Sport & Auto
- About Future
- Digital Future
- Cookies Policy
- Terms & Conditions
- Investor Relations
- Contact Future
Bullets hiss and whine overhead. Your commander barks orders in your ear, but you’re pinned down, trapped in a wrecked construction site. The corrugated steel wall to your left pings as a smoke grenade bounces off and rolls into a nearby ravine. Overhead, a fighter jet streaks by, engines roaring.
In the review roundup we compare the Asus Republic of Gamers Orion Pro, Razer Kraken, Plantronics GameCom Commander, MadCatz F.R.E.Q. 7, Logitech G930, and Sound Blaster Tactic 3D Rage Wireless
Then, amidst the explosions and the chatter of gunfire, you hear it—a footstep, then another, just around the corner behind you. You wheel around, and raise your rifle….
If you don’t take gaming audio seriously, that’s one kill you’re not going to get. Although graphics tend to get all the love among the enthusiast set, a nice pair of headphones can make the difference between full battlefield awareness and tunnel vision. And even if you’re not the über-competitive type, great-sounding audio can take any game to a new level of immersion.
Fortunately, gaming headsets have been getting better and better, and this year’s crop is the best we’ve ever tried. If it’s time you upgraded to a quality headset, read on—we’ve reviewed six of the most impressive high-end solutions on the market today.
An awesome headset, if you can afford it
It’s always fun to see what a company can put together when it throws budgetary considerations out the window and pulls out all the stops. For Plantronics, the Gamecom Commander represents just such an effort—a completely over-the-top, luxury-tier product.
The Gamecom Commander doesn’t feel like other gaming headsets. It’s made of surprisingly heavy-duty plastic, with military-inspired oval earcups. Everything—the cups, band, wires, and microphone—feels more sturdily constructed than what we’re used to. Each set is laser etched with an individual serial number, and the Commander comes with a removable Velcro strap across the top of the headband, which allows you to customize yours with a personal or team patch (not included). Even the cable is top-notch, with a proprietary snap-away connector (so you can quickly switch between multiple devices), an in-line remote, and a telephone-style spiral cord.
Sound quality is exceptional, with unparalleled accuracy and clarity among the sets tested for this feature. The bass response is clear, but less powerful than some of the other headsets tested. The GameCom can be used as an analog set or with an included USB dongle that provides Dolby virtual 7.1 surround sound. As usual, the virtual surround is better than nothing, but not a replacement for the real thing.
Don’t let the subdued stylings fool you: This headset is a real beast
We normally don’t talk a lot about the microphones on gaming headsets, because they tend to run a pretty narrow gamut between “mediocre” and “decent.” The Gamecom Commander is a different story, with a seriously heavy-duty mic with excellent noise cancellation and the best recording quality we’ve experienced in a gaming headset.
Even the Commander’s packaging is exceptional. The set comes in a high-quality rigged nylon carrying case, which you can attach to anything with the included burly carabiner—if that’s something you want to do.
Ultimately, the only thing that keeps us from unconditionally recommending the Gamecom is the price. It’s an undeniably high-quality headset, but at $300 you’re paying a lot for luxury. The sound quality is good, but you could do better with a $275 pair of audiophile headphones and a $25 desk mic. Still, if you want a traditional gaming headset and have money to burn, this could be the set for you.
Plantronics Gamecom Commander
Wireless convenience without a huge price tag
With the Sound Blaster Tactic 3D Rage Wireless, you’ll never feel like you didn’t get your money’s worth—this is the most feature-packed headset at this price point. Most notably, it’s wireless, connecting to your computer with a USB dongle and charging via a removable, braided cable. Wireless headsets have been known to have some problems, like latency or interference, but we never experienced either with the Rage.
The Rage Wireless is a USB headset, and provides its own audio processing, which can be great if you don’t have a discrete sound card. Sound Blaster is a company that obviously knows what it’s doing in this arena, and the downloadable SBX ProStudio software has some nice features, including soundstage-broadening virtual surround and a Crystalizer that enhances and clarifies most compressed audio sources.
The lights on the outside of the Tactic 3D Rage can be set to any color, and pulse while you play.
Our main gripe with the set is that it’s not terribly comfortable. The leatherette-covered foam on the earcups and headband has a little less give than we like to see, and the whole set is quite heavy. We’re also not crazy about the inclusion of a removable boom mic. It’s flexible, and recording quality is fine, but between the removable mic, the removable foam windscreen, the wireless dongle, and the detachable charging cable, the chances of you keeping track of all the components of your Sound Blaster Tactic 3D Rage Wireless are slim to none.
At $100, this is one of the least-expensive quality wireless headsets on the market. If you’re trying to cut the cord without breaking the bank, the Tactic 3D Rage is a good option.
Sound Blaster Tactic 3D Rage Wireless
A midrange headset with a lot to offer
Tons of bells and whistles are great, and we could argue about sound quality all day, but if your gaming headset gives you a migraine after a two-hour BioShock Infinite session, it’s not doing its job. With the Kraken Pro, Razer has smartly emphasized comfort as a primary feature, with big, supple, circumaural earcups that swivel freely to line up with the contours of your head. In many of the headsets we’ve tried in the past, discomfort doesn’t come from the earcups but instead from the headband, which can cause the top of your head to ache over time. The Kraken Pro finds a simple solution to this problem: It’s lighter than most headsets of this size, reducing scalp-fatigue.
The Kraken Pro is available in both traditional black and a seizure-inducing green.
The Kraken features 40mm drivers, and sound quality is good, overall. Treble range sounds are crisp and clear, and the bass is strong but a bit muddy—a state of affairs that’s common in gaming headsets, where the emphasis is on precisely picking out footsteps and distant gunshots, rather than on appreciating the nuances of a good bassline. They’re great for Call of Duty, but if you’re an audiophile, don’t expect to get an amazing music-listening experience out of these.
Feature-wise, the Kraken Pro eschews the excesses of Razer’s higher-end Tiamat headsets, settling on just the features we found most important. These include a flexible, retractable mic, high-quality build, and an included extension audio cable. Additionally, the set folds up for easy transportation.
Razer Kraken Pro
Straightforward design and USB convenience
If originality counted for much in gaming headsets, the Orion Pro would be the worst-reviewed product in this roundup. It’s a simple design, with a padded headband and two large, circular earcups with cushy leatherette padding. It looks and feels a lot like other simple sets with super-size circumaural cups, such as the Corsair Vengeance line. Fortunately for Asus, originality doesn’t matter nearly as much as comfort and performance, and this design is one of our favorites.
The aforementioned oversize earcups are comfortable for long play sessions, and create a good seal around the ear, providing impressive passive noise cancellation. Each cup contains a 50mm driver, which provides impressive sound quality. The bass response wasn’t the most powerful of the tested sets, but clarity was good overall. Our only complaints with the feel of the set is that the cups don’t pivot on the vertical axis like with the Razer Kraken, and that the leatherette cushions started to get hot quickly—a fabric option would have been nice.
With installation-free USB processing, the Orion Pro is ready to grab and go
The Orion Pro package consists of the Orion analog gaming headset, plus an additional USB audio-processor dongle, so you can use the headset in either mode. The processor has just three settings: FPS, Surround, and Amp. The options are not quite as impressive as the audio-processing suite in the Sound Blaster Tactic 3D line, but they have the distinct advantage of working without any software installation, and can be enabled or disabled on the fly with buttons on the dongle.
Republic of Gamers Orion Pro