By Edward “Computer Ed” Crisler
This time around as we have done our gaming peripheral shootout, we wanted to look at a bit more budget oriented products. With this in mind we asked for membrane based keyboards and mice plus headsets that where solid values. For this Steelseries sent us the 3H Headset to review. Priced at around $30 the 3H is a small budget oriented headset that is designed to deliver “Pro Gaming” sound according to the folks at Steelseries.
This is a very no frills package with no drivers needed for the analog headset and no fancy lights or bling. The headset itself is an on ear design, meaning the padding for the cups rests on your ear, and folds up to be very compact. The result is a headset that is much smaller that what we have reviewed in the past.
The microphone uses Steelseries patented method of retracting it back into the headset itself and this helps with making the overall headset very small. The design is very light weight and the headband is very comfortable.
I have to tell you I was not happy when I started to use these, the reason why is the on the ear design is just not comfortable for me. The headset felt very small on my head and that tied to the light weight design made me feel constantly as if I was about to break it. However when I let people with smaller heads make use of it they did not have the same issues I had. This is a purely subjective feel.
When I got past how these felt on my head I was blown away by the sound. These little headphone produce sound quality that is very close to their big brother, the Siberia. Despite a smaller driver the sound is big, deep and rich. In fact I would go so far to say that in their price point there is no headset I have heard that sound better. The mic was of solid quality, matching the clarity of the Siberia headset as well.
This will seem a quick and simple review to many but this is a quick and simple headset. This would be awesome for traveling or if you have a smaller head or even for a child. The sound output is outstanding.
- Value Priced
- Great Sound
- Very Compact for Traveling
- On the Ear Design
- Small Cups
Thank you to the folks at Steelseries for providing us the 3H Headset for review.
Segment aired the weekend of July 13th, 2013
By Edward “Computer Ed” Crisler
Well with the mouse and keyboard reviews complete we turn our attention to the headset we where supplied to show the new G series gaming peripherals from Logitech. For our shootout Logitech sent us the G230 headset, the budget model of their G lineup.
The G230 is an analog headset, differing from the USB headsets we have looked at from other companies for our peripheral shootout. However when teamed up with the G510S keyboard you get the best of both worlds as you can use the build in sound of the keyboard to provide a USB solution and still use an analog headset. This leaves the impression that this headset and keyboard were designed to work together and they do very well.
The G230 has a very basic plastic construction with a single band clamp design and a swing down bar microphone. The sound is provided by 40mm drivers is a well designed over the ear cup.
The cups and headband are padded using a sports cloth material. These did a surprisingly good job of blocking outside noise during use, better than any other cloth cup padding I have used yet. The design also breathed well, allowing for extended use with no discomfort. A really neat feature is the fact the padding on the cups can be easily removed and washed. A much more useful feature than it sounds, especially with summer upon us.
These are a very light weight headset and this means they sit very conformably on your head however on first impression they are so light they felt flimsy. However do not let that first impression fool you. The G230 comes with the same 3 year warranty that is on the rest of the G lineup and the headphone build quality so far looks like it will hold up well.
A few other features are the inline volume control and mic mute as well as the ability for the headphone cups to turn allowing a flatter profile for travel. The cord is nice and long with a fine cloth braiding for protection. You will be making use of it’s Velcro tie as I found the cord to be a bit long for all but the most extreme uses.
For sound testing I put the G230 through my typical setup of music using Unskinny Bop, Races is On and Get to the Point and then fired up some Ironman for my movie viewing pleasures before moving on to gaming. Because this is an analog headset there is no driver and this means limited tweaking ability for the sound. For this reason Logitech chose to make this headset with a very neutral profile.
What this means is while there is no one sound area where this headset excels at, it does deliver very even sound across the board. This is not really a bad thing as my listening experiences where good in everything. For me the sound was a little flat, I like my driving bass, but for general use the sound was clear and well defined. The microphone as similarly middle of the road. It delivers very good sound and voices comms where clear and easy to hear. In our recording testing the sound was good but pretty much middle of the road when compared to other headset we tested.
Priced at $50 currently on Newegg, this headset is setting solidly in the middle of every aspect. The price is a middle of the road price that offers good value and the headsets offer performance that are equal or above others at the same price point.
- Good value
- comfortable fit
- great warranty
- washable ear cup padding
- clean middle dynamics on sound
While I might not have given the G230 a glowing review that does not mean these are not a solid headset option. For their price point they are an excellent value and a 3 year warranty makes these a great buy for someone looking for a good headset with a reasonable price.
Thank you to the folks at Logitech for providing us the G230 for review.
Show segment from show airing the weekend of June 15th, 2013
By Doug “Doug Dot Com” Berner
Headsets are another of those peripherals that you have to judge as much by tactile experience as specifications do to the fact that they are one of those human/machine interface devices. Because of that, no matter how well they perform in a lab, if it is not comfortable and easy to interface with you will not get good results.
Out of the box the Cavimanus has a striking angular style to it, add to that a red trimmed black color scheme and you can tell immediately that this headset was meant to match the Gilla mouse we looked at last week. The Cavimanus headset is of a clamp design and has vinyl rimmed squarish large ear cups. Well padded and light, it seems built solidly and with comfort in mind. Indeed, donning the Cavimanus reveals an initial comfort level higher that I have seen with most clamp style headsets.
Visible features of note are a swing down mic boom that in the up position locks into a recess in the left ear cup. Also we see a volume knob on the left ear cup and a button. Button? Hmmm what is this? It is labeled simple “((V))”. A mystery. I like mysteries as long as they don’t involve a creepy guy in a rubber mask. What could ((V)) mean? Volume seems the most obvious answer but there is a volume knob already on the Cavimanus. Vanish, maybe it’s a stealth mode? No not vanish, that would be silly, I think. Hmm, vector, vision, venture, nothing made sense. Oh well it will come to me eventually I’m sure.
As with the other items we have looked at from this set the Cavimanus rocks the cool scorpion logo, again reassuring us that this headset is meant to be part of a GX gaming set. One last observation, the Cavimanus is done up in a brilliant high gloss finish which though beautiful shows finger prints terribly bad. At this point I decided to wash my hands and stop eating Pizza Rolls till I was done handling this thing.
One other thing on initial inspection that did not thrill me was that unlike the other components of this matched set the Cavimanus does not sport a nice braided cord. Unexpected since this is all part of the same line of GX-Gaming items.
Ah well enough on the looks this is a headset and I won’t be able to wear it and look at it at the same time. Time to put this thing on, install the software and see what it can do.
As with the other GX items we have looked at the software is a breeze to install and use. Here you can adjust about anything in the way of performance from equalization to surround effects up to simulated 7.1. So far so good, lets try some music to start. I have a standard set of music that I try on all headphones and headsets that I test so that I am comparing them based on the same set of expectations. Trying to cover a wide spectrum the play list ranges from light flutes in Fisherman’s Dream by Spencer Brewer to light and tight strings of Southwind by Joemy Wilson, to heavier rock like Tom Sawyer and Bastille Day by Rush, and When We Stand Together by Nickleback. The mix includes a lot of others but I like to give an idea of the range of music I use so you understand I am not just looking for volume and base as indications of quality like many others seem to when testing headphones. Imaging and transparency would seem like a given thing when you have speakers one inch from your ear drums but I have seen some headphones that did not pass muster.
The Cavimanus as expected starts out pretty flat with a slight emphasis on the mid bass until you set up the equalization software, then this thing really starts to shine. The 40mm neodymium drivers put out good amounts of volume and little to no noticeable distortion. I started off with about 2 hours of on and off listening and switching back and forth between other headsets for comparison. Overall I found the Cavimanus performed very well on a wide range of music not quite the best but definitely in the top 3. Once I got the equalization set the way I like with a couple of songs I found that I did not need to go tweak it when I switched back to other types of music. Oh that mystery button on the left side? Stands for Vibration. Think of it as a subwoofer that you can engage or disengage at the touch of a button to add a LOT of lower rumbling bass when you want it for your gaming and music. I found that it added a great depth to most of the music I listened to sometimes though it was a distraction and when that was the case a quick touch and it was gone until I wanted it again.
In game the Cavimanus shines, letting me be immersed in my game and greatly cut off from the distractions of my gaming environment. The simulated surround performed admirably adding to the depth of the experience.
Comfort on the Cavimanus as predicted was pretty nice. The set clamps tight enough to stay put and yet light enough to not feel like a vice. The large ear cups provide plenty of room for all but maybe Vulcans and High Elves, though I would like to have seen them trimmed in cloth or better yet a set of each that I could switch depending on what I like. They can become a little sweaty after a couple of hours but much better than most headsets that are this solid and discrete.
The lighting on the Cavimanus is almost non-existent which is not a huge deal since you can’t wear them and look at them at the same time so I’m not going to ding them for that.
The microphone performed admirably, though I have not yet had a chance to let Ed run them through his normal test and when that happens we will do a small follow-up segment on the show to see how it compared to others. I found that it worked good for my voice comm needs. Also the swing down boom has stood up to wear and tear very well and the fact that it clips back into its own recess slot makes it a lot less vulnerable to breakage when not in use.
We will keep you updated from time to time as we do with all the peripherals we test here but for now the Cavimanus seems to be durable and dependable. I personally dropped it three times from a height of three feet onto my chair mat and once onto a tiled floor with no noticeable damage, so that seems to indicate to me that it will stand the test of time.
In the end I have added the Cavimanus headset to my short list of headsets to recommend to anyone looking for a great all around headset that will fit your game, music and voice communications needs at a reasonable price. It performed admirably under all conditions and at a price point of less than 50.00 it is a great value to boot. Check it out if you are in the market or know someone that is.
Many thanks to the good folks at Genius for sending us this set to look at, they have been a joy to test out and I think we will be hearing great things about their gaming line-up in the future.
- Sub-Woofer great for most music and gaming
- Volume knob in convenient
- Comfortable for a clamp system
- Discrete solid build.
- Flip up mic works great, will have to wait and see if it stands the test of time.
- Sound quality is good, volume is good, easy to use equalization software makes it easy to customize and switch between profiles such as gaming and different types of music.
- Shiny finish shows smudges and I’m a messy guy.
- Where is my braided cord?
- Can get sweaty with prolonged wear but that is to be expected from a discrete ear cup which has to hold in the sound.
Notes: The scorpion log rocks. Wish it lit up on all of these items.
Thank you to the folks at Genius for sending us the GX Cavimanus for review.
Show segment from show airing the weekend of May 25th, 2013
Wireless devices have been around for a while. I know a lot of people with wireless keyboards and mice, plus I have seen wireless on headsets before, especially using Bluetooth. However they all had one thing in common with me, I hated them! Blue tooth was spotty at best for me and usually was not working right half the time. Wireless keyboards and mice were great, until the battery died in the middle of a very big, hard and meaningful battle. I am not sure how they managed it but this happened every time. Then add too this the fact that a lot of early wireless devices did not always reconnect as they should if the batteries ran dry during use. It is pretty easy to see why I would be bias against wireless devices.
So when we got the Vengeance 2000 Wireless headset from Corsair I have to admit my opinion was forming before I opened the box. I read the box specs, claims of working up to 40’ away and with a battery life of 10 hours were a challenge for me to dis-prove. I mean seriously everyone makes wild claims with their wireless and then fail to hit the mark unless you baby the device.
So I opened the box and began my quest to knock this headset around. The headset itself looks very similar to the Vengeance 1500, our Golden Mic 2012 winner. It has the same aluminum body and brushed finish, the same design for the mic boom, uses the same size drivers. Okay wait a second this looks to be pretty much identical to the 1500 and a call to Corsair did confirm that the 50mm drivers used in the 2000 and the 1500 are the same. They also use the same memory foam system in the headband and ear covers. Now there are a lot of tweaks to the design used by the 2000 but owes a lot of it’s looks and style to the 1500.
Since this is a wireless device it still needs a connection to the PC and that is provided by a USB dongle which sends the signal to the headset. Along with the dongle is a USB extension with stand so you can make sure the wireless transmitter is in an area to give the best signal to the headset. You can also see with the headset we get a manual, warranty card and a USB powered charge cable for the headset.
On the left cuff you will notice the chrome area. This is the power button for the unit. Corsair made sure to require an extended depress of about 5 seconds for the power to cycle. This means it is hard to accidently turn the headset off during an intense game session. Directly below the power button is a blue light that will flash when the power is on. Below that is a chrome scroll bar that is the volume control for the headset.
Let’s take on the first claim before we dive into an overall review, the 10 hour batter life. First let me say bravo for making this headset able to work as wired or wireless as far as the battery is concerned. The headset will emit a small beep into your sound when the batter begins to run low and the beep will come more often as the battery gets closer to running out. This aspect of it worked well as I was given about 15 minutes warning before the headset would not work under battery power any more. This is plenty of warning and all you need do is connect a small USB cable to keep on playing.
As for the length of batter life, I charged the headset to full power and began a marathon gaming session. I made sure the headset always had something going, even playing music into the headset when I was away from game, I wanted to see how the battery life held up. I started getting my beeps at 9 hours 38 minutes, that is really close to the 10 hours Corsair promised. When you realize that I pushed this headset way harder than most would push then the 10 hour battery life is a real possibility, Corsair has lived up to claim one.
Claim two is that this unit can transmit up to 40’. Okay maybe in an open field with no power lines and such right. So I setup the system and fired up some music and started walking around my house. Now in fairness my house has an open floor plan so your mileage may vary but I was pretty surprised when I managed to walk into my son’s room at the end of the hall and still has sound. At this point however I had noticed a few cutouts so I walked back up to where the sound was clean and measure the distance. The distance in a straight line was 37 feet, that was through two full walls and across the kitchen. I was even able to go outside on the deck and listen to music with these and had no issues. It seems these headsets hit claim two.
Now I started with the claims because in my experience these are where most wireless devices fail, they never seem able to live up to the claims made. However Corsair has delivered right on the claims made with the wireless capabilities of the Vengeance 2000 as well as the battery life. Now how do they sound?
As we have talked about before we test headsets using a variety of music, movies and games to get a feel for the sound. I have listened to a lot of headsets of late so I guess I am kind of burnt out. However when I put on the Corsair headset and fired up “The Race is On” by Sawyer Brown, the song had been playing only about 30 seconds when I said, in a very loud voice according to my wife, “HOLY CRAP”! (This quote was cleaned up for our younger audience>) The reason for this exclamation was the sound was incredible.
Now understand that was at default software settings and I had not listened to these yet at all. This was a RAW listening with no tweaking and I was already impressed with the sound. The tweaking for the sound is done within their software. The EQ is actually pretty simple and you have a solid choice of pre-sets to choose from. Your also have the option to enable virtual 7.1 sound. This works really well and goes a long way to enhancing the sound experience.
I moved through my music and I found each one actually seemed to sound better than the last. When I hit my Iron Man test scene for movie sound testing I could almost feel the concussion wave of the explosions, the base was so solid. In gaming this kept getting better. The 7.1 sound emulation allowed me to identify sound locations and the game itself came alive.
This immersion was further enhanced by the closure that you get when you wear these. I actually have a hard time hearing people around me and had to turn the volume up to about 90% before my wife could hear the music outside the headsets, even when very close to me. Of course at that volume I was risking my hearing so she is happy with the fact she does not hear my games or voice comms when I am on line with my friends.
The microphone appears to be the same one as used on the 1500 but it does not quite deliver the same clear recording sound that the 1500 was able to deliver. This could be a limitation of the wireless system or could be a software tweak but in the end I feel the 1500 does a better job with voice recording and transmission that the 2000. Now let’s be clear the mic on the 2000 is really good, but it did not quite equal the 1500 which is still the best headset mic we have tested.
With a long battery life, Corsair must be expecting people to wear this headset for a long time. Comfort was the one area in the Vengeance 1500 we felt fell short. Well it seems someone at Corsair got the message because the comfort level in the Vengeance 2000 is spot on. These use the same memory foam system as the 1500 and the same microfiber weave to cover it. However along the way this design has been tweaked, the foam feels a little thinner in both the ear cuffs and head band. Now you would think thinner would be worse but the opposite is true, these feel more comfortable on the ears.
Another tweak that seems to have been done is the clamping force that we found in the 1500 has been reduced in the 2000. Now looking at the two headsets it appears to me this was because of a design change. The 2000 has the ear cuffs centered on the end of the arms, in the case of the 1500 the ear cuffs are actually centered about 1.75” up from the arm ends. This means the pressure exerted by the arms is higher on the 1500. This shows a lot in long term wear. I have to take off the 1500 after an hour or two of play. I have actually done all day play sessions in the 2000 with no issues. Now in fairness the 1500 band breaks in after long term use and the pressure reduces but even that break-in does not reach the level of comfort the 2000 delivers.
There is one factor that needs to be discussed about this headset an intangible that does not normally come up and that is the effect the wireless has on the experience. I had been using the 2000 for about 4 days when I needed to go back to my old headset to do some work. When I did I immediately felt like I was tied down. The wire connection was noticeable to me, despite having a very long cable that had never been an issue before. I have to admit this has really surprised me.
Now I did find two areas I wish Corsair would change and the notes on this has been passed to Corsair. First I do not like the fact that there is no on screen or audio indicator that the headset is turned on or turned off. I think a simple indicator that would allow easy recognition without holding the headset so you can see the side would be a nice touch. I have also requested they redesign the plug for the USB power to a simple round plug. The reason for this is the USB style plug they have on the headset side is sometimes not the most natural thing to plug in. When you are in the middle of a match and want to quickly add power before continuing this can be a bit frustrating.
In the end however these are minor nitpicks on a product that is outstanding. Corsair has done the wireless headset right and delivered a solid product with amazing sound, a good mic and lived up to the claims they set for battery life and range. This is not a budget headset by any means with the current price on Newegg at $109.00 this headset is a STEAL for the serious gamer. I cannot begin to find the words of the freedom you feel when your headset is no longer tethered. I have been able to enjoy game time with my friends, even while doing laundry, cooking dinner or cleaning house. I can also do these activities while listen to my music and not interrupt the family while they might be watching a movie.
I guess the best way to tell you how I feel about this headset is that it is still on my desk and is NOT leaving it until it breaks. When that happens I will beg Corsair for another one.
Segment as aired live 25 August 2012
By Edward Crisler
When we look at hardware we all tend to get caught up in CPUs and GPUs, these are were we place our focus. However there is a truth the enthusiast industry does not like to admit, there is really not that much choice anymore in these two areas. We are down to two companies for each area when it comes to gaming components and really only a few choices in each component worth looking at, in other words the building a great gaming PC from the actual PC point of view is easy when it comes to picking parts.
However we tend to overlook the other parts of the PC that can truly make a great or dismal gaming experience, the keyboard, mouse and headset. While these might not be as sexy to many enthusiasts they are none the less a vital part of the true gaming PC experience and can make or break a great gaming PC building. In fact in many ways they are as important and even somewhat more important than other parts of a gaming PC because they will vary from person to person as to the right choice. You will use them, I mean really have hands on use of them every day and moment you are on your PC and they have a real impact on the experience.
So with this in mind Doug and I began looking at various gaming peripherals we had reviewed and realized we could actually put together full sets from the same companies from a lot of the material we had in house. This symmetry of having all of these components from the same manufacturer might not seem like I big deal but you would be surprised at all the people out there that this appeals to. It is like making sure your case LEDs match or you use the same brand case and PSU. So while to gain the true best of the best you would like mix and match the desire for symmetry drove us to look at sets as a whole.
We approached a number of companies with this idea and only three of them wanted to take it on. First up we have Thermaltake that will be represented by the TTe Sports Meka G1 Keyboard, the Black Element Mouse and the Shock One USB Headset.
The Meka G1 is an outstanding mechanical keyboard making use of Cherry black key switches. The keyboard is very well made with a cable so thick the keyboard could seriously be used as a weapon. Using a basic keyboard layout with no back lighting, it does have other advanced features such as a full powered set of USB 2.0 ports as well as a headphone and microphone jack.
The Black Element mouse has a nice large feel to it with a solid set of basic switches to give some customization with macros. The mouse’s lighting can be adjust to near infinite shades making it easy to match the bling on your system. The rubbery coating of the mouse means this mouse is not slick and is well shaped, sitting well in pretty much everyone’s hands.
The Shock One headset is a full USB headset which is foldable and comes with a nice carrying bag. The sound and microphone quality are solid and with a bit of tweaking using the included software the sound could be quite good.
The 7G keyboard is the top of the line from Steelseries and is worth of it’s position. One of the heaviest keyboards we have looked at the 7G comes with some awesome quality in it’s build and the heavy construct means the keyboard feels nearly indestructible. This shows in every aspect of using this keyboard including that it had the least key lettering wear of any keyboard in this shoot out over long term use.
The Sensei has dubbed itself the worlds most customizable mouse and from a pure functionality point of view it is deserving of this title. The mouse itself uses a very simple design that works perfect in the left or right hand with a steel slick looking finish that is anything but slick. The mouse’s simple design lets it fit well in most hands and the grip is very sure. The software for this mouse is however were it truly shines with the ability to adjust pretty much every aspect if the mouse’s performance to fit your personal choices.
The Siberia USB headset we are judging with is specifically is the Diablo II headset, however I have been told by the folks at Steelseries that it should give the same results in use as a Siberia USB headset that would cost a little less. When we compared it to the Siberia v2 headset we were able to confirm this and so feel confident with using this headset for our shootout.
The Siberia line is known for their light weight design and the old fashioned tension strap system. The result is a very comfortable headset, in fact the most comfortable headset we have ever tested. The sound quality of the USB system is very good and with tweaking can approach that of a good discrete soundcard, add to this a well done microphone that has a nifty design for hiding when not in use and you have a great headset.
The 60 series Keyboard and Mouse is the FPS lineup from Corsair and offers a feature set very similar to our other contestants. The K60 is a basic keyboard like the other two but throws out the traditional looks for a style that is unique. Making use of a solid aluminum base the keyboard uses Cherry red switches in the primary keys and then uses membrane keyboards in the less often used keys. This helps keep cost down and in our testing did not effect the experience of using the keyboard. The unique design that has the keys actually set above the base means that it is easy to clean out and gives they keyboard it’s unique appearance. This is also the only keyboard to have multimedia keys and we love the volume knob Corsair has used.
The M60 mouse is designed in style to match the K60 keyboard and does it very well. With it’s aluminum base structure and textured top surface the mouse has a rugged feel and look to it. The mouse is purely for right handed use with the 2 extra buttons only on the right as well as a special sniper button. The scroll wheel is very broad and the design just feels right when you use it.
The Vengeance 1500 USB Headset is the only headset we looked at with 7.1. simulated sound. This sound is outstanding and can be easily adjusted through the software that comes with the headset. The microphone is on a hard boom but folds up out the way, of special note is the fact that is the best microphone we have tested to date. The headphones can be turned flat for easy carrying and the aluminum used in the construction means the styling of the K60 and M60 continue to the headset.
In case you have not seen an underlying current here let me be clear, there are no losers in this shootout. Doug and I would be happy using ANY of these components in our everyday use. They all excelled in different areas but delivered an outstanding gaming experience with every test we threw at them. From a pure experience point of view there were stand out individual components but the entire packages were just so close it was hard to call a clear winner.
Next we moved to cost, a great experience is awesome but can we afford it. None of these sets are cheap and all are of such quality that the asking prices for the individual parts is really worth it. However in this category we began to see one competitor inch ahead.
Looking at build quality we again saw outstanding products in all other contestants and the choice was hard but when we looked at warranties we again saw one competitor stand above the pack.
In the end we did promise to name a winner and will during our live broadcast. I will be updating this post after our show with the winner named here in the blog entry along with a link to listen to the shootout segment in the show. Tune in though to hear it live.
UPDATE: As promised we announced our winner live first on the air and will now announce it here, the winner is the Corsair Vengeance set. While all three setups are outstanding and will give a great gaming experience to anyone seeking such a set the Vengeance products stood out to us in a few areas.
First the the set actually shares a common design theme. While this might not effect the gaming experience we did this shootout because of a desire for a symmetry of gaming components and the styling being the same across the three products added to that effect. The second reason was the price, the Corsair set actually comes in around $35 less than the other two combinations. With the actually gaming experience from all three sets being so very close the lower price was a real determining factor. Finally the Corsair set comes with a full 2 year warranty, a full year better than the other sets.
Let me be clear there were NO losers in these three sets, all three gave a great gaming experience. However the three factors mentioned have allowed Corsair to win this by a nose, congratulations to Corsair and the Vengeance team!
The entire show segment of this shootout as aired 23 June 2012.
We have recently been looking at quite a few headsets for gamers and as you know headsets hold a special place in the hearts of myself and Doug. When we started the review we saw some analog and some USB sets but since none of them were really the same headset a proper comparison was just not fair. However I REAALY wanted to do a comparison and talked to a few companies about this. Our friends at Steelseries though this was a good idea and sent me their Diablo III headsets which are very close in design to their Siberia v2 headsets we already had.
So with these two headsets in our hot greedy little hands it was time to let the testing begin. For the purpose of our test we used my main gaming rig and put in a Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty Champion Series card with the front I/O Port. Four our USB hookup we used the front USB ports on our Thermaltake Level 10 GT case. I considered using the rear hookups because they would have less cabling in them and could give a cleaner signal but I wanted a realistic setup and the front connections were more likely.
As we do with all our headset testing we ran sound comparisons using music, movies, games and a microphone comparison done by recording me speaking. The testing was done in two rounds, the first with the sound set at default, stock settings and the second with the sound tweaked using the control software for both methods.
At the stock settings the X-Fi and Analog headset were clear winners with the sound having a much richer tone to it. Bass in my musical choices was clear and thumped nicely, the movie playback had clear sound with explosions and special effects having good rich tones and the game playback was really nice to listen to. The USB headset was not awful, I have heard much worse over the years but it was not close to the sound delivered by the X-Fi. The bass was lacking and this resulted in everything having a sound that was just not pleasing, the depth of sound did not seem to be there.
Opening the controls for the USB headset I found that Steelseries has some very basic software with a nice feature. You are not seeing wrong, that is a simple 5 band EQ. Now the sound guy in me cringed when I looked at this, a 5 band EQ is not going to give me a lot of control but I was pleasantly surprised at much effect it did have. With just a few minutes of tweaking I was able to pull in a sound that I really enjoyed, equaling if not being a little better than the X-Fi at stock.
Now the cool feature I mention is under the properties tab. There I can select an EXE and have the sound dynamic I created with the EQ change automatically for the program I am using. Now in fairness I am personally not likely to use this. I like to get my sound tuned in the way I like it and find that it works well for me in anything I am listening to, but I do know a lot of people that like to tweak sound for specific uses and this would be very handy.
Opening the software for the sound card gives a much richer set of tools to adjust the sound. We double the EQ controls to 10 channel as well as have controls to add other effects. Playing with the settings I was able to take the sound to an even higher quality level again passing the USB solution but not by much. While I was able to achieve some more bass and a bit more sound depth the difference was not enough to really effect my listening pleasure.
After we got the listening testing done it was time to turn to the recording, using the microphone. Again I tested at basic settings and then tweaked the settings. The USB solution had no real tweaks to the microphone other than adjust the levels. The X-Fi however has a very rich sound recording package that essentially gives you a small mixing board for your PC. However even with these extra tools the recorded audio quality was nearly identical.
Now looking at this setup I can imagine some of you are wondering why I would compare a good quality sound card to a USB solution. Why not instead compare to the onboard sound that can be found on most motherboards? Well I did actually start there and what I found was that the USB solution was better at stock than the sound on 3 different motherboards, all using Realtek solutions. I realized I needed to up the level of this testing a bit. Further looking at the USB headsets I have looked at, they are all running around $80 or better, this means to get a meaningful headset comparisons you need a similar quality analog set, something someone that is just using onboard sound is likely to pay.
So lets begin putting our conclusions together by first looking at cost. A good sound card is around $100 and the card I chose to use is closer to $150. The basic Siberia v2 headset is around $80 and the USB solution of the Diablo III set is around $110 on Amazon. If you are spending this much on a headset then the odds are you are going to tweak it to get the sound you truly want so the base settings while an interesting exercise can be thrown out for the final conclusion.
From a pure sound quality point of view the analog set with a good sound card wins, however the margin of victory is not all that large and when you realize that 200% or better cost of that solution it is definitely not a value. While the sound card approach in this case offered some nice features for recording, the simple truth is most people do not need those features and again for the cost difference did not really matter.
Now you can see were I am heading I am sure, the USB is the better solution from a cost to performance perspective in the case I mentioned. However take that conclusion with a grain of salt. What I mean is that not all USB headsets are created equal and so this might not always play out this way. In the review I have done here I am comparing two headsets that are VERY close to identical hardware with the exception of the USB connection. This means we are actually testing the headsets less than the USB sound solution they are using.
This at the end of the day is the real test we are seeing here, can a USB solution keep up with a good analog solution and the answer is yes. The USB solution from Steelseries beat out onboard sound on a few different boards and after tweaking gave an X-Fi a run for it’s money. I have recently look at another solution that produce sound close to the X-Fi as well. The key is to make sure you get a good USB sound solution.
What this means for gamers is you can have the high end headset and great sound without the added cost of the sound card. The onboard sound is usually enough for everyday use but when it comes time to delve a dungeon in Skyrim and you want the immersion of a headset then these work great and with a little less cost than getting the same quality headset with a good soundcard to make it worth the headsets cost.
USB sound has come a long way and for a gaming headset it seems a solid way to go.
Show Segment as aired 14 April 2012
Let me take the time to say thank you to Steelseries for giving us the headsets used in this comparison as well as to Kingston for providing the RAM and SSDs used in our test systems and Thermaltake for the PSUs and Cases used for our test builds.
Headsets hold a special place in our hearts on Computer Ed Radio. As radio show hosts we use headphones a lot for working with the show and various other aspects of radio. In addition as we are both avid gamers we use headphones for our recreation as well. To give you an idea of how big a deal headphones are to us, I figured out that I wear a headset roughly 45 hours a week. That’s a lot of time to be in a headset so not only does it need to sound good, it needs to be comfortable as well. We spoke with the folks at Corsair about our passion for headsets and so they decided to step up and asked us to take a look at the Vengeance 1500.
The Vengeance line is Corsairs line of high end, professional, gaming gear and the 1500 is their premier headset. The 1500 uses a USB connection to give you 7.1 surround sound as well as Dolby Pro Logic. The 7.1 sound is simulated and not multiple speakers per cup.
Four our sound testing we picked some of our usually music choices, specifically two songs I now use all the time, Unskinny Bop and The Race is On. Both songs have strong base range and this is something I look for in a headset. For movies I chose I use Ironman, a great movie BTW and then for gaming I chose some games I am active in right now, Skyrim, Reckoning and Arkham City.
Opening the box I was amazed with how littler there was in the package. The only think in the package was literally a couple of pieces of paper for registration information and the headset, that was it. I expected a driver CD but the enclosed papers told me to download the drivers from the Corsair website. This is actually a good idea as this allows Corsair to make sure a new customer is always getting the latest driver with their purchase.
The 1500 comes with a nice long USB connection that has a volume control in line. Instead of a scrolling wheel as so many headsets use, Corsair has opted for a volume up and down button along with a mute button. When the headset is in use the volume buttons are surrounded by an LED that is blue when the mike is on and red when it is muted.
The headset itself uses a clamp style band that is very stylish with a nice soft, padded top and the sides are brushed aluminum to match the rest of the Vengeance peripheral lineup. The ear cups each hold a 50mm driver for great sound quality and is padded with a fabric material with memory foam. The mike is a stiff arm design that lifts out of the way when not in use and the ear cups can rotate 90 degrees for easy storage. The cups themselves are larger and deeper than most headsets meaning it should fit nicely over anyone’s ears.
My wife can be seen modeling the headset for us to show you the nice aluminum side and the mike extended for use. The styling is really nice with a light hint of blue trim and the black and aluminum giving this a very classy look. The cabling is very high quality with a nice heavy braid. The construction is very solid and Corsair is backing it with a 2 year warranty, very nice for a headset.
The software, as we mentioned needs to be downloaded for the headset to be used. The software is outstanding in it’s simplicity and ease of use. The software allows you to choose between three base settings;
- Bypass which is the basic headphone settings.
- Dolby which lets you adjust environmental size and type
- 7.1 which simulates surround sound and adjust the parameters to give you the experience you will most enjoy.
All three settings also allow you to use the software’s EQ which comes with a great collection of created profiles; Default, Music+Bass, Music Reference, Movie Mod +, FPS Gaming and MMO Gaming. Each of these has been created by Corsair to work with the sound dynamics of the headset and try to optimize for the use intended. You have to be a real sound buff to tell the difference but this is still a nice feature to offer. You can of course also create custom profiles.
Okay so the 1500 looks good, is well built and has cool software but how does it sound? For music the bass sound reproduction was outstanding. The sound quality was really spot on and just great to listen to. What was really surprising was that this USB headset actually sounded BETTER than a good analog headset on a stock setting X-Fi sound card. Now with some tweaking the X-Fi was able to regain a small lead but the USB sound system created by Corsair really delivered the goods.
Movies delivered the same great base, you feel the sound as much as hear it and the reproduction was well done. Also I was really impressed with the 7.1 sound these recreated. I understand logically that this was not true 7.1 but just a simulation with 2 drivers but the simulation is so well done that the difference was to small to matter.
For gaming the combination of the 7.1 sound with the nice base made gaming a really great experience, the sound was very immersive and makes me glad I game in a headset. Speakers are okay but I still believe that nothing beats the immersion of a good headset, I can say the 1500 really shows that immersion at it’s finest.
Finally we turn to the microphone, something we are really picky about here. Microphones often seem like an afterthought with many gaming headsets. Now that is not to say they are generally bad but it seems like they are never at the same quality as the sound components. Like I said I am really picky about my mikes so I was not expecting a lot from the Vengeance, however that did not stop it from delivering. The Vengeance 1500 had the BEST mike I have found yet in a gaming headset. The input was very clean, excellent noise cancelling and was noticeably clearing than any other mike we have put through the ringer.
While we loved using the 1500 all was not perfect. The cloth ear padding cover made my ears warm up under extended use a great deal more than a leatherette design. The material was also a little coarse for my taste. The clamp style headband lived up to it’s clamp name, there was more pressure on me head than was comfortable for long use. After about an hour or so I actually was a bit uncomfortable and could not imagine wearing these for a long gaming session. Finally I encountered a few glitches with the software, basically when a game would turn of it’s sound while sitting idle, like when I stepped away from the game for a bit, the headset would not pick up the sound again when I returned unless I restarted the game.
The issues however I have mentioned are very much personal choice in the case of comfort and the software glitch is actually minor, only happened in two games, and only under very specific circumstances. In actual active game play, listening to music or movies the headset performed flawlessly. Priced on Newegg at around $85 the Vengeance 1500 is priced as you would expect a high end gaming headset. Corsair has shown that when they making a gaming component they take it to the next level and the 1500 has done that. The sound quality is outstanding and the mike is the best I have seen on any gaming headset. The software makes this headset easy to tweak to suite your particular audio tastes. It is a definitely a headset worth of the Corsair name and should be on your short list if looking for a great gaming headset.
Corsair Vengeance 1500 USB Headset Reviewed Live 24 March 2012
Anyone that has listened to this show for any length of time knows that I take my sound seriously. I have a history with audio dating back many years to my running sound for local rock and country bands to my work in radio today. Sound is something that brings things alive to me, be it a game, a mood induced through music or the immersion that sound can bring to a movie. When it comes to my computer gaming I am pretty picky and after years of trying various brands the headsets I have found best have been those created by Plantronics. With this background in place we enter our second week to Tt esports products reviews with a look at the Shock Spin and Shock One gaming headsets.
I have to admit that when these headsets showed up I was less than truly excited. Like I said I have tested a lot of headsets over the years and when it comes to gaming headsets it seems to be more of the same. For testing purposes I set down with a few games such as Batman Arkham Asylum and Champions Online. (Yes I am in a superhero kick) Next I loaded up the final battle scene of the first Fantastic Four movie and finally some music was played. (Poison Unskinny Bop and Sawyer Brown the Race is On) The games where chosen based on what I was playing at the time, the movie and music where chosen because of specific sound properties each presents. The headsets where compared to a Plantronics GameCon headset that has been my headset of choice since it’s release. The Shock Spin and Gamecon where hooked to an Asus Xonar DX soundcard and the Shock One is a USB set so it is of course hooked to a rear USB port.
Now early testing on the Shock Spin was conducted by Doug and he will give a more in-depth look at it on our live broadcast, the segment for the headsets will be available on this blog entry later today. What I do want to reveal was a conversation Doug and I had a couple of weeks ago. While doing show prep Doug was telling me how much he had enjoyed using the Shock Spin for just listening to music. As an additional test he had taken the headset to a friends house that is a huge audiophile. Doug said that his friend was so impressed he now felt ruined when going back to is usual headset.
I have to say that once I began my testing of the Shock Spin I understood. While the Shock Spin may be listed as a gaming headset do not be fooled, this is a full sound multipurpose headphone that is as much at home watching a movie, listening to classical music as well as playing computer games. To say I am impressed is an understatement in the way I look at the sound quality these headphones produce. The sound is warm and rich with a base strong enough to feel but not overpowering. The sound separation in this headset is outstanding. So much so that when listening to a heavy drum piece of music I was able to discern the moment the stick hit the drum head and the release.
The headset however goes beyond delivering great sound, it is really comfortable to wear. The nice large ear pieces fit well on every head size we tested and the material based padding was the perfect compliment. Additionally the Shock Spin using an old style expansion band which allows the headset to fit a bit lighter on the ears and head in general, not making you feel like your head is in a vice.
While the headphones have won my heart the same cannot be said for the microphone. Since this is billed as a gaming headset it would be expected that the microphone would be attached to the headset. Thermaltake took a different direction and instead used a small clip on mic for sound input.
While the mic is adequate to get the job done it is far from the star performer that the headphones have proven to be. Because it is a clip mic you need to up the gain on the mic input a bit more to get your voice to come over clear. The increased gain however results in more background noise. This added to the fact the mic is not noise cancelling means it is only adequate for the job.
Next up we plugged the Shock One headset into our USB port to see how it would work. At first glance the Shock One is more along the lines of what we traditionally think of when we see a gaming headset. The mic is build right into the headset on a pivoting arm to get it out of the way, fully noise cancelling. The headset comes with a CD for driver software but I did not need to use it as the headset was fully functional just by plugging it in. I did test with the including software to try and adjust the sound quality but the effect was minimal and made no difference of note during our testing.
The headband is very strong and provides a tight fit to the headset. Now after use this loosens a bit and fits your head better, however initially this can be a bit tight. The headset comes stock with a leather style padding but had a cloth padding to change this out if you prefer. This is a nice feature that I wish all headphones did. In the winter the cloth is kind of nice but the summer brings sweat and they get a bit soggy in feel over long sessions.
Running through our gambit of sounds the headset performed well but was not as exciting to listen with as the Shock Spin. The issue was that the sound was almost to crisp. This is an issue I have had with USB headsets for a long time, they pure digital solution leaves something to be desired in my option. While the sound was okay it did not reach the quality level of the Plantronics I used as a base line and was far behind the Shock Spin.
The headset is foldable for easy transportation and comes with a nice travel bag, a feature we are seeing in all the Tt epsort lineup. We are also seeing on both of these headsets a nice thick fabric braded cable. The Shock Ones put a bit of bling on as the sound control module and even the headphones have red illumination. While it might not make them better for listening it does give a nudge to the cool factor.
The microphone in this headset however did shine. It produced clear and well defined audio input with no detectable background noise. It was able to do this will little gain being added to the input meaning you have a lot of headroom to up the input volume if need be. The mic input was head to head with my Gamecon headset when it came to voice recordings, well ahead of the clip mic on the Shock Spin.
Finally we come to comfort and the Shock One again fell behind the Shock Spin and my base line Plantronics set. A combination of a strong headband and the small size of the ear pieces just made your head feel gripped way to tightly.In the picture to the right you can see a comparison of the Spin and the One in the size of the ear piece. The larger size and lighter band tension of the Spin just made a huge difference in the comfort level.
When I got the pricing on these two headsets I was “shocked”. The Shock Spin can be had on Newegg for around $60. When you realize the sound quality of this headset is comparable the lower end Senniheiser or even Gato that cost nearly twice as much the Spin becomes a steal. While the mic may be subpar to other gaming headsets in general the sound quality essentially means you are getting a great headphone with a free mic. While I would not use this set for doing work on the show because of the mic’s input quality, I would use this set for every form of headphone listening I do and never have a regret. The mic is adequate for game communications but the star of the Spin is the headphone.
The Shock One is priced currently on Newegg at $90 and I must say I am surprised and not at the same time. This pricing puts it in the range of other USB gaming headsets from the typical big names. However all of them are about the same in sound quality and they match Plantronics Audio 995 which is lower in price. Now in fairness the Shock One is more portable thanks to the folding and the optional ear cover material is a big plus as well.
When looking at these two headsets to me the one that truly shines is the Shock Spin, the sound quality is just amazing for the money. They are a step apart and offer a lot more than a gaming headset normally offers when it comes to listening. If you want a headset for listening and only occasionally needing voice capabilities for a game then the Shock Spin is a GREAT buy.
If you are attending LAN parties the Shock One gets a win for the folding and easy portability and the bling factor to show off to your buddies. Of the USB headsets it is middle of the pack with the big names and a worthy choice if that is the direction you are leaning.
Tte sports has done it again with these headsets, they have gone after the bigger names in this part of the industry and given them a run for their money.
Now if you will all excuse me I have some music to go enjoy, my family hates it so I will be using the Spins. I also have to find a way to explain to Doug that since my name is the one on the show I am the boss and I am keeping the Spins for myself.
Segement Aired 1 May 2011