • The presence range is from 4 kHz to 6 kHz. Too little sound in this range will make the audio seem like it’s coming from further away.
  • The brilliance range is 6 kHz to 20 kHz. This is where you hear harmonics and clarity, and accented sound in this range makes it seem crisper and clearer with higher fidelity.


Here are the frequency responses of the products in our round-up. All were tested with flat equalizer settings and enhancements turned off.

Compared to a speaker's frequency response, the range is much tighter, with only about 25 dB or so between the maximum and minimum levels. The whole playing field demonstrates a lot of bumps higher and dips lower, so it's hard to extract a lot of useful data in one glance.

A few models show some unique traits, though. Logitech's G35 varies most widely at the upper end of the spectrum, while Corsair's Vengeance 1500 is admirably flat until it hits a notable peak in the higher range.

Note we didn’t include Psyko's Carbon in the first chart, as we needed to test all of it's two-channel analog mini-plugs separately via analog output:

This headset sees a big peak in the mid-range section and a lower bass curve than its competition.

Now, bear in mind that all of these headsets, except for Razer's Megalodon and Psyko's Carbon, feature a software-based graphic equalizer able to adjust frequency response to taste. And the Carbon's analog connections give it access to whatever software your sound card uses to alter output. Thus, a slight bump in the spectrum is not a game-ender for any of these products. Our subjective analysis is arguably more important; at the same time, we thought it important to provide some hard data on each headset at its default settings.

Before we move on, though, we'd like to let you listen to the audio quality you can expect from the microphones attached to these headsets. We recorded a voice test with each model for you to hear yourself. This isn't representative of the sound quality you'd hear while wearing the headset, but it is what your teammates or opponents will hear. And of course, you're limited by the fidelity of your speakers. We're also including any voice effects bundled with the headset, taking each audio avatar out for a test drive. Please set playback to 720p for the best possible quality.

Surround Gaming Headset Microphone Comparison

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Top Comments
  • 15 Hide
    Anonymous , February 10, 2012 3:53 AM
    Thanks Toms for doing a review on 5.1 headsets. I been researching one for the past two weeks on other review websites, and online stores, but didn't feel satisfied. Could you guys do a review comparing these headsets you reviewed already to a dedicated audio card like the Asus Xonar Essence STX (with a pre amp) with a Sennheiser HD 598 Headphones (or HD 800)? I want to know if it is like night and day compared to these 5.1 headsets (also make readers see what they are missing from using onboard audio). I know its a few hundred dollars more, but i found out that i was more happy gaming with a $70 audio card than seeing 8x AA (using Nvidia Inspector) with a $500 GPU.
  • 13 Hide
    cleeve , February 10, 2012 4:02 AM
    bunnywannyCould you guys do a review comparing these headsets you reviewed already to a dedicated audio card like the Asus Xonar Essence STX (with a pre amp) with a Sennheiser HD 598 Headphones (or HD 800)? I want to know if it is like night and day compared to these 5.1 headsets (also make readers see what they are missing from using onboard audio).


    I like the idea, but it'll probably take a while to make it happen.

    Next up on the audio to-do list is a full-sized 5.1/7.1 surround system comparo. :) 
  • 13 Hide
    cleeve , February 10, 2012 3:32 AM
    xtreme5amazing stff.


    Wassat stand for... "Space, The Final Frontier"? :) 
Other Comments
  • 0 Hide
    xtreme5 , February 10, 2012 3:24 AM
    amazing stff.
  • 13 Hide
    cleeve , February 10, 2012 3:32 AM
    xtreme5amazing stff.


    Wassat stand for... "Space, The Final Frontier"? :) 
  • 7 Hide
    spookie , February 10, 2012 3:46 AM
    great read! Never thought virtual surround sound was that good
  • 3 Hide
    cleeve , February 10, 2012 3:47 AM
    spookiegreat read! Never thought virtual surround sound was that good


    Yeah, me neither. Surprised the hell out of me.
  • 15 Hide
    Anonymous , February 10, 2012 3:53 AM
    Thanks Toms for doing a review on 5.1 headsets. I been researching one for the past two weeks on other review websites, and online stores, but didn't feel satisfied. Could you guys do a review comparing these headsets you reviewed already to a dedicated audio card like the Asus Xonar Essence STX (with a pre amp) with a Sennheiser HD 598 Headphones (or HD 800)? I want to know if it is like night and day compared to these 5.1 headsets (also make readers see what they are missing from using onboard audio). I know its a few hundred dollars more, but i found out that i was more happy gaming with a $70 audio card than seeing 8x AA (using Nvidia Inspector) with a $500 GPU.
  • 13 Hide
    cleeve , February 10, 2012 4:02 AM
    bunnywannyCould you guys do a review comparing these headsets you reviewed already to a dedicated audio card like the Asus Xonar Essence STX (with a pre amp) with a Sennheiser HD 598 Headphones (or HD 800)? I want to know if it is like night and day compared to these 5.1 headsets (also make readers see what they are missing from using onboard audio).


    I like the idea, but it'll probably take a while to make it happen.

    Next up on the audio to-do list is a full-sized 5.1/7.1 surround system comparo. :) 
  • 4 Hide
    killeeeeer , February 10, 2012 4:03 AM
    It would of been great if you tested the Roccat Kave but other than that great review. Been searching for headset for long time , now ill go with the Corsair Vengeance 1500 for sure .
  • 3 Hide
    crysex , February 10, 2012 4:06 AM
    Thanks Toms so much for doing this review. I have been searching one for a long time. Ready to buy a good quality sound card + headset after my next paycheck!
  • -5 Hide
    iamtheking123 , February 10, 2012 4:32 AM
    I'll stick to my $100 stereo headphones instead of $20 headphones + $80 spent on fake surround sound and marketing. We've all tried virtual surround sound in PowerDVD or WinDVD and it sucks. Makes everything sound underwater and no where close to having 5 actual speakers set up throughout a room.
  • 3 Hide
    tomfreak , February 10, 2012 4:40 AM
    I am still sticking with more expensive traditional speakers, simply due to my ear need some air to breath. These headphone arent comfortable especially during summer.
  • 12 Hide
    cleeve , February 10, 2012 4:41 AM
    iamtheking123I'll stick to my $100 stereo headphones instead of $20 headphones + $80 spent on fake surround sound and marketing. We've all tried virtual surround sound in PowerDVD or WinDVD and it sucks. Makes everything sound underwater and no where close to having 5 actual speakers set up throughout a room.


    I disagree.

    As mentioned in the article, six blindfolded testers were consistently able to point out the source of virtually-placed audio behind them, beside and in front. Every single tester.

    That's hard evidence that cannot be ignored.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , February 10, 2012 4:53 AM
    Hi, Do you check current prices when you make these comparisons? The Logitech G35 is only $95 on Amazon.com and has been for several months. Seems like you should use current pricing to make the comparison.

    The Corsair 1500 is only $10 cheaper and im curious if the Logitech software extras and minimal price difference actually beat the Corsair headset? I have the Corsair set and im not to impressed with the bass on it. For 50mm drivers i would have thought it would have better bass. (yes i tweaked things in the equalizer and put the first 3 columns all the way up and its still not very bassy).
  • 0 Hide
    cleeve , February 10, 2012 4:57 AM
    keylayHi, Do you check current prices when you make these comparisons? The Logitech G35 is only $95 on Amazon.com and has been for several months. Seems like you should use current pricing to make the comparison. The Corsair 1500 is only $10 cheaper and im curious if the Logitech software extras and minimal price difference actually beat the Corsair headset? I have the Corsair set and im not to impressed with the bass on it. For 50mm drivers i would have thought it would have better bass. (yes i tweaked things in the equalizer and put the first 3 columns all the way up and its still not very bassy).


    Well, in our tests the Corsair beat the heck out of all competitors except the Megalodon when it comes to the whole sound spectrum. There are some models with heavier bass, but it comes at a price as there are significant lows in other parts of the spectrum.

    Yeah, we check current prices, but I must have missed that Logitech $95 deal on amazon. I'll check again, might have to adjust the article a bit.
  • 1 Hide
    nikorr , February 10, 2012 4:58 AM
    Very cool. Great review Don Woligroski : ))
  • 1 Hide
    Earnie , February 10, 2012 4:58 AM
    wow!no roccat kaves,no sennhieser,no logitech 930's.....seems like the better ones were left out.
  • 10 Hide
    cleeve , February 10, 2012 5:21 AM
    Earniewow!no roccat kaves,no sennhieser,no logitech 930's.....seems like the better ones were left out.


    I understand that the Logitech 930's are simply a wireless version of the G35, so no difference there.

    Sennheiser refused our invitation to the roundup.

    Roccat, well... can't find them for sale in the USA, and this is a US-based publication. :) 
  • 4 Hide
    Eman25th , February 10, 2012 5:30 AM
    this was a great review, i received a pair of corsair 1500s two weeks ago and i love them. I was worried about the virtual surround sound at first because i have a Logitech 7.1 setup for home use, but the 1500s sound just as good, only complaint is that i cant hear teammates at LANs very well with them on, but then again i cant hear my wife either ;) 
  • 1 Hide
    jasonw223 , February 10, 2012 5:42 AM
    I've got a G35, and just so you know, the red light doesn't just come on when the boom is folded up. It's mainly meant so that when you push the mute button on the side of the one headphone (and the mic is in front of your face) - you don't forget it on. With my last headset I did that plenty of times and wondered why everyone was ignoring me...

    And secondly those 3 buttons are great for pausing music and changing tracks if you don't have media keys on your keyboard. Although I think playing Starcraft using your headphones instead of your keyboard would be pretty sweet.
  • 11 Hide
    mrkdilkington , February 10, 2012 5:44 AM
    iamtheking123I'll stick to my $100 stereo headphones instead of $20 headphones + $80 spent on fake surround sound and marketing. We've all tried virtual surround sound in PowerDVD or WinDVD and it sucks. Makes everything sound underwater and no where close to having 5 actual speakers set up throughout a room.
    You're a fool if you think 'virtual sound' in PowerDVD is even remotely the same technology implemented in these headphones.
  • 0 Hide
    Maziar , February 10, 2012 5:53 AM
    Great review,but it's strange that in a fairly older review of Megalodon,the writer didn't give it a good score overall(and only 7/10 for the Comfort)
    http://www.tomsguide.com/us/Surround-Sound-Headsets,review-1357-5.html
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