ASUS ROG Vulcan ANC Headset Review

BluePanda - 2012-09-08 12:04:24 in Speakers/Headphones
Category: Speakers/Headphones
Reviewed by: BluePanda   
Reviewed on: May 14, 2013
Price: $119.99

ASUS ROG Vulcan ANC Introduction:

The Republic of Gamers, affiliated with ASUS, has released the "World's First" active noise canceling headset for gamers: the ROG ASUS Vulcan ANC. As you've probably already put it together, ANC stands for active-noise canceling. It's a feature that blocks out the noise around the room so you can better hear what is being played through the headset: i.e. your game. If you have noisy fans in your computer or you just want to tune out your mother telling you to clean your room, you can flip the ANC switch to the "on" position and simply tune them out. At least that's the idea behind this design from ASUS.

With a removable mic, removable cable, and carrying case, these headphones have the potential to offer quite a bit. The ROG ASUS Vulcan ANC headset features 40mm drivers with oblong circumaural (over the ear) design. The ear pads provide complete over the ear coverage in an ultra-soft breathable memory foam cushion – they should be rather comfortable for long hours of game play. Made with scratch resistant materials these should keep you looking sharp even after heavy use and your rage quits. Today we've got the ROG ASUS Vulcan ANC headset to see how they look, how they fit, and most importantly, how they sound.

 

ASUS ROG Vulcan ANC Closer Look:

The headset comes in a typical shelving package with a hang tag and graphics to catch your attention. It's rather subtle on the front with a quick image of the headset, but it does intrigue you to want to know or see more. "Active-Noise-Cancelling" is written out just above "PRO Gaming Headset". To me, my first thought is airplane headphones – awesome! Turning the box to the side the Republic of Gamers (ROG) logo is at the top with an ASUS logo at the bottom. There are four features listed in over 20 different languages. The back of the box is a little more interesting with a frequency response plot showing the difference between ANC on and off.

The 85% cancellation occurs at the higher range of human hearing capabilities to knock out the loud case fan sounds in your room or that hum of your old CRT. There is also a 30dB isolation at the lower range frequencies to block out environmental noise. The back of the box goes on to show a sneak peak of the product and its features – making me want to open it up even sooner. The last side of the box repeats the front of the box just rotated to the side so you can see what's in the box even in overstock areas. There's a little tab here at the side of the box to open up to more…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opening up the tab there are some almost concept-esque style drawing of the headphones with script writing. Perhaps these are some actual sketches from finalizing the product, but nonetheless it's a little artsy that adds to the overall package design. There is a sort of disclaimer in the lower left corner "Focus to Win!", which talks about how ASUS listens to user feedback, and how this particular ROG product is built upon that. To the right you can almost get a glimpse at the headset itself, rather it's the carrying case for the headphones behind a nice bubble window. Now I want to open it more than before.

 

 

To slow the reveal even longer for you, though you can easily scroll ahead and look yourself, here's what I found inside: a warranty notice and quick start guide! Okay, so maybe it isn't very interesting, and perhaps if you can't figure out how to plug in a headset and use it you probably shouldn't be buying it; but, to be fair, the warranty information and someone else's entire job is dependent on making these manuals – so I'm all for them keeping their job. Pulled from the box the headset case looks that of any typical headphone carry along – soft yet not easily crushed. It has a ROG logo centered and a nice zipper between me and revealing the headset.

Unzipping the case completely it lies open flat on the table. There's a little pouch that attempts to hold the cable and goodies to one side while leaving the headset to its own business. Though the pouch doesn’t' seem to really hold things in place, it's a good starting point for finding things. The headset can be seen here folded up nicely, which makes for a quick on-the-go travel size that doesn't leave you worried about them braking in your bag. Continue to the next page to find some more on how this headset really looks.

 

ASUS ROG Vulcan ANC Closer Look:

Alright, I did it again, I made you think you'd get to look at the headphones right away – nope. Let's take a quick look at what comes with the headset. Pulling everything out of the neat carry case you've got: the headset, detachable mic, cable, and airplane adapter (Ha, my thought of airplane mode was quite acceptable). The plugs are neatly labeled in red and green to respectively show mic and headphone connections. The other end of the cable has the plug connector for the headset itself; you'll see how this works a little later. I'm just happy to see that I can take the cable off the headset completely. I've always wrapped up my headset with the cable to attempt to keep it neat – but now I don't even have to worry. The cable is also rather light and has a bouncy, rubber feel to it. It doesn't want to naturally tangle – and to be honest is rather difficult to try and tangle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The mic detached has a "stylish katana-shape"; ASUS' words, though quite fitting. The plug end fits nicely to the headset and is form fit to fit on only one way. The middle segment is a soft rubber that allows for some adjustment of the mic closer or further from your mouth; however, it doesn't really hold small changes very well.

 

 

The cable also has an in-line control to both mute the mic and control volume up and down. The mute allows you to turn off output to your mic so if you need to talk with someone in the room without telling everyone in your game what's going on, you can quickly flip the switch, well at least if you aren't using press to talk, though it's quite a nice option. The red coloring behind the switch lets you know you aren't transmitting. There's a clip on the back of the controller that allows you to connect it to your hoodie or shirt so you always have quick access to it. The volume wheel rolls up and down to a maximum and minimum volume with quite a large range, so you'll be able to have it loud enough no problem. The image also corresponds to up and down in volume, so if you aren't quite sure which way is quieter, just look at the picture before you blast you ears.

 

 

Finally back to the headphones! Pulled straight from the carrier they are folded up quite nicely, ear cup inside ear cup. The red color is very bright and shiny up against the matte black plastic finish. The ROG logo is on the outside of the ear pieces in a shiny plastic, faux carbon fiber look. Unfolded, the headset doesn't look too much different from an average non-folding set of headphones. The only thing I find slightly annoying at this point is the natural tendency for the headset to want to fold at these points. So no matter how I seem to pick them up they just want to fold back up for storing.

 

 

Looking from the top down you can get a little more of a perspective on the headset. Closed complete (so in the smallest head position) they seem rather small. However, my pea-brained head is almost still too small (go me!) but they do fit alright. The top of the headset has nice padding rather than just a plastic bar. These should be quite comfortable for hours of gameplay. Folding in one of the arms you can get a better look at the ear cup. There is red even on the insides of these hiding the speaker from you. The pads are memory foam covered in a leather feeling material making them quite comfortable. I'm usually more accustomed to cloth ear pads as they usually don't cause heat to be trapped in, but we shall see how these work out.

 

 

Looking at what would be your left ear cup if you were wearing the headset, you can see the two holes for the mic and the actual cable connection. The ANC switch that I've talked so much about is shown here as well. A small LED next to the switch lights up in red to show that the active noise canceling switch is enabled. Plugging in the mic and cable is quite easy work, and once in place stay in place without any issue. The shaped groove of the mic really sits nicely against the outer shape of the ear cup. It looks like it is a part of the headset rather than just the removable part it is.

 

 

The end pops right off the right side of the headset with the simple press of the button just at the bottom of the black plastic edge. Behind the panel is a spot for a battery to allow the active noise canceling feature to work. It takes a single AAA battery, and unfortunately ASUS didn't include one with the headset. After digging through the junk drawer I resulted to pulling a battery from my calculator to use temporarily. Just keep this in mind if you decide to get your own – grab a pack of batteries while you're out. Either way, the battery pops right in like any other battery powered toy you may have, and it's ready to go. Just pop the panel back on and it's game time!

 

 

Before I leave you to go listen to what they sound like; I didn't want to leave those of you with a rather large head out. This headset expands a great amount, about 1.5" on both sides. I'm not sure who out there would have such a large head but I guess anything is possible. They even look nice expanded out and if my head wasn’t so small I'd probably wear them out a notch or two just because it looks so nice. But like I said, the minimal setting is barely "fit" worthy for me – so if you've got a small head, you may want to reconsider.

 

 

Overall the headset isn't bad looking at all. The mic being removable is a feature I've always loved, as you can wear them more as just headphones to listen to music or watch movies on the airplane or just on campus. You don't have to look like the nerdy gamer you may be out in public while watching Netflix on your laptop – you can still use your headphones, just without the mic. It's great! The cable coming off also makes it easy to untangle, though I've had a hard time getting it to tangle, but nonetheless these are all great features. I can't wait to put them on and get a good listen to what they sound like. I hope they sound as good as they look.

ASUS ROG Vulcan ANC Specifications:

Driver:
Driver Diameter: 40mm
Frequency Response:
Headphone: 10 ~ 20000 Hz
Impedance:
32 Ohm
Noise Cancelling Performance:
Active: Maximum > 15 dB
85% Ambient noise cancellation
Passive: Maximum > 30 dB
Operation Time:
Listen Time (per charge): Up to 40 hours
Dimensions:
21 x 18 x 7 cm
Weight:
325 g
Accessories:
Carrying Case & User Guide

 

ASUS ROG Vulcan ANC Features:

 

 

All information is courtesy of: http://rog.asus.com/audio/headsets/vulcan-anc/

ASUS ROG Vulcan ANC Testing:

Testing the ASUS ROG Vulcan ANC headset required some serious music listening sessions, a movie or two, and some intense gaming sessions. Granted, there's no easy way to measure sound quality, but I will do my best to describe any flaws or drawbacks in the sound reproduction that these sound-quality oriented headphones can deliver.

Also, since this particular headset also has the ability to turn on and off the active noise canceling feature – I spoke to both the feature enable versus disabled for each situation.
 

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Headsets:

 

 

Games:

As you all know Borderlands 2 has been out for a while now and it's quite the hit game for all of us who loved the first round. I've found myself playing quite a bit with my friends, so it wasn't a problem throwing on these headphones for a couple rounds of killing. It wasn't too bad wearing them for long periods of time – they are rather comfortable and don't squash your head like others I've had in the past. As for sound quality, they don't sound too bad. For game play you can hear around you alright and turn and shoot it before it shoots you. The mic works like any decent mic and is generally functional, sounding fine. My only disappointment at this point is the lack of punchy bass. If you've got a machine gun or a rocket launcher that you are used to having a nice little thump when shooting, well it just isn't quite the same. Nonetheless they allow you to get up to level five quick enough with your Mechromancer to get that Deathtrap without you being the dead one.

I played with the active noise canceling on for a little bit but it wasn't something I was able to tolerate for very long. With no sound playing at all switching to the ANC is somewhat painful. It feels like pressure in your head that you just can't shake. However, if you turn it on in game or when something is already making noise it isn't too bad. It seems to really cut out some of the mid-range frequencies. It sounds "cold" and lacking a "full" sound. I'm not sure what it is, it just causes a sense of fatigue after listening for very long. It canceled out the noise around me – but in reality turning them up a bit (like normal) does just enough for me. I ended up turning the ANC off and not using it much more than to test it out for this review.

Movies:

Different movies requires different expectations. Watching the Matrix one expects one thing versus watching a simple cartoon such as Despicable Me. But if you are anything like me, you go to the movie theater to feel the bass, not just enjoy the movie in epically large form. As I've already mentioned before these headphones really just lack the bass. The kick isn't there to make you feel it, let alone even hear it. You can crank them up a bit to try for more bass, but turn it up too much and they do actually start to distort. Overall, these aren't much of a step up from even your cheapest in-ear headphones.

The active noise canceling in movies was about useless. The quiet parts in movies that are hard to hear aren't improved with the noise canceling; they are actually harder to hear with the ANC on even if there's a lot going on around you. Too quiet of a section and you get that strange pressure feel back in your head and you end up turning it off anyway. I'm rather disappointed with the ANC, as rather than helping me out – it's just causing me more problems.

Music:

Music for me is something I really enjoy. I was a band nut in middle school and high school and though those years are quite a bit in my past now, I've always enjoyed listening to music of all types: classical, jazz, rock, and even more so today the Billboard Top 100. I really like bass and having two 12" subs in my car I get what I like. So perhaps I'm a bit picky when it comes to getting this, but I feel if a song has bass I want to hear it and I want to feel it. These headphones fell in the bucket on the music test. There just isn't any bass impact. Just like when I was shooting in Borderlands 2 it felt flat and, for lack of a better term, empty. I didn't get the full sensation of my music and even the world's new hit Gangnam Style couldn't be listened to without feeling like I was just missing something. No matter what I seemed to listen to, the Borderlands and Borderlands 2 opener songs, LMFAO, Gotye, Beethoven, Calvin Harris; it just didn't matter. It just all missed its bass.

With active noise canceling enabled, music was a loss. Not only was there not much bass to start, now I've lost both mid-bass and mid-range sounds. They just sound "cold" and lose the warm feel of a song. It's rather thin, I'm guessing because so much range is lost in turning on ANC, but this isn't the point of ANC. There is such a dramatic change between having the active noise canceling on or off. You can sit and listen to a song flipping the switch on and off going between what about sounds right, to something completely removed and "wrong" sounding. It was quite disappointing.

ASUS ROG Vulcan ANC Conclusion:

In the end it didn't end up being the headphones I disliked so much, it was the headphone's main feature: the active noise canceling. The uncanny, brain exploding feel when turning on the ANC switch was something that just didn't go away, nor was it something I could just "get used to." Every time it was on, I felt like either my head was in a vice or that I was going up in elevation and couldn't get my ears to pop. That wasn't the only issue with the ANC being on either. The quality of sound was also significantly reduced when the ANC was on. Music lost its bass, sounding tin can-ish, and games actually were a bit harder to hear what was happening around you – I just kept getting snuck up on and killed. I'm not exactly sure why anyone would ever want to use the ANC feature. With the sound quality in the bucket the switch will never be on. Get rid of the ANC altogether and this headset isn't too bad (except for the cost). It's a nice thought, but I'd rather have sound quality over canceling out my case fans.

To give them another chance, I decided to use a few independent testers to validate or contradict my thoughts on this review. I grabbed a couple people not associated with OCC or any other affiliation and had them listen to some music and a couple movie scenes (mind you they aren't idiots or oblivious to the gaming world – one is quite a WoW lover). I didn't tell them anything about what I thought of the headset and let them play with them a bit. I told them what the switch was for (the ANC switch) and had them listen to things again. Both people I had try them out had the same opinion; they just sound "empty" or like "something was taken away" with the ANC turned on. They did both say that they couldn't hear me talking to them with the ANC on, nor did they have the same discomforting pressures I had felt (must be a girl thing).

With the ANC off things sounded quite a bit better. I felt like I could hear again and that my ears were unplugged. I know the point of noise cancelling is to play a set of frequencies to cancel out the low level noises from case fans, etc., but it shouldn't hinder the way things sound nor cause discomfort in use. Again, like I said, with it turned off the sound quality wasn't bad (though everything after having it on sounded so superior it's hard to say I didn’t have a bias at the time). I compared it again to the other sets of headsets I have around and it really doesn't sound that superior to some of the cheaper models. I think the $120 is really paying for the ANC, and the ANC is exactly why I can't and won't be using these headphones. It's a first stab at ANC for gamers, but I can't say I'd recommend these to even non-gamers, unless it was someone I disliked greatly. Bottom line – save yourself the coin and buy a headset without the ANC and learn to ignore the fans or turn up the volume a notch.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: