We’ve noticed that one of the important factors in team game coordination and success is the extent of communication. That’s no big surprise for anyone, but it’s especially true for faster-paced games such as shooters and MOBAs. Oftentimes, text wheels and typing are decent, but in the heat of the moment nothing beats using a mic to communicate.
Unfortunately, many users may not have much desk space for a desk mic or might have a lot of background noise, making it less than ideal to grab a broadcast mic. Further, for folks who already own high-end headphones that they don’t want to replace with a headset (which oftentimes have mediocre mics and speakers), it’d be nice to keep using those headphones just with a mic attachment. This leaves few options except for clip-on mics (which are easy to hit, annoying to use, and sometimes require amps) or something like the Antlion ModMic. We previously reviewed the ModMic 4 and found it to be a reliable product, with some minor issues that were largely overlooked at its price tag.
We just received Antlion’s new version of the ModMic for review: the ModMic 5. This new version features more robust build quality, omni- and uni-directional mics, and a removable mute switch, but it also has a higher price tag of $70.
A new wireless gaming headset was announced by Logitech today. The G533 features a lower MSRP and higher battery life than its current closest relatives, the G933 Artemis Spectrum and G930, as well as a sleek new look.
Our most recent Logitech headset review was of the Artemis Spectrum, a headset that comes in both wired (G633) and wireless (G933) varieties—technically, we reviewed the wired version, but they’re pretty close to identical. Looking back, the first obvious difference in specs is that the Spectrum has an impedance of 39 Ohms compared to the new G533’s 32. This could explain the second obvious difference, which is the G533’s advertised battery life of 15 hours, up from the Spectrum’s 12 (or even less with its LEDs lit). A power switch, volume adjustment, and a reprogrammable mic mute button are the only external controls, which the Spectrum has in addition to 3 dedicated programmable G-buttons. The rechargeable batteries are removable for easy replacement, one notable improvement over the Spectrum.
In an industry first for the last year, Logitech may also be the only company making a product that moves away from the RGB LED craze, at least partially. Logitech was a bit ahead of the game on LED illumination, and went full "Spectrum" (their RGB LED signifier) for mice, keyboards, and headsets through 2016. Honestly, it's refreshing to not write about a product that bases its entire existence on the premise of RGB LEDs.
Teamwork is vitally important in current leading games: Dota 2, Overwatch, Rocket League, League of Legends, Battlefield 1’s new squad system -- the industry has been trending toward team-heavy play for a few years now. Voice chat is the only real solution to communication in anything faster paced, and so we normally look toward headsets for an easy plug-and-play solution. Unfortunately, bad microphones plague even the most expensive headsets.
Headsets will often bundle together a mediocre quality mic and headphones and price it above what each would be worth individually. On top of that, for folks already in possession of higher quality standalone headphones, replacing them with a headset with worse sound quality isn’t that appealing. Clip-on and desk (see: Yeti, Snowball) mics are convenient for PC gamers who already have nice headphones (or for some other reason don’t want a headset), and can provide higher quality input. Not always -- but it’s not hard to beat the average headset.
Another unique option other than a clip-on or desktop mic is the Antlion ModMic. Antlion’s ModMic has a magnet on an adjustable mic which sticks to another base (which also has a magnet), and all of this is placed onto the side of the headphones using adhesive. This allows for users to attach a headset style/boom mic to the side of their already-good headphones. Currently, both the ModMic 4.0 Uni-directional and Omni-directional versions (with mute) both are $50 on Antlion’s site and $55 on Amazon. Overall, it achieves its goal well by allowing users to use their own headphones while also having a decent quality adjustable mic. In this review of Antlion’s ModMic 4.0, we’ll look at mic quality, usability, and build/sound quality.
HyperX’s new Cloud Revolver headset champions the Cloud II, in the process shifting toward revitalized ID and badging. The Revolver demonstrably tunes headset fitment with the introduction of a suspension headband design, similar in core concept to some popular SteelSeires headsets, and mounts more circular ear cups. The Cloud II (reviewed here) uses somewhat of an oblong circle for its head phone design, an immutable headband, different drivers, and a different mic. Everything’s different at some level – probably a good thing for a maturing division of a large company.
The Revolver is outfitted with one 50mm driver per ear. At this time, HyperX didn’t have available information on diaphragm material and driver spec, but we’ll look more closely at those items when the review window opens. The positioning of the drivers and ear cup design enforces a wider soundstage, something which is generally beneficial to competitive FPS players.
Gaming headsets have seen a number of improvements through 2015, especially in the department of LEDs – because RGB connotes superiority, apparently – and DTS/Dolby partnerships. Even so, some of our favorite mainstays have survived years of new releases and refreshes, remaining on this year's “Best of 2015” holiday buyer's guide.
The best headsets for gaming can be found below, listed between $50 and $220, with some additional thoughts on headsets for FPS, RPGs, and other types of games.
Note that we're in the process of reviewing a few of these; you can also find some of our existing reviews linked below.
Previous facility tours have brought us to NVIDIA's silicon failure analysis lab and Kingston's automated SMT line, pulling the curtains aside for an inside look at how devices are made. Yesterday, we toured Logitech's acoustics engineering and compliance labs to explore software, high-voltage test equipment, and the foamy confines of Mr. HATS' anechoic fortress of solitude.
Below is a video interview with Logitech Acoustics Engineering Manager Matt Green, followed by in-depth article content and photos.
The HyperX Cloud II headset is an update to the first Cloud, using an identical chassis and build with a few key upgrades. The Cloud II still allows swappable ear cups with leatherette or memory foam, uses a braided cable for durability, and uses two 53mm sound drivers. HyperX's use of 53mm drivers grants the Cloud some of the largest gaming headset drivers out there, generally matching up against 40mm and 50mm competition.
The major difference with the Cloud II against its predecessor is the introduction of an in-house designed DSP, responsible for processing virtual surround at 7.1 channels; the original cloud delivered a strict stereo output and was connected via two 3.5mm jacks. Kingston's new Cloud uses a single, 4-pole 3.5mm jack (left output, right output, mic, ground) that connects to the DSP (Digital Signal Processor, basically an in-line sound card), which then attaches to the host via USB. The DSP is tasked with processing the audio, including mic input.
Frequency response (output) is tuned to 15Hz – 25KHz on the Cloud II, affording a range slightly wider than nearby competition (normally 20Hz-20KHz), though this won't necessarily be all that noticeable to most users.
Our long-standing favorites on the site have been Plantronics' GameCom 780 ($60) & 788 refresh ($80). Priced at $80, the Cloud II headset serves as a direct alternative to the Plantronics 788 and offers similar gaming audio features.
In studies distributed by DFC Intelligence, we've learned that approximately half of all PC gamers use a headset for audio while gaming. Even in that user group, there's an undefined overlap of speaker users. Headsets offer microphone input and positional audio that can be advantageous to quick and accurate reactions to in-game events – footsteps being the easy example – but not all games have competitive demands. Speakers offer a versatility and quality that cannot be offered by the average gaming headset, ensuring that high-quality sound systems retain relevance even in gaming environments.
We've had a chance to look over Genius' GX Gaming 2.1 2000 ($96) speaker system, including a control hub and 29W subwoofer. The unit was deployed on our gaming HTPC, a high-end living room home-theater setup that demands speaker versatility and ease-of-use. The test setup had Genius' 2.1 speakers connected to a TV/PC, turntable (record player), game console, and line-in MP3 player all simultaneously.
Six new headset SKUs just hit the gaming market, all from eSports sponsor and peripheral manufacturer SteelSeries. The company has updated its lineup to scale from $60 at entry-level up through $200 with the Elite series of headsets. We've previously gotten hands-on with SteelSeries' Siberia Elite, a high-end gaming headset that's getting an update in this launch cycle.
SteelSeries new headset stack looks like this:
HyperX, Kingston's premier gaming line, announced on Wednesday the release of a white version of their Cloud gaming headset. We've been following this equipment since Kingston first announced the release of the black version. This headset has already won numerous awards this year and is used by a number of e-sports teams. As it's just a recoloring of their current headset, the specs are identical to the original version.
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