We’ve tested a lot of earbuds over the past few years and invariably
find ourselves gravitating toward products at the very high end of that
market—we’re talking buds that’ll set you back more than the most
expensive iPod. At $200, Future Sonics’s Atrio m8 earbuds certainly
aren’t cheap—but they’re competitive with some products that cost twice
We’ve never liked headphones that use active noise cancellation because they simply mask environmental noise by generating background hiss. But Creative’s Aurvana X-Fi headphones are almost good enough to win us over.
The gap between cheap and inexpensive widens to a yawning chasm when you’re talking audio gear, which is why we’re so pleasantly surprised with the Rocketfish gaming headset. We didn’t realize this was a Best Buy private-label product until after we’d given it a listen, but we’re glad we didn’t dismiss it out of hand.
One of the reasons we picked Turtle Beach’s Ear Force HPA2 headset as one of the 19 awesome upgrades we recommended in our June 2007 issue was the fact that it’s analog and can be paired with a soundcard. The new Ear Force AK-R8 is USB only, but this enables it to offer some compelling features in addition to fabulous surround sound.
We reviewed Tritton’s Audio Xtreme 360 headset in our July issue. As you can tell by its model name, that device is aimed as much at console gamers as it is movie watchers and PC gamers. The AXPC is a little simpler, better suited to PC users, and nearly $50 cheaper. But it sounds just as mediocre.
For the price of one set of Shure’s SE530PTH earphones, you could buy two 30GB iPods, 17 sets of Apple earbuds, or 500 encrypted songs from iTunes. A worthy investment or Marie Antoinette–style consumption?
For the price of one set of Shure’s SE530PTH earphones, you could buy two 30GB iPods, 17 sets of Apple earbuds, or 500 encrypted songs from iTunes. A worthy investment or Marie Antoinette–style consumption? With that question in mind, we couldn’t resist auditioning these pricey phones to the sound of Cake’s Fashion Nugget, ripped and FLAC-encoded, on Cowon’s D2 digital media player. We don’t know if Shure’s BOM (bill of materials) justifies a $500 price tag, but we did have awfully big smiles on our faces after using these earphones.
The Genius HS-04U plugs into your PC’s USB port, instead of your soundcard’s analog speaker output and mic input, so it bypasses any EAX or OpenAL audio effects that game developers might have painstakingly programmed into the software. What you get instead—after installing a driver—is what Genius calls “Virtual Dolby.”
Tritton’s headset delivers true surround sound, just like the Turtle Beach Ear Force HPA2 we recommended in June. It also offers a feature that the HPA2 doesn’t: a powered Dolby Digital decoder module with optical and coaxial digital inputs, plus a port for plugging in a second set of Tritton headphones. Cool!
We generally don’t like headphones that use active-noise cancellation because these devices mask external noise by producing noise of their own. But we decided to make an exception for theBoom Quiet because of the lofty promises the company makes for its noise-canceling mic.