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We understand that, as gamers, and as likely PC gamers, you enjoy quality sound when you play. Anyone who knows will tell you that good sound can make or break a gaming experience and when you finally get the chance to upgrade from your dinky store-brand or office-style headset to an actual, high-dollar gaming headset, you want to get your money’s worth.
Well, that’s what we’re here for.
Throughout the upcoming days and weeks, we’ll be reviewing a wide variety of gaming headsets. This may take a bit of time, but don’t you fret because we’ll eventually get to the one you’re curious about. Want us to check out a specific headset? Let us know and we’ll see if we can work it in.
First, to clarify. Why do we want to run these tests on just gaming headsets and not high-quality audiophile type headsets? Well, we’re testing at around an approximate budget of $150 max, and most top-end headsets are going to exceed that. Of course, there are some exceptions, and we’ll work in what we can, but those really top-tier headsets are going to be a bit much. But for now, let me give you a rundown of exactly how our review process will work.
As a gamer, we also know that many people use their headsets for more than just gaming. What about voice chat? Watching movies? Listening to music? Recording podcasts or other audio? Yes, it’s all very important and we want to cover ALL your bases.
First off, the most important aspect of your gaming headset is how well it does in GAMES (shocking, right?). Because of this, we’ll begin by putting a few sample games to the test:
- World of Warcraft: The MMO of choice will allow us to see how well the headsets detect the small audio triggers, how big they make battle feel, and how well-rounded the music and audio experience is.
- Just Cause 2: A big explosive shooting game that lets us really get into an action-packed experience and see how much we can pull out of it.
- Dear Esther: A very mild yet audio-intensive experience, we chose this game because of the nature of the audio experience.
- FIFA 12: A sports game that we chose mainly because of the blend of live commentary, on-field action, and ambient arena sound. From cheers, boos and crowd chants, FIFA made an ideal choice.
Between those four games, we feel we can deliver a well-rounded experience that will help determine how well a headset feels in a gaming environment. But that isn’t all.
People like to listen to music on their computer, obviously. While a gaming headset isn’t exactly tailored to be an audiophiles dream, they should at least deliver clear, well-rounded sound, right? Here’s the sample tracks we’ll be using.
- Skrillex, “Bangarang”: Dubstep may not be everyone’s flavor of choice, nor may Skrillex be every dubstep fan’s flavor of choice, but we feel the variety of audio samples we’ll have thrown at us will provide a nice sample of the range and clarity of a low bass paired with high treble audio.
- Bach, “Mass in B Minor, ‘Angus Dei’”: A sample of Bach’s piece will be used to help test how the headsets handle orchestral music as well as high-pitched vocals. While not a standard choice for orchestral music, I felt it would be suitable for these tests.
- Metallica, “One”: A suitable hard rock track that starts soft and escalates to a very intense finish I felt would make a great choice. Being that it’s light on vocals yet strong on music, it would really put the headsets to the test.
- Eminem, “Lose Yourself”: A good, versatile rap track provides a nice amount of highs and lows for fans of hiphop. Maybe a little light on bass, but still a good option.
- Benny Benassi, “Inside of Me”: This Electro House track adds a few vocals to a really pounding track that suits the testing of headphones to a T.
With this handful of tracks, we can get a pretty solid idea of what kind of range the headsets have. Again, if you’re a big MUSIC fan, a gaming headset might not be the best option, but at least you’ll expect good bang for your buck with an everyday headset.
Whether it’s movies or TV shows, lots of people want to be able to watch their favorite entertainment on their computer and have a great headset to go with it. In this case, we’ve taken a small sampling of a few sound-centric video clips to see just how nicely it plays out.
- Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones: Naturally, we wanted a sci-fi movie to test this out with, and what better than a movie with sound handled by one of the most prolific sound studios out there? Some folks may not like the movie, but it does a good job at providing adequate effects and music and dialogue for testing.
- Doctor Who: Season 1, Episode 10 – The Doctor Dances: Another sci-fi show, but this one has a bit more natural effects including gunfire and explosions along with some high-pitched audio that helps put some headsets to the test. Plus, it’s a great show, but that has no bearing on our tests.
- Casablanca: A classic film but a good way to see how the headsets handle audio that isn’t necessarily “HD”. Is it still clear if it comes from a quality source, or does it get muddled or distorted? We use a bit of Casablanca footage to put it to the test.|
- WWE Raw 9/3/12: A recent episode of this pro wrestling show should help provide a “live venue” style approach along with music performance, arena chatter, crowd reactions, and other effects that may occur in the ring itself for a nice, well-rounded soundscape.
With this variety of movies and TV shows, we should be able to provide a smooth profile for folks who want high quality audio for their entertainment value.
After that, we’re going to run these headsets through the gamut of some miscellaneous tests. These should give us a complete profile of the headsets available. Here’s the final battery of tests we’ll apply.
- Live Streaming: A few different TwitchTV streams should give us a nice mix of gameplay action with accompanying commentary or similar features.
- Voice Chat: I know, NOW we get to the recording aspect of these things, but yes. We’ll take the headset to a test over Mumble and Skype to see how clear and effective the headset is during regular chatter.
- Podcast Recording: We’ll record a full episode of a high-quality podcast to see how the mic holds up compared to other episodes and lesser quality microphones.
- Eminent Technology Multimedia Speaker Test: This test runs a few different wave tests through the speakers just to see how well the range is and what the headset can support. As well as how clear they all come through.
With all that, the headsets should have a thorough review profile to compare to other headsets with and hopefully provide you with enough information to drop a bit of money on a decent pair. We’ll be kicking this review session off shortly, so stay tuned!