enfrdeitptrues

Headset

  • boxart
    Hardware Info:

    Specifications
    30mm Driver
    Impedance: 32ohm
    Sensitivity: 85+/[email protected] 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.

  • boxart
    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.

  • boxart
    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.

  • boxart
    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.

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    boxart
    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.

  •  

    boxart
    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.

  • boxart
    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.

  • boxart
    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.

  • boxart
    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!

  • boxart
    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.

     

  • boxart
    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.

  • boxart
    Hardware Info:

    XROUND XPUMP
    Proprietary DSP technology to simulate surround sound for both stereo speakers and headphones
    Approximately 3 5/8” L x 1 1/8” W x 5/8” D
    Features 1x 3.5mm stereo headphone jack in and another for out
    Micro USB charging port for up to 12 hours of run time
    Headphone or speaker mode slider switch
    Volume +/- buttons
    XROUND mode enable/disable toggle button
    MSRP: $119

    Thank you XROUND for allowing us to evaluate a prototype XPUMP device!

    While slightly outside of our core mission here at Christ Centered Gamer, I personally also happen to have a rather relentless audio hobby.  I have built up over the years, a piece at a time, a home theater that I am rather proud of.  This includes fairly high end modern electronics, as well as classic high end speakers that I have personally refurbished.  It has become a very rewarding hobby, and one that my wife tolerates, given that she gets to enjoy the fruits of my labor.  

    Having trained my ears over the years on what proper high quality audio reproduction is supposed to sound like, I always look forward to seeing any audio related products that we have the chance to review.  That is why most of the gaming audio products like headphones or headsets that we have the opportunity to test I have taken the time to review.  I will admit that my particular tastes, like anyone else's who is deep into any hobby, may not necessarily represent what the mainstream prefers (or thinks that they do), but that is common in any somewhat subjective field, and especially in audio.

    Generally speaking, the ideal audio system would be able to faithfully and exactly reproduce what was recorded by the original microphones at any desired volume – and sound exactly the same to anyone sitting within listening range.  That is typically the main goal, and of course, it is never actually achieved, since all reproduction systems are always some set of compromises.  These may be cost, size, frequency response, dynamic range, dispersion properties, distortion, room interaction, or a myriad of other reasons.  With XROUND's bold claims to improve any stereo system, I had to take the opportunity to give it a try.

    XROUND's XPUMP promises to improve on virtually any set of stereo speakers, by utilizing their patented algorithms and DSP processing to offer immersive sound for everyone.  Since many people do not have the room or budget for a full surround sound speaker setup, the idea here is that this tiny device can replicate much of the experience.

    It has been known for many years that throwing sound around the room in different ways can interact with the room and create the illusion of sound coming from different places.  While I am hardly a fan of Bose, their classic 901s were designed on this principle, and have their fans as a result.  Today, many high end speaker systems use a dipole (or bipole) effect of radiating sound both forward and backward to create an illusion of spaciousness, or sound that is harder to localize, therefore feeling more natural.  The science behind many of these traits of room interaction and directionality has become more and more well understood, and is the basis for many implementations of virtual 7.1 surround sound in various headphones, as well as the recent invention of the soundbar.  Again, while hardly a proper replacement for a real surround sound system (much less a live event), these techniques help bridge the gap in the many compromises that can make up audio reproduction today.

    XROUND XPUMP
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Surround effect works well, especially with speakers pointed forward into a room
    Weak Points: Undesirable EQ doesn't always improve sound quality; signal quality is not the best, sometimes making detail harder to follow and increasing noise level

    The goal of the XPUMP is to apply these as well as other patented methods to try to simulate a proper surround sound system utilizing just stereo speakers, and the DSP processing power contained in this tiny box.  In the current version, only an analog stereo signal goes in, and another stereo signal goes out, via two 1/8” (or 3.5mm) headphone jacks.  This way, it works with everything from a mobile phone to some larger sound systems.  Once you press the XROUND button, the DSP gets to work and tries to greatly enlarge the sound field and make you think your sound is all around you.

    There are two modes, which are set via a slider: headphone and speaker mode.  The idea is that you need a substantially different sound field for each type of audio device.  What I found was that they also targeted a very different sound signature as well.

    At first, I tried connecting these to several different pairs of my headphones.  I found a few curious things.  First of all, in pass-through mode (with XROUND disengaged), you could adjust the volume to be a mild amplifier/headphone amp, but if you pushed it too far, you would definitely hear distortion.  If the input audio signal was too high, it would overload the device and appeared to do something similar to an overflow - the sound would just bottom out, with large swaths of the frequencies getting very quiet.  It is strange, but avoidable if you need the input source quieter.  I also found that, with XROUND engaged, what you hear dramatically changes.  I'm not sure it was better.  Or at least it definitely was not to my taste.

    If you have read any headphone reviews written by me in the past, you would know that I always aim for fairly flat headphones, with a high emphasis on detail retrieval.  For me, I want to hear each instrument, each voice, with utmost clarity and perceptibility, and all at the same time.  When this is done, then I enjoy nuances much more, which helps me be more involved in the music, and really feel the talents of the artists.  This also benefits games, since if you can still hear them coming in the midst of an explosion or other loud impact, then you have an advantage.

    However, the XPUMP in headphone mode activates my pet peeve #1: massive bass boost. They just about kill the clarity of whatever I am listening to, by overpowering the sound with bass.  Now, I suppose on some headphones, this may be desirable, but for me it is not.  Unfortunately, even in pass-through mode, my music sounds much better without this device in line.  I don't know what it is; maybe it doesn't like my desktop computer or headphones or headphone amp, but after just a few minutes, it had to go.  It seemed like it was adding undesirable noise or distortion to the line, which reduces the clarity and quality of the incoming signal.  It's a shame, really, as it did seem to do interesting things with the spacial effects.

    XROUND XPUMP

    With my desktop speakers, I also did not like what it did to the sound.  Simply put, it adds increased noise and distortion to the line, as it did with headphones, and I am well trained on hearing this in any audio device I have.  My desktop speakers are arranged in such a way that they point at my head from the side, to make room for my dual monitors, so with the tweeters pointed right at my head, they are almost like really big headphones.  As such, the surround effect was not desirable, especially since without much room reflections going on, the speaker mode EQ, which greatly raised the mid range, did not do music any favors.

    In my living room, I have an upper mid range Denon receiver from a few years back, and the second best pair of speakers in my house.  They do sound excellent, but unfortunately, the room that they are in do not extract their best from them. There are a lot of reflective surfaces, and with that and hardwood everywhere, they still sound good – they are excellent speakers, after all – but not their best. And being dipole speakers in nature, they radiate sound throughout the room.  Now, most of my sources are directly digital via HDMI or TOSLINK cables, but I had to use the HTPC in analog stereo mode for this testing.

    I tested both music, as well as Steam streaming to get an idea of how things sounded through the virtual XROUND mode.  Given the already compromised frequency response of my room (though to be fair, I never did run the receiver's built in room correction), the mode actually did sound pretty decent.  Given the already less than ideal analog source, the pass-through mode sounded fine through the Denon, and XROUND mode was interesting, and did indeed do a great job of simulating surround presence.  I am not a huge fan of the undesirable equalizing that it does by default, but the effect is not wholly unwelcome.  However, I am convinced that I could probably do much better by finally getting off of my lazy bottom and running the Audyssey room calibration setup (though, to be fair, if the processors in a MSRP $1600 receiver didn't do a better job than a $120 pocket sized device I would be quite disappointed).  Maybe this review will finally motivate me to do just that.

    Now, it has to be said, that the device itself does take some effort in trying to trick the listener.  What I mean by this is that it has been shown in many scientific studies that our brains are really easy to trick – if you listen to the same source, but make one of them just one decibel (db) louder, we will automatically think the louder one sounds better.  So, all proper A/B testing must be done level matched.  This device makes that rather difficult, because it jacks up the volume by at least 3-5db as soon as you press the XROUND button, making direct comparisons difficult.  I had to do my best to quickly level match my sources when going between pass-through and XROUND mode in order to make the comparison as fair as possible.  Like many with reasonably trained ears, I prefer less equalized sounds rather than more, since I know what to listen for since the XPUMP adds quite a bit of obvious coloration.

    The XROUND XPUMP device is neat, and I like what they are trying to achieve.  When the surround effect works, it is pretty remarkable.  Unfortunately, with undefeatable equalization, and a less than pristine signal reproduction that seems to make the signal weaker on pass-through, I would not recommend this device to true audiophiles.  However, If you have an inexpensive audio setup, then I could see the effects, or one of the EQ boost profiles, being useful.  My only concern then becomes price.  I say that because if you know what to shop for, you could spend the $119 on better audio equipment, which is likely to go much farther in improving your sound than this.  Especially with headphones - $119 can get you some great cans.  Unless you happen to have one of the devices that they modeled the sound after, you never really know if what you hear is what the artists – or XROUND – intended.

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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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