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Psyko Carbon

Eight 5.1- And 7.1-Channel Gaming Headsets, Reviewed

Psyko Audio made a name for itself when it released the Psyko 5.1 in 2010, a unique gaming headset designed with surround sound in mind. The company updated its product with the Psyko Krypton the following year. Even newer, we have the Psyko Carbon.

The Carbon is the most expensive headset in our comparison, and it sells for $200 from Psyko's website. Weighing in at 1 lb, 1.4 oz, it’s also the heaviest headset in this round-up.

We're impressed with Psyko's sturdy build quality and snug fitment. However, its weight coupled with a tight squeeze cumulatively lead to pronounced discomfort over time. Psyko's headsets certainly boast a unique design, and while I haven’t tried this model's predecessors, I can't discern any significant visual difference between pictures of the Carbon, the original Psyko 5.1, or Psyko's Krypton. The company’s signature style looks good, though. It's a mean-looking, unapologetic headset to be sure.

Psyko offers the only detachable microphone in our round-up, mounted on the right ear cup. This is far and away the best-sounding microphone in our tests, delivering excellent voice reproduction and low noise.

A true 5.1-channel surround headset, Psyko won't divulge the Carbon's driver specifications. Based on the best measurements we could take without completely dismantling our review sample, it appears as though the center, front, and side speakers are 30 mm, complemented by a 40 mm sub. Assuming this is correct, the Carbon's configuration is similar to the CM Storm Sirus. All of the speakers except the subwoofer are mounted in the headband, directing sound through plastic tubes to the intended direction of the audio channel.

The ear cups have a unique pivot-open cover that allows ambient sound to pass in at the expense of some bass and overall sound quality. This is an awesome feature, and I wish other manufacturers would catch on. If you're gaming but still need to hear what's happening in the world around you, it's nice to have the option to let some noise in. 

Psyko includes an amplifier that requires power from an external AC adapter. The amp boasts two dials: one for bass and one for volume. Also, indicator lights visually reflect when each channel is being used, except for the sub. Although you can bypass the amplifier, it's probably not recommended. Because the company doesn't provide any specifications for this headset, we don't know what its impedance is. Assuming they're on the higher side, though, given their size, additional voltage from an amp should help drive a higher listening level.

The Psyko Carbon requires a sound card with either six- or eight-channel analog output, and it does not support USB connectivity. Although USB is much more convenient, many enthusiasts prefer to use higher-end discrete sound cards with their own on-board audio processors, so Psyko's decision to market its premium headset to that crowd makes sense. Of course, as a result, there are no drivers to install and no software written specifically to control this headset. Instead, you'll have to go into your sound card's control panel to fine tune the output you get from the Carbon.

Psyko includes the aforementioned amplifier and an owner's manual in the Carbon's bundle. For a $200 package, that's pretty lightweight.

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