PC gamer, console gamer, movie-watcher, or music-listener--which surround sound headset is right for you? Logitech, Psyko, Plantronics, Tritton, Razer
Headphones are a requirement, whether you need them in order to prevent the noisy movie from waking a significant other, or to sneak in a 15 minute gaming session without the kids hearing, or simply to listen to music at a volume that suits you without the neighbors calling the cops. For many scenarios, headphones are simply a better deal than speaker systems and a home soundproofing project.
Beyond mainstream entertainment, businesses save money making calls over headsets on Skype or other VoIP applications. Hardcore gamers love high-quality headsets for their portability and ease of use (they're easy to take to LAN parties, competitions or on the road, and provide good sound quality).
Most PC users don't have surround sound speakers at their desks. For many, this type of set-up would be too cumbersome since it would require placing speakers behind the desk, with cables spewing from everywhere.
Surround-sound headsets solve all of these problems, can be used for multiple purposes, and with the current prevalence of HD content and games with surround sound audio feeds, we think now is the time to buy a pair. Here, we look at five of the best new surround sound headsets to see which ones work best for each listening scenario.
To score each headset, we ran multiple tests for comfort, convenience, surround-sound quality and stereo quality. Then, based on the scores, we looked at the price and determined which is the best value. Here's exactly how we tested:
Comfort: To be worth buying, a headset meant for both gaming and watching films has to remain comfortable for the longest expected movie session (about three hours). Most films are not this long, but many are. Most users don't prolong a gaming session or webchat for longer than three hours. For each headset, we noted when discomfort first set in, when it became a real nuisance to wear, when it became unbearable, and the after-effects of wearing each headset. We timed the length of each wearing session, and gave scores based on length of comfort, and the severity of soreness (or absence of discomfort).
Convenience: How easy is installation? What system requirements does the headset have? Is storage and cleaning easy? Is it space-efficient? What accessories does it come with? Depending on your home, workplace or living style, each of these factors might have different importance to you.
Surround quality: The reason to buy a surround sound headset over a standard one is the quality of audio beyond two channels. In this test, we look at how well sound is rendered directionally, using both Blu-ray films and video games that support either 5.1 or 7.1 audio. (Only two of the tested headsets support 7.1, and most surround-sound audio feeds only support 5.1.) Scores are based on directional accuracy and loudness.
Stereo quality: Because most audio content is still produced in stereo, each headset must be able to play in 2.1 audio as well as, if not better than, standard headphones.
Overall: This score is an average of the prior tests, which have been contrasted with the current street price. This means the most affordable headset may not be the highest-rated, nor will the highest quality headset necessarily be affordable. The best balance of quality and affordability will provide us with our winner.