Eight 5.1- And 7.1-Channel Gaming Headsets, Reviewed

Thermaltake eSports Shock One

Thermaltake is another company better known for its other peripherals, cases, and power supplies, but now active in the audio space, too. We're reviewing its flagship Shock One.

This headset bears a $93 price tag, and its construction and style compare favorably to sub-$100 competition, such as Arctic's P531 and Creative's Tactic 3D Sirus. It has flashy add-ons like illuminated logos and red glossy highlights on the ear cups. More square-shaped than other units seen in today's piece, its departure from the norm is refreshing. At 11.2 oz, the Shock One is relatively light, although we find that it fits a little too snugly for long-term gaming sessions, even if it's comfortable for short stretches. 

The boom-mounted microphone swivels up like other models in this round-up. Our microphone tests reveal really bright sound with little response in the lows and mids, but a significant amount of background noise. It’s our least-favorite microphone in the comparison.

As with other stereo headsets purporting to offer virtual surround sound, each can employs a single 40 mm driver rated between 20 Hz and 20 kHz. The headset employs DTS Surround Sensation, an audio technology that claims to enhance voice frequency bands, broaden the sound stage, creating a phantom center channel (a perpetual issue for headphones), and enhance bass.

The inline control pod is built well and simple to use. Plus, it includes a clip for attaching to clothes. You get volume buttons, mic mute, a headset mute button, an illumination toggle switch, and a lock to prevent accidental setting changes. We really like the idea of the lock, especially.

The Shock One is designed exclusively to work with USB, and there is no option for analog connectivity.

The software includes environmental effects controls, an equalizer, mic and sound level sliders, a DTS Surround Sensation toggle, a timer (Ed.: Wait, what?), and a light indicator. The DTS Surround Sensation controls are used to convert two-channel audio into virtual surround sound, and the technology really does an impressive job.

We did come across a strange issue where the Shock One wouldn't play back the subwoofer's content unless LFE mixing is enabled. To make matters worse, this option cannot be selected in two-channel mode. It can only be turned on when DTS Surround Sensation is enabled. Because DTS Surround Sensation is designed to convert two-channel audio into surround, it doesn't work for positional audio in games. So, if you want to hear bass in games, you have to turn on DTS Surround Sensation, enable LFE, and then disable DTS Surround Sensation. The system will remember the LFE setting, even though the interface shows it greyed out. This is a fairly serious undocumented issue, and I hope Thermaltake addresses it with a driver update.

The bundle includes a second set of ear cups with cloth finish instead of leatherette (and as we mentioned before, they're much more comfortable), a velvet carrying bag, a quick install guide, a driver disk, and a warranty card.

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    Top Comments
  • Anonymous
    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.
    15
  • cleeve
    xtreme5amazing stff.


    Wassat stand for... "Space, The Final Frontier"? :)
    13
  • cleeve
    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
  • Other Comments
  • xtreme5
    amazing stff.
    0
  • cleeve
    xtreme5amazing stff.


    Wassat stand for... "Space, The Final Frontier"? :)
    13
  • spookie
    great read! Never thought virtual surround sound was that good
    7
  • cleeve
    spookiegreat read! Never thought virtual surround sound was that good


    Yeah, me neither. Surprised the hell out of me.
    3
  • Anonymous
    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.
    15
  • cleeve
    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
  • killeeeeer
    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 .
    4
  • crysex
    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!
    3
  • iamtheking123
    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.
    -5
  • tomfreak
    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.
    3
  • cleeve
    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.
    12
  • Anonymous
    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
  • cleeve
    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.
    0
  • nikorr
    Very cool. Great review Don Woligroski : ))
    1
  • Earnie
    wow!no roccat kaves,no sennhieser,no logitech 930's.....seems like the better ones were left out.
    1
  • cleeve
    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. :)
    10
  • Eman25th
    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 ;)
    4
  • jasonw223
    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.
    1
  • mrkdilkington
    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.
    11
  • Maziar
    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
    0