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Eight 5.1- And 7.1-Channel Gaming Headsets, Reviewed

Creative Sound Blaster Tactic 3D Sigma

Its hard to believe that this $65 model represents Creative’s top-of-the-line headset. You can spend an extra $125 for the wireless version, but it has the same speaker hardware inside. The fit and finish both correspond to this unit's price tag, and to be frank the quality isn't as apparent here as it is with competing models. The cups are covered with transparent plastic over the sound blaster logo, and there’s a blue ring that was obviously intended to light up. Creative reserves that functionality for the wireless model, though, so it remains disappointingly dark on this product.

At 10 oz, the Tactic 3D Sigma is the second-lightest head set in our test group. That's great for the sake of comfort, even if less heft consequently feels cheaper. Regardless, when you’re gaming for long stretches at a time, the lower weight is definitely appreciated.

The microphone doesn't rotate out of the way, but it can be flexed to fit wherever you need it.

Our microphone tests show a bit of background noise and bright frequency response. Overall, this specific aspect of the Sound Blaster Ractic 3D Sigma is acceptable, but not enough to shine at the top of our test group. More annoying than anything, the protective sponge at the end of the mic falls off if it accidentally brushes up against anything.

The Sigma's real strength is its speakers, large, 50 mm neodymium drivers with a rated frequency response between 20 Hz and 29 kHz. There are only two products in the round-up with such large drivers: Creative's Sigma and Corsair's Vengeance 1500.

The inline controls are functional, including a volume wheel and microphone mute switch. Creative nails simplicity and tops it off with a clip to secure the remote. This is how you do it right, folks.

Our only concern here is the audio cable. Most of the models in our round-up employ sturdy, braided cable. Creative, however, opts for a thin, flat ribbon cable that seems less durable. Since most of the headsets we've ever owned failed when contacts between the remote and cable wore over time, this is one area where cost-cutting isn't good.

Creative's Tactic 3D Sigma gives you a choice between sound card control or integrated processing through a bundled USB dongle. Naturally, the software controls won't work if you're using the analog connectors.

Like some of its competitors, Creative includes a download link instead of a driver CD. As a result, you're ensured the newest driver build when you go to grab it. Conveniently, you also get access to a firmware upgrade tool. We used this to flash our test unit to software version D0-01-21 before running any tests.

The main setting tab includes mic and master volume controls, in addition to an interface for saving, importing, and exporting profiles.

The THX TruStudio Pro controls are on the second page. We're always a little dubious about all-in-one audio adjustments, favoring a simple equalizer instead. However, these settings were useful in getting the best sound out of this headset. The adjustments are functional, not gimmicky.

Of course, a standard graphic equalizer is also included, with a number of presets from which to choose.

While we've seen other headsets include somewhere around four real-time voice effects, the Tactic3D includes 19 presets and eight customization control sliders. If you're really into prank calls or Ventrilo harassment (we're kidding, of course; this feature is supposed to be fun), the Tactic 3D Sigma has a clear advantage that includes a lot more personalization than any competing headset.

The appearance tab simply lets you choose software's color highlights. There’s also an alternative console theme included. Here’s what it looks like in red:

The only extras Creative includes are the USB dongle and a quick start guide. Given its modest price point, we weren't expecting an extravagant bundle.