Getting into the game can be accomplished in several ways. Whether it be a well-fitted mouse, expansive mouse pad, or nice, clicky keyboard, feeling “at home” and comfortable in front of the screen can make the difference between a good day (with a high kill to death ratio) and a bad one. But if you’re looking for that last little bit of immersion, a decent gaming headset is the only way to go. Toss out those crappy earbuds or clearance rack specials and pick yourself up a dedicated gaming headset.
So now the question arises: What do you get?
There are quite a few gaming headsets to choose from at your typical brick & mortar store, and even more (better) options if you expand your search to the spoils of the internet. Over the last couple of months we’ve had the pleasure of trying out some of the best headsets from the likes of Roccat, SteelSeries, Genius (Cavimanus) and CoolerMaster. Who came out on top?
#1 CoolerMaster Sirus – The Best Option When Money Is No Object
It’s not really a clean-cut answer of which is #1. It really does depend on what you’re after in terms of audio quality. That said, if we had to pick an absolute favorite, it would be CoolerMaster’s Sirus 5.1 headset (review) that impressed us the most. Lows weren’t quite the lowest of the bunch, though, what was there was more than ample — also, controlled. The mid-range frequencies were also fairly pronounced but not overly so as to block at the higher-end frequencies. Speaking of which, while a mid- to upper-range pair of stereo headphones will handedly beat any of the headsets here when it comes to music, we’d say the CoolerMaster Sirius did a pretty decent job. **We must stress that the CoolerMaster Sirus’ best sound was provided when using the included control pod and not the 4-count 3.5mm audio cables.
Performance aside, the CoolerMaster Sirus feature a design that is laid back and stealthy. It’s heavy but not burdensome, signaling higher quality components and simply looks cool. $129.99 is on the high end of headsets, and will likely be priced too high for some. But if you swing it (don’t eat for a week perhaps), we definitely recommend the Sirus.
Gadgetsteria’s Full Review: CoolerMaster Sirus
#2 Steel Series Diablo Headset – Awesome Audio Performance And Flashy Design For The Diablo III Aficionado
Behind the CoolerMaster Sirus (and it was a close race for the #1 spot) are the special edition SteelSeries Diablo cans (review). Truth be told, SteelSeries used the widely popular/liked Siberia V2 headset as the basis for the Diablo headset, and then added the custom decals, graphics and lights after the fact. With that said, while the Diablo headset is only a stereo headset operating in stereo-only mode, we have to say that it easily kept up with all of the headsets here and in some ways, exceeded them.
As we touched on above (and will again below), the stereo performance of all of the headsets when playing music left quite a bit to be desired — some more than others. The Diablo headset, meanwhile, sounded pretty fantastic with all genres of music we threw at it. Bass was the lowest and cleanest of the bunch without feeling or sounding overly boomy. Mid-range frequencies were much truer and less inflated and the high-end frequencies didn’t simply sound like a big mosh pit of clashing metal. What we did notice with the Diablo headset (and the others as well) is that the higher frequencies start to roll off around the ~12,000KHz range, meaning ultra-complex songs (read: anything from DMB) sounded sort of…odd as there is a lot going in in that upper range more often than not.
Still, we really love the appeal of a headset that can jump back forth between (simulated) multichannel gaming audio and 2-channel stereo for music. The only thing we don’t love is that price — $140. Ouch. If you’re not a fan of the Diablo series you’re much better off getting the non-branded Siberia V2s which are around the $110 mark.
Gadgetsteria Full Review: SteelSeries Diablo Headset
#3 Cavimanus 7.1 Good Sound On A Budget.
The Cavimanus hold a unique spot in that we both love and hate them. On one hand, the audio performance is right up there with the CoolerMaster and SteelSeries headsets. On the other, they look and feel incredibly cheap. Price differences could play into this; the Cavimanus cost ~$80 whereas the other two headsets above cost $130 and $140 (CoolerMaster and SteelSeries respectively).
Audio performance in-game is top notch, and despite our initial impression of the “gimmicky” vibration feature, we must admit it was actually implemented well. At no point did it feel like a gimmick or add unnecessary audible boom to our game audio. Instead, close, loud explosions, crashes and other loud in-game events felt more real with that added bit of rumble. It’s hard to describe in word form. It’s something you just have to experience in person to understand, really.
If you’re looking for the best sound on a budget, the Cavimanus are your best pick.
Gadgetsteria’s Full Review: Cavimanus 7.1
#4 Roccat Kave 5.1 – Feature Rich & Good Design. Questionable Performance?
The Roccat line of accessories were one of the most anticipated review packages we’ve had all year. And while we found (review) the keyboard and mouse to perform exceptionally well, the Kave 5.1 headset was a different story.
The Kave looked and felt the highest end next to the CoolerMaster Sirus headset. They were heavy (but comfortable) and had an awesome all-around black matte finish. Sadly, performance just didn’t follow the good looks. Bass extension was incredibly tinny and volume wasn’t overly loud even at max settings.
The mid range was pretty recessed and required a bit of EQ’ing to bring to life. But even then, it wasn’t of the caliber we’d expect form this headset. Finally, the high-end was also fairly lifeless and rolled off, and required the same amount of EQ’ing to simply make it sound “OK”.
In-game, the above audio properties mostly carried over, with only the most intense of explosions registering on our radar as being close to the sound and presence of similar explosions on the other headsets above.
It’s worth noting that the Kave 5.1 can be plugged in via USB or with the 4x 3.5mm audio jacks. If you decide to use the 4x audio jacks (we tried both USB and the 3.5mms), you really need to make sure your motherboard’s integrated sound card is a higher-end model, or have a 3rd-party PCIe sound card installed. We can’t stress enough how important the sound card source is. For us, sound quality was much better over USB. That said, we don’t consider our motherboard “low quality” at all — it’s a Sandy Bridge specific, Gigabyte P67-UD7 (B3) which at the time just a year and a half ago was Gigabyte’s top of the line model. All things considered, even with USB powering the Kave’s Audio, it wasn’t all that impressive.
But there’s plenty more in the full review. Check it out…
Gadgetsteria’s Full Review: Roccat Kave 5.1