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The Roccat Khan Aimo gaming headset (120 euros, or about $146) improves on last year's Roccat Khan Pro ($100) by adding a truly impressive array of audio options (and some unnecessary RGB lighting) to an already-strong package.
The Aimo's sound is exquisite, and it's extremely comfortable. It's only when you take a deep dive into the settings that you find software that doesn't always cooperate. Take a step back, and you'll see an outdated physical appearance, a cumbersome (albeit crystal-clear) microphone and a lack of versatility that belies the premium price.
These drawbacks can't hide the fact that the Khan Aimo is a joy to wear, and a wonderful way to experience games, movies and music. Perhaps it's for hard-core PC gamers only, but if that describes you, it's well worth a look.
If you've seen the Roccat Khan Pro, the Khan Aimo is pretty much the same thing. Like the Pro, the Aimo features a straightforward black-plastic chassis with a steel headband underneath that you can adjust to fit your noggin. You'll still find the plush leatherette over-the-ear cups, as well as the annoying, rigid mic on the left ear cup that sticks out like a sore thumb whenever you're not using it. The convenient volume knob on the right ear cup is back, too, complete with some helpful, tactile ridges to help you find the perfect level.
My criticisms of the Khan Pro still apply here. The Khan Aimo looks plain — not elegant or sleek, just unremarkable. And the nonremovable mic means that you can't really use it out of the house. That's admittedly not much of a problem for a USB headset, but the Khan Aimo is pretty expensive for a one-trick pony.
The only two major differences this time around are the lighting strips and the USB wire. The lighting strips are just what they sound like: thin LED panels on both ear cups, which can light up in a variety of programmable colors. I've never really been sure why headphones need this feature, considering you can't see them; they don't make a huge difference in the Khan Aimo.
The USB connection is the bigger of the two additions. The Khan Pro connects via a 3.5-mm cable. This means your ability to tweak the headset is basically nil, but it works with every gadget you own: computers, game consoles, streaming devices, tablets, smartphones or transistor radios from the 1950s.
Conversely, the Khan Aimo connects via USB only. This means you can use it with a PC, or perhaps a game console, if you have an extremely long extension cord. Both the functionality and sound quality you get via USB are beyond reproach (more on that later), but for a headset that costs almost $150, the Aimo is not very versatile. Once you plug it into your computer, that's probably where it will live until an alien invasion wipes out all sentient life on Earth (or until you buy a new pair — whichever comes first).
The lightweight chassis and plush ear cups on the Khan Aimo combine to provide one of the more comfortable gaming headsets on the market right now. I was able to wear the headset for hours on end, with glasses, without any discomfort. The ear cups created a tight seal, and the long cord gave me enough room to move my head around comfortably.
I handed off the headset to one of my co-workers, who agreed with my assessment completely. She said the ear cups felt soft and resilient, while the headset didn't weigh too much or press down too tightly. She was also willing to wear them for hours at a time.
If you dive into the Khan Aimo's software, you'll have a ton of options at your disposal, which is good news for gamers. In addition to offering both stereo and 7.1 surround sound, the Roccat Swarm software lets you choose from a variety of equalization profiles. Whether you play action games, FPS, MOBAs, MMOs or RPGs, there's a sound profile that can help you make the most of it.
Directional sound worked wonders when I was zipping around battlefields as Tracer, and stereo sound provided a suitably epic soundtrack for hunting down zombies.
I tested the headset with a variety of games, including Overwatch, StarCraft: Remastered, Path of Exile and World of Warcraft. Experimenting with different sound profiles and surround-sound options, I found that some profiles worked better than others, but no matter what I chose, the sound came through crisply and clearly.
Directional sound worked wonders when I was zipping around battlefields as Tracer, and stereo sound provided a suitably epic soundtrack for hunting down zombies or commanding futuristic armies. The Khan Aimo provided a fine balance of voicework, sound effects and music.
Determining the ideal settings for a given game takes a little time. But once you've figured it out, you can link games with individual profiles in the Swarm software and cut your busywork to a minimum.
As discussed above, the Khan Aimo has a variety of features that you can access through its software. In fact, the "Aimo" in the name refers to Roccat's Aimo initiative — a color-syncing feature comparable to Razer's Chroma or Logitech's RGB illumination. In theory, you can sync the Khan Aimo with other Roccat gear and have the lights on your products match conditions in-game (losing health, refreshed cooldowns — that sort of thing). In practice, however, you can't see Aimo lighting on the Khan Pro, so it's not a terrifically useful feature by itself.
More useful is the microphone, which is crystal-clear and easy to activate. You simply flip down the mic to use it — there's a slight tactile click when it turns on — and flip it back up to deactivate it. I'm not an enormous fan of the mic's aesthetic design (removable or retractable mics are in vogue for a reason), but there's no denying that it's functional and will serve you well in either voice chat or video calls.
Where the Khan Aimo takes its biggest misstep is in the Swarm software. I've had moderately nice things to say about the Swarm software before. Like Razer Synapse or Logitech Gaming Software, it lets you manage all of your Roccat gaming products from one place. In the case of the Khan Aimo, you can set sound profiles, as well as adjust lighting options and disguise your voice over the mic. (All of these masks — "male," "female," "cartoon" and "monster" — were fun to use, but they sounded pretty silly.) So far, so good.
However, something has gone wrong with Swarm's latest updates. When you first plug in the Khan Aimo, you have to download the latest firmware. However, the version of Swarm available on Roccat's website doesn't have Khan Aimo firmware built in. Instead, you have to download a new version of the program. Also easy to do — in theory.
Where the Khan Aimo takes its biggest misstep is in the Swarm software.
Swarm was able to download the new version of its software. Then, it crashed while trying to install, without any preamble or error notification. I tried again, with the same results. I rebooted and tried to run the program as an administrator. I had no luck.
After a few restarts, the program eventually recognized the Khan Aimo and updated the firmware with relatively few problems. However, the program then vacillated between telling me I had the latest version of the software and saying it needed another update. Whenever I tried to install the latest update, the program crashed again. Eventually, I learned to be content with what I had and was grateful for the robust software when it deigned to work.
Since Swarm is so integral to the Khan Aimo's performance, it's hard to separate the two entirely. Hopefully, the fix is both painless and forthcoming.
Befitting a headset that's Hi-Res Audio certified, the Khan Aimo sounds great for both music and gaming. I listened to tracks from Makem & Spain, The Rolling Stones and J.S. Bach to see how well the headset handled different genres, and I couldn't find a weak point. (There's even an Instrumental setting in the Swarm software — as well as one for Explosions, which I guess is useful if you're marathoning the oeuvre of Michael Bay.)
Music on the Khan Aimo sounds balanced and vibrant, with clear vocals, nuanced instruments and no undue emphasis on bass. (Fewer gaming headsets fall prey to this these days, but it's still a concern.) It's a shame that the Khan Aimo is USB-only, since it would be a real joy to use this system as an everyday pair of headphones.
The Roccat Khan Aimo sounds beautiful and fits like a dream. That much is evident. However, it's also evident that the product suffers from broken software and a design that limits its versatility. Perhaps it's not that useful to condemn a USB headset for not working with 3.5-mm jacks, but given how wonderful the headset sounds, and how much it costs, it's hard to see the design as anything other than a missed opportunity.
Still, the Khan Aimo's flaws are not necessarily deal breakers. If you have money to spend and want a wired headset exclusively for your PC, it's hard to think of one that delivers better sound quality and comfort. Who knows; maybe you'll even start watching movies and listening to music right from your desk.
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Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.