One of the most common headset related questions asked by many is: apart ftom the stereotype of being obnoxiously large and garish, what exactly separates a gaming headset from regular plain-vanilla headphones? While much of the stereotype is true, a good gaming headset offers a lot more than that. This includes a competent noise cancelling mic, comfort for long listening sessions and excellent soundstage as well as positional accuracy, among many specifics that make these headsets excel at gaming.
The Razer Blackshark looks downright gorgeous with its old-school military styling
The mostly nocturnal gaming habits of gamers and the proliferation of LAN party culture has lead to an increasing number of gaming headset adopters. This trend is also reflected in the growing number of specialist gaming headset manufacturers and their ever increasing product range. To make your choice in this perplexing market a tab easier, we've conducted a comparison between five of the best gaming headsets available in the market today.
There are two schools of thought regarding the looks of a headset. Audiophiles tend to downplay the aspect by justifying that you can't see a headset, but only hear it, so the sound quality is what ultimately matters. On the other hand, scores of gamers who take their headsets out for LAN parties do care about how badass it makes them look. So, it's no wonder why the single most conspicuous element separating gaming headsets from regular ones is their aggressive styling.
Some would say that Cooler Master's CM Storm Sonuz bears rather unconventional looks. To be brutally honest, that's just a nice way of saying that the designers seem to have given it a thorough beating with the ugly stick. It's too grey and bulky, while the weird teardrop shape of the cups doesn't help its tendency to make you look like a massive douchebag. And then there is the other ugly duckling, the Sennheiser PC 350 SE. Going simply by its looks, one would assume the Sennheiser PC 350 SE to be priced around the Rs 5,000 mark. This is largely due to its chronically plasticky look and feel, especially for the price. The material employed isn't exactly cheap, but it sure as hell doesn't seem remotely as luxurious or high-quality as one would expect of a headset priced at Rs 19,990.
The ASUS ROG Vulcan Pro, however ,is the very epitome of the ideal headphone design. It strikes a great balance between style and aggression with its all-black finish and an ear cup fashioned out of shiny, blood-red plastic. Everything from the tasteful chrome accents, brushed metal design on the ear cup inserts and the acres of leatherette across the device is thoroughly pleasing to the eye. The Corsair Vengeance 1300's understated looks are neither particularly eye catching, nor are they offensive. If you're the kind who likes to keep a low profile, these headphones should suit you just right. A heavily cushioned grey headband is the only respite from the overbearing dominance of black matte plastic all across the headset. However, the overall chunky design and the blue accent on the ear cups give it a bit of character.
The CM Storm Sonuz looks like it took a sound beating with the ugly stick
The Razer Blackshark is, by far, the most impressive and my personal favourite from the lot. What sets the headset apart is the fact that it embodies a design carrying a prominent military-inspired theme. It incorporates a style that's reminiscent of aircraft grade headsets, while also combining the archetypal Razer's bright green and funky styling. The inclusion of raw steel headband and simplified ear cup design signify an overall utilitarian military design and works wonders for its overall aesthetic value.
CM Storm Sonuz: 4/10
Razer Blackshark: 9/10
ASUS ROG Vulcan Pro: 8.5/10
Corsair Vengeance 1300: 7/10
Sennheiser PC 350 Special Edition: 6/10
Design and Build Quality
The Razer Blackshark's utilitarian military design gives it ruggedness as well as practicality. The old school aircraft-grade headset style gimbal mounts do their job well and allow the headset to conform to the face with ease. The cord length is a bit short even when you factor in the extension, but the overall quality makes up for it. The plastics used on the ear cups are top notch, whereas the tastefully stitched headband feels great as well. What impressed the most was the detachable mic with a great articulated arm that looks decidedly old-school.
The ASUS ROG Vulcan Pro features a sturdy construction replete with steel height adjustment bands that allow it to fit crowns of any size. The driver enclosures exhibit an impressive range of articulation, thereby allowing them to conform neatly to the contours of your head. This is achieved with a ball-and-socket construction that connects the headband to the ear cups. The materials employed are pretty good for the price, with high-quality plastics used all around. It features all the goodies a gamer can ask for with detachable mic and cables, a slick carrying case, as well as active noise cancellation to drown out the ambient noise at LAN parties. All this sturdiness achieved while being a collapsible design is quite impressive.
The ASUS ROG Vulcan Pro exhibits excellent build quality and design
The Cooler Master Sonuz disappoints with its decidedly plasticky chassis and a build quality that reeks of excessive free play between components. Apart from this, the ear cups attached with ball-and-socket joints may not be elegant, but they get the job done. The steel headband also may not feel well put together, but it's functional. This headset is among the cheapest of the lot and that cheapness comes through in its build quality. The Corsair Vengeance 1300, however, is an exception to that rule. It features excellent material quality and design for what's essentially the lowest price. The headband is nice and thick with a generous amount of cushion. The material used on ear cups and the rest of the chassis is pretty good for its price as well. For that sort of money, you're getting a very well constructed headset bearing excellent circumaural ear cups and a well-designed mic.