enfrdeitptrues

Headset

  • Buddyphones

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    Hardware Info:

    Specifications
    30mm Driver
    Impedance: 32ohm
    Sensitivity: 85+/-3dB@1mW 1kHz
    Frequency Response: 20-25KHz
    Cord length: 0.8m
    Plug gold plated: 3.5mm
    Price: $24.95 regular $37.99 for travel model
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Onanoff for sending us two headsets to review!  Included in our shipping box was an Onanoff catalog.  Not only does this catalog feature their products, but it also shows naked female models covering their breasts with their hands and showing off their rear-ends.  I wish I flipped through this first before handing it to my eight-year-old son.

    When it comes to children and headphones, parents are concerned about volume control and durability.  My kids have broken many sets of headphones and the thick and forgiving plastic frames on Buddyphones have survived so far.  The padded vinyl ear covers are removable, but not too easily.  While my son hasn’t managed to lose an ear pad (yet), there is a small tear in one of them after a couple weeks of ownership, though it's possible that it could be the victim of a cat.  My daughter's travel model is in pristine shape.  Currently, replacement ear pads are not available on the web store, but it would be a welcome addition!

    Buddyphones are available in multiple colors (blue, green, orange, pink, purple, yellow) and two models.  The standard and travel models share the same audio specs, but their design is slightly different.  The travel pair has a padded headband and the ear pieces fold in making them more compact and convenient for travel.  Both models have adjustable lengths and flat cables that make tangling them more difficult.  The adjustment sliders work very well, and even fit on my husband's large head.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Portable and sharable with the ability to plug other headphones into them; fits a large variety of head sizes
    Weak Points: Poor audio quality
    Moral Warnings:Nudity in the product catalog

    One of my favorite features is the audio plug, which they call the buddy cable.  Other than it being gold plated and the common 3.5mm size, it has the ability to piggyback buddyphones, one into the other, for up to four pairs of headphones into it.  The last pair can be any model of headphone, since I haven't seen any others with a plug like this.  This is worth the price of entry alone!  Car and plane rides will be so much easier by letting multiple children enjoy movies played on a single tablet or portable DVD player.  

    Kids will enjoy the option to customize their headphones with the included sticker decorations or making their own designs with the template stickers.  This is a great way to inspire creativity or tell the headphones apart from their siblings' similarly colored ones.  My son applied the Pac-Man stickers while my daughter left her pair blank.

    My kids enjoy using the headphones on their 3DS’ despite the built in volume limiter.  It is intended to keep the volume down to around 85db, which is considered a safe volume levels for kids to listen at.  It works as advertised.  Other kid's headsets we have reviewed made the volume limiter optional (and susceptible to losing it).  Sadly, the Buddyphones don’t sound as good as those other headsets.  They probably sound worse than any other headphone to come through here to date.  Both the bass and highs are badly recessed, which leads to a boring, muffled sound.  Not that our kids care, but audiophiles will not want to use them under any circumstances.  

    Despite the disappointing sound, lack of a microphone, and replaceable ear pieces, the Buddyphones are reasonably durable and customizable.   Their best feature by far is the ability to piggyback multiple headsets on the same device.  Their pricing is reasonable, but the convenience of the headband cushion and foldable ear pieces will set you back an additional $13.  You can purchase these headsets on Onandoff’s website or through Amazon and get prime shipping.

  • CO:CAINE Headphone Sound Clash (Urban Style)

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    Specifications:

    CO:CAINE Headphone Sound Clash (Urban Style)
    Over the ear headphone (on the ear for some)
    Closed back
    50mm driver
    Frequency Response: 20-20,000Hz
    Impedance: 32 Ohm
    Weight: 286 grams
    Cable length: 1.5 meters
    Connector: 1/8” stereo mini phono plug
    Distinctive urban styling
    MSRP: $49.99

    Thank you HIS for sending us these headphones to review!

    Besides offering great graphics cards, HIS has extended their product catalog to provide gaming accessories and audio peripherals. One of those products is this new product, the CO:CAINE headphone series.  This model is part of their Sound Clash line, in Urban Style.  CO:CAINE, a fairly new German manufacturer, seems to be trying to make its mark in the growing stylish headphone market.  They do offer some more simplistically styled models, but this one, the Urban Style model, is anything but conservative.  

    The main frame of the headphone is black, and the primary color of the headband and ear cups is white, which all feature an interesting graffiti pattern on it.  This has neat drawings which include faces, words, and musical instruments.  There is a prominent display of the word 'sounds' on it as well.  Also prominent, on each outside ear cup, and on the top of the headband, is the company name, co:caine.  The colon is barely visible from a distance.  It's not really my style, but it is likely attractive to the target market.  I have to admit that at first I thought it was a rather strange brand choice, and it may be offensive to some.  It would not surprise me if wearing headphones like this could attract some attention that is not altogether welcome.  But the art on the headphone looks well done, and not cheap at all.  

    And it's not only the art that doesn't look cheap.  The feel of the headphones overall is of a fairly high quality.  I wouldn't go so far as to say luxurious, but very solid.  The headband feel sturdy, the clips feel strong, and the cable is wrapped in fabric, instead of rubber.  It also has a sturdy metal plug.  It feels high quality, and that can mean a lot for product satisfaction, and in that area this doesn't disappoint.

    Now, to the meat: How does it sound?  I'd say not bad at all.  I also have a Monoprice 8323 headphone (these are somewhat famous in audiophile circles as great budget 'phones) which also use 50mm drivers, and I have to say there is a strong resemblance between them.  Not identical, especially since I modded my Monos some, but more similar than different.  What does this mean?  It has a decent high to low end balance, with somewhat of an emphasis on the low end.  The bass is strong but not too bloated.  The high end is a bit weak, though to be expected on a bass heavy 'phone.  Overall it's a pleasant sound, though the kinds of music I listen to prefer a brighter top end (an area in which the Monoprice headphones also fall short, which is why I modded them).

    The headband is reasonably comfortable, as are the ear cups.  Those with particularly large ears, like myself, may find that the cups don't fully encompass the ear. While I found them somewhat comfortable, they got irritating after a long time of use since they rested on my ear in places.  My wife, whose ears are quite the opposite, easily fit inside the cups.  She found them very comfortable.  The cups' foam is a bit harder than some, and not really soft and plushy, which is good if you want them to stay put, but less so if you are looking for a strong seal for better noise isolation.  On the other hand, with a looser fit they don't seem to make my head sweat as much as my other headphones do.

    These headphones are also very adjustable.  Not only do they adjust the size up and down, but they also have DJ-style rotatable and flippable cups.  In line with other aspects of these headphones, they show some quality in construction here as the cup swivel is spring loaded, so they naturally return to a normal, on-head position.

    I opened them up to see if these have any modding potential, and I think they do.  I have not tried this yet, but after removing the ear pads, I found a 1/4” thick piece of foam in front of the driver, between the shell and the cup.  If this was removed, the highs would likely sound more prominent.  It is possible that this could affect comfort if your ear touches the padding, however.  Inside of the cup itself, you could probably also add some cotton or other padding to reduce rear reflections if you are so inclined.  It would tighten up the bass, though while I don't think these sound that flabby, it may help if you feel it needs it.  Putting back on the ear cups is not that easy though, so be sure you are committed before taking one off.

    The HIS CO:CAINE Sound Clash headphones are really not bad.  They have good build quality, and a pleasant, if bass-heavy, sound.  While styling and branding are personal choices I can't answer for you, what you get out of the box is solid.

  • Corsair HS70 Bluetooth Multi-Platform Gaming Headset (PC/Mobile/Consoles)

     

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    Hardware Info:

    Corsair HS70 Bluetooth Multi-Platform Gaming Headset
    Specifications:
    Over the ear headphones
    50mm driver with Neodymium magnets
    Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz
    Battery: Rechargeable
    Connectivity: Bluetooth wireless, as well as USB-C cable for USB audio, and 3.5mm cable for connectivity to virtually anything else (PS4/5, Xbox, PC, Nintendo Switch/3DS, MP3 player, Walkman, and pretty much anything else with a headphone jack)
    Wireless range: 30ft
    Microphone type: removable microphone
    Synthetic leather ear pads with foam cushioning
    Volume wheel
    Power and mute buttons
    USB-C charging and connection port
    Expected battery life: 30 hours
    MSRP: $99.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Corsair for sending us this headset to review!

    I've kind of been on a headset reviewing spree lately, having been blessed to check out several from different manufacturers, and I've come to really think about something: what is it that defines 'the best', or 'my favorite' when it comes to headsets? Is it sound quality? Is it comfort? How about connectivity? Of course it's likely some combination of all of those, and I am really surprised just how many boxes this Corsair HS70 Bluetooth ticks, making it most certainly in the running, if for no other reason than because of just how flexible it is.

    I suppose I'll start with comfort and sound quality, because without those, no headset (or headphones) are worth pursuing further. Comfort-wise, it's pretty good; it fits my larger noggin, as well as my larger ears, with reasonable ease. I do have to adjust them periodically, especially as they get warm, or put a bit more pressure on one spot than I'd prefer, but nothing about the comfort is so bad that I wouldn't otherwise wear them. My rather large ears do exceed the size of the still generous pad opening, but thankfully they are fairly soft, and don't cause significant pain even after long sessions.

    Sound quality is something I've found to be somewhat subjective, but based on my preferences, I consider them fairly bass heavy out of the box; enough so that with certain songs, the bass can overwhelm the rest of the output, with a rare song driving them to the point of distortion at higher volumes. I don't know if it's because I got used to them or if they broke in, but it did seem to improve a bit over time. Regardless, the most guaranteed fix if you hear that is to either turn it down a tad (distortion is usually a function of volume) or what I prefer, apply a bit of EQ (modify the graphical equalizer).

    On my LG V60 Android phone, or while connected to PCs either via 3.5mm jack or USB, applying EQ is very easy. When connected via USB, you can install iCue on Windows, and there is a built-in 10-band equalizer that works great. LG phones are known for their audio quality, and I have a built-in 10-band EQ there as well. Applying EQ is not as easy for games consoles, though to be fair it's also not as critical, as often we're not doing critical listening like we might be with music. And the issue doesn't show up at lower volumes, such as the output controllers or portable gaming systems have.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: This is by far the most convenient headset I have ever seen, much less owned, with tons of connectivity; included cables are of high quality; good audio quality; DAC is high quality and low noise; efficient; reasonably comfortable; software includes a nice, 10-band equalizer; volume wheel is analog and works great

    Weak Points: Bass-heavy default sound profile could be better, but easily fixable via included EQ; pads get warm after a while; microphone pop filter doesn't stay on and is very easy to lose, as is the mic port cover; 3.5mm cable is quasi-proprietary

    My preferred EQ is relatively simple; I just have a gentle upward slope, about -3dB down at the lowest bass frequencies, up to level at around 500Hz. I also prefer to brighten up the top end as well just a tad, say 8k and up, but that's to personal preference. After doing this, I was able to hear all frequencies clearly, which shows me that the driver is overall of a reasonably high quality. Cheaper headphones can't be saved no matter how much EQ you use.

    The build quality is what I would consider good, with strong plastics, some metals, along with foam and rubber. I could see it becoming somewhat brittle around where the headband merges with the ear cup brackets, as there is not a lot of play, or swivel in the cups, which makes them somewhat more vulnerable to unexpected twists. Nevertheless, they seem plenty sturdy otherwise.

    It's probably worth pointing out that these headsets have a sound signature that's fairly common in gaming headsets; when I compared it to others I had side-by-side, I was reminded that they seem to be aiming for a sound that is common in the industry. The real question is what makes these so unique, or compelling? I have to say that I have never used a headset that's thought of nearly everything - but these have, and the feature set is just a home run - and then some.

    This HS70 Bluetooth combines the three main common kinds of headsets - Bluetooth, USB, and 3.5mm analog - and combines them into one, in a most glorious way. (The remaining common type, the wireless 2.4GHz USB type, is not represented, but Bluetooth is a perfectly reasonable stand-in for many use cases.) You can connect them to your phone via Bluetooth, and take phone calls or listen to music. You can also connect them to your desktop or laptop via USB, and listen to whatever you prefer there, with a nice 24-bit/96KHz DAC built in. You can also connect them to your favorite game console via a 3.5mm audio jack - either the plug built into the controllers on PlayStation or Xbox, or right into the plug on top of the console on a handheld Switch. And if that wasn't enough, you can do all three - AT THE SAME TIME.

    You have no idea how incredibly liberating this is, until you need to do it yourself. In my work from home setup, I have a work laptop, my gaming desktop, and my phone near me at all times. With this headset, I can be connected to all three at once, and hear the output of any of the three at once. The microphone even somehow works - all of the connected devices get the same input. This is just so awesome, I can't even express it.

    Corsair HS70 Bluetooth Multi-Platform Gaming Headset

    And if that wasn't enough, Corsair even thought of what to do if someone wants to connect more than one Bluetooth device at a time! While it does not support output from two Bluetooth devices simultaneously, it can switch between the two - when your Bluetooth connected PC has output, it keeps it until the Bluetooth connected phone has an alert, during which the PC goes silent, and the phone takes over. Once the phone is silent for about a second or so, the PC takes over once again. So yes, if you're counting, you could have four devices connected at once. It's just unreal.

    One of the strange quirks of the design is that the included 3.5mm audio cable has a TRRRS connector on the headset end, and the more common TRRS connector on the other to plug into your devices. This cable works completely as expected; the headset does not require the power to be on, and any analog device connected to the 3.5mm jack seems to power the headset drivers directly. To my surprise, it can sound even better when connected to a powerful headphone amp, which you can do this way.

    However, that TRRRS jack doesn't work properly with a standard TRS or TRRS cable connected in its place, while the headset is powered off. If you power on the headset, which you normally only need for Bluetooth mode, the jack can then auto-sense the type of cable connected, and it suddenly works with any and all cables that I was able to test it with, assuming the cable is skinny enough to fit within the slightly recessed jack on the headset. This is just... crazy. I mean I've worked with a ton of headphones and headsets over the years, and I've never seen anything like this. Anyway, thankfully the TRRRS jack that the headset includes is technically a forthcoming standard, so it's technically not proprietary, though I do wonder what Corsair had in mind using such an odd connector with no obvious additional utility over the TRRS connector more commonly in use. Hopefully, Corsair provides a replacement cable at a reasonable cost, should one be necessary.

    Pairing Bluetooth devices is fairly simple; you press and hold the power button to turn it on, and keep holding it until it beeps again. I had no trouble pairing it with my phone, and then again later with my desktop PC, which is how I determined it has a 'second device' mode. Battery life has been great in my time testing it, though to be fair, since it can connect to so many devices at once, it's hard for me to resist the urge of doing so, so my battery rarely dropped below 80%. I have no reason to doubt Corsair's claim on 30 hours of life unplugged so far. I guess one thing to note is that when I connect my headset to my PC via Bluetooth rather than a wired connection, there is a mild but noticeable delay introduced; somewhere around 100ms, though I can't be certain on that number.

    The Corsair HS70 Bluetooth met and exceeded my hopes and expectations, with the incredible feature set and connectivity. I will say that the included pop filter for the microphone falls off way too easily, and the dust cover for the microphone port is also way too easy to lose. Outside of that, and my preference to apply some mild EQ, these headsets are just great, plain and simple. They sound quite good, are reasonably comfortable, and can connect to almost anything. Highly recommended.

  • DuoTen TWS-880Pro Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds

     

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    Hardware Info:

    DuoTen TWS-880Pro Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds

    Specifications:
    In-ear True Wireless earbuds
    No driver/mic specifications provided
    IPX7 waterproof
    CVC8.0 noise canceling
    Touch controls interface
    USB-A to USB-C charging cable
    Portable earbud case with built-in battery that charges the earbuds and doubles as a phone battery pack

    Bluetooth:
    Version 5.0
    Distance: 10 meters
    Pairing name: TWS-880Pro

    Battery:
    Headphone battery: 50mAh
    Charging box: 3000mAh
    Charging voltage: 5V
    Talking/Music playing time: 12-15 hours (in my testing, closer to 8 hours)

    Included in package:
    Earbuds inside of the included charging case
    1 foot long USB-C charging cable
    Instruction manual and warranty card

    MSRP: $45.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you DuoTen for sending us this product to review!

    With many cellphones no longer including what should remain as basic required functionality, a headphone jack, Bluetooth headphones are becoming the 'new normal' for many. And besides that, they are quite convenient for those with an active lifestyle; let's face it - jogging, riding a bike, or mowing the lawn is a lot easier without wires. As a result, the demand for affordable, high-quality wireless Bluetooth earbuds remains high. And since most of us aren't ready to drop $200+ for some of the name brand ones out there, I'm really glad companies like DuoTen have stepped up to fill in the gap.

    These DuoTen TWS-880Pro earbuds are of the truly wireless variety, which means that there is no wire connecting anything - no wire from the earbuds to each other, or a battery or Bluetooth transmitter; everything is self contained in each ear. Interestingly, that also means that you can pair them separately, if you're not careful. Or maybe that's the intention if you want to give one to another person, for some single-ear listening.

    Thankfully, these are really simple to pair; just open the case and they show up in the Bluetooth search feature of your phone. Or, if they’ve already been paired once, touch and hold for long enough and they go into pairing mode. If that doesn’t work, the simplest way I found is to turn off the Bluetooth on the device they are currently connected to, which also puts the headphones into pairing mode. This way you can actually have them paired with quite a few devices (I tried four) and it’s really simple to switch between them; if my phone is on, that one always connects first, but otherwise I just do a device scan and connect and it connects right away. It only takes a few seconds.

    The most important part of any earphone is first and foremost sound quality and comfort. I am very happy to report that the sound profile is incredibly well balanced, and the louder you turn it up, the better it sounds. (Please don’t hurt your ears blasting it.) Even at around the halfway mark, it sounds very full and balanced, with solid bass and clear highs. While these are not the last word on detail, I find them more than ‘good enough’ for the vast majority of people. I have to say, I am really impressed with how far Chinese Hi-Fi (sometimes called Chi-fi) has come. With that said, how balanced it sounds depends in large part on which set of tips you use and how good of a seal. The smallest tips were too small, so I lost almost all of the bass. The mediums fit quite well, but the bass comes up quite a bit, more than my preference. I think they sound the best with some foam tips I adapted to the purpose. I had to cut the top of the tips off of them to get them to fit in the charger case, but afterwards they sound nearly perfectly balanced for my tastes.

    Especially with the New Bee foam earbud tips I installed, these are really, really comfortable. I have worn them for hours with only occasional adjustments needed. They also sit in your ears in a way that really blocks out the sound. I'm not sure how much of that is purely isolation, and how much is the CVC8.0 noise canceling listed on the box, but it really is quite difficult to hear anyone outside, especially if you wear the silicone tips rather than the foam I swapped to. I don't hear any obvious noise canceling going on like you can easily notice on over the hear headphones, so I'm not sure which it is. Either way, you are in your own little world while wearing these.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Sound quality is quite well balanced, and overall nice; price/performance is great; really comfortable; Bluetooth range and connection quality is really good; water resistance is helpful; noise isolation/canceling is very effective

    Weak Points: Quality control is hit and miss, as I went through two and both sets have something wrong; I hate touch-only controls, and while water resistant, water will activate the touch controls even if you don't want it to

    It's also great that they tend to stay in place. I’ve swept the floor, walked the dog, and rode my bicycle several miles (yes, I’m one of those) with them in place, not to mention worked at my desk. They have fallen out only a handful of times in about a week, and not while doing anything particularly active, just when I was being clumsy putting them back in.

    As you can probably tell, from a pure functionality/sound/comfort standpoint, these are really good. (I am audiophile enough to have some expensive headphones for my desk, and these don’t compare – but for out and about these are more than good enough.) Unfortunately, the quality control on these is a real mixed bag. Thankfully, Amazon has a great return policy, which is where these are primarily on sale. I was reminded of this because I had to use it, and I may have to do it again.

    My first pair worked perfectly in every way, but there was a buzzing in my left ear that was loud enough that I could hear it when listening to podcasts or quiet musical passages. It was otherwise perfect – paired easily, charged properly, the microphone was usable, and so on. Disappointed but otherwise accepting that things happen, I initiated the replacement, they shipped me one quickly (I have Amazon Prime) and I dropped off the original at a nearby Kohl’s to return them right away. I didn’t want to keep two sets at home long to get them confused.

    The second pair immediately sounded better, with no buzz. I thought I was good to go until I received a call later while wearing them. Keep in mind my brother had called the day before with the old buzzy ones, and he had nothing to say about how I sounded. This time, I had complaints about sounding like I was ‘wearing a mask’, or even hearing an echo if the volume was too high. I no longer have the original, so side-by-side comparisons are no longer possible; if I do this again, I’ll be sure to do more testing before sending this pair back. If that wasn’t enough, the touch controls on my left earbud suddenly stopped working yesterday. I am still able to use them, but some of the volume adjustment and media controls are no longer accessible. It’s also difficult to turn that one off; the only way to do so is to put it back into the charger case.

    Speaking of which, the charger case has a 3000MAh battery in it, which can easily last weeks charging just the earbuds. One neat thing about it is that it actually doubles as a battery pack for your phone! You can use the included USB-C cable to charge most modern phones, but I found that cable to charge more slowly than another I had on my desk. It’s a neat bonus feature, though. My phone’s battery is actually much larger than 3000MAh, but it was able to bump it up significantly, and would help out in a pinch.

    These earbuds claim an IPX7 water resistance rating. I’m not sure what that includes, but I decided the true test is to wear them in the shower. And they definitely survived! Unfortunately, I found that water activated the touch controls. I had to fix them countless times to get through the podcast I was listening to. Speaking of touch controls, even without water being involved, I have large ears and have had my ear itself activate it enough to turn one or both sides on and off or pause repeatedly when that was not my intention. Honestly, if these had buttons rather than touch, they’d be nearly perfect. I have come to dislike touch controls very much after my experience with these earbuds.

    Overall, I’d say, considering their price, the pros of very good sound and comfort outweigh the cons of random quality control issues (thanks to Amazon returns) and annoying touch controls (you get used to it). I do hope they’ll consider a future model with buttons, though – touch may seem cool, but it’s just not as practical.

  • Gamdias Eros Elite Gaming Headset

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    Hardware Info:

    Gamdias Eros Elite Gaming Headset
    Specifications:
    Over the ear headphones
    Closed back
    50mm driver
    Frequency response: 20-20,000Hz
    Impedence: 32 Ohm +/- 15%
    Sensitivity: 108dB +/- 3dB at 1kHz
    Cable length: 1.2M with 1.6M extended Y-plug cable
    Connector: 3.5mm 3-band (integrated mic for mobile/PS4) with dual 3.5mm stereo extension cable (for PC)
    Detachable microphone
    Replaceable earpads (included: one leather-like, one fabric)
    Volume control and mute switch on the provided extension cable
    MSRP: $59.99
    (Amazon affiliate link)

    *Advertising disclosure* - As of this review, Gamdias is a banner advertising client.  The review is not influenced by this partnership.

    Thank you Gamdias for sending us this headset for review!

    Gamdias has been in the hardware making business for a relatively short time, and has focused mostly on PC gaming peripherals in that time, and we have several reviews here on Christ Centered Gamer.  Among these products are mice and keyboards, but up until now, never headsets.  We have had the opportunity to review quite a few headsets recently, and being a bit of an audiophile myself, I look forward to it.  It's always fun to see what each manufacturer prioritizes in their designs.  But this is our first opportunity to see Gamdias' approach to audio, so I jumped at the chance.

    At first glance, the thing that immediately came to mind is how 'gamer-y' it looks. And how plastic.  Like many Gamdias products, it sports aggressive styling, though thankfully mostly black except for the logos.  It has an all plastic frame, and I wonder how durable it will be as a result.  Thankfully, I have not had any issues in the time I have had it, but I would not leave this around to get dropped or sat on as I doubt it would survive the experience.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Much better sound quality than many competing headsets; light weight; replaceable earpads; flat, tangle-free cables
    Weak Points: Durability uncertain, with an all plastic headband that's thin in places; my large noggin barely fits, stretching the elastic quite a lot; earpads are a bit small for my larger ears; my preference would be for a bit more treble extension; microphone requires maximum boost to be usable

    There is a padded, elastic leather-like strap that is attached to the main body that gently holds these onto your head.  If your head is smaller/normal sized, like my wife, you will find these to be very light-weight and comfortable.  If you are like me and have a rather large noggin (something has to hold all that stuff up there!) then you may find them a little tight with a bit more pressure on your head than is comfortable.  (According to a random online hat sizing chart, my head is between XL and XXL size.)  At least they somewhat fit – I have reviewed a pair that would not fit on my head at all.

    Despite this, I still found a lot to like.  First of all, they include both padded and leather-like earpads.  It is rare for headphones to offer both, and there is quiet an aftermarket community about what earpads from a competing headphone fit and improve sound quality or comfort on a favorite headphone.  Gamdias makes this easy by offering both major types in the package!  The leather ones were slightly larger for my matching large ears, though I prefer the sound quality of the fabric pads a bit more, as it tightens up the sound a bit.

    The best part of this headset, by far, is the sound quality.  While they don't quite have the sound signature that I prefer, they are by far the best sounding headset we have had come through here in quite some time as of this writing.  I would like a bit more treble extension, but overall music doesn't sound overly bloated on the low end like much of the competition.  It's not perfect, and I still prefer my headphones, but listening to these is still a pleasure.  They are also easily opened and modifiable for those (like me) who like to tune things to your liking.  I imagine a little padding or stuffing could go a long way towards making these sound even better.  Even still, it was refreshing to put these on and be able to easily hear every instrument without difficulty.  They also have a decent soundstage for a closed headphone.  Bravo, Gamdias!

    Unfortunately the microphone isn't to the same quality level as the sound.  I had to set the microphone boost to maximum in Windows for my partner to be able to hear me at all in Steam voice chat.  It did work okay for my mobile device, however.  I also found that the detachable microphone, while certainly a good idea, was far too eager to detach, even while in use.  It didn't take much more than an accidental brush to knock it out.  It has a standard 3.5mm plug on the side of the left earphone for the mic to plug into.  Unfortunately, another mic I had available would not work when plugged in there.  I suppose a small amount of hot glue would be all you need.

    The rest of the wiring is pretty nice.  While the cable is not detachable, it uses the flat tangle-free wiring style, which I have come to like.  The extension and PC adapter cord, which also includes a volume dial and headphone mute switch is also very nice.  The plugs also seem sturdy, and not likely to break anytime soon.

    Gamdias' Eros Elite headset has a much more balanced sound than many headsets that I have had the opportunity to review.  For that reason, if the price is right, I would highly recommend you to check out this headset.  It's unfortunate that the microphone has a lot of room for improvement, but it does work.  I also wish it felt a bit more durable, but if you take care of it I don't expect issues.  Despite its flaws, good sound quality goes a long way in making up for them.  For that reason, I highly recommend you consider the Gamdias Eros Elite for your next gaming headset.

  • Gamdias Hebe M1 RGB Surround Sound Gaming Headset

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    Hardware Info:

    Hebe M1 RGB Surround Sound Gaming Headset
    Specifications:
    Over the ear headphones
    Closed back
    50mm driver + 30mm vibration driver unit
    Frequency response: Not specified (probably 20-20,000Hz)
    Impedance: 32 Ohm +/- 15%
    Sensitivity: 119dB +/- 3dB
    Cable length: 2M
    Connector: USB (for PC)
    Microphone attached (retractable)
    High quality leather-like ear pads
    Volume, mute, light, and vibration buttons
    Hera software/drivers required for some features like virtual 7.1 surround, but not required for basic use
    MSRP: $69.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Gamdias for sending us this headset for review!

    *Advertising disclosure* - Gamdias was a former advertising partner with us, and is currently not as of this review. This review is not influenced by this relationship.

    Other than gaming, I also have a rather active audio hobby. I have rebuilt quite a few speakers, set up several surround sound systems, and it's just something that I really enjoy – when I can tweak out that last bit of performance to get things sounding just right, it's very rewarding to me. So, that is why I really enjoy reviewing headphones and other audio products – as someone with discerning tastes, I wish to pass along that knowledge and look for good value wherever possible.

    In my experience with both movies and games, sound is often at least half of the experience. (Probably moreso with movies than games.) If your audio quality is poor, it really detracts from the experience. Conversely, with excellent audio quality, a great game or movie can be elevated even more. If you could see my CD collection, you would find quite a few game soundtracks there, and they are some of the most played music in my house.

    Gamdias has been rather kind to us, in allowing us to review several of their headsets over the years: their Eros Elite, the Hephaestus II, and this Hebe M1 RGB. I might as well just get this out of the way now: this one is the best of the bunch, by far. No contest.

    For those who have not yet looked at the spec sheet, this is a USB (only – no 3.5mm jack to be found) headset that plugs directly into your computer. It has a nice inline control about 2ft from the top of the 2M cable, with volume controls, microphone muting, vibration, and lighting controls. The lighting is in a color rotating pattern, and a conversation piece, but is for all practical purposes invisible to the user (which is how it should be) and can be disabled with the press of a button if drawing undue attention to itself.

    I hate to draw too much attention to the inline controls – these things are typically there to serve a purpose then promptly forget about them – but after reviewing the Hephaestus II, I feel I need to say something here. That older headset's inline controls were little short of a train wreck, but this new one resolves those issues in pretty much every way. The volume buttons are easy to find and press, and the vibration, light and mute buttons all have clear, easy to see LEDs broadcasting the state of their respective features. It's a great inline control, so thank you for resolving this issue for the new models!

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Best sound in a Gamdias headset we have reviewed so far by far; very comfortable; fits my larger head; very good build quality (and best of any reviewed Gamdias headset); works on Mac and Linux without any software required (Stereo only)
    Weak Points: Stock pads make you sweat after a while; fit on the head may or may not have a good seal; volume spread is biased way too loud

    The build quality of this unit is also a massive step up from both previous models. Rather than the more typical plastic head straps you saw before, we now have two large metal overbands, with sturdily attached plastic mounts that hold the elastically suspended headband, and very nice hard plastic earcups, which are attached to very soft and honestly fantastic leather (or leather-like) ear pads. I prefer fabric pads, and this set does not change that, but these are some very nice leather pads. They look and feel very high quality to the touch, and have a really nice looking mesh on the inside that looks very premium. This is one of the few cases where, because of the pads, they actually look better in person than the renders on their website suggest.

    If that wasn't enough, we also have an excellent cable. Yes, I know, it's just a cable. But it's a very nice and thick fully woven cable, with a clear plastic/rubber sheath ran over it. It feels really very premium – not just rubber, or just woven, but both! It looks fantastic, and feels that way also. All of the plug joints are also thick, well made, and seem strongly resistant to damage. On top of all of that, they also include a small bit of attached velcro to make cable management even easier. Whoever designed these, especially after the massive compromises of their previous models, should get a raise and a good pat on the back: Good Job.

    The vibration is a much better effect than I anticipated. Based on playing with the EQ, I suspect that it operates at around 200Hz and under, and adds a very subtle bass boost, and a fun amount of head vibration. It's not usually distracting, and I find I like it on much of the time. The fact that it's not a massive obnoxious bass boost is really great – subtle is almost always better when any kind of enhancement is involved. You can tell it's on, but not to the detriment of what you are listening to. And turning it on or off is simply one button press away.

    The first time you plug these into a Windows machine, or indeed any Linux or Mac computer, they function quite well out of the box. But to really get the most out of these (on Windows), you should download the very simple Hera software. What I love most about Hera is that it's completely portable: you just extract the zip file, and you are ready to roll. It is so refreshingly simple compared to the more typical installers most devices need these days. When you plug in the headset with Hera running, it asks you to install the drivers, and you are on your way.

    These drivers seem simple, but they are deceptively nice. For one thing, they support up to 24 bit output formats, as well as a 96KHz sample rate. Most USB headphones are stuck at 48Khz/16bit. But the real winner here is how they handle the virtual 7.1 surround sound. Rather than the typical audio shaping stereo enhancement, they actually install a new output device where you can choose how many speakers to emulate, from 2 to 7.1, using Windows' built-in channels feature. And when you choose to test the output, the results are very convincing. I was impressed to hear this much locality out of headphones. Also, Hera's equalizer features, as well as some of the other special effects, are all hidden from Windows, so you can basically set and forget them, which is very nice.

    Like many recent headphone designs, these feature a 50mm driver. These have become quite popular for many reasons, one of which is good bass. Some designs have tended to sacrifice the rest of the frequency range as a result, but thankfully this is not the case at all here. While they are a bit darker than I prefer, they sound vastly (a pattern is emerging here) superior to the Hephaestus II, and much closer out of the box to my preferences. I got them much closer to my liking by a very simple equalizer change that's simple enough that I can easily share it here: open up Hera's Equalizer tab, and boost 500Hz by one, 1K by two, 2K by three, and so on – following that pattern of adding one more than the last to each, up through 16K. With that subtle adjustment, they still lack some of the air of my favorite headphones, but still have a rather natural presentation, with (still) laid back highs. And they have enough low end oomph to not defeat the vibration feature.

    For those who may have read my other headphone reviews, this is one case where swapping out earpads is actually not recommended. Not only are these much more balanced out of the box, not to mention those really nice feeling pads I pointed out earlier, but swapping them out killed the low end in a rather unpleasant way. If you want to adjust the sound here, stick with the equalizer. I did have to rotate them a bit more forward than I expected in order to get a good seal around my ears, though.

    As I already stated, they sound really quite good out of the box. They have only one minor flaw, which I attribute to a lack of damping or perhaps early reflections (but I could be wrong on this): some music (and I do mean some – not all is affected) at times has a bit of a 'mushy' or undamped sound to it. Typically a small amount of strategically placed felt or fiberglass/cotton/etc. can fix this, but sometimes these changes can also be detrimental in other ways, so I haven't done this yet. Turning off the vibration does help, but not totally eliminate this. Other than my preference for a slightly brighter out of the box presentation, this is my only other complaint with these headphones.

    The Gamdias Hebe M1 RGB Virtual 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset is one of the best gaming headsets to come past my desk. Like many leather bound headphones, they do get warm, and may cause ear pressure fatigue after a few hours. But outside of this, they sound so much better than the previous models I have heard, and are honestly really quite good right out of the box. (My Hi-Fi headphones still sound better, but these are much, much closer than previous models.) The spatial localization is very good, the build quality is excellent, and the sound is vastly improved over previous models. There is still room for improvement – there always is – but if you are looking for a good, well built gaming headset, this is absolutely a great choice.

  • Gamdias Hephaestus II Surround Sound Gaming Headset

     

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    Hardware Info:

    Gamdias Hephaestus II
    Specifications:
    Over the ear headphones
    Closed back
    50mm driver + 35mm vibration driver unit
    Frequency response: 20-20,000Hz
    Impedance: 32 Ohm +/- 15%
    Sensitivity: 108dB +/- 3dB at 1kHz
    Cable length: 2.8M
    Connector: USB (for PC)
    Microphone attached
    Removable leather-like ear pads
    Volume wheel, along with mute, light, and vibration buttons
    Hera software required for some features like virtual 7.1 surround, but not required for basic use
    MSRP: $59.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Gamdias for sending us this headset for review!

    *Advertising disclosure* - Gamdias was a former advertising partner with us, and is currently not as of this review.  This review is not influenced by this relationship.

    Being the resident audiophile, I get the lucky job of reviewing headsets every so often, which I love to do.  Also, being a tinkerer, I enjoy trying to get the most out of them.  The Gamdias Hephaestus II is a great basis for a good headset, but a few missteps keep it short of greatness.  Despite this, the sound is fairly good, especially after a little modding or tweaking - I'll get to that in a minute.

    The Gamdias Hephaestus II Surround Sound Gaming Headset is a USB only headset that can be used on pretty much any computer with a USB port.  I tested it with a Windows PC, a Mac, and a Linux PC, and I heard sound out of all of them.  Only Windows is 'officially' supported, and advanced features like virtual 7.1 surround only work on Windows.  I did not test the microphone on Mac or Linux.

    In my limited testing, the microphone works well.  It has a nice feel to it; it swivels, and it holds in place very nicely.  It worked well even without mic boost, which is always a plus.  It is permanently mounted and cannot be removed, but easily swivels and twists out of the way.

    The cord is nice and braided, and feels nice to the touch.  Each connector, both to the USB plug and the headphones, as well as the control box in the middle, feel like solid connections, and are unlikely to fail anytime soon.

    The headset itself has nice and large oversized cups, which fit over my rather large ears just great.  I am very pleased that these fit so much better than their previous headset that we reviewed, the Eros Elite.  Indeed, these are improvements over that model in pretty much every way.  They are also much sturdier, and I would expect a good service life out of them.  The Eros Elites ended up failing on us after less than a year.  I do not expect the same with these.  The headband is also very comfortable, and on the largest setting fits over my (also) large head quite well.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Nice sound; very comfortable; fits my larger head; solid build quality; look really nice; pads are removable; software works well; works on Mac and Linux without any software required (Stereo only)
    Weak Points: Stock pads are a little bass heavy and make you sweat after a while; in-line controls feel cheap, and have no indication of their current status; volume wheel doesn't feel good in use

     

    Like many recent headphone designs, these come with a 50mm driver, which often means good bass.  These definitely do not lack in that department.  Rather, I found that the bass was a bit too much for my liking.  Despite this, the higher frequencies are not missing like I have heard on some of the poorer sounding competition.  I wish I could compare them to the Eros Elites, but those were tossed when they literally fell apart.

    Thankfully, I know a thing or two about how to get the sound that I prefer.  I started with the Hera software, and noticed a very nice improvement when I enabled virtual 7.1 surround mode.  I expected it to mostly be a gimmick, and perhaps it is, but I did prefer it with it on.  Solid step one!  Next, I looked into the graphical EQ feature.  It's pretty nice, with lots of bands, as well as some presets.  The presets are pretty much worthless, other than to prove that the EQ works.  What I found works best is to always start with flat, and then tweak from there.  Do not ever raise some (or all) EQ bands straight to the top, as distortion is an almost certain result.  By raising the top three bands up a few notches each in a gradual parabolic way, I was able to get quite a bit closer to the sound signature I was looking for.

    Having done my fair share of ear pad swapping looking for the perfect sound on other headphones, I was pleased to see that these pads are removable.  Now, it has to be said that the stock pads are actually very comfortable, and if I preferred their sound, I would have little reason to touch them.  You do get a bit sweaty after a while, but I haven't seen a leather-like pad out there where that doesn't happen.  They fit comfortably around my ears, and softly hold them in place.  Good stuff there.

    But, I'm less of a fan of their darker audio presentation.  So, given the rather large and circular size of these pads and headphones, I felt confident that the Cosmos branded replacement AKG 240 pads that I found on Amazon for only $8 would work on these as well.  I took the pair off of my other modded headphones and was very pleased with both the comfort and sound.  If you are like me and prefer a bit more tame bass, I think you will really like these pads as I do.  While they do not turn them into an airy Grado-like sound, they do bring up and out the highs and mids, and turn them into something wholly inoffensive.  If you still want more bass, you can always turn on the bass impact vibration drivers, which are controlled via the large, triangular button on the in-line controls.  The only problem with that is actually knowing if it's on.

    Gamdias Hephaestus II

    The biggest flaw of this headset is most definitely the in-line controls.  While functional in the most basic sense, there is no indication whatsoever of the state of each control.  Windows thankfully has you covered on the volume wheel, as the on-screen pop-up does the job well enough, despite the wheel itself feeling rather cheap.  But for the bass impact vibrations, or crucially the microphone mute, there is no way know the current status at all. There is no indicator on the controls, as you might expect an LED indicator light; this is missing.  There is no indicator in the Hera software either.  Windows has no idea you pressed the button, either.  The only way I could tell if the mic was on was to keep the 'recording devices' window up, where you can see the green volume status indicators.  After pressing the button, it goes from nearly quiet to completely so.  This is as expected; it's just surprising such an interface oversight got past the product team.  This headset does so much right; it's really a shame.

    I found the bass impact setting a gimmick more than anything actually useful.  It does serve as a bit of bass boost, which can be nice at times, but it's not a crisp bass impact, but rather somewhat muddy, as you might expect from something trying to shake your head.  But it isn't enough of a shake to be really noticeable.  You can tell it's on with certain types of music and other content, but it's not enough of a boost that you would notice otherwise.  And without a visual indicator, and with a button that feels cheap enough that you can't be certain if you pressed it properly or not, I would say just count this feature out, honestly.  I had to open up the headphones to make absolutely sure that it even worked.  I was able to prove that it did, but you really couldn't tell all that well unless you turned the volume up far higher than what is safe for human hearing.

    Thankfully, the virtual 7.1 seems to work pretty well.  I played a round of Unreal Tournament Pre-Alpha, and I was very pleased with the performance.  Not only did it sound great, but it was very easy to know where each enemy was firing from.  It was a fun gaming round, and the headset only helped to make it better.

    Honestly, I really do like the Gamdias Hephaestus II Surround Sound Gaming Headset.  The cups fold sideways for easy portability, and the sound quality, especially tweaked or modded, is pretty good.  The plug and go USB is really nice, especially with my laptop that has a bad headphone jack.  The build quality is also good, outside of that terrible control box.  Gamdias, if you are listening: please add status LEDs to the control box.  Not super bright ones, but anything to indicate on/off.  Even if you have to do it mid production run, just do it.  With that change, it would be easy to recommend this headset without reservation.  As it is, you get a decent sound at a fair price, which really isn't so bad.

    Checkout some of the other gaming headphones at Headphones Radar.

  • Gamdias Hephaestus P1 RGB Surround Sound Gaming Headset

     

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    Hardware Info:

    Gamdias Hephaestus P1 RGB Surround Sound Gaming Headset
    Specifications:
    Over-the-ear headphones
    50mm driver + vibration driver unit
    Frequency response: Not specified (probably 20-20,000Hz)
    Impedance: 32 Ohm +/- 15%
    Sensitivity: 119dB +/- 3dB
    Cable length: 1.8M
    Connector: USB (for PC)
    Microphone attached (swivel)
    High quality leather-like ear pads
    Volume, mute, light, and vibration buttons
    Hera software/drivers required for some features like virtual 7.1 surround, but not required for basic use
    MSRP: $89.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Gamdias for sending us this headset for review!

    *Advertising disclosure* - Gamdias was a former advertising partner with us, and is currently not as of this review. This review is not influenced by this relationship.

    As I said in my Gamdias Hebe M1 review, audio and surround sound are things that I am really into. Other than gaming, it's the hobby that is most important to me. I've been involved in the audio hobby for quite some time now, and have built or helped build not only several iterations of my own home theater, but also for others. I find it very rewarding when, once everything is set up, things sound just right.

    As a result, I love reviewing headsets whenever given the opportunity. If I can find a product that does things just right, I can then recommend that to our readers – and know that they are getting an excellent multimedia experience. Gamdias has been very kind to us, and we have had the opportunity to review several of their headsets. The sound quality and frequency response of this product, the Hephaestus P1, is by far and away the best headset we have reviewed from Gamdias, and possibly the best one period (the Steelseries Siberia 200, which may be the closest sounding competitor that I reviewed, had died after a few years of abuse from my children and is long gone).

    I am also gifted with a large cranium (it has a lot to protect, apparently) so I have found many headsets, including some from Gamdias, that do not fit me properly. Thankfully, I can say that this one fits just great. It does get uncomfortable after hours of use, but that's true of all but the most cushy (and expensive) ones.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: One of the best sounding headsets I have ever reviewed (though I can't directly compare them all anymore); nearly perfect frequency response balance; very comfortable; fits my larger head; very good build quality (and the best of any reviewed Gamdias headset); works on Mac and Linux without any software required (Stereo only); cooling system works very well
    Weak Points: Volume spread is biased way too loud; Hera software does not work well at all; surround sound features do not work

    The build quality is one of my favorite things about this headset. The main headband is metal, and incredibly sturdy. The ear cups are made with very thick and strong plastic. The ear pads are the same as the Hebe I reviewed, and I still think they are fantastic. They have a very high quality feel to them, with nice to touch leather-like material, and a mesh fabric inside the ear pad that feels great. The cable has a thick fabric cover, and feels very sturdy. The microphone also works well, feels nice, and I don't think it will break any time soon.

    One of the 'gimmick' features of this headphone is the cooling structure. When I first looked at it, I thought it was crazy – after all, the headphones look somewhat like a Tie Fighter as a result of that structure. But you know what? It works. It really does. These things really do stay cool – and considering that they use leather ear pads, it's more than a little impressive. You really can use these for several hours and stay at a comfortable temperature. I love it, even if I do look like I serve Lord Vader.

    As I mentioned before, these headphones sound fantastic. I don't mean 'good enough for gamers', but legitimately good. The balance of frequencies, between bass and treble, is literally just right. I would like a tiny bit more sparkle on the high end – but I want that from almost all headphones, since most (even very expensive ones) drop off sharply after 10KHz. I also wish that they were a bit more resolving, but if you are looking for that, just buy audiophile headphones. Regardless, it's so close to perfect that I can't help but recommend them for that reason alone. If pure analog audio quality is your first priority (and it should be), then these get a strong recommendation. On top of that, unlike previous Gamdias headphones, this one doesn't have that underdamped sound either, where some music can sound 'mushy'; again, we have a winner.

    Unfortunately, outside of sound quality and build (which are the most important, honestly), this headset is not without flaws. The drivers, which are part of the Hera software, is sadly, a buggy mess. What is so surprising to me, is that on the Hebe M1, it worked so well. The Hebe supports 96KHz/24-bit output format; not these, only 44.1KHz/16-bit. The Hebe supports a proper virtual 7.1 driver with excellent spacial awareness; not these, only stereo.

    Gamdias Hephaestus P1 RGB Surround Sound Gaming Headset

    The virtual 7.1 that is supported via Hera is broken out of the box, and does not work well at all. When you enable virtual 7.1 in Hera, it shows all of the 7.1 speakers sitting together in the upper far left – and moving them to the correct location helps some, but no matter where you move them, it never sounds quite right. I tried fixing them to what I thought was correct, and it still had some speaker, either left or right, a bit too loud.

    As much as it pains me to say this, with the drivers in their current state, the virtual 7.1 surround sound feature, as listed, borders on false advertising.

    Thankfully, all is not lost. Since the drivers are beyond worthless (other than to set the color; even that doesn't work right, but you can pause the color cycle to pick a color and never touch them again) I would just not install it at all. Windows 10 has built-in virtual surround sound support in the form of Windows Sonic for Headphones, or if you buy the upgrade, Dolby Atmos for Headphones. I bought the upgrade, and these sound fantastic with Dolby Atmos, since the frequency response of these is so good out of the box.

    If you do want equalization, again, Hera is completely broken. When I tried to adjust it, even slightly, they went from sounding great, to something clearly being wrong. I don't know what it is, but just don't touch Hera if you use these headphones. You can have it installed; just don't touch anything. What I found instead is a third party, open source app called Equalizer APO. This thing not only works great, but it's a solution for another common problem with these (and other) USB headphones.

    Many USB headphones, these included, are too loud out of the box, or with the Hera drivers installed. You literally can go deaf with the volume set above 10 (out of 100). It's crazy, and frustrating when you find that between 2 and 8 is the only usable part of the volume dial.

    Thankfully, Equalizer APO lets you set a preamp level, which you can turn down to between -9 and -12, and get a perfectly usable volume knob. It's annoying when you have to turn to third party programs to fix problems like this, but it does work – and the equalizer it offers is much better than Hera anyway.

    On the plus side, the inline controller and vibration features are really neat, and implemented well; even better here than on the Hebe M1. There is a clearly marked volume up/down button, a clearly marked microphone mute button (with matching blue or red LED), and a vibration switch. You can set it to off, or two levels of on, which adds a mild, but not altogether bad, bass boost + headphone vibration. On high I feel like it's a bit too overpowering, but on low, it's just right. It turns on the feature so that you can feel blasts (and bass guitars, as it were), while still not impacting audio clarity so much as to get in the way. It's fun, and I like it. The only thing missing from the inline remote is a way to dim the lights; you have to rely on the Hera software for that.

    The Gamdias Hephaestus P1 RGB Virtual 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset is, in the most important ways, the best headset I have reviewed to date. The build quality is excellent, and the sound is clean, reasonably clear, and has an excellent frequency response balance that many headphones get totally wrong. It is a bit short on clarity compared to my audiophile headphones, but that is not at all surprising or expected – they cost a lot more, too. The virtual surround features, or pretty much anything else that requires Hera, is unfortunately in a very bad place. Software can be fixed, but only time will tell if they resolve the issues. If Gamdias' other similar looking model, the Hephaestus E1, sounds just as good as this on an analog level, then I would probably recommend that one instead, as you can just use your sound card or any device – unless you really like the vibration, in which case, get this. Regardless, it's a great headset where it really counts, sound quality, so I recommend it.

  • Kidz Gear Headset – Headphones For Kids

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    Hardware Info:

    Kidz Gear Headset 
    Specifications:
    On the ear headphone
    Closed back
    30mm driver
    Frequency Response: 20-20,000Hz
    Cable length: 1.5 meters
    Connector: 1/8” stereo mini phono plug (TRRS style for the headset)
    Bendable boom microphone attached
    Volume adjustable slider
    Volume limiting attachment available
    Optional carrying case and headphone audio splitter available
    MSRP: $29.99

    Thank you Kidz Gear for sending this to us for review!

    Kidz Gear is a company that has been making products aimed at children for 15 years now.  They have had a popular headphone for kids for several years, and they recently added a boom mic for this new model.  It is aimed primarily at smartphone and tablet use since it uses the TRRS (tip/ring/ring/sleeve) connector instead of the PC standard of two separate cables for headphone and mic.  Nevertheless, adapters are readily available online or at RadioShack.

    The main frame of the headphone is available in several different colors, including gray, pink, orange, blue, green, and purple.  We received the gray one for review.  The earphone cup itself it either silver or white depending on the headband color.  The plastic headband is fairly thin, very adjustable, and stretches really easily.  While this may sound like a problem, it works well because it can easily fit the smallest child (it's designed for 2 years old and up) or even my large adult head.  The Kidz Gear logo is visible on the left side.  All in all, it's designed for kids first and foremost, and it does that job well enough.  Kids like the design – my kids fought over them almost immediately.

    While keeping expectations reasonable, I anticipated them sounding much worse than they do.  They are somewhat bass heavy, while still having a reasonable treble.  They are not going to replace an audiophile's cans anytime soon, but they aren't meant to.  They have a serviceable sound for a reasonable price.  No complaints here – and they sound better than one of my son's cheap headphones.

     

    Kidz Gear Headset
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: The sound quality is reasonable, the mic actually performs really well, and the volume limiting features are great
    Weak Points: They do not do a very good job of isolating the background noise

    The headband is reasonably comfortable, as are the ear cups.  I was surprised that given how much they had to stretch to fit my head, they did not hurt my ears.  My 8 year old said that they were very comfortable for her.  They are very light, which probably contributes to this.  On the other hand, they do not do a very good job of isolating the background noise, as they do not form a seal around your ears in any way.  Then again, depending on the circumstances, this could be just as much of a good thing as a bad one.

    The main feature for kids that really stands out, other than their size, is the ability to volume limit them.  They have a volume slider, but it's not just that. While that is certainly useful, they also sell a volume limit cable that you plug in between the audio source and the headphone cable.  This approximately 5” cable does a great job of cutting out about 20% of the audio volume, with no noticeable loss in quality.  When I measured it with my ohm meter, it registered over 460 Ohms!  I also tried to see how loud I could make things go with my RadioShack SPL (sound pressure level) meter.  I used my PC, which is an already loud source, and piped it through a headphone amp.  This combo registered close to a highly distorted 120dB without the cable, but with the cable, it registered around 100dB.  It certainly performed as advertised.  No 'normal' input source will ever register volumes up that high; I would say the 80-90dB max is as advertised.  With my PC as a source (with no amp), it registered 96dB without the cable, and about 84dB with it.

    The Kidz Gear Headset Headphones For Kids is a great option for any kid who needs a headphone.  The sound quality is reasonable, the mic actually performs really well, and the volume limiting features are great when trying to keep your kids ears safe.  Highly recommended!  Nowadays, there are even headphones that make kids fall asleep much faster. If you are young parents, you should check out Headphones Lab so that everyone can enjoy the rest of the day without crying noises.

  • Kidz Gear Wireless Headphones

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    Game Info:

    Kidz Gear Wireless Headphones
    Developed by: Kidz Gear
    Specifications:
    Bluetooth V4.0
    Receiver Range: 30 feet
    Battery life: Ten listening hours
    Frequency: 20Hz-20KHz
    Diameter: 30mm
    Impedance: 32Ω
    SPL:100dB SPL at 1kHz
    Price: $19.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Kidz Gear for sending us these headphones to review!

    We have reviewed the original wired Kidz Gear headset and sadly, they are no longer with us as they broke after 1.5 years of use. That's still a pretty good run and longer than other headsets have lasted us. One of the selling points of the wired headphones was the volume limiter, which is a hardware dongle that caps the maximum volume. This is great for parents concerned about kids deafening themselves by cranking the volume too high on accident. While a dongle (not included with this set of headphones) would help in the wired mode, there is no way to cap the volume when they are used wirelessly.

    Though they’re made of plastic, these wireless headphones seem rather sturdy. Despite them being designed for kids, they still fit my adult sized head just fine. With that said, on the audio front they’re nothing spectacular and audiophiles won’t be too impressed with them in that regard. They do however get the job done and work well for making phone calls via Bluetooth.

    Kidz Gear Wireless Headphones
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Wired or wireless operation; media buttons; detachable microphone that works when using Bluetooth
    Weak Points: Average sound, no volume limiter

    These headphones support Bluetooth 4.0, but will work with lower versions and I can say from experience that the 4.0 protocol does work the best. When using a Bluetooth 3.0 adapter, the audio would skip sometimes despite me only being less than 2 feet away from my PC. The supported range is up to 30 feet. When listening to music on my Bluetooth 4.0 compliant phone, the audio didn’t skip at all.

    If you need to use a microphone, there’s a detachable one that plugs into the specifically designed grooved connector. Without the grooves it would be easy to confuse which port is for the microphone or the optional 3.5mm stereo jack connection. The included audio cable is not designed for microphone use so you can only use the microphone with Bluetooth. The battery life is pretty good and you can get up to ten hours of active use per charge. There’s an included USB cable for charging up the headphones as needed.

    Kidz Gear Wireless Headphones

    Pairing the headphones is simple to do. All you need to do is press down the play button for a few seconds until the LED is blinking between red and green. Once that is happening you should be able to see the headphones when scanning for available Bluetooth devices. The media buttons are nice for switching and pausing songs. Volume buttons are on the same earpiece as well.

    These headphones are available in pink and blue. On Amazon they can be purchased for as little as $19.99. You can pay $10 more for them on the KidzGear website, but they’ll throw in a carrying bag along with them. I wasn’t sent a carrying case with these headphones so I can’t really comment on it. My youngest daughter has already taken a liking to these headphones and will be using them until something better comes along. While the volume limiter option will be missed, my kids can benefit from the wireless connectivity because we have been through a few headsets (including the previous Kidz Gear headset) that have become damaged from too much cord tangling. If you still prefer wired connectivity, the cable is replaceable with this model.

  • LucidSound LS1P Premium Chat Gaming Headset

     

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    Hardware Info:

    LucidSound LS1P Premium Chat Gaming Headset
    Specifications:
    Over the left ear headset with boom mic
    50mm driver
    Frequency response: 80Hz-8,000Hz
    Impedance: N/A
    Sensitivity: N/A
    Connectivity: single 3.5mm cable, with TRRS connector for both audio and microphone support
    Microphone type: Uni-directional with LED mute indicator boom mic
    Soft fabric ear pad, with adjustable plastic headband to hold it in place
    Volume wheel, with microphone mute button and indicator LED
    Specially-designed ear cup to let as much air and sound through as possible for both practicality and comfort
    Weight: 122g / 4.32oz
    Designed for PlayStation 4 (works with Xbox One and mobile also)
    MSRP: $24.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you LucidSound for sending us this headset to review!

    Now this is unexpected. When LucidSound originally asked us to review their headsets, we originally agreed to review one of their Xbox headsets, and one PlayStation. The PlayStation one was supposed to be their LS10P, which is their stereo model, but this one, the mono one-eared one, arrived instead. I never saw the point of a mono headset that's missing the other half. I wasn't sure I would be able to give this item a fair review, since I almost never play multiplayer games on consoles. And yet, here I am - I see now why this half-of-a-headset has such a niche use case, and I could see myself using it again in the future.

    As I said before, this is a mono headset, and it has a boom microphone attached that's supposed to be very close to your mouth. The left ear cup is the only one there is, as the headband wraps around your head and holds it in place. It adjusts about an inch worth, and fits me a bit better on the largest setting. It's a bit tight for me with my large noggin, but it isn't so tight that I can't use it. Your mileage may vary here. Either way, once put in place, it is reasonably secure and it isn't likely to fall off unexpectedly.

    It has to be said that this is clearly a voice-optimized headset. Attempting to play music through it will work, but its limited frequency response, combined with lack of stereo imaging, will not likely give you the results you desire. The output is tinny, has very little bass, and sadly does not combine the left and right channels into the left side like you might expect. When it calls it a 'chat headset', at first I thought it was a compromised product, and perhaps in some ways it is. But those design decisions were likely also intentional - by cutting corners in other areas, the chat experience can be improved.

    For one thing, losing the bass is not as bad as it sounds. While some really deep voices may not sound as full, they may actually be easier to hear. Our auditory system is optimized for mid-level frequencies, where most speech resides. By cutting out some of the deep bass, voices often come through more clearly, because it's easier to hear the enunciation between syllables. Strong bass frequencies tend to overpower or blur higher frequency detail, which is definitely undesirable with purely voice content.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Perfect for using a chat microphone and headset while listening to the game audio through the TV or external speakers; microphone is very clear for the recipients; voices come through perfectly clear
    Weak Points: Weak Points: I wish they offered it with two ear cups for stereo use; sounds a bit tinny (but this is by design)

     

    Another design decision was the make them open in a different way than your average open-back headphone. This kills bass, but they intentionally leave open gaps around the driver, in between the ear and the ear pad. On normal open-back headphones, they usually seal the ear chamber, and leave area behind the driver unsealed; here, it's the opposite. What's interesting about this is you can hear most of the room around you, while still hearing the chat through the speaker loud and clear. And, of course, the boom mic should go as close to your mouth as possible, because it's not very sensitive, and the other side probably wants to hear you clearly.

    The end result of this is that you can chat, with the headset on, while playing a game, and your friends are unlikely to hear what you are doing, except for talking to them. I turned up my game pretty loud, and no one could hear what I was doing, unless they joined the stream (but they could hear me talk). Conversely, you should be able to hear them and the speakers in your room, since the headset is so open to the air. This works far better than I expected, on both console and the additional testing I did on PC.

    LucidSound LS1P Premium Chat Gaming Headset for PS4

    You see, since the headset uses a 3.5mm TRRS connector, it works with almost anything; I tried it with important phone calls, with Discord, and so on, and it worked fine. I was able to make it sound bad with microphone boost on; as long as that was off, it worked perfectly. I also found it to work pretty well even when plugged into the Xbox One controller. I tried this on Windows; I had the Xbox One controller connected wirelessly to my USB wireless dongle, then I connected the LS1P to my controller. Then, I went into Discord and set my chat settings to use that sound device, while having my game audio come out of my desktop speakers. It worked great! I was able to hear my game, talk to my friends, and they couldn't hear my game - only my voice.

    And for me, that's really the best use case for this LS1P Premium Chat Gaming Headset. This is trivial to do on PlayStation or Xbox; just plug it in, and configure the headset for chat audio. On Windows, you will need to use an application that supports multiple output devices, or configure your chat app to use a separate audio device or sound card, but once you do, it should work just the same. It truly is a chat-optimized headset. I hope they will consider a stereo version at one point, with the same audio-through ear cups on each side, though I suspect too many people would try to use it as an actual headphone, which it really isn't. It's a chat-optimized headset, and that it does well.

  • LucidSound LS35X Wireless Surround Sound Gaming Headset

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    Hardware Info:

    LucidSound LS35X Wireless Surround Sound Gaming Headset

    Specifications:
    Over the ear headphones
    50mm driver
    Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz
    Impedance: 32 Ohm
    Sensitivity: 97dB +/- 3dB
    Power output (when headset is on): 70mW @ 32 Ohm per channel
    Connectivity: Wireless (Xbox One, Windows 10 with Microsoft Controller Adapter (not included))
    Wireless range: 30ft
    Microphone type: built-in or optional boom mic
    High quality leather-like ear pads with fabric front and gel-cooled memory foam padding
    Chat and volume wheels; chat and volume mute buttons
    Power and wireless connection buttons
    Includes optional 3.5mm cable for connecting the headphones to devices other than the Xbox One
    Micro-USB charging port
    Expected battery life: 15 hours
    Weight: 396g / 14oz
    Includes soft carrying case
    MSRP: $179.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you LucidSound for sending us this headset to review!

    We have reviewed quite a few different headsets here at Christ Centered Gamer, and I've always enjoyed the process of really getting to know them. Sometimes you can discover a vendor's house sound; other times, you can be surprised by what you find. I have never reviewed (or used) a LucidSound product before this, so I had no idea what to expect. I have to say, though I can certainly find nitpicks, there is a whole lot to like with this headset.

    The most important part of any audio device is probably how it sounds, at least to me. I'm an audio nut, and I really care about my frequency response levels, whether or not I can hear audible distortion, sound stage, and so on. Outside of that, and for some even more importantly, comfort is number one. You're not going to wear what's not comfortable.

    Thankfully, the LS35X is really not bad at all. Now I have to say that my ears are larger than most, on a head that is also larger than most. (My ears are proportionately large to my head, I suppose.) Either way, they are 3" long, by 1.5 inches wide. Very few headphones actually have an ear cavity opening large enough to hold that ear. (I only own one pair of headphones that actually fit my large ears; that's my electrostatics, and it's one of the things I love most about them.) If your ear is more normal-sized, like my wife and her tiny ears (2.25"x1"), then you will have no trouble having your ears entirely enclosed by this 2.25"x1.375" opening.

    As a result, I would say that most headphones in production eventually, with extended use, press against the top of the helix (yes, I had to look this up) of my ears, and over time, cause dull pain. These are no exception. Again, if you don't have massive ears, this will almost certainly not be an issue for most normally-eared people.

    Like most headphones, the secret of their comfort mostly comes down to ear pads, and headband. The headband is made of thick plastic, with a high-quality, stitched, leather-like material with padding that touches your head. It can get a little heavy, but it isn’t uncomfortably so.

    The ear pads are really, really nice. It has leather-like material on the inside and outside, and it touches your head with a fabric surface, which helps keep your head cool, which is really important for extended use. The gel and memory foam padding is quite different than most headphones I have used; it’s a bit firm, but also gives way easily when your ears touch it. I haven’t used ear pads quite like it before; it has a good clamping force, but doesn’t press down too hard. The pads are great, and one of the highlights of this headset. It’s also nice that LucidSound offers replacements for a reasonable price. They are incredibly easy to just pop off, since they have special sockets that the pads fit right into. So if you wear them out, it's only $19.99 for a replacement pair right on their website.

    LucidSound LS35X Wireless Surround Sound Gaming Headset for Xbox One
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: High quality materials; great build quality; comfortable; fits my larger head; works wirelessly on Xbox One and Windows 10 with an Xbox controller adapter; works with virtually anything with a 3.5mm jack (4 pole, so it includes microphone support); audio quality is quite good; sound stage is quite excellent, making noting positions very easy; buttons and volume dials work great when powered on; ear pads are easily removable, and inexpensive to replace; when powered off, the headset sounds even better when connected to a powerful headphone amp
    Weak Points: On Xbox it was harder to get all sound through the headphones than I expected (Microsoft's fault, not LucidSound); the Windows 10 wireless dongle is sensitive to electrical interference, so I had to move it away from where I normally use it with controllers alone; while the frequency response is quite good overall, it could use a tiny bit more treble to my preferences

    The build quality is very good. The ear cups are made of a firm plastic, and they are connected to the headband with an all-metal clamp. The headband adjustment slider is also metal, and seems very sturdy. The cups swivel somewhat, and the pin they swivel on is metal as well. This swivel point is probably the most likely place for them to break, though it doesn’t seem all that flimsy, and unlikely to happen. The headset is very attractive looking overall, feels quite rugged, and I would consider its overall build quality to be excellent.

    You can tell that a lot of care went into not just the construction, but the feature set. Everything that you would want it to do, it does exactly like you would want. For example, there are two volume dials, one for volume, and another for chat volume. By default, it will monitor your microphone, so you can hear yourself. One downside to this is that it introduces a bit of hiss into the ear chamber. If you want to turn this off, hold the right ear button for three seconds – then mic monitoring is off. It also has a built-in mic, so if you lose the detachable arm, you can still chat.

    And that’s not all they got right. If you plug it in via a wire, both mics work; if the boom is connected, it uses that, and if not, it uses the built-in one. It works just fine for mobile phone use; it took calls perfectly, with the boom mic connected or not. If the headset power is off with the wire connected, it relies on the external signal to amplify the drivers, which is exactly what you want. (Pressing the left side button also play/pauses on Android, which is also ideal.) If you turn on the headset with a wire connected, it uses the internal amp that it uses when connected wirelessly, and all of the dials work exactly as you would hope, so you can adjust the volume, mute the mic, or mute the volume when connected this way. (Chat volume adjustment only works when connected to Xbox wirelessly; that is a technical limitation.)

    Overall, I am very pleased with the amount of thought that went into the design of this headset. Other than the lack of Bluetooth (they went with the Xbox Wireless protocol instead), they really thought through what a user would want and expect when they designed this headset. Good product planning goes a long way towards a great product, and you can tell that they really cared when putting this thing together.

    When connecting it to Xbox One, you treat it just like connecting a controller: press the button on the console, and the connection button on the headset, and wait until both lights are a solid color. Pretty easy. The trick is that Microsoft (it’s not LucidSound’s fault) has made it more difficult than expected to make the Xbox send all of the sound to the headset; by default, it will only send chat audio. If you want to hear it all through there, you need to enable Windows Sonic or Atmos on the headset, so it will force everything away from your external sound system. Strange, but whatever. Also, while the headset advertises surround sound, it actually means that it uses what is built into Xbox and Windows 10; if you connect it to anything else, surround sound emulation is not available. I don’t consider this to be a major problem.

    Connecting it to a Windows 10 machine has two options: the standard 3.5mm cable (4-band, so the microphone and sound connections go through the same cable), or wirelessly, through the Xbox One wireless controller adapter. Since I already have several adapters because I love Xbox controllers for my PC, I had to try it that way. It works perfectly well, with one caveat: when I connected the wireless adapter to my USB hub, for some reason audio would drop sometimes. I’m not sure the cause; controllers work fine. If I connect the adapter directly to my computer cases’ front port, it works like a champ. It could be physical or electrical interference; either way, it’s something to note.

    LucidSound LS35X Wireless Surround Sound Gaming Headset for Xbox One

    Now, to the main course: the sound quality. In short, really good. It does not beat out my audiophile headphones; they have a bit more detail, and more air, which usually translates to the very high treble frequencies. But what is there, is very well represented, with decent highs, and thundering bass. It is a bit more bass-heavy than my preferences, but it is not offensively so. The treble frequencies are certainly all there. And on games with good bass drops, it sounds quite excellent, and the drivers never sounded stressed or overworked in my testing. It always kept composure, outputting what it was given. When I powered it with my headphone amp, it had just a bit more oomph than when powered internally, but that’s hardly surprising nor a problem; I was glad it ‘scaled’ with more power.

    While you can equalize these headphones a bit to get more treble if you like, it responds only so much to treble boosting; like many that use 50mm drivers, it seems like very high frequencies above 10KHz drop off significantly. (This is not really a failing as much as a reality; this is extremely common for most headphones, whether you realize it or not. It's not that they are gone, just much quieter. That, or my ears are aging beyond the ability to hear those frequencies. EDIT - I can still hear up to 16k. Yay!)

    The soundstage is surprisingly good. This is a quality where you can pinpoint the location of objects in the sound space, and whether or not it feels like the sounds come from within your head, or out and around you. This is particularly important for gaming headphones, but closed-back cans are always at a disadvantage, since they have a lot less space to work with, and tend to sound closed in. While they are closed and can't avoid the issue entirely, they do a great job in sounding remarkably spacious given that they are closed-back.

    While this headset is far from cheap at $179, at least they are built well and include most of the accessories that you will need. The detachable boom mic is handy, as is the port saver if you choose not to use the mic, and the USB charging cable is also a necessary addition. I really like the included travel bag; while I would perhaps have preferred a hard case, this bag feels great in your hands, both inside and out, and has a pouch for cables and such, and both the inside pouch, as well as the bag itself, are sealed with stiched-in, high-quality Velcro. I ended up adding a TRRS to dual 3.5mm splitter so I could use this headset with my laptop that has separate audio and mic jacks, and a TRRS extension cable, and they all fit in the little inside pouch just fine. I also threw my Xbox Wireless Controller adapter in there, and it all fits together fine. That, along with the headset, and you don't have to worry about scratches. It can still be damaged by hard impacts, though. If you want to protect against that, LucidSound sells a hard case for $29.99.

    The LucidSound LS35X Wireless Surround Sound Gaming Headset is one of the nicest headsets that we've had the honor to review here at Christ Centered Gamer. It's sound quality is near the top, the build quality is definitely the best, and the overall experience as an owner is top notch. I also like that the manufacturer sells replacement parts at reasonable prices on their website. That's fairly rare, as many others seem to consider their products disposable; LucidSound seems to foster more of a relationship with their customers if they so choose. As an audiophile, I am not ready to replace my more expensive headphones with these, but for purely gaming uses, especially in competitive scenarios, you really can't go wrong with them - positional accuracy is great, and nothing is obviously missing. Footsteps are easy to pick out, and details are readily available. Next time I decide to play a first-person shooter, I may be inclined to grab these - especially if I need the convenience of wireless - and if you are in the market, they are definitely worth a serious look.

  • Mixcder E9 Wireless Active Noise Canceling Headphones

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    Hardware Info:

    Mixcder E9 Wireless Active Noise Canceling Headphones

    Specifications:
    Over the ear headphones
    40mm driver
    Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz
    Impedance: 32 Ohm
    Sensitivity: 94dB
    THD: <3%

    Microphone:
    Omni-directional
    Sensitivity: -42dB
    Operation Voltage: 2V
    Impedance: <= 2.2 kOhm

    Bluetooth:
    Version 4.0
    Distance: 33ft outdoors, 49ft indoors
    Transmission Range (Hz): 2.402 GHz - 2.48 GHz
    Support Profile: HSP/HFP/A2DP/AVRCP
    Pairing Name: Mixcder E9

    Battery: Built-in 500mAh rechargeable lithium battery
    Charging Port: Micro USB 5V/1A
    Running Time: About 30 hours talking or music with ANC Off; 24 hours with ANC On
    Charging Time: About 2.5 hours
    Operating Temperature: -10C - 45C

    Included in the package:
    Compact carrying case
    3.5mm cable, length: ~5ft
    USB Micro charge cable (short; I left it wrapped up, as I have plenty)
    Airplane adapter
    Instruction manual and warranty card

    Connectors: USB (charging only), 3.5mm for stereo audio signal
    Microphone built-in
    High quality leather-like ear pads
    Folding design
    Power, volume up/down buttons
    Active Noise Canceling On/Off Switch

    Price: $59.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Mixcder for sending us this Bluetooth headphone to review!

    I have long been passionate about good sound. I was spoiled as a child, as my dad had a great sound system, though I didn’t realize how good it was until I moved out and no longer had access to it. Once I came to realize how bad cheap sound can be, and how good things can get, I have since been on a quest to be able to enjoy all content – music, games, movies, and more – with the best fidelity possible.

    Once I got my home theater system sounding great, I then turned to personal audio. I have since found nice earbuds, and I also help my friends and family find headphones that make them happy. For listening at my desk, I prefer open-backed headphones, because they tend to have a more 'real' sound - there is a certain spaciousness that only real space can provide. Also, it's generally a benefit if I can hear someone calling for me when I'm playing a game at my computer. (This is less true while listening to music at the office.)

    As great as open-back headphones can sound, they are simply not practical for all use cases. In the most extreme case, you are on public transportation, or even on an airplane. Not only do you not want to hear your neighbors, but your neighbors almost certainly don't want to hear you - open cans share both ways. At that point it's usually best to use sound-isolating, or noise-canceling headphones. The Mixcder E9s are of the latter type.

    Active noise-canceling headphones work on a unique premise: in addition to getting a good seal on your head to block out external sounds, they also have a microphone on the outside that records ambient noise and plays back a phase-shifted version of that signal back towards your ears, which leads to silence.

    If you'll forgive the physics lesson, all sound is varying levels of pressure. A single note or tone vibrates at a certain frequency, or vibrations per second, using a unit called Hertz (or Hz). As an aside, the reference note for most modern music is A4, or the 49th key on a standard full-size piano. This frequency is set at 440Hz; each A of an octave above or below is half or double of that value. The human ear can hear a total of approximately ten octaves. (Please excuse the musical digression.)

    The relevant part here is that in order for a speaker (large or small; headphone or large speaker and anything in between) to reproduce a sound, it must vibrate at exactly the same rate as what the source material or recording has. This is true of all loudspeaker technologies; everything from dynamic drivers (common cone speakers) to domes to ribbons to piezos to electrostatics and everything in between; they all operate through vibration. Sound waves are often represented as the mathematical sine wave, and if you add one sine wave to the same wave exactly 180 degrees out of phase - where up is down and down is up - they add together and you get zero.

    It seems crazy that you could actually experience this in the real world; you might think that adding two signals together would always make it louder, not quieter, but it really does work. So, by recording the sounds outside of the headphones, and playing back the phase-shifted signal in real time, all of a sudden you hear silence. Of course, just like sound reproduction isn't perfect, neither is noise canceling. But it works better than it should.

    The noise canceling on the E9 works pretty well, though I think there is room for improvement. While we don't have too many pairs of noise-canceling headphones, we do have another pair, and it's the Monoprice 10010. (They are less expensive, but not wireless/Bluetooth.) The Mixcder seems to cancel lower frequencies out better, while the Monoprice cancels out the midrange a bit better. I found the total perceived volume reduction to be a bit better on the Monoprice, but many find that lower frequency noise is more bothersome, so it really depends. Both do a very good job of significantly reducing the volume of external noise.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Sound quality is quite balanced; active noise canceling is pretty good, especially for lower frequencies; overall sounds better with noise canceling enabled; reasonably comfortable; headband is quite adjustable; headphones stay in place on your head; tons of features, with nice buttons that are responsive; excellent battery life; Bluetooth works great with my phone
    Weak Points: Significant pressure on your head; earpads are good, but could be softer, as it becomes uncomfortable after a long while; Bluetooth was unreliable with my desktop computer (though great on my phone); no microphone access via analog cable; sounds significantly better with noise canceling enabled (though with long battery life, is not a significant problem); built-in microphone sounds acceptable for calls, but does not sound all that good for voice chat

     

    The Mixcder E9 is Mixcder's new flagship headphone, and it gets a lot right. I have always found that 40mm dynamic drivers are a great sized driver, as some of the most balanced headphones I've heard use those. I find that these headphones are also well balanced - if ANC (active noise-canceling) is turned on. When it is off, they still sound good, but a bit more bassy than is my preference, but nothing is missing. Like most headphones, I'm sure the top octave could use improvement, but there's not too much up there anyway (if you are young enough to even hear it).

    You can listen to them using either Bluetooth, or a wired connection. I have tested them quite extensively, using both Bluetooth and wired modes. Bluetooth mode works quite well on my phone, and is almost entirely without connectivity issues, and the battery life is also excellent. I've used it for several days at a time in between charges; it's really great. I did have some trouble with my USB Bluetooth adapter on my desktop; it worked, but would occasionally drop out. On my other devices it's worked well.

    When you want the best audio quality, wired is always the way to go. This is certainly true with these headphones as well. They work perfectly without noise canceling enabled when connected via a wire, but I think they sound better with it on. It's also a bit louder, which shouldn't matter for most things, but on super-low-power headphone jacks like on the Nintendo 3DS, that extra bit of loudness makes all of the difference. It works quite well and sounds great on the 3DS with noise canceling enabled.

    The microphone that is built into the right earcup works okay, though from what people tell me, I sound a bit muffled to them over Discord. It's strange, because at least with my phone, I found that a recording of my own voice sounds just fine. No one on the phone has complained about the sound of the headset; just connected to my PC over Bluetooth. The microphone is not accessible at all with a wired connection.

    The headset has the noise-canceling on/off switch on the left side, and the power and volume buttons on the right side. The power button also doubles as a play/pause button while in use. You can also hold the volume up/down buttons to switch tracks. I have used other Bluetooth headsets with a similar button config, but these buttons have a nicer feel and I found it more reliable in operation as a result.

    Mixcder E9 Wireless Active Noise Canceling Headphones

     

    When it comes to comfort, that is always one of the most important aspects to any headphone. It doesn't help that I have a large noggin', which is always a challenge; I have reviewed several headsets over the years that didn't even fit. Thankfully, the Mixcder E9 does fit quite well, and has an excellent variety in supported head sizes. The earpads are good but not great; they are leather-like, and have a reasonable depth, but are a bit hard in comparison to the Monoprice 10010 mentioned earlier. If these headphones had softer pads, I think it would really help. Otherwise, the clamping force, headband, and everything else is pretty comfortable. On the plus side, it is possible to replace the earpads, but you would have to glue the replacements to the ring that the existing pads are glued to. They would just snap back on. One other point is that these headphones are pretty warm after extended use.

    My brother, who is another audio nut like me, tested out these headphones and was quite impressed with the sound quality, especially for the reasonable price and feature set. I absolutely agree. I have been using them for more than a week, and I find that the Mixcder E9 is a great-sounding headset and an excellent value. If the pads were a bit softer, the comfort could be improved. I hope Mixcder will consider that feedback and make these even better!

  • Mixcder HD901 Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

     

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    Hardware Info:

    Mixcder HD901 Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

    Specifications:
    Over the ear headphones
    40mm driver
    Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz
    Impedance: 32 Ohm
    Sensitivity: 108dB +/- 3dB
    THD: <4%

    Microphone:
    Omni-directional
    Sensitivity: -42dB
    Operation Voltage: 2V
    Impedance: <= 2.2 kOhm

    Bluetooth:
    Version 4.2
    Distance: 33ft/10m
    Transmission Range (Hz): 2.402 GHz - 2.48 GHz
    Support Profile: HSP/HFP/A2DP/AVRCP
    Pairing Name: Mixcder HD901

    Battery: Built-in 300mAh rechargeable lithium battery
    Charging Port: Micro USB 5V/1A
    Running Time: About 8 hours talking or playing time
    Charging Time: About 2 hours
    Operating Temperature: -10C - 45C

    Included in the package:

    3.5mm cable, length: ~4ft
    USB Micro charge cable (short; I left it wrapped up, as I have plenty)
    Instruction manual and warranty card

    Connectors: USB (charging only), 3.5mm for stereo audio signal
    Microphone built-in
    TF/MicroSD card slot
    Leather-like ear pads
    Folding design
    Power, volume up/down buttons
    MSRP: $24.99 (typically sells under $19.99)
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Mixcder for sending us this Bluetooth headphone to review!

    $20. The price of a good meal; far less than a tank of gas; less than most retail video games. For $20, you can also get a Mixcder HD901, a decent pair of Bluetooth headphones. Sure, the sound could be better, and common to most modern low-cost headphones, the bass is a bit overwhelming, and it lacks high-end detail. But the features included, and what sound you do get, is without a doubt, quite a bargain. Nevertheless, they do have significant flaws.

    As you can see in my unboxing and first impressions video, one of my initial thoughts was that the sound was 'plastic-sounding' and 'echoey' - where it sounds like the sound is bouncing off of something else before it reaches your ears, which is exactly what I believe is happening. All speaker drivers move in both directions when they vibrate, both forward and back, and as a result send sound waves in both directions. Some speakers/headphones use that back wave to reinforce or otherwise shape the front wave, while others throw it away. (Open-back headphones throw it away, while closed have to do something with it.)

    Another side-effect of the process of making sound is that surfaces other than the drivers themselves can inadvertently vibrate, contributing to what you hear - and that is rarely a good thing. I believe that this is happening here, also. When I described the sound as 'plastic-sounding', that's what I think it was - plastic vibration has a certain timbre to it, that I've learned to recognize over the years. While plastic can be a perfectly good speaker enclosure, this is one reason why most tend to use wood or MDF (medium density fiberboard), as those are much more musically inert materials.

    While you can use heavy, dense materials on large speakers, it is neither practical nor cost-effective to do so on headphones. Being light and comfortable, not to mention inexpensive to manufacture, is much more important when you wear them on your head, rather than place them in a room. Did I mention that these are $20?

    Thankfully, there are other ways to deal with unwanted reflections and vibrations. One way is by adding mass, but again, we want to keep these things light. Another quite successful approach is to disperse or disrupt the sound waves as they travel to their destination. It also helps that it can be done with very inexpensive materials. So, that’s what I decided to do: by adding some cotton (or fiberglass) to the inside of the headphone cups, the fibrous material absorbs some of the sound waves, while others are redirected in a different direction. In both cases, by drastically reducing direct reflections, the sound is cleaned up significantly.

    First, I found that the earphone pads are attached to their own plate, making removal trivial – just put a small flathead screwdriver in the gap behind the pads, and twist. Once you remove that, you can see that they are held in by pressure, and can easily be removed and replaced dozens of times with no damage.

    Mixcder HD901 Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

    Below that are four screws for each side.  If you remove these, you can take off what I call a tuning plate.  If you put the headphones back together now without this plate, they will sound significantly different – much less bass, and more mids.  That alone may be what some prefer, but I decided to keep going.

    Mixcder HD901 Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

    Next you pry open the headphone cup itself, along the seal line. Now, unlike some, you cannot open them up completely because of the top part, which attaches to the headband. If you try, you may find yourself with a challenge when putting them back together, so I recommend you leave them alone at this point. It is here we prepare the material and insert it.

    Mixcder HD901 Wireless Bluetooth Headphones
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Sound quality is fair; price/performance is great; simple to mod for improved sound; reasonably comfortable; headband is quite adjustable; headphones stay in place on your head; tons of features, with responsive buttons; good battery life; Bluetooth works great with my phone; TF card support works well
    Weak Points: Sounds a bit bass-heavy, and seems to have a plastic-sounding echo; earpads are decent, but could be softer, as it becomes uncomfortable after a while; Bluetooth was unreliable with my desktop computer (though great on my phone); no microphone access via analog cable; built-in microphone sounds muffled; strangely, I found that I couldn't reliably hear the other party on a phone call I made, as it would cut off the beginning of their words

    While I have access to both cotton balls and fiberglass, and both work well, I decided to stick to cotton, since it’s very inexpensive and readily available to most people. I doubt many people who read this review will have easy access to unused fiberglass insulation like I do. If you use cotton, I would suggest one cotton ball for the left side, and one and one half cotton balls for the right. (The electronics inside the left side take up quite a bit of space.) Before you just shove them into the earcup, you want to stretch out and loosen the fibers first. You want the ball unraveled and flat. If you tear it, that’s fine – you just want to avoid bunches. The idea is to disperse the sound waves, not give them another solid to bounce off of. Then, place them in the cup near the center, along the back of the earcup. You want it to loosely fill in the entire chamber. Overstuffing it can sound really bad, so avoid that at all costs.

    Once I put these back together, (I chose to leave the tuning plate in place, though I might try removing that at some point) the difference was noticeable. While it unfortunately was not able to turn these into detail-retrieval monsters, the ‘plasticy’ and ‘echoey’ sounds I was hearing are almost completely gone. It is much more well behaved, and it’s much easier to be able to understand words in songs and pick apart guitar strums. Any acoustic music really benefits from this change. As a matter of fact, I was using Yes' "Mood for a Day" as my test track while making these changes. If you have any skill in taking things apart, I would strongly recommend this simple mod if you get these Mixcder HD901 headphones.

    In day-to-day use, I found them fairly light and somewhat comfortable. I have a large noggin, so what those with a smaller head may find comfortable either doesn’t fit me at all, or is really tight. These have excellent range of adjustment, so they fit all of us well. They do start to press on my earlobes after a while, so they can't stay on forever. The pads are not as soft as I’d like, but they are totally in line with what I would expect given their price point.

    The Bluetooth functionality works well for listening to music from what I have seen. I listened to quite a bit of music from my phone, and a bit from my computer, and all worked well. The microphone is reportedly muffled, and for some reason, on the phone call I tested it out with, I had a hard time hearing the other side of the call. It’s almost like it would constantly go into and out of power saving mode, as the beginning of words were often cut off or lost. As a pure music listening device, it works quite well, but for other uses, it has lots of room for improvement. On the plus side, the buttons have a nice 'click' to them and are quick and responsive.

    The Mixcder HD901 are a great bargain for someone primarily looking for some on-ear headphones for some casual music listening. They respond well to some small mods, and I was able to get better sounding music from them as a result. The 3.5mm audio jack is pretty sensitive, so they work well as headphones from the eternally underpowered Nintendo 3DS. They isolate noise pretty well, and stay on your head, so if you wanted to jog with these on I think they'd work great. And that's probably the best thing about these headphones - they are cheap, so if you break them jogging, it's no big deal. But they are well built enough, and light enough, that they should be able to take a few licks and keep on going.

    If you are looking for a pair of 'beater' headphones, especially if cords could be a problem (or one wasted money on a phone that doesn't support them), then this is a perfect choice. It could also be a great choice for a child, since they seem like they can take a beating. I would recommend something else for critical listening; the E9 in Mixcder's family is a perfectly reasonable choice, if you are looking for both portability and sound quality. If it were for me, or any adult with more discerning tastes, and the extra cost doesn't break the bank, I would suggest the E9 over this model.

  • Motast TWS-S20 Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds

     

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    Hardware Info:

    Motast TWS-S20 Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds
    Specifications:

    In-ear True Wireless earbuds
    10mm driver
    32 Ohm Impedance
    IPX6 waterproof
    CVC8.0 noise canceling
    Touch controls interface
    USB-A to USB Micro charging cable
    Portable earbud case with built-in battery that doubles as a phone charger
    Bluetooth:
    Version 5.0
    Distance: 10 meters
    Pairing name: S20
    Battery:
    Headphone battery: 40mAh
    Charging box: 2600mAh
    Charging voltage: 5V
    Talking/Music playing time: 6 hours (in my testing, closer to 4 hours)
    Included in package:
    Earbuds inside of the included charging case
    1 foot long USB Micro charging cable
    Instruction manual and warranty card
    MSRP: $49.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Motast for sending us this product to review!

    Many cellphones no longer include a headphone jack, so Bluetooth headphones are becoming the 'new normal' for many. They are also convenient for those with an active lifestyle; let's face it - jogging, riding a bike, or mowing the lawn is a lot easier without wires. As a result, the demand for affordable, high-quality wireless Bluetooth earbuds remains high. And since most of us aren't ready to drop $200+ for some of the name brand ones out there, I'm really glad companies like Motast have stepped up to fill in the gap.

    These Motast S20 earbuds are of the truly wireless variety, which means that there is no wire connecting anything - no wire from the earbuds to each other, or a battery or Bluetooth transmitter; everything is self contained in each ear. Interestingly, that also means that you can pair them separately, if you're not careful. Or maybe that's the intention if you want to give one to another person, for some single-ear listening.

    Thankfully, these are really simple to pair; just open the case and they show up in the Bluetooth search feature of your phone. Or, if they’ve already been paired once, touch and hold for long enough and they go into pairing mode. It only takes a few seconds.

    The most important part of any earphone is first and foremost sound quality and comfort. I am very happy to report that the sound profile is reasonably well balanced, depending on the ear tips you use. I found that the smallest tips had a tinny sound, the largest far too bassy for my preference, and the middle sized ones sound decent. While they sound even better with my favorite foam ear tips, you can't charge them that way. Since there is no room on the charge case for custom tips, I settled on the mid sized ones. While these are not the last word on detail, I find them more than ‘good enough’ for the vast majority of people.

    Thankfully, these are really, really comfortable. I have worn them for hours with only occasional adjustments needed. They also sit in your ears in a way that really blocks out the sound. I'm not sure how much of that is purely isolation, and how much is the CVC8.0 noise canceling listed on the box, but it really is quite difficult to hear anyone outside. I don't hear any obvious noise canceling going on like you can easily notice on over the hear headphones, so I'm not sure if it's active or purely isolation at work. Either way, you are in your own little world while wearing these.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Sound quality is quite well balanced, and overall decent; price/performance is great; really comfortable; Bluetooth range and connection quality is really good; water resistance is helpful; noise isolation/canceling is very effective; while I'm not a fan of touch controls, these have a small enough surface to not be irritating

    Weak Points: Weak Points: Quality control is hit and miss, as I noticed that one has a battery that lasts significantly longer than the other side; I hate touch only controls, and while water resistant, water will activate the touch controls even if you don't want it to; they didn't handle getting wet all that well; silicone ear tips are unusually small, so you can't use most off the shelf tips

    It's also great that they tend to stay in place. I’ve swept the floor, rode my bicycle several miles with them in place, not to mention worked at my desk. They have fallen out only a handful of times in about a week, and not while doing anything particularly active, just when I was being clumsy putting them back in.

    As you can probably tell, from a pure functionality/sound/comfort standpoint, these are really good. (I am audiophile enough to have some expensive headphones for my desk, and these don’t compare – but for out and about these are more than good enough.) The microphone also works really well, which was a nice surprise. The noise floor is also great. My biggest complaint would be the average sound in part because they don't support a CODEC better than SBC, which is pretty much a baseline for most Bluetooth headsets. But really, this is minor unless you expect to do critical listening; these aren't good for that.

    These earbuds claim an IP7 (or is it IP6?) water resistance rating. (The description has both listed.) I’m not sure what that includes, but I decided the true test is to wear them in the shower. And... I don't recommend it. One side continued to work, but the other was flaky for a day or two until they stopped acting up and are fine now. Also, water activates the touch controls. I had to fix them countless times to get through the podcast I was listening to. Thankfully, while I really don't like touch controls in general, these have a small enough surface that is touch sensitive that during normal use they were functional and reliable otherwise.

    Overall, I’d say, considering their price, the pros of decent sound, a nice microphone, and comfort outweigh the cons of inconsistent battery life on my unit (the left ear lasts longer than the right), and annoying touch controls (you get used to it). I do hope they’ll consider a future model with buttons, though – touch may seem cool, but it’s just not as practical. I also would prefer a USB-C connector, and perhaps higher quality audio CODECs on future models.

    Motast TWS-S20 Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds

     

  • PDP Afterglow AG 7 Headset for Xbox One

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    Hardware Info:

    PDP Afterglow AG 7 Headset
    Specifications:
    Over the ear headphone
    Closed back
    Frequency Response: Unspecified (though frequency response graph is on the packaging)
    Impedance: Unspecified
    Sensitivity: Unspecified, though not relevant for Xbox One usage; anecdotally seems very sensitive
    Cable length: 3 feet wired, 40ft wireless
    Connector: Wireless USB, 3.5 mm Stereo + mic (3 band cable), USB charging port
    Retractable microphone (specs not specified)
    Microphone mute
    Chat/game balance dial, volume control on the headset (Xbox One usage only)
    Lithium-ion battery with up to 16 hours of life (for Xbox One use only)
    Bass boost/Pure Audio button (Xbox One use only)
    MSRP: $99.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you PDP for sending us a hat and this headset to review!

    Performance Designed Products (PDP) has become well known for their brightly colored controllers and glowing neon headsets, as well as many other gaming related peripherals.  We have purchased some of their lower priced controllers in the past, like their Rock Candy line.  While the products always functioned as expected, they did feel less durable than their OEM counterparts.  It seems like PDP is really stepping up on their build quality with recent products, and the Afterglow AG 7 headset is emblematic of this.

    The AG 7 feels really solid.  It is adjustable for large to small heads, and the top strap has quality padding that should last quite a while, with a firm grip holding it on your head without being uncomfortable, though it could get sweaty after a while.  The ear pads are also removable, and the interior of the headphone is accessible, so modding is possible.  However, putting those pads back on is not easy at all.  The size adjustments click firmly into place, and don't slide around by accident.  On the whole, it feels well built and strong, with solid plastic and metal holding it together.  I expect them to last a fairly long time with regular use; as long as they are not bent unnaturally far in any one direction, since they do not fold DJ style.  They have not given up on their trademark color schemes for the Afterglow model line – this one glows a bright neon green while in use on Xbox One; for other uses, the glow is entirely optional, and just wastes batteries.

    When plugged into a PC, the AG 7 identifies itself as an Xbox One controller. Since it does not identify as a sound device, Windows can't use it as one.  Of course there are no controller buttons, so it can't be used that way either.  There is a 3.5mm jack that can be used like every other headphone, but none of the extra features are available when used this way.  My cellphone did register it as a headset, and the microphone sound was very clear for the other listener.  I had much less success on PC, as I couldn't get the microphone to work acceptably there.

    On Xbox One, the system instantly recognizes it as a headset and will quickly route sound and chat functionality to the headset.  It was pretty much plug and play, and it worked very well.  I don't play Xbox games online, so I wasn't really able to test that part, but if it sounds as good as it does for a cellphone microphone, then I would expect voices to come through very clearly online.  

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fits my large noggin comfortably; lots of bass, and a bass boost button for even more; frequency response chart seems honest; seems very efficient; retractable (and bendy) microphone that works well on a mobile phone
    Weak Points: Lots of bass; distant mids and highs; most features require Xbox One; even PCs can't use the wireless feature; I couldn't get the microphone to work well on two test PCs, even after tweaking mic boost

     So, after all of that, how does it sound?  Well, it still follows the unfortunate modern pattern of boosting the bass above most other frequency ranges.  The nice thing about PDP here is that they actually put their frequency response chart right on the box, which I greatly appreciate.  They compare Pure Audio with Bass Boost, and show competing response charts with them both.  Bass boost pushes up everything from about 200Hz on down by about 10db, which is quite a lot.  The graphs also show a large spike at around 9-10KHz, which does noticeably improve the high end compared to other gaming headsets we reviewed recently, like the SteelSeries.  Unfortunately, most of the midrange and lower treble is still substantially recessed, and it sounds that way.  But at least they are honest about it, and for that, I applaud them.

    If it's not obvious, I am not a fan of the massively boosted bass on modern gaming headsets.  It's mostly because I know what good audio sounds like; I have invested much in my home audio system.  But, by publishing the frequency response graphs, it is much easier to make intelligent equalizer decisions to make them sound much better for PC or mobile use.  With some strategic cuts (and a few boosts, also) they sound pretty good after all.  My biggest disappointment, outside of how they sound unequalized, was that I could not get the microphone to work well on either of my PCs.  And that it's wireless only on Xbox One.  But, there it works quite well.  If I ever had a need to play Xbox One without my normal speaker system on, or play a game that my children should not hear, I won't hesitate to grab the PDP Afterglow AG 7.

     

  • PDP LVL40 Wired Stereo Headset (Switch)

     

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    Hardware Info:

    PDP LVL40 Wired Stereo Headset 
    Specifications:
    On-ear headphones
    40mm driver
    Frequency response: N/A
    Impedance: N/A
    Sensitivity: N/A
    Connectivity: 4 feet long 3.5mm cable
    Microphone type: built-in boom mic
    Soft, breathable fabric ear pads with plush foam padding
    Volume wheels
    Microphone mute by swinging the mic arm up
    Weight: Approximately 200g (I weighed my sample)
    Licensed by Nintendo
    MSRP: $29.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you PDP for sending us this headset to review!

    As an audio lover (and also a cheapskate), I'm always looking for great bargains that I can share with our readers. I've come to accept that great sound simply comes with a price, so I've since had to splurge on expensive headphones for myself, but I still look out for hidden gems; it's just in my nature. So when PDP offered to send these our way, I jumped at the chance. And you know what? For a kid or undiscerning gamer in need of the basics, these more than do the job.

    Let's first start with the bad. The cable is short, so you're pretty much expected to plug these into something very close to you. A game controller with 3.5mm jack, a handheld console, or a laptop at arms length all make great sense with a cable of this size. Thankfully, there is no reason it shouldn't work fine with an extension cord.

    Another thing I have to point out is that it looks like a toy - especially the Switch version, as PDP sells Xbox and PlayStation versions that are functionally identical except for the color scheme. It's all plastic, and the left and right side cups use the bright neon red and baby blue of the Joy Cons. If you use this in public, please take pictures of the reactions of those around you! I bet it would make for a great social media post.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Just large enough for my big noggin; sound quality is way better than I expected for this market and price point; microphone works great; two-year warranty
    Weak Points: Four-foot cable is quite short if not using in a handheld way; ear cups don't swivel at all; it looks like a toy (especially with Nintendo colors)

    Thankfully, this all-plastic build does mean that it's fairly sturdy, and can take a beating. It's the perfect headset for a child (or teenager on a budget). I suppose the downside of the super-sturdy build as it is is that the ear cups don't swivel at all. As a result you pretty much have to wear it perfectly centered if you want the cups pressed against the ears as much as possible, which is ideal for best sound quality.

    Speaking of which, I've kind of gotten used to what to expect with inexpensive headphones, and these exceed that by a fair bit. Cheap headphones tend to sound overly bassy, or tinny. These are remarkably balanced for what they are. While listening to headphones for the first time, I use several points to evaluate them, but it all mostly boils down to three things: comfort, frequency response, and detail retrieval. There are others, like soundstage, but those are the foundation which others build upon.

    These headphones are reasonably comfortable, but not overly so. Their design, which should be quite uncomfortable, that are somewhat rescued by the nice ear pads. If the cups twisted it would be much more comfortable, but again, it would also be more fragile.

    PDP LVL40 Wired Stereo Headset

    The sound is what surprised me the most. They are by no means audiophile quality. But what I did find is a headphone with a frequency response balance that is far better than most cheap headphones. To put them in perspective, they are a bit darker/bassier than a Koss Portapro, but quite a bit more balanced than PDP's older, discontinued headphones that we reviewed several years ago. On the flipside, their detail retrieval is not that great. The Koss' wipe them out in this category. However, what I've found is that for many non-discerning listeners, frequency response is often far more important than detail retrieval. And these are reasonably well balanced, especially at their price point.

    I also found that the microphone works great. I've found headsets with cheap mics that are barely usable, but these sound quite nice for the other end of the chat/call/etc. I tested it on both Discord and my cellphone with positive results. (I don't voice chat on any Switch games.)

    The PDP LVL40 Wired Stereo Headset for Nintendo Switch is far better than I expected at the inexpensive price of $29.99. It has a fairly balanced sound, and is built to take abuse. It also has a two-year warranty for those who manage to break it anyway. If you are looking for an inexpensive headset for a kid to go with their new Switch Lite (or, conversely, PDP's Afterglow Deluxe+ Audio Wired Controller for Switch), you can't go wrong with this PDP LVL40 headset.

  • Roccat Elo 7.1 Air Wireless Surround Sound RGB Gaming Headset

     

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    Hardware Info:

    Roccat Elo 7.1 Air
    Specifications:
    Over the ear headphones
    50mm driver with Neodymium magnets
    Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz
    Connectivity: Wireless (PC, Nintendo Switch, and more via USB dongle)
    Wireless range: 30ft
    Microphone type: removable microphone
    Plastic leather ear pads with foam cushioning
    Chat and volume wheels
    Power and mute buttons
    USB-C charging port
    Includes approximately 2m long USB-C charging cable
    Expected battery life: 24 hours
    Glasses-friendly design
    RGB fully controllable lighting
    MSRP: $99.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Turtle Beach/Roccat for sending us this headset to review!

    The PC peripheral market has been an interesting one, as over the last several years many new players have entered the market, with products of various quality. I've seen reviews of Roccat devices, as well as floor models, and always had a positive impression, but I've never had the chance to test out their products myself. Thankfully, Turtle Beach, who wholly owns Roccat as of mid-2019, sent us this headset to review along with some of their Turtle Beach branded console headsets. And with great battery life, build quality, comfort, and adjustable sound quality, I like these a whole lot.

    I don't have much experience with their previous headset line, so I can't say how much things have changed outside of looks, but what I find fascinating is how much this headset both has obvious Turtle Beach DNA, as well as Roccat's, making something really new. Having recent access to Turtle Beach's Stealth 600 Gen 2, it's quite obvious that the wireless dongle, as well as the left-ear controls on the headset comes straight from their design labs. The ear cups include a protruding lip on the bottom, which is also a direct design cue from the Stealth 600. While that's where much of the obvious similarities end, the common ancestry is still kind of obvious, especially when comparing them against their previous models (currently on clearance on Roccat's website).

    With that said, considering my overall positive experience with the Stealth 600 Gen 2, this is far from a bad thing! My main problem with the 600 was that the transmitter came apart on me; this one has been rock solid, despite a similar design. The amplifier in the headset, the wireless signal quality, battery life, and general sound quality are all positive carryovers from the Turtle Beach designs. What equally surprised me is not just how much similarity there is between the equally priced Stealth 600 Gen 2 and this Roccat Elo 7.1 Air, but also how incredibly different they are.

    This headset really does feel truly tailored for the PC gaming market. Rather than a flip-up microphone, this one has a removable one, which is both a pro and a con - sometimes you want the headset as light as possible, which removing it allows you to do. I was surprised how much lighter it felt when removed. And when attached, it reaches right to your mouth, and is adjustable, making for a crystal-clear recording or conversation. I've done several Twitch streams with this headset, and it's performed admirably. Of course, a downside is that you could lose the microphone, which is always a risk. I also wish that the USB transmitter dongle had a place you could hide it inside the headset; I've just been shoving them into the earpads for now.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Quite comfortable, especially after a pad swap; replaceable earpads; sounds quite good, especially with the flexible EQ built into the drivers; very well built, with a hybrid plastic and metal design; I really like the floating headband design; even without drivers, it just works in a bunch of devices; supports 96KHz/24-bit audio sample rate; great battery life
    Weak Points: Earpads are initially comfortable but are eventually painful for my large ears; default sound is a bit more bass-heavy than my preference, but the built-in EQ makes that easy to fix; I wish there was a place to store the transmitter as it could be easy to lose; it would be nice if the 'Superhuman Hearing' button could be swapped out for something else; driver's handling of large screens is not optimal

    With that said, I absolutely love suspension-style headbands, and this one is quite nice. When done properly, they automatically adjust to the head size of the wearer, and the earcups just float exactly where they need to be. I won't say that there is no pressure on the top of my head, as there is, but overall the headband is quite comfortable and I've worn them for several hours at a time without issue. The stock earpads are also quite comfortable out of the box, and are a great match, unless you have particularly large ears, like I do.

    I am a lucky one with big ears. It doesn't really impact much but my choice of headphones, of course. The built-in earpads are made of quite soft plastic leather and foam that feels great at first - at least for me. I find that during an extended wearing session, the tops of my ears start to hurt. This is very common with me and a lot of earphones, again, because my satellites are larger than normal. What this means is that I have a collection of third-party earpads just laying around looking for their perfect match - just because my ears are so, so picky.

    Humorously, if you read my Turtle Beach Stealth 600 Gen 2 review, you may have noticed that my cheap Shure 840 pad clones I had laying around saved the day in a big way for that headset. And sure enough, they also work great here - but for opposite reasons. The ear cups on these Roccats are actually significantly larger than the ones on the 600, so the 840 pads fit almost perfectly. And while I was looking for more bass with the 600s, I actually prefer a bit less bass than the default pads that come with these Elos, and the 840 pads deliver that, too. But the main reason is comfort - they cover my entire ear rather than just most of it. Like almost all plastic leather pads, of course they get warm after a while, but there's not much we can do about that without switching materials.

    The default, unequalized sound profile on these Roccats is a bit more bass-heavy than is my preference (with slightly recessed treble), but it's otherwise quite good, with nothing missing. The good news is that the driver software has a built-in equalizer that is very easy to use - and the 'Instrument' preset nearly perfectly resolves my preference for a bit more treble detail. I'm sure an alternate earpad could also solve the same problem, but the equalizer software works great, and for most users that is more than good enough. With that said, because this headset uses a standard USB connector, I found it works quite well in all kinds of 'unsupported' environments.

    It works great connected to Linux or macOS. It also works great on Nintendo Switch, either docked or with an OTG cable; that same cable also works perfectly with my Android phone. It does work on PS4, but sadly the default volume (even on max) is too low to be usable, and the headset lacks any built-in volume controls, but merely passes that through to the connecting device's operating systems. Of course this headset is not sold or designed to work on PS4, so it not working is no surprise. I do wish that this headset had a 3.5mm jack for situations where a wired headset is useful, but thankfully the versatile USB connector works just fine in most cases.

    Roccat Elo 7.1 Air

    The software, Roccat's Swarm, is fairly simple and does the job. It supports AIMO lighting, which allows coordination with various other Roccat accessories, for synchronized lighting among them all. It also supports simpler illumination for just the headset itself, if you haven't bought into Roccat's ecosystem. It has color cycle, static color, heartbeat, breathing, and blinking support.

    As for the audio features of Roccat Swarm, it has up to five default profiles, and you can create even more than that, and have it switch per-game if you like. You can choose common sample rates, from 44.1KHz/16-bit up to 96KHz/24-bit right from the driver software. I believe this is the only way to make these changes, and the drivers take that control away from Windows. Some features, like 'Voice Clarity' and 'Audio Clarity' are honestly kind of gimmicky and I don't recommend their use. The 'Bass EQ' feature simply modifies the 10-band equalizer in preset ways. There are also several EQ presets; like I said before, my favorite is the 'Instrument' preset, though several others are also useful. You can make a custom EQ as well; feel free to make these sound any way you like. I appreciate that these settings are global defaults, so you really can set it and forget it.

    Also on offer, and likely the cause of the '7.1' in the name, is the virtual 7.1 surround sound mode available. You can choose between 2.0 (default) and 7.1 surround sound modes. There is also a 'Clarity' and 'Balanced' mode for the 7.1 setting. As of right now, there is no way to use the Windows built-in surround sound emulation, including Windows Sonic, Dolby Atmos, or DTS Headphone: X, but Roccat has promised that adding those modes to Swarm is planned for a future update.

    Other features include microphone monitoring (which has a dedicated dial on the headset), noise cancellation for both the microphone and incoming voice chats, and the microphone sample rate for extra clarity or compatibility. You can also change your voice if you want to obscure your identity or just have fun. The last but not least feature is Turtle Beach's exclusive 'Superhuman Hearing', which can be accessed at any time via pressing the power button (but not holding it down) on the headset itself. It's intended to make hearing quiet sound effects easier to give you a competitive advantage. It's not my cup of tea, but no doubt useful to some.

    The Roccat Elo 7.1 Air is honestly a really good headset that's impressed me with how well it works; even though I have much more expensive and higher quality headphones for my desk, I could easily see myself reaching for these because they are both 'good enough' and fussproof - they just work, sound quite good and are comfortable, especially after small modifications. I guess if I had to look for nitpicks not already mentioned, the headset's battery low indicator didn't seem that accurate to me; the battery status only drops in increments of 25%, so it was lower than I expected the one time it did run out. The nice thing is, with that two meter included charge cable, you can plug it in to charge it while continuing to use it wirelessly with no interruptions to gaming. If you're in the market for a wireless PC headset, the Roccat Elo 7.1 Air deserves a serious look.

  • SteelSeries Siberia V3 Gaming Headset

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    Hardware Info:

    SteelSeries Siberia V3
    Specifications:
    Over the ear headphone
    Closed back
    Frequency Response: 10-28,000Hz
    Impedance: 35 Ohm
    Sensitivity: 80 dB
    Cable length: 3 feet
    Connector: 3.5 mm & dual 3.5 mm PC Adapter
    Retractable microphone with 50 – 16000 Hz Frequency Response and -42 dB Sensitivity
    Microphone mute switch
    MSRP: $99.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you SteelSeries for sending this to us for review!

    SteelSeries is a gaming peripheral company that manufacturers mice, keyboards, surfaces, controllers, and gaming headsets.  This is my first time trying out a Siberia headset, so I cannot compare it to previous iterations; according to other reviews online, the V2 was known for its sound quality.  The V3 series was re-designed from the ground up, for both comfort and sound.  SteelSeries is so confident in their build quality that they are offering a 30 day money back guarantee if you buy it from their website.  Alternatively, you can buy it from Amazon for $30 less.

    There are two color variants: all black, or white with black accents.  For forty dollars more you can get customizable LED lights on the outer ear covers.  There are two head straps, and the innermost one is designed to adjust automatically.  Sadly, my head is large enough that I can't use this headset without more available expansion.  For that reason alone I would have sent them back on SteelSeries' dime.  For the purposes of this review, I moved the adjustment strap behind my head, where I was able to get a reasonable seal around my ears.  Getting a good seal is critical for deep bass.

    Steelseries Siberia V3
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Comfortable fit; retractable microphone; good positional awareness; mic has good gain, and a handy mute switch
    Weak Points: Does not stretch enough for gamers with big heads; audio cable is not detachable from the headset; bass heavy, with recessed highs; no hardware volume control; microphone has poor bass recording, which makes male users sound a bit squawky, but easy to understand

    The ear pads are very comfortable, and fit my large ears and my wife's small ears equally well.  Since they are closed back headphones, you may not hear outside noises as you would with open back ones.  They have no active noise canceling.  I do wish that more headphones would adopt removable cables, since it's so common for cables to be pulled, and I love being able to pick the cable of the length of my choosing.  Unfortunately, this one is built in.

    The microphone has an appropriate amount of gain and is reasonably clear.  It seems to work better for female rather than male voices, since the bassier frequencies don't come through as well.  It's well designed and works flawlessly when using Twitch, TeamSpeak, Skype, and other voice chat applications.  The microphone is adjustable and does not have to be extended to be used.  I learned the hard way that it should be further away from my mouth to avoid picking up every breath I took.  There is a mute switch to easily disable the microphone.  I wish there was a hardware volume adjuster, but sadly, there is not.

    The build quality is fairly good.  It seems like it could survive a fair amount of use.  My only gripe (which is very slight) is that it is not immediately obvious if there is any way to disassemble the Siberia V3 without breaking something.  I have been known to mod headphones on several occasions; in fact, only one of the headphones I use regularly was good enough out of the box that I didn't mod it at all, and that was the HIS co:caine headphone we reviewed <here>.  My Monoprice headphones, as well as my nicer (and more expensive) Pioneer SE-A1000s did not come out unscathed. The reason: overemphasized bass.

    Steelseries Siberia V3

    Unfortunately, this headphone suffers from a similar fate.  I understand that some kinds of music benefit from a boosted low end.  Some games do as well.  But when the balance is off enough that other kinds border on unlistenable, it's really a shame.  Everyone who studies audio understands that, when properly blind tested, people tend to think a flat frequency response sounds the best overall.  And that makes sense – it reproduces the input signal the most faithfully.  Even the popular slightly 'smiley face' EQ – which I admit I enjoy at times – has to be done carefully, and not overdone. Unfortunately, it was not done carefully here.

    For games, it does a pretty good job of expressing positional awareness to the listener, and in that sense, would be a good asset for competitive FPS players.  It was one of the best headphones for the Razer Surround Pro based testing I did. Though, to be fair, it was not 'blind' tested; I knew which pair I was using during the tests.

    There is a lot to like with the SteelSeries Siberia V3.  It's very comfortable if you have a smaller (or normal sized) head; larger noggins beware.  The build quality is very good.  The mic is very conveniently located, and it's great to have a mute switch.  It also includes adapters for use on a smartphone and some laptops which use TRRS plugs, or a PC with traditional dual stereo plugs.  It also uses some designs that more expensive headphones use, like angled drivers.  Unfortunately, it really misses the mark on their frequency response targets.  I was playing with EQ, trying to get it to sound balanced, and I had to cut and boost on the order of 12db+ to get it even close to listenable.  It's really too bad; if online reviews and frequency response plots are to be believed, the V2 had a much shallower slope downward than this one does.  Redesigning something from the ground up can often yield better results, if you aim for the right thing.

    https://allbestgamingheadset.com/

  • T16 Wireless Waterproof Earbuds

     

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    Hardware Info:

    T16 Wireless Waterproof Earbuds
    Release date: May 2020
    Connection: Bluetooth 5.0
    Charging Cable: Micro USB
    Price: $21.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank LYSJ-US for sending us these stereo earbuds to review!

    With the headphone plug no longer being standard on cellphones these days it’s worth looking into Bluetooth alternatives. My oldest and youngest were the first to abandon wired earbuds, and now my middle child is the only one in our family who has not gone wireless yet. Name brand wireless earbuds can set you back $150 or more. The Layajia waterproof wireless earbuds are only $21.99 and sound pretty good. They work great for listening to music and for phone calls.

    Pairing is a cinch and I like how they show the battery level in the Bluetooth device list. Like many wireless earbuds, these have touch controls which can be a little confusing. Double tapping either earbud will pause or play your music. If you want to skip to the next song, you have to tap on the right earbud for a couple of seconds. If you want to go to the previous track, you have to tap the left earbud for a couple of seconds. Going back two tracks if you accidentally skip ahead is not possible. Overall, the touch controls felt just right and are not too sensitive.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Excellent quality for the price
    Weak Points: Hard to tell which ear bud goes in which ear since they’re not clearly labeled

    This is a no-frills set of earbuds, when the case is charging the singular LED will illuminate. The compact case can be charged with a micro USB cable. The earbuds will be charged by the case when they’re put back into it. After 10 minutes of inactivity, the earbuds will power off. The battery life on these earbuds is great! The case has the earbuds labeled L & R and they can only fit in one way. Supposedly, the earbuds themselves are labeled, but if so, they’re hard to read.

    Like many other wireless earbuds, these ones have audible notifications letting you know when they’re connected and when you have an incoming call. Each of the earbuds has an led that flashes orange and white when pairing and is solid orange when charging.

    T16 Wireless Waterproof Earbuds
    For comfort reasons I’ve always preferred headphones over earbuds. This set is surprisingly comfortable and I have worn them while working for over an hour. After several days of use I still have yet to charge the case a second time. The range on these earbuds is a generous 33 feet. I did notice cutting out when going into various rooms and leaving my phone behind.

    The sound quality is great and I found them to be very balanced and not bass heavy. Phone calls were clear on both ends.

    Included with these earbuds are several pairs of tips in various sizes, an instruction manual (with badly translated English), and a card with a website/QR code on how to activate a lifetime warranty. All in all these earbuds are great for the money and I highly recommend them.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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