Asus Xonar Xense Premium Gaming Audio Set Reviewhardnrg - November 3, 2010
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Okay, so moving on from pre-recorded multi-channel sound, the final part of testing is for games, and how the headset handles interactive surround sound.
Selecting Racing mode in the Audio Center applies quite a heavy EQ curve that accentuates the bass and mids, with peaks at 60 Hz and 4 kHz. I found this EQ preset to be tolerable, but slightly uncomfortable, and soon found myself switching to my custom EQ preset after playing each game for a few minutes. I actually laughed out loud when I saw the Environment reverb effect selected. Racing down a carpeted hallway?! It seems to suit racing games well, as it is quite an open reverb. Dolby Headphone mode also gets activated, this time it defaults to DH-3 (Larger Room) which sounds a bit echoey compared to DH-1 and DH-2.
I tested the PC 350 with Blur, an arcade-type racer with power-ups and weapons, and the advantage of precise sound became quickly apparent here. Your opponents can fire weapons at you, so knowing where they are around you is essential. Even with rear and side mirrors in Need For Speed: Shift, being able to hear the position of cars in my blind-spots helped me block and overtake better than when using other headsets.
FPS mode applies a somewhat traditional EQ curve that works quite well, even though I still prefer my custom EQ preset. This time, the Plain preset is selected for the Environment effect, and again, it works well for FPS games, giving a subtle reverb. Rather strangely, Dolby Headphone is not activated when switching to FPS mode. Instead, Dolby Headphone remains in the same state as it was before you pressed the FPS button. I much preferred playing FPS games with Dolby Headphone enabled, and DH-2 sounded the most natural to me.
With some of the 5.1 headsets, the sound of vehicle engines was either muted or almost completely missing. This wasn't the case at all with the PC 350, and I actually got carried away with playing Crysis: Warhead and Unreal Tournament 3, to the point where my girlfriend Claire had to throw something at my head to get my attention! This was also mainly due to the closed-back, sealed design of the ear cups, which isolate you and the gaming world from the real world. Claire was literally yelling at me from about 2 metres away, and I didn't hear her at all. Having this level of sound isolation is a major advantage in FPS games, as everything you hear is in the game, and you can react quickly with confidence, without hesistation (and death, lol). Similarly, the noise-cancellation of the microphone keeps the sounds in your room from entering the game world, so online team-mates can hear you clearly, without the drone of your computer drowning you out.
The GX mode enables support for EAX in games. While not a 100% accurate simulation of Creative's hardware EAX, it is close enough to sound the same in most game scenarios.
The surround effect of Dolby Headphone works much better than the 5.1 headsets, and you can hear enemies behind you and their position when they are otherwise off-camera. While the Zowie Hammer performs well in games, the PC 350 has better sound quality and sound isolation, giving a stronger sense of immersion.