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ASMR photo
ASMR

Tingling your joypads: ASMR and videogames


A brief introduction on how gamers can relax
Mar 17
// Glowbear
There’s a trend sweeping over YouTube at the moment, one that went unnoticed by me up until a few months ago. It's called ASMR (or if you want to kill time and sound fancy, autonomous sensory meridian response). I don&r...
Half-Life 2 photo
Half-Life 2

Smell the ashes while listening to City 17


It's like hearing Dr. Breen's own playlist
Oct 25
// Alasdair Duncan
I've been a fan of the various You Are Listening To... streams for a few years now. Initially, you could listen to the police banter of various North American cities while a stream of ambient and instrumental music played at ...

Review: Cambridge Audio DacMagic XS USB DAC

May 03 // Dale North
Product: Cambridge Audio DacMagic XS USB DACManufacturer: CambridgeInput: USBMSRP: $199.99 ($189 on Amazon) The Cambridge Audio DacMagic XS USB DAC is a tiny little thing, just barely bigger than a Zippo lighter, and far lighter. Its top edge of its brushed aluminum body features a mini USB port and its bottom edge has only a single 1/8" audio jack. On the front face you'll find volume buttons and the Cambridge Audio logo -- and that's it. Simple and clean. That USB port connects the DacMagic to any PC or Mac (via the included mini cable), which lets you completely bypass the internal DAC, giving you access to high-quality sound. I first tried it out on my office computer, a Macbook Pro Retina (the device is 100 percent plug-and-play on any Mac). I didn't expect it to much for what I was listening to at the time -- streamed music on YouTube -- but it did. I immediately picked up improved definition, a tighter low end, and a smoother top, making songs I've heard dozens of times on my office sound setup sound better than I've ever heard. Intrigued, I quickly jumped to trying out the DacMagic with higher quality source material. Most of my newer playlists are stored in Apple's format at 320kbps, so it was no problem putting the DAC through its paces. R&B tunes had a very satisfying kick/bass guitar range through my main listening headphones, the AKG K545. I'm not really an EDM guy, but listening to Japanese artist M-Flo's new album, Edm-Flo, had me grinning wildly for most of the time I sat through the 20-track album. My other favorite phones, the AKG K702, took all that sweet, clean high end the DacMagic put out and made my ears happy, like they were born to be together. For high quality audio file rips (DacMagic supports up to 192kHz sample rates in its optional USB 2.0 mode), I was quite pleased with its performance as I heard a new depth to songs I've heard many times before. But for older MP3s I could hear every tiny little compression artifact and cymbal crunch. Too much power can be bad sometimes. This tiny little box was equally impressive in gaming. It only took a few seconds to appreciate the improved balance and detail while poking through my Steam library with the DacMagic connected, and gaming headphones on. It made my SteelSeries phones sound better, no question. I'm already unbelievably bad at CloudBuilt, but I was even worse this time as I was too busy appreciating the sound work and the outstanding musical score to get anywhere. I did side-by-side comparisons using several sets of phones on the same games, switching between the DacMagic and the internal sound of my gaming rig, Razer's Blade 14. Again, no contest: through the DacMagic, games sounded shiny, impressive, and considerably more immersive. In Cloudbuilt, I picked up on atmospheric effects that I never noticed before, like voice echos and musical reverb trails. Even simple games like DuckTales Remastered and Joe Danger had me clearly hearing the benefits of an upgraded DAC. It got to the point where switching back was a bit of a bummer. I'll never look at my rig's headphone port the same again, sadly. It's too bad I have to send this thing back. If you are looking to improve sound quality for gaming, music, movies, or anything else that comes out of your computer, the DacMagic is a really easy and convenient way to do that. It's so small, light, and portable (and comes in a nice drawstring bag) that you won't ever sweat taking it with you. A DAC like this might be a tough sell to gamers with its $189 street price, especially when it's hard to convey what exactly it would do for their gaming experience. But I think gamers are becoming smarter and more selective about audio, and the headphone/audio business is growing rapidly as a direct result of gamer demand for quality listening experiences. We now have access to very high-quality headsets, and we should want to plug these into only the best source. That's where a DAC upgrade makes sense to me. Just short of $200 is a tall order for this  matchbox of a thing, but hearing is believing. This little thing made a big difference for me, and if you're running motherboard stock audio, it probably will for you too. If you're the type that wants your games to sound their best, check out the DacMagic. It might be exactly what you're looking for.
USB DAC review photo
USB DAC can make your games sound better
Before I tell you why you need this DAC or any other, let me tell you what it actually is.  Think of a Digital to Analog Converter as an external upgrade for the circuitry of your audio device's innards. Every modern aud...

PS4 photo
PS4

PS4 firmware 1.60 adds support for Pulse headsets


New Gold Wireless Headset announced
Feb 03
// Jordan Devore
As of a system update going live late tonight, PlayStation 4 owners with an official Pulse or Pulse Elite Edition headset will now be able to use their device with the console. That took a while, didn't it? With that support...

Review: Polk N1 Gaming SurroundBar

Jan 17 // Dale North
Polk N1 Gaming Surroundbar Manufacturer: PolkMSRP: $299 (available at Amazon) The N1 is a sharp-looking but compact (about 39" wide, 4" tall) sound bar that manages to pack in four small drivers and a subwoofer behind its cool horizontal slats and under its brushed-top finish. It might be a tad bit bigger than the models that have a separate subwoofer, but it's nice and tidy, and still small enough to fit underneath your television's screen. It's available in both black and white finishes. You won't find a wealth of ports on the N1, but it does have all the bases covered. Two digital connections (SPDIF and Optical) and one 1/8" audio jack will cover just about any need. There's also a SUB-OUT port for those that would like to add a subwoofer. Connectivity is expanded by the built-in Bluetooth chip, which lets you stream audio from just about any compatible device. Polk came to Microsoft for a bit of help with the sound processing for the N1. They were paired up with 343 Industries and Turn 10 Studios to work with their engineers to create a couple of genre-specific sound modes for the sound bar. There are even little buttons on the remote that feature the Forza and Halo logos. Of course, you don't have to be playing Halo 4 or Forza 5 to benefit from the shooter and racing genre modes of the N1. My first impression was that the N1 gets loud! A big sound comes out of this relatively compact sound bar. I did not expect it to put forth such a clean, full sound. That subwoofer may be invisible, but it's definitely working somewhere in there. The N1 has a full range sound that is well-balanced and tight. There's none of that nasty time separation between highs and lows (a wireless sub problem), and it gets away from the hollow, processed sound that so many sound bars suffer from.  The game sound processing modes are interesting in that they perked up the sound of the games I tried it on without harming the audio quality. Too many of the EQ curves thrown into gaming audio products hype frequencies to be exciting, but eventually end up causing ear fatigue. Trying the racing mode with Forza 5 had the sound field widening a bit, making the sound effects more immersive. The shooter mode seemed to make all the foreground sounds even more pronounced. It began to wear on my ears at high volume, though. Neither mode as as gimmicky as I originally feared, and the racing one in particular is quite good. There are a few drawbacks of note for the sound processing. The sub can distort with some of the sound processing on at higher volumes. Also, you need to be sitting dead center for full immersion. Anything outside of that skews the sound field in a weird way.  The non-gaming modes, Music and Cinema, were as useful as they were named, with the Cinema preset working well for content that I tried with my cable box. Again, the N1 put off a rich, full-range sound, with this mode bringing more pronounced dialogue than the others. The N1's sound can easily fill a large room. The Bluetooth streaming mode works like a charm, and it has great range, too.  A few gripes: The remote is a tiny little thing that seems to respond when it wants to. I don't expect it to hold up. Thankfully there's a programming feature included to let you use your existing remotes. I also found that there aren't enough steps between the digital volume settings to fine tune the volume exactly to my liking. And not having a sound-mode button on the speaker is an oversight. My personal preference for gaming, music, and movies is stereo speakers and a proper receiver. While you couldn't manage full tower speakers and an amp for the N1's $299 MSRP, you could swing a budget receiver and some fuller-ranged bookshelf speakers, or a budget set of powered monitors. Even Polk's TSi100 Bookshelf speakers would be a great solution for gaming and music. But the N1 is better than any sound bar that I've had in my home so far, and it has gaming sound modes to boot. Its Bluetooth connectivity makes it even more useful as a big wireless speaker system. If you want a tidy, clean, and loud solution that fits underneath your television set, the Polk N1 Gaming Surroundbar is a solid choice for your gaming rig. 
Polk N1 soundbar photo
With Forza and Halo sound modes
I don't have the best history with sound bars. I had this bigger JBL one that sounded nice, but it stopped working. Kaput. I tried to replace it with one of Sony's budget models, but that one sounded so bad that I laughed at ...

Headphones photo
Headphones

Polk Audio's Melee headphones are nice, but expensive


We put the 360 edition to the test
Jan 10
// Chris Carter
Polk Audio has crafted gaming headphones called the Melee that was created in tandem with the sound engineers of the Halo and Forza series to deliver top-quality sound. It's a pretty ambitious project, and overall, I'd say it paid off. I'm impressed, but $200 is pretty hefty for a device that's mostly tailored towards one console.
Gaming headphones photo
Gaming headphones

Premium audio brands get into gaming headsets at CES


Several new sets debut at CES
Jan 10
// Dale North
The business of gaming audio is growing so fast that the makers of many premium audio product brands are throwing their hats into the ring. Several new gaming headsets debuted at CES 2014, with entries from top names like Aud...
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The best PC desktop speakers we found at CES 2014


Can I borrow some money?
Jan 09
// Dale North
PC desktop speakers usually suck. Most of the ones you see in electronics stores center around a particle board subwoofer and satellite speakers that remind me (and sometimes sound like) the cups with string tied to them that...
Sound design photo
Sound design

Dementium II HD sound effects provided by schnauzer


Developer diary reveals some!
Nov 18
// Conrad Zimmerman
A new developer diary for Dementium II HD has been unleashed upon an unwitting world. This time, sound designer Morné Marais goes over some of his approaches to creating audio for the game, always crucial to evoking the proper mood in a horror title.  Who knew such a cute little mutt could be responsible for so many horrible sounds?
PS4 headset issues photo
PS4 headset issues

PS4: Your headsets won't work at launch, some not at all


Shaking my headset
Oct 11
// Steven Hansen
This is a PS4 PSA. Like the Xbox One, the PS4's compatibility with existing headsets leaves a lot to be desired. Both consoles come with a fully functional headset, mind, but that's little consolation for those with expensive...
Logitech G430 photo
Logitech G430

Impressions: Logitech G430 Surround Sound Gaming Headset


Great value for the price
Jun 18
// Aerox
My experiences with sub-$100 headphones haven't been the most positive. I've gone through quite a few pairs from a variety of manufacturers, and have generally had issues with either comfort, durability, and/or sound/micropho...
Twitch photo
Twitch

Turtle Beach becomes official audio partner for Twitch


Exclusive partnership for eSports
May 15
// Jordan Devore
Turtle Beach has entered an exclusive agreement with Twitch to stock the streaming site's eSports and game events with audio equipment. Specifically, the Ear Force XP SEVEN and Z SEVEN headsets will be used for consoles and P...
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BioShock Infinite rocks your head with Pulse headset mode


Boooooooom
Mar 25
// Dale North
Sony's super nice Pulse Elite Edition headsets will see the release of an exclusive Audio Mode for BioShock Infinite tomorrow. Sony says that this is the first time they've partnered with a game developer to deliver a special...
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CES: Ears-on with 3 new Turtle Beach headsets


Multiplatform headsets debuted
Jan 08
// Dale North
I had a chance to listen to a few of the newly announced headsets from Turtle Beach at CES today. Their top option is the new Seven series of headsets, which comes in three configurations: XP Seven for consoles, Z Seven for P...

Review: Designears

Dec 14 // Daniel Starkey
There’s a rabid individualism that sort-of pervades modern western culture. I can’t be said to be against it, because I totally get it. I’m an egotistical ass sometimes. I love my stuff and I’m prone to being more than a little obnoxious about it. I wear a lot of clothing with logos, I have a Dtoid sticker on nearly everything I possess, etc. So I definitely understand why people might want to loudly declare dedication to one thing or another and as an avid lover of all things audio, I have a dozen sets of circumaural beasts that I use almost constantly. That in mind, Designears seem almost tailored to me. The selling point here is the ability to slap whatever image or logo you want on a pair of headphones, so when you’re strolling around, going about your day, everyone can see that you’re into cupcakes and green robots. The “design” part of Designears is totally fine. The image they print is covered with a rubbery plastic which feels higher-quality than I expected and is resistant to scuffs and scratches. Mr. Destructoid’s face wasn’t pixelated or washed out at all, and presumably that same attention to detail will be pretty consistent.  Unfortunately, my praise ends there. Wait… no… the carrying case is actually really nice. Yeah, now I’m done. When you pick up the set, Designears’ biggest problem is immediately apparent -- they are cheaply made. It’s something I would expect from a tweaking pack of five-year-olds given a year’s supply of paste and Popsicle sticks. It’s bad. Made entirely of plastic, the phones creak and strain when any significant force is applied. The set has no weight, either.  When holding them with one finger, they still feel so completely insubstantial that I’m honestly left wondering how they work at all. Putting them on is an even bigger disappointment. Designears are halfway between being supra aural and circum, and they come off as a poorly constructed unholy hybrid of the two. They isolate no outside noise and they leak worse than any set I’ve ever heard. On the inside of the earcup there’s this foam-like… thing that hits the top arch and ridges of my ears. Its scratchy and horribly uncomfortable for any length of time. The leatherette cups aren’t much better, and they rotate freely, not at all properly connected to the base. The frame and connecting pieces aren’t up to snuff, either. Most adjustable headphones have a kind of light locking mechanism that keeps the piece from sliding around too much. Again, Designears fails as the cheap plastic pieces are incredibly stiff and a pain in the ass to move or adjust at all. Similarly, the frame doesn’t have much give in the coronal plane, meaning that wider-headed folks like me are almost squeezed by the plastic trying to return to their natural shape. But as stiff as they are, I’m afraid to apply any real force to them for fear that they’d shatter in my hands. The foam underside of the headband is also held on with a very cheap, very weak double-sided tape. As I checked to see if the cord was user-replaceable, I discovered what the most offensive fault in these headphones is, to me. The cable runs out of a small hole on the left ear cup -- pretty standard for these things. On the right cup, though, the exact same hole is in the same spot. The manufacturers were so lazy that they simply didn’t make more than one kind of cup. Build quality matters. It does. Especially when consumers start dropping some real money. If you’re going to put cash down, then the product should be able to last for a while. When people make shoddy hardware and charge above what they are clearly worth, it shows a profound lack of respect from the customer. If the piece sounded incredible (I mean ridiculously awesome) then most of these things could be forgiven. But, as you’ve probably already guessed -- they simply don’t. Somehow, they are bass-heavy without any of the crisp definition that I’ve come to expect. Everything is muddled and quiet, without any of the pop or life media deserves. And it should be more than a little indicative that this is all I can think to say about it. Here’s the bottom line -- if you’re vain enough that all you need from these things is a pretty picture of your choosing and you happen to have $70 lying around, then you’re good. Go buy them and be on your merry way. Otherwise, just find a place to print out your own stickers and plaster them on whatever it is you’re using to listen to Taylor Swift, the Ting Tings, or whatever.
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Customization can only get you so far
It’s not very often that I get a chance to review something bad. It’s even rarer for me to come across headphones that I just hate. Truth is, most things that you spend $50 or more on are pretty good. Mediocrity c...

Review: Palo Alto Cubik

Sep 24 // Daniel Starkey
Product: CubikManufacturer: Palo AltoInput: USBOutput: 2.2MSRP: $199.95 The first and most obvious trait that you’ll probably notice is the rather futuristic shape. Each piece is shaped like a cube with divots on its sides. The back panel, as one might expect, has all of the connectors and ports for power and input. On one face of the “cube,” there is also a small hole for the built-in, miniature subwoofer. All together, it’s an aggressively modern aesthetic. Not so much sleek and clean, but more of an allusion to a dystopian parallel world. Weather or not you personally prefer the look is obviously up to you but, sitting beside my Asus G73 and my Alienware M15x, I thought they fit in nicely. As stylish as they may be, if they don’t sound any better than an average set, they’re largely pointless, especially at that price point. Thankfully, they do perform extremely well at normal volume levels. Mids are nice and clean, highs are crisp and playful, and the bass has a significantly higher fidelity than what you can get from standard laptop speakers. That said, their most attractive quality isn’t quite as easy to articulate. Most audio equipment has really stark directionality; rotating your head or moving around a room will quickly demonstrate that. Cubik, on the other hand, has a very large, open soundscape. They create an aural bubble within which everything sounds roughly the same from any given position. It’s really an odd thing to hear, and I had several of my friends come in to try it just so I could prove to myself that I wasn’t crazy. This bubble of sound is probably caused by the the mini-subwoofers on the back and the two tweeters that point directly up at the listener’s ears. In that sense, they are engineered much better than your average desktop stereo setup. Unfortunately, the generally solid performance and wow-factor cannot make up for a few key frustrations. While at moderate volume, Cubik performs admirably, but if you have some friends over and want to watch an action flick, or need some oomph for a room party, you will be sorely disappointed. Cubik lacks that tight, low-end bass that you get from larger, dedicated subs, and at higher volumes, even the included mini-subwoofers simply cannot keep up. Explosions and gunshots will either come off as dull and flat or cause the audio to tear a bit. Either way, for a set that costs $200, that isn’t really something I can forgive. Additionally, while it’s great that the option for USB input is included, the fact that nothing is supported -- no TOSLink, no 3.5mm, etc. -- is really underwhelming. Versatility is highly important and the option to use this set with any source could have made it a much stronger contender. Beyond that, all cables are either proprietary or not user-replaceable. Again, a few simple design oversights dramatically limit the long-term viability and utility of this set is capped far lower than it should be. At this price level, consumers should expect more. If the design alone is enough to win you over, then I highly recommend them. If not, you should probably look at a more powerful system from someone else.
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If you haven’t been able to tell by the fairly large number of headphone reviews I’ve done for this site, I have a thing for audio equipment. It's probably the single biggest investment I make beyond my daily caff...

Review: Astro A50

Sep 17 // Daniel Starkey
Wireless headphones -- hell, wireless products in general -- suffer from lower response times, battery hassles, and generally inferior ... everything. To a degree, this reputation is certainly deserved. In the same way that laptops will always be inferior to desktops in every way but one, so too have peripherals paid the price of convenience. It’s unfortunate, too, because the headphones, especially those meant for home theaters, do not at all lend themselves well to a perpetually tethered environment. For the best comfort, for the best experience, wireless is arguably the ultimate goal. The A50s are incredible in their ability to assuage my general trepidation towards the cordless world. The A50s have a number of design changes over Astro’s bread-and-butter A40 set. The most striking of these is the primarily metal frame. It gives the set an excellent feeling of quality and strength that the plastic-framed A40s lack. Even the Creative Tactics can’t measure up. The cups are lined with a soft, velvet-like fabric -- a welcome change from the leatherette standard. The headstrap is also lined with this material, coating the padding. The microphone sits on the left side, activated only when pulled down in front of the user's face. The other controls, including volume, power, a switch for three different listening modes, and a basic equalizer are jammed into the the outer edge of the right cup. The proximity of each can be a bit confusing at times. So much packed so closely together -- and the simple fact that while gaming, you can’t see any of the components -- can make selecting the wrong setting or bumping something unintentionally an occasional annoyance. Aurally, the A50 is a phenomenal set, packed with rich, booming base, soothingly smooth midtones and crisp highs. The soundscape is huge and open, not unlike Sennheiser HD 650 -- a pair that retails for nearly twice as much. The effect is so notable that I actually had to ask whether they were closed or open-back. My only gripe here is the inability of the set to handle higher volumes. Don’t get me wrong, they sound spectacular at anything that even remotely resembles “safe,” but it is a bit disconcerting to hear their fail conditions. Wireless sets, unlike their tethered relatives, don’t have to cope with amps or absurd amounts of power streaming in because some idiot 20-something wants to be deaf in five years. The positive side of that fickle coin is that, in contrast to the Creative Tactics, you will never encounter a situation where the volume level of the source limits you to to quiet and muted tones -- it will always get louder. Microphone reception and quality is prismatic. Everyone I asked online said I came through very clear without any issues in understanding me. As mentioned before, the mic boom can be flipped up and away from the face to mute -- a simple yet brilliant feature that makes the whole system just a bit more user-friendly. If you’ve used the A40, then you are familiar with the Mixamp, Astro’s term for the base station. It includes a USB port to charge the headset itself as well a a few basic controls to turn the system on and off. Provided with the station is a small plastic tower that acts as both a tray for the station and a rack to set the headphones on when not in use. Unfortunately, for inputs, the system only accepts optical. The set is largely console-focused and both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 natively support TOSLink. If you’re a PC user, you’d be hard pressed to find a cheap, consumer-grade card that would be compatible, but for everyone else, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. The final effect, however, is definitely worth the trouble. Because the set only takes optical, Astro thought it would be absurd to compress the the audio stream to the headset as most other wireless sets do. To accomplish this, they used the 5.8 Ghz band, which has the added benefit of being largely free from any form of electromagnetic interference. Astro has been in the business of creating high-end gaming headsets for some time now; building inroads with MLG and other competitive communities has secured their spot as a respected manufacturer. In my experience, however, their products have suffered from lackluster build-quality and a juvenile, ostentatious design. That trend seemed a bit true when they released the A*, a slick, modern reinterpretation of a cell-phone headset. My pair, for example, has survived everything from door jams to being put through a washer and dryer at full heat. While I can’t say with any certainty that the A50s will endure the same punishment, they have given me a bit more confidence in the design and engineering of Astro’s products. At $300, they run on the high-end, but they at least seem to be in the same class as their price would suggest. Gone on are the days of cheap, plastic-y $200 boondoggles. From those ashes have risen a respectable, clean vision of the future of high-end gaming peripherals.
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It doesn't take much to really improve the gaming experience. Better seating, better lighting, better company, etc. are sometimes all it takes to go from an utterly insufferable trek through your simulated world of ...

Review: Creative Sound Blaster Recon3D, Tactic3D Omega

Feb 14 // Daniel Starkey
I have been a fan of Creative’s products for quite some time. In junior high, I bought a used X-Fi card from a kid on the playground (it wasn’t as sketchy as it sounds). I went home and slapped that sucker into the only open PCI slot I had. After fiddling with some settings, I was blown away by how much more amazing Linkin Park was. Teenage angst never sounded so good.  Flash forward to my college days. I had to leave my hulking Full ATX desktop back home and I became a fan of laptops. They’re portable, great for LANs, and use less power. Still ... something was missing. Without a dedicated sound card, I just wasn’t getting the same oomph from my speakers or my headphones.  When I got the Omega headset and Recon3D external sound card in the mail, I was eager to put them through their paces. Having a decently portable audio setup has been a dream of mine for the past four years. Working against both pieces was about five years' worth of nostalgia. Keeping that in mind, let's get started. Recon3D I tested the station with the Tactic3D Omegas, a set of Technics DH-1200s and Sennheiser HD-280 Pros. They are all in roughly the same class, and were good for direct comparison in terms of comfort, sound, and build quality. I used several laptops operating under the assumption that the Recon3D was intended to replace the integrated audio in laptops. When using the base for the first time, you will need to install some proprietary Creative Software. Thankfully the bloat isn’t too bad; on any kind of modern system, the average user shouldn’t have any problems. That said, it took me quite a while to figure out how much the software affected the output quality versus the device itself. There is definitely a substantive boost in quality. Without it, music run through my laptops’ integrated cards all lack definition and volume. They simply don’t feel as big or warm as they do with the Recon3D. The included software has quite a few features. On top of the standard equalizer, bass boost, mixer, and environment settings, there are a few bits to increase the clarity of dialogue in movies and games, and a surround-sound emulator. Overall, I was pretty impressed with the whole package. I never heard any distortion or audio tearing that wasn’t already present in the source, and the Recon3D comes with a button allowing you to quickly switch back and forth between your array of tweaked settings and the default. The Recon3D’s main selling point is, of course, the surround-sound emulation. Creative claims that it “surpasses 5.1 and even 7.1” because it “mimics hundreds of speakers all around you.” While I can’t say that I really endorse this statement, I will say that if you take the time to get the settings in the Recon3D and your game or media player of choice, it is a very rewarding experience. That isn’t to say there are no problems, however. The software is really finicky, and if the title you are watching/playing doesn’t support surround sound, you’re SOL. There’s always some noticeable panning between the left and right speakers, but if you turn on the surround emulator, it gets quite a bit worse. The transition is clunky and it very quickly kills any immersion that was there. One of the other core features of the Recon3D is something that Creative calls “scout mode.” In theory, the software analyzes ambient noise and highlights subtle footsteps so you can hear approaching foes from further away. In practice, it is something of a total disaster. Take The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, for example: the clicking of insects, crashing of waves, and gentle wind become ABSURDLY loud. When I first turned it on, I sincerely thought I caused significant hearing damage. Thinking that this feature might be meant for competitive first-person shooters exclusively, I started up Counter Strike: Source at a LAN party. My results were a little better (as in I didn’t suffer tinnitus immediately), but I still thought the software was overzealous. It picks up small effects like the rustling of your character’s clothing and/or the footsteps of yourself and others and makes them so loud that it is impossible to focus. It’s trash. I genuinely believe the Recon3D base unit is a viable alternative to native laptop output. This is especially true if you are unfortunate enough to have one that picks up a lot of electromagnetic interference. Because this runs on USB, the output is nice and clean unless the source itself is crap. If you have a desktop, I would strongly recommend getting a dedicated PCI or PCI-E card. Tactic3D Omega I love ‘em. They are really solid all around, and I could not for the life of me get the bass to bottom out. The sheer power these headphones have is absolutely absurd for a wireless set, and the fact that they last more than five minutes at full volume is really impressive. They are comfortable, never feel too warm, feel sturdy enough, and are semi-collapsible for semi-easy transport. Still, the Omegas are not without problems. To be fair, almost all of my complaints are derived from the fact that they are wireless and will run you around $200. To back up a little bit, the Omega headset has three inputs, all on the left side. One for power via micro-USB, another for the detachable microphone, and the last allows you to connect the headset to an Xbox 360 controller. The lack of 3.5mm in or even the ability to accept signal input via USB is probably the biggest frustration. In the same way that a non-user-replaceable cord for a high-end set of wired cans is unacceptable, the lack of redundancy is more than a little annoying. If anything happens to the Recon3D base station, the wireless transmitter, etc. then you will have to send it in for a replacement. It’s just one more potential inconvenience for you down the line. The lack of alternative inputs also means that you can’t run the Omegas through a headphone amp. For those who tend to get too enthusiastic with the volume dial, this is probably a good thing, but it’s still nice to know you have the choice. For the average user, these headphones still get plenty loud, though at the higher volumes they can bleed a little bit too much. Unless you’ve already caused significant damage to your hearing, you won’t need anything more extreme than what the Omegas can offer. Probably the pettiest complaint I have relates to the build quality. Compared to the DH-1200s and HD 280s, they are quite a bit sturdier, given their steel core; however, the outside of the cups creak with light pressure, and the frame has slightly more give than you might want. The plastic on the rest of the set is pretty solid. (And the badass blue lights on the outside of the cups almost make up for their flimsy feel.) Still, for two Benjamins, I would prefer something that feels like it will last for a good long while. I know a lot of people really won’t care about this extra stuff, so let’s dig into the really important part: how the Tactic3D Omega sounds. To get a good baseline, I tried watched several episodes of How I Met Your Mother, The Dark Knight, listened to metric craptons of music, and played several games including Sins of a Solar Empire, Skyrim, BioShock, Geometry Wars 2, Forza 4, Mass Effect 2, and Half-Life 2. As one might be able to infer about any set of headphones ostensibly designed for gaming and shooters, the Omegas are quite bass-heavy. Gunshots, explosions, and deep, driving bass lines are all reproduced in brilliant detail with vibrancy that I don’t get the opportunity to experience often. I’ve never had a set of headphones that have tricked me into thinking there’s a subwoofer in my skull. A lot of sets lose a little something solely because they are headphones; these probably have the most accurate low-end response of anything less than $400. Sadly, the rest of the range isn’t as stellar. While I certainly couldn’t say that there is any range that isn’t good, the mid-tones are definitely the weak link. Much of milder rock and the everyday sound effects in games and movies come off as dull. I could never get HIMYM to sound natural, regardless of tweaks. Every time I nabbed one range of frequencies, another seemed just as off as ever. Creative included a dialogue setting which is supposed to help with that problem, but it’s more effective when you are playing or watching something that isn’t solid dialogue and laugh tracks. For wireless headphones, they are not as portable as I would like (requiring the base station to be set up to use them) and I think that definitely has a huge impact on usability. You can’t use them with any portable music player, you cannot use them easily on a train or a bus or a plane without some difficulty. As something that is designed for versatility, that’s a very real concern. One thing I was expected to be an issue was the use of the crowded 2.4GHz band. So many wireless devices already use those frequencies that some interference would be expected. But, for the most part, I didn't have any problems. Unless you are literally standing next to a running microwave, you shouldn't have too many issues. The headset and the external sound car do exactly what I wanted them to. They are a worthy replacement and supplement to my existing equipment. They're perfect for great, portable audio in a LAN-party setting, and definitely add something that you cannot get with software alone. Still, I can see some people walking into this purchase expecting one thing and getting another. I definitely cannot recommend either product for everybody, but if you don’t need a super-portable setup, and you have lackluster laptop audio, these are a pretty great option.
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Creative is one of the world’s best-known brands of PC and gaming audio equipment. “Known” doesn’t always translate to “good,” though. I had an opportunity to check out their new Sound Blaster Recon3D external USB audio processor and their Tactic3D Omega headphones. Do these two pieces live up to the Creative name? Continue reading for the full review.

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COD: Modern Warfare 3 Billets 9mm ltd edition earphones


Sep 29
// Dale North
MUNITO has made slick special edition earphones (earbuds) with COD in mind. The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Special Edition Billets 9mm earphones are machined from aircraft-grade billet aluminum, reinforced with ...

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