Skip to main content

Eight 5.1- And 7.1-Channel Gaming Headsets, Reviewed

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
Arctic Sound P531Psyko CarbonCooler MasterCM Storm Sirus
Surround TypeTrue 5.1-ChannelTrue 5.1-ChannelTrue 5.1-Channel
Center SpeakersFrequency response: 20-20k Hz Sensitivity: 108 dBImpedance: 32 ΩDriver unit: 30 mmOutput Power: 200 mWDriver 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 mWDriver unit: 30 mm (measured)Frequency response: 10-20K HzSensitivity: >105 dBImpedance: 32 ΩDriver unit: 30 mmGross specs for Headset
Side SpeakersFrequency response: 20-20k Hz Sensitivity: 108 dBImpedance: 32 ΩDriver unit: 30 mmOutput Power: 200 mWDriver unit: 30 mm (measured)Frequency response: 10-20k HzSensitivity: >105 dBImpedance: 32 ΩDriver unit: 30 mm
SubwooferFrequency response: 10-400 HzSensitivity: N/A Impedance: 8 ΩDriver unit: 27 mmOutput Power: 600 mW40 mm (measured)Frequency response: 10-20k HzSensitivity: >105 dBImpedance: 16 ΩDriver unit: 40 mmGross specs for Headset
MicrophoneSensitivity: 39 dB ± 3 dBImpedance: 2.2 KΩDriver unit: 9.7 x 5 mmNot providedUni-directionalFrequency response: 100-10k HzSensitivity: -46 dB ± 3 dBImpedance: <2.2 KΩ
InputsUSBAnalogAnalog or USB
Cable3 meters2 meters headset, 1.7 meters amplifierUSB: 3.4 metersAnalog: 2.1 meters
Control PodVolume, microphone mute, surround channel levelsVolume, bass, and power on inline amplifier; mic can be turned off by removing it from headsetPower, volume, microphone mute, and surround levels on tactical mixing console (software-only controls with analog); auto-mute on retractable mic boom
Software Settingsinput/output channels, environment effects, equalizer, voice effectsN/AVolume control, speaker settings, sample rate, EQ, environmental FX, 7.1 virtual speaker shifter, Flex Bass II, mic volume/sample rate/voice effects
Weight13.1 oz1 lb 1.4 oz13.3 oz
AccessoriesDriver disk, setup sheetAmplifier, owner's manualTactical 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
WarrantyTwo yearsOne year, limitedTwo years, limited
Virtual Surround Sound Headsets
Logitech G35Creative Tactic3D SigmaThermaltake eSports Shock OneCorsair Vengeance 1500Razer Megalodon
Surround TypeVirtual 7.1-Channel DolbyVirtual 7.1-Channel THX TruStudio ProVirtual 5.1-Channel DTS SensationVirtual 7.1-Channel Dolby Pro Logic IIxVirtual 7.1-Channel Maelstrom Audio Engine
Center Speakers:Frequency response: 20-20k HzImpedance: 32 ΩSensitivity: 90 dBDriver unit: 40 mmNeodymium magnetFrequency response: 20-20k HzSensitivity: 105 dBImpedance: 32 ΩDriver unit: 50 mm Neodymium magnetFrequency response: 20-20k HzImpedance: 32 ΩSensitivity: 114 dB ± 3 dBMax. input: 100 mWDriver unit: 40 mmFrequency response: 20-20k HzSensitivity: > 105 dBImpedance: 32 ΩDriver unit: 50 mmUSB power consumption: 250 mWFrequency 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 KΩNoise-canceling condenserFrequency response: 100- 18k HzSensitivity: -41 dBImpedance: <2.2 KΩBidirectionalNoise-cancelling condenserImpedance: 2.2 KΩFrequency response: 100-10k HzSensitivity: -45 dB ± 3 dBUnidirectionalNoise-cancelling condenserFrequency response: 100-10k HzSensitivity: -44 dB ± 3 dBImpedance: 2.2 KΩUnidirectionalNoise-cancelling condenserFrequency response: 50-16k HzSensitivity: -37 dB (user adjustable)
Inputs:USBAnalog or USBUSBUSBUSB
Cable:3.05 meters2 meters3 meters3.2 meters3.3 meters
Control Pod:Volume, surround toggle, and mic mute on-ear; auto-mic mute also on rotating mic boomVolume and mic mutePower, volume, mute, mic mute, illumination, and control lockVolume and mic muteSurround toggle, surround levels, bass level, volume, mic mute/sensitivity/level
Software Settings:Programmable G-keys, equalizer, surround mixer, voice FXSound levels, THX controls, equalizer, Voice FX, appearanceEnvironment effects, equalizer, levels, surround controls, timerLevels, equalizer, surround controlsN/A
Weight:12.3 oz10 oz11.2 oz11.4 oz8 oz
AccessoriesThree swappable headband pads, quick start guide, CD with softwareTHX 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 cardWarranty 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
WarrantyTwo years, limitedOne year, limitedTwo yearsTwo yearsOne year
  • xtreme5
    amazing stff.
    Reply
  • cleeve
    xtreme5amazing stff.
    Wassat stand for... "Space, The Final Frontier"? :)
    Reply
  • spookie
    great read! Never thought virtual surround sound was that good
    Reply
  • cleeve
    spookiegreat read! Never thought virtual surround sound was that good
    Yeah, me neither. Surprised the hell out of me.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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. :)
    Reply
  • 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 .
    Reply
  • 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!
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply