Beyerdynamic's Custom Game headset ($200) is a real treat for the ears, if you like your bass thick and heavy. The peripheral makes music and in-game audio rumble and roar with a strength that puts a lot of other headphones to shame. But although the Custom Game has killer sound quality, it lacks some key components from other premium headsets. Most notably, the Custom Game's lack of surround sound, as well as some other premium bells and whistles, put it at a disadvantage against similar devices.
The Custom Game headset is a bit of a paradox. Beyerdynamic clearly designed the gadget to be as attractive and understated as possible, but there's one massive issue: There's no removable mic. If you want to power these headphones, you're going to need the aux cord — and permanently affixed to that cord is a big, bulging microphone.
If not for that glaring design choice, this headset would be both ultraportable, given its small size, and superchic. If you look at the headphones without the microphone and cord attached, they have a really attractive design. They're economically sized and all black, and they have a perfectly premium aesthetic: modern minimalism mixed with audiophile industrialism. The Custom Game feels far less gaudy than Beats Studio headphones, aka the lowest common denominator for publicly fashionable "high-end" headphones.
As such, the mic really brings these cans down a notch, unless you want to look like the world's most mobile call-center employee. There's just no way you can take these out in public and still look cool.
The Custom Game feels a little heavy on the head, though that's partially due to its slight tightness. While I can leave headsets like the Plantronics RIG 400 and Beats Studio headphones on my head for hours, I found myself taking off the Custom Game headset when I was not using it because of its mild squeeze factor.
I can't even wear this headset comfortably around my neck, unlike the aforementioned Plantronics headphones; it's just a bit too cumbersome to be an accessory when it's not being used. This is especially true when you factor in the unremovable microphone that'll be sticking up and attempting to poke your eye out, should you dare to wear these around your neck.
If you use the adjustable headband sliders to increase the overall height of the headset (more accommodating for those with taller heads), the headset loses a bit of its uncomfortable tightness but also a small fraction of its secure fit. This is because the headphones' grip derives from its firm headband rather than its snug ear cups. For gamers and music aficionados looking for their next pair of marathon-friendly cans, these might not be the absolute best fit (pun intended), though they're serviceable.
The Custom Game headset has a slider on each cup that controls bass output. Both sliders contain four settings, ranging from least bass to most bass. Beyerdynamic claims its inclusion of four audio profile options is meant to "suppress ambient noise" or boost bass for "rich engine sounds or heart-pounding explosions," depending on your gaming environment and necessities.
Based on my time with them, however, the two "bass-lite" profiles are useless. They don't draw out any additional sound details or help suppress ambient noise; they just make everything sound a bit tinny. Therefore, only the third and fourth settings are relevant to this headset's target demographic. Profile 3 sports a good amount of bass, while 4 is the richest option for gaming and music experiences that really benefit from some extra punch.
In a game like Forza Motorsport 5, the maximum bass boost is essential if you want to reap the audio rewards of hearing your hot car burn rubber and whip past cheering fans.
A prime example of when setting 3 is better than setting 4 is in Halo 5's multiplayer, where grenades explode and guns fire off every other second. The constant booming sounds can cause a bit of a headache on bass setting 4, but when it's lowered to 3, the crackles and rumbles of gunfire and shrapnel become perfectly tolerable for extended gaming sessions.
However, in a game like Forza Motorsport 5, the maximum bass boost of setting 4 is essential if you want to reap the audio rewards of hearing your hot car burn rubber and whip past cheering fans. As Beyerdynamic accurately claims, rich engine sounds are at their absolute best when the bass sends them humming through your ears as intensely as possible.
For $200, the Custom Game's lack of surround sound is a bit of a bummer. In Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, I could hear the echoing, weighty piston stomps of the game's Exosuit enemies with crystal clarity, as well as if they were to the left or right of me. But it's a shame that I couldn't tell if they were behind or in front of me. For competitive multiplayer first-person-shooter experiences like Halo 5, this missing feature was an exponentially bigger drawback.
That same directional limitation means little for fighting games, though, due to their 2D plane of motion. The Custom Game performed admirably in Injustice 2, where I could hear which direction attacks were coming from with expert precision — something especially useful when trying to block an opponent's midscreen cross-up shenanigans. Their attacks could be visually ambiguous, but the sound gave away their directions.
On normal volumes, music on the Custom Game always sounds the tiniest bit distant, meaning the only way to get a full and all-encompassing sound experience is to amp it up to high volumes. If you want to keep things quiet, you'll have to sacrifice some sound quality.
Thankfully, it truly is just a small sacrifice, as even though the audio is ever-so-slightly distant, it's to such a minor degree that only those who are familiar with the "distance" effect will notice it. Take the "Crimson Carnival (Day)" track from Sonic Unleashed, for example: The piece's piano section is perfectly audible, but its chiming echo gets lost in the fuzzy reverb of the killer bass line. Compared with the sound from even my regular Philips earbuds, the piano melody's beautiful, haunting tail just isn't as prominent on the Custom Game headset.
There's just no way you can take the Custom Game headset out in public and still look cool.
However, if you're in the market for a pair of cans that deliver the fattest, heaviest bass lines possible, these bad boys are perfect. Listening to Kele's synth-heavy "Tenderoni" or the polyrhythmic track "Take You Down" from The Man from U.N.C.L.E. film score was a luxurious experience. Both beats are rich and go down incredibly smoothly, like the highest-quality craft beer. The buzz of the synthesizers across both pieces was borderline hypnotic, all thanks to the incredible bass delivery of the Custom Game.
Plus, some songs can be truly experienced only with the absolute most bass, such as Dean Valentine's "Sharks Don't Sleep" and Audiomachine's "Vicarious." These two songs feature entire rhythm subsections that aren't audible on headsets lacking the Custom Game's insane amount of bass.
In terms of features, the Custom Game headset is devoid of many additional bells and whistles. It has a Y extension cable, a volume slider "remote" (as Beyerdynamic calls it), adjustable bass setting sliders and a microphone.
The Y extension cable is useful if you need to plug the headphones into something other than a standard three-ring headphone/mic jack. The volume slider is fairly standard, letting you mute or unmute your microphone as well as increase or decrease the headset's volume. And the adjustable bass setting sliders are a neat little touch but not something you'll likely be tinkering with after you've chosen your favorite setting (probably 3 or 4).
The microphone is of good build quality. It picks up minimal background noise and captures voices clearly, while also keeping certain sounds (such as popping "p" sounds) in check thanks to its tight windscreen. It's not quite good enough for streaming purposes, but it's definitely a worthy choice for using in an Xbox Live party or squadding up with the fellas in Battlefield.
The Beyerdynamic Custom Game is a great headset for bass enthusiasts. For those not enamored with electronic music or the sound of engines blaring in racing games, though, there's no need to spend a premium on this niche-specific headset.
For hard-core gamers looking for a headset with more features, such as surround sound capability, a headset such as the Turtle Beach Stealth 700 is far less expensive and offers better utility value. And if you're willing to pay a bit more for the absolute best in audio experiences, it might be better to consider the feature-rich SteelSeries Arctis Pro + GameDAC, which supports high-resolution audio and has some of the best customization features of any headset on the market.