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Review: iClever's budget IC-HS20 Gaming Headset & stand

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Better than Red Lobster

Gaming headsets priced less than a nice steak dinner often fall somewhere between the meh to soon-to-be-snapped-in-half categories, but there are some exceptional standouts. I found such a unicorn among the hot garbage this time around.

The IC-HS20 by iClever are a curious set of headphones for $29.99. They're made of premium materials, they're YUUGE, come with LED lighting, sport a stylish design, have an almost eight-foot cord, and include a glossy headphone stand. I was dying to know -- at that price, what the hell is wrong with it?

Model: IC-HS20 Gaming Headset
Manufacturer: iClever
MSRP: $37.99 (seen on Amazon at $29.99)

This is my first review of an iClever product. From what I've read, they make a very large array of affordable portable electronics like chargers and Bluetooth speakers, but I don't associate them with gaming at all. They also make cat ear headphones. I'm not sure why I'm not reviewing those instead.

Let's get the nerdy specifications out of the way:

- Driver diameter: Φ50mm
- Driver impedance: 32Ω
- Upgraded function: Vibration
- Sound effect: 7.1 simulated sound channels 
- Frequency range: 20Hz-20KHz
- Sensitivity: 97dB±3dB
- Output power: 20MW
- MIC impedance ≤2.2kΩ
- MIC Sensitivity: -37dB±3dB
- Wire length: 2.4m (that's almost 8 feet in 'Murica) 

Comfort and Design

Zack joked that 50mm round headphones make us look like Princess Leia, and these are no exception. The ear cups are roughly the size of Mr. Destructoid's giant robot ears. What is most surprising about this unit is how light it feels, despite the size. The unit is light and easy to pick up. The design has a lot of good things going for it: it's not stupidly complex and there are high-quality metallic accents that give it a premium look. I wouldn't be embarrassed to be seen in these, which is not something I can say about 90% of gaming headphones. I'm not trying to shit on anyone's headphone choice -- I'm saying most don't look good on my fat head.

They're techie looking, but they're not dorktastic. I don't feel like a giant goober despite their size. 

Overall build quality and construction

Flexing the headset a few times in a few extreme angles didn't produce any cringeworthy plastic flexing sounds. The manual claimed that it would be hard to break, and I'll give them a nod for saying so. The ear cups are wrapped in a semi-thin leathery material and the manual claims these have memory foam within. Whatever this is made of, it's comfortable. It works. My ears didn't feel like they ran away naked in the middle of an onsen after a few hours of use. I like the huge L and R print on the inside, and that the LED lights shine through on both sides of the cup. 

At just under eight feet the USB cord feels like just the right length, though it isn't removable. It's a simple rubber cable with a tiny hint of glitter here and there. The end connector is puzzlingly complex with two rubber side grips and a nine-circle pattern, with a basic interference/noise filter three fingers away. At the very least, it's solid black and just blends into the background. No mid-cord controls, which is going to be a turn-off for some people used to quick mute clicks. I personally can't stand how mid-cord controls cause unnecessary weight and a break in cord curvature, so this is a plus for me. 

The volume slider (pictured above) has an oversized plastic bulge to help you find it behind your left ear, and also protects you from blasting the volume to max while you're looking for it. Unfortunately this means you'll be making two or three thumb gestures if you need to crank it down. Perhaps with practice I can get used to it. Pretty clever, iClever. 

The volume slider doesn't translate to system volume levels, it just manages its own volume levels. It's not a digital knob.

Microphone build quality

The mic has arbitrary positioning. Think about your penis (or when you borrow your friend's penis). When it's flaccid you can suggest the general direction of where it points, but after you release it it's going to have a second opinion on where it's going to go. The microphone on the IC-HS20 is a little more obedient than that, but not by much.

There's a sort of terse garden hose feel to it, which is great for durability but may be a slight annoyance to some. I like that the LED light on the tip of the mic wasn't bright enough to blind me if I pointed it directly into my eye. Unlike the RGB cycling effect on the outer ears, the light on the mic is a solid blue. Compared to headsets that don't have retractable mics, the length of the microphone feels a little short.

Microphone recording quality

The microphone isn't going to win any awards, but it's serviceable. I was able to call 13-year-olds every obscenity I knew and they had no trouble being offended. The sound feels a little shallow for podcast recording, but for online play it gets the job done. If you need something for recording your Barry White covers you're going to want to spend a little more.

Sound Quality and Clarity

It doesn't have the complexity or fidelity of a high-end headset, but I found that listening to music with them was also quite enjoyable. 

The midrange really shines in this headset. While listening to Marvin Gaye's "Mercy Mercy Me," one of my favorite jogging tracks, it sounds like that iconic drum beat is right next to me. It's a good song that reminds me that I'm trapped in a rapidly decomposing body along with the rest of you, no matter how youthful my heart is. The lows sound a bit compressed, but overall I don't have any real complaints about the sound. You can get lost in your music and forget you're wearing them. Also, Marvin Gaye's own dad shot him to death. Damn.

The clicking sound at the beginning of Weird Al Yankovic's "Dare to be Stupid" sounds like it was made by a person, like with a cheek flick. How does that sound to you?

Bass Levels

If there's one place where it sounds like a budget headset, it's the bass. It's just good enough, right there in the average checkmark. A bad headset would sputter and bellow deep farts when it can't handle the bass, and these don't do that. It tries to compensate with a flatter sound but even on the over-the-top bass low frequency tests I never heard any popping or other kinds of breakfast cereal sound effects.

I initially mistook the button near the volume for a mute function, but what it actually does is enable bass vibration. You're either going to love or hate this feature. There's so much plastic on it and the driver is so strong that it will physically vibrate your face. If you like force feedback on your face, you might dig this. For me, it just felt like the bass had blown a gasket. I rather keep the vibration on the controller. It would have been cool if it was software configurable as a mute button instead. 

On the Mac, I was able to get iTune's equalizer to play well with it as well. The software doesn't work on Mac, but iTunes' white boy preset for Treble Booster soothed the beast.

Digital 7.1 Surround Sound

The manual that comes with the headphones, though professionally put together, is basic as fuck. There's a bunch of black and white screenshots of what might be Windows Vista and something called "Solid State System" or "SSS," the virtual surround sound software. I did some serious journalism and found out that the software is apparently made by a company called Sharkoon, who does have a full line of gaming headsets. It's unclear if this is a sort of OEM or a software license or co-op collaboration between the two companies at the time of writing, but I reached out to their rep for clarification.  

I'm testing version 3.1.2016.516, which I assume means version 3.1 released in 2016. After installing and rebooting for 200% Dracula satisfaction a little headphone icon appeared in my system tray for the software. No issues with setup on Windows 10 Creator's Update. Here's where it gets confusing.  The software doesn't play back any sound. Luckily you can fire up any YouTube Digital 7.1 calibration video and the software responds like magic.  I was able to move speakers around and change the positioning with no problem, though the software did unexpectedly close on me once when I was getting really creative with my settings. 

Extended use and Fatigue

After a few hours of use I wanted the comfortable elastic strap to stop squeezing my head, but the side cups are not height adjustable, so I had to slide it forward to unleash my trampled hair. It somehow slides comfortably forwards and back across the top of my head despite this, which was an unexpected compromise. Taking one cup off and having the unit diagonally across my skull was also comfortable in a number of positions. I'm just under six feet tall so I have an ostrich neck, and the giant cups can rest under my chin with no problems.

Headphone Stand (@#[email protected] this is included)

I'm in love with how classy the stand is. Look at it. It's gorgeous. Unlike the wall behind it. The wall looks like it's going through puberty. 

The omega-shaped design looks like a piece of art on its own, and it also seems virtually indestructible. I found a similar (if not the exact same) stand by AmoVee on Amazon for $14, with an MSRP of $25. It's insane that this came with a $30 headset, and it totally raises the bar for everyone else in the category. I didn't think I'd want it until it was on my desk. They're fantastic. If it survives a North Korean ballistic missile I'd like to be buried together with it.  

TLDR:

Pros - There's a lot to love here. First, the ear cups are just like our logo and colored in like Mr. Destructoid's eyeballs so I'm already a fan. But seriously, IMHO you get a very attractive headset with LED lighting and chrome finish, great comfort, a retractable microphone, and they include a stylish stand for thirty bucks. It's just as comfortable as a $100 pair of Razer Kraken, with the obvious tradeoffs. Basically, it's a Christmas miracle in June. This is aggressively priced to disrupt. If you like a headset that has a very pronounced bass, have a gigantic head, or just enjoy around-the-ear fit this is a pretty good choice. 

Cons - The bass is muddy, there's just no getting around it. After I tuned my equalizer to reduce the bass I was immediately much happier with the sound. The treble feels a little breathy and raspy at times, which can result in background vocals taking three unwanted steps forward. There's no cord controller, the cord and microphone aren't removable, and the 7.1 software is basic. It's sold as a noise-cancelling headset but during normal operation there's no active noise reduction happening. USB port only, no headphone plug.

Price and parting thoughts

The IC-HS20s aren't going to sound perfect out of the box. You're going to have to work to tune them, and when you do you'll find that they deliver an excellent sound for the dough.

I mean, it's the price of an adult lobster cooked by someone struggling to make ends meet. Stop going to Red Lobster. Stop the langostino lies. You can go eat cumbersome seafood that has to be drowned in a vat of butter before it tastes like anything, or get better headphones.

The $20-$50 price range is already dominated by solid options from Sades, Xiberia, HyperX, and the G200 Logitech series, but none of those headsets look or fit quite like this one. They're less "gamer" tacky in that they don't feel like ten plastic rectangles vomited at random to look edgy. I think it looks nicer than most of Sharkoon's own products, too. 

For the money, you really can't go wrong with the IC-HS20s.

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reviewed by Niero Gonzalez

 

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Niero Gonzalez
Niero GonzalezMeat Vessel   gamer profile

I keep Destructoid weird. Also I'm a playable character in Retro City Rampage, look: (along with the whole 2009 Dtoid Editorial team) Sometimes I have a villainous mustache My dog CoCo chec... more + disclosures


 


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