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We lent an ear to Plantronics so the company could tell us all about its new limited edition GameCom Commander headset built for professional gamers. In short, Plantronics claims they took a noise cancelling headset developed for military applications and adapted the design for gaming. That sounds like overkill, until you factor in that professional and semi-pro gamers often find themselves surrounded by thousands of competitors, and when you're in a confined space with 3,000 people, things tend to get a little boisterous.
Geeks have to be suckers for Bluetooth headsets. Don’t believe me? I have purchased no fewer than five Bluetooth headsets ranging from Plantronics, to Cardo and Motorola in the last two years.
Among the most disappointing was the Voyager 855. Although it fit my tiny ear canals well, the reliability of it was, well, everything you’ve come to expect of a Bluetooth headset. Sometimes it would connect with my admittedly mediocre Windows Mobile phone and sometimes it wouldn’t.
It didn’t help that the audio levels were just too low. At least the noise cancellation was top notch. Still, I had to chuck it for two Cardo units: The S-640 and the S-800. I had the highest hopes for the S-640 clip-on unit and carded ear piece. Unfortunately, incoming sound quality was dismal and the lack of noise cancellation made conversations in my beater with original struts impossible. Did I mention that it too was quite flakey with the Bluetooth connection. The S-800, however, was quite reliable. It locked onto my phone and worked fine. The volume was also almost painfully loud when set to max. The UI was good and the quick dial feature that let you access the first few slots in your speed dial was awesome.
I only use my headset in my car and turn it off when not in use. Initially I could get a week or two without having to recharge it. That turned into a week and now it seems like it needs to visit the charger every three days.
You’d never credit your headset after winning a Team Fortress 2 match, nor would you ever brag about your soundcard after just acing a round in Call of Duty 4, but any gaming veteran knows that having a sweet set of cans is a must for even the casual gamer’s setup. This is especially true today with the vast majority of professional gamers using headsets instead speaker systems.
Unfortunately, deciding which audio hardware is right for you can become aggravating very quickly with USB headsets, 5.1 headphones, onboard mixing, analog inputs, and incompatible interfaces confusing the market. With this roundup, we’re going to scrutinize six gaming headset options, and examine the largely unspoken differences between analog and USB audio technology.