LucidSound LS25 Review: Good Performance for the Price

Even though it's a relative newcomer, LucidSound has consistently been one of the most unusual competitors in the gaming-headset sphere. Eschewing the oversize, overdesigned, aggressively "gamer" aesthetic of its contemporaries, LucidSound provides full-featured gaming headsets that wouldn't look out of place on the subway.

That's why it's a little weird that the LucidSound LS25 does look extremely out of place on a subway — or anywhere outside of a gaming nook, for that matter. The LS25 is big, brash and loud, leaving the company's signature subtle look behind. On the other hand, it still sounds great, and its elegant controls are as welcome as ever.

In spite of some questionable design choices (and a surprisingly subpar microphone), the LS25 delivers high-quality sound at a reasonable price. If you need a dedicated headset for gaming and nothing but, it's worth a look, if not an outright purchase.

Design

If you're familiar with the LucidSound LS30 headset, the LS25 is basically the same thing, but wired instead of wireless. The device features large, plush, foam over-the-ear cups; a padded headband; and a detachable boom mic.

What sets the LS25 apart from many of its competitors is just how much stuff it integrates into its ear cups. First and foremost, the volume controls aren't on a dial somewhere; they're in the left ear cup itself. Just rotate it forward to make things louder, or backward to make things quieter. There's a similar mic mute button on the right ear cup.

Whether I was gunning down foes in Overwatch or sneaking up behind orcs in Middle-earth: Shadow of War, the headset provided excellent directional sound and a natural balance of music, voices and sound effects.

The boom mic isn't necessary to talk with people. There's a secondary built-in microphone on the underside of the left ear cup. Neither mic is perfect (more on that later), but it's convenient when you need to take a quick phone call or use a voice search.

Otherwise, the LS25's appearance is unremarkable — maybe even a little on the clunky side. The red-and-black color scheme isn't nearly as elegant as the LS30's blacks and grays. Furthermore, the headband relies on rigid notches rather than the more elegant elastic headbands that companies like SteelSeries are embracing. You can fold the ear cups to make the headset more portable, but the device is still pretty bulky. I took it on a cross-country flight, and it took up more real estate in my bag than it really should have.

Comfort

Thanks to its padded ear cups and headbands, the LS25 is easy to wear for hours at a time. Because the ear cups swivel a little, you can get a surprisingly close fit, and there are plenty of notches to adjust to suit your head size and hairstyle. I did feel a little pressure right under my ears, which got a little uncomfortable, but it wasn't anything that a few quick adjustments every now and then couldn't fix.

To see how comfortable another person might find the LS25, I handed it off to my sister. (I usually do this with a co-worker, but I am on a family trip this week. Happy Thanksgiving!). She said that the headset was comfortable and that she could probably wear it for a few hours at a time. On the other hand, she said the design was too big for her taste. ("Ginormous" was her exact wording.)

Gaming Performance

The LS25 works well with any kind of gaming system, thanks to two interchangeable 3.5-mm wires. One has a single jack; the other has one for the mic and one for headphones. (You can use the mic either way; the latter setup is just a bit more efficient for PCs.) I tested it extensively with PC, Nintendo Switch and mobile games, but it works fine with a PS4 and Xbox One as well.

MORE: The Best Headsets for Immersive Gaming

If you've used a LucidSound headset before, it shouldn't shock you to learn that the LS25 has exquisite sound. Whether I was gunning down foes in Overwatch, listening to extended conversations in The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine or sneaking up behind orcs in Middle-earth: Shadow of War, the headset provided excellent directional sound and a natural balance of music, voices and sound effects.

What sets the LS25 apart from many of its competitors is just how much stuff it integrates into its ear cups.

It's worth pointing out, though, that if you're using the LS25 with a handheld or mobile device, it's not necessarily the loudest headset out there. When I used it while in the window seat of an airplane, the background drone nearly drowned out Battle Chef Brigade on the Switch and an episode of The Punisher on my Android tablet.

Features

Normally, I'd say that the best feature of a LucidSound headset is that it doubles as an everyday pair of headphones, but the LS25's color scheme makes it a bit more garish outside the house. As mentioned above, it's not as portable as it could be, either. It's not terribly different from the LS30, to be fair, but it's much more similar to a traditional gaming headset than LucidSound's comparable hybrid models.

Though the headset's appearance isn't a deal breaker, its mic might be. The detachable boom mic is good enough for casual multiplayer and Skype conversations, but it has a strange, hollow quality to it that my co-workers pointed out during an online chat session. I recorded my voice and encountered the same thing. The boom mic distorted my voice, making it sound stretched and distant, before snapping it back to a normal, clear tone with only minimal pops on "P" and "S" sounds.

While I was in the window seat of an airplane, the background drone nearly drowned out Battle Chef Brigade on the Switch and an episode of The Punisher on my Android tablet.

Opting for the built-in mic isn't a viable solution, either. It recorded a tremendous amount of background noise, and tended to push my voice to the periphery. It will work fine if you're at home in a quiet spot; it worked passably well in a crowded office, and I imagine it wouldn't work at all in a noisy public space.

Music Performance

One of the LS25's pleasant surprises was how well it handled music. Over the course of a few days of work and two long airplane rides, I listened to everything from G. F. Handel to The Rolling Stones, and found that the LS25 produced faithful, clear, balanced sound across every genre I tested. Not many gaming headsets can hold their own with a decent set of music headphones. The LS25 can. That it's marginally difficult to transport, then, is only more of a shame.

Bottom Line

The LS25 lacks the handy wireless features of the LS30, the incredible depth of the LS40 and the slim profile of the LS20. However, for what it is — a dedicated, comfortable PC gaming headset that doesn't cost too much — it strikes a very reasonable balance. For $80, you get gorgeous sound (both gaming and music), plush ear cups and handy volume controls. On the other hand, neither microphone is very good, and that's a pretty big drawback, considering that LucidSound wants the LS25 to strike a chord with the esports crowd.

For the same price, you can get the SteelSeries Arctis 3, which offers a slightly more comfortable fit and a better microphone. If you're willing to dish out $20 more, you can get the wireless LS30. Otherwise, the LS25 is well worth thinking about, even if you're not likely to take it too far from home.

Credit: LucidSound

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