Surround Sound Headsets? Come Out With Your Ears Up!
If you live alone as a carefree bachelor or bachelorette, a powerful surround sound speaker system attached to your gaming machine is the ultimate way to enjoy the latest AAA blockbusters. Positional audio is a beautiful thing. Not only does it add to the entertainment factor, but it also helps you along, feeding audible cues from the environment, revealing an enemy's position, and delivering the soundtrack that intensifies before an important action sequence.
Unfortunately, the reality of roommates, family, and even apartment living make it difficult to crank the volume up on a full-scale surround sound configuration without annoying everyone around you (particularly if you game at night). The solution for most enthusiasts is a headset. In addition to bringing the action in closer to your ears, a headset simultaneously arms you with a microphone, perfect for coordinating with a team or trash-talking opponents.
A lot of PC peripheral vendors are taking their first steps into audio. We're putting eight premium headsets through a vigorous testing regimen to quantify the good, bad, and ugly of "multi-channel" personal audio. Some of these devices truly facilitate 5.1-channel surround sound using discrete drivers. Others employ software-approximated virtual 7.1-channel surround sound to get the job done. How effective are they all at achieving their purpose? Let's have a look at specifications before going into detail on each product:
|True 5.1-Channel Headsets|
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Arctic Sound P531||Psyko Carbon||Cooler MasterCM Storm Sirus|
|Surround Type||True 5.1-Channel||True 5.1-Channel||True 5.1-Channel|
|Center Speakers||Frequency response: 20-20k Hz Sensitivity: 108 dBImpedance: 32 ΩDriver unit: 30 mmOutput Power: 200 mW||Driver unit: 30 mm (measured)||Frequency response: 10- 20k HzSensitivity: >105 dBImpedance: 32 ΩDriver unit: 30 mmGross specs for Headset|
|Front Speakers:||Frequency response: 18-20k HzSensitivity: 100 dBImpedance: 32 ΩDriver unit: 40 mmOutput Power: 400 mW||Driver unit: 30 mm (measured)||Frequency response: 10-20K HzSensitivity: >105 dBImpedance: 32 ΩDriver unit: 30 mmGross specs for Headset|
|Side Speakers||Frequency response: 20-20k Hz Sensitivity: 108 dBImpedance: 32 ΩDriver unit: 30 mmOutput Power: 200 mW||Driver unit: 30 mm (measured)||Frequency response: 10-20k HzSensitivity: >105 dBImpedance: 32 ΩDriver unit: 30 mm|
|Subwoofer||Frequency response: 10-400 HzSensitivity: N/A Impedance: 8 ΩDriver unit: 27 mmOutput Power: 600 mW||40 mm (measured)||Frequency response: 10-20k HzSensitivity: >105 dBImpedance: 16 ΩDriver unit: 40 mmGross specs for Headset|
|Microphone||Sensitivity: 39 dB ± 3 dBImpedance: 2.2 KΩDriver unit: 9.7 x 5 mm||Not provided||Uni-directionalFrequency response: 100-10k HzSensitivity: -46 dB ± 3 dBImpedance: <2.2 KΩ|
|Inputs||USB||Analog||Analog or USB|
|Cable||3 meters||2 meters headset, 1.7 meters amplifier||USB: 3.4 metersAnalog: 2.1 meters|
|Control Pod||Volume, microphone mute, surround channel levels||Volume, bass, and power on inline amplifier; mic can be turned off by removing it from headset||Power, volume, microphone mute, and surround levels on tactical mixing console (software-only controls with analog); auto-mute on retractable mic boom|
|Software Settings||input/output channels, environment effects, equalizer, voice effects||N/A||Volume control, speaker settings, sample rate, EQ, environmental FX, 7.1 virtual speaker shifter, Flex Bass II, mic volume/sample rate/voice effects|
|Weight||13.1 oz||1 lb 1.4 oz||13.3 oz|
|Accessories||Driver disk, setup sheet||Amplifier, owner's manual||Tactical mixing console, analog cable, second set of ear pads, quick start guide, software download link|
|Price:||$49.99 on amazon.com||$200 on psykoaudio.com||$114.99 on amazon.com|
|Warranty||Two years||One year, limited||Two years, limited|
|Virtual Surround Sound Headsets|
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Logitech G35||Creative Tactic3D Sigma||Thermaltake eSports Shock One||Corsair Vengeance 1500||Razer Megalodon|
|Surround Type||Virtual 7.1-Channel Dolby||Virtual 7.1-Channel THX TruStudio Pro||Virtual 5.1-Channel DTS Sensation||Virtual 7.1-Channel Dolby Pro Logic IIx||Virtual 7.1-Channel Maelstrom Audio Engine|
|Center Speakers:||Frequency response: 20-20k HzImpedance: 32 ΩSensitivity: 90 dBDriver unit: 40 mmNeodymium magnet||Frequency response: 20-20k HzSensitivity: 105 dBImpedance: 32 ΩDriver unit: 50 mm Neodymium magnet||Frequency response: 20-20k HzImpedance: 32 ΩSensitivity: 114 dB ± 3 dBMax. input: 100 mWDriver unit: 40 mm||Frequency response: 20-20k HzSensitivity: > 105 dBImpedance: 32 ΩDriver unit: 50 mmUSB power consumption: 250 mW||Frequency response: 20-20k HzImpedance: 32 ΩSensitivity: 102 dB ± 4 dBMax. input: 200 mWDriver unit: 40 mm, Neodymium magnets|
|Microphone:||Unidirectional Frequency response: 100 Hz – 10 KHz Sensitivity: -42 dB Test conditions: 3.0 V, 2.2 KΩ||Noise-canceling condenserFrequency response: 100- 18k HzSensitivity: -41 dBImpedance: <2.2 KΩ||BidirectionalNoise-cancelling condenserImpedance: 2.2 KΩFrequency response: 100-10k HzSensitivity: -45 dB ± 3 dB||UnidirectionalNoise-cancelling condenserFrequency response: 100-10k HzSensitivity: -44 dB ± 3 dBImpedance: 2.2 KΩ||UnidirectionalNoise-cancelling condenserFrequency response: 50-16k HzSensitivity: -37 dB (user adjustable)|
|Inputs:||USB||Analog or USB||USB||USB||USB|
|Cable:||3.05 meters||2 meters||3 meters||3.2 meters||3.3 meters|
|Control Pod:||Volume, surround toggle, and mic mute on-ear; auto-mic mute also on rotating mic boom||Volume and mic mute||Power, volume, mute, mic mute, illumination, and control lock||Volume and mic mute||Surround toggle, surround levels, bass level, volume, mic mute/sensitivity/level|
|Software Settings:||Programmable G-keys, equalizer, surround mixer, voice FX||Sound levels, THX controls, equalizer, Voice FX, appearance||Environment effects, equalizer, levels, surround controls, timer||Levels, equalizer, surround controls||N/A|
|Weight:||12.3 oz||10 oz||11.2 oz||11.4 oz||8 oz|
|Accessories||Three swappable headband pads, quick start guide, CD with software||THX TruStudio Pro dual-mode USB adapter, quick start guide (software download link)||Set of cloth ear pads, velvet carrying bag, quick install guide, driver disk, warranty card||Warranty guide, (software download link)||Storage case, certificate of authenticity, master guide, quick start guide, product catalog|
|Price||$94.99 on amazon.com||$62.24 on amazon.com||$92.21 on amazon.com||$84.99 on amazon.com||$126.84 on amazon.com|
|Warranty||Two years, limited||One year, limited||Two years||Two years||One year|
Wassat stand for... "Space, The Final Frontier"? :)
Yeah, me neither. Surprised the hell out of me.
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. :)