CM Storm Ceres-400 Headset Review

Waco - 2012-08-31 19:23:38 in Speakers/Headphones
Category: Speakers/Headphones
Reviewed by: Waco   
Reviewed on: October 7, 2012
Price: $49.99

Introduction:

A few weeks ago OCC took an in-depth look at the CM Storm Sonuz gaming headset and now Cooler Master has also introduced a less expensive model that has been imbued with the same Storm Tactics that focus on Strength, Security, and Control. Those marketing buzzwords inspire some confidence along with CM Storm's promise that each product it releases is molded by the opinions and feedback from the gaming population. The CM Storm Ceres-400 is targeted at quite a bit lower price point but hopefully won't sacrifice any of the excellent sound quality and overall build quality seen in its more expensive sibling.

The CM Storm Ceres-400 features 40mm drivers and 90mm ear pads. It uses a circumaural (around the ear) design that should prove to be quite comfortable for long-term use. The large drivers should be up to the task of delivering powerful bass at fairly high output volume. Larger drivers aren't always a promise that you'll get good bass response but in general larger drivers equate to better low frequency response and less distortion when pushing them to their limits. Keep reading to find out whether this headset deserves to grace your noggin!

 

Closer Look:

The box for the CM Storm Ceres-400 is garbed in the traditional CM Storm red, grey, and silver, and is pretty eye-catching. The front of the box has a large window that lets you peek in at the inline volume and mic mute control as well as giving you a glimpse at the left ear cup and microphone arm. There is also a fairly large illustration of the right ear cup that makes it look like the headset is twisted up inside the box. The window wraps around the right side of the box to give you a better look at the contents. The back side of the box has a plethora of languages bragging about the various design points and features of the Ceres-400 headset. Spinning the rest of the way around to the left side reveals a specifications listing that can be seen in its full glory on the Features & Specifications page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like most CM Storm products, the box for the Ceres-400 really catches your eye and definitely looks like it will stand out on a shelf if you're browsing the audio section in your local brick and mortar store. Thankfully CM Storm has also included enough information on the box that you can do a quick comparison between it and other products if need be.

 

Breaking the seals and popping the box open takes nearly zero effort and allows the headset and packaging to slide out easily. Unlike many products slipping the contents of the box out onto the floor does not leave you with a pile of manuals, accessories, and the product itself as CM Storm has attached them all to the plastic packaging tray. This was a nice touch and the packaging tray itself is sturdy enough that you can be sure your headset will arrive in one piece without damage whether you have a football team deliver the box or your local mailman.

 

As seen above the headset does come securely attached to a plastic carrier tray. The three twist ties that hold it in place are not tight enough to cause damage or be difficult to remove. The center of the tray holds the inline microphone and volume control and the underside of the tray hold the product manual and cables. I can't say enough how much I love inline microphone controls – when gaming with a VOX type setup it is sometimes necessary to mute the mic and I hate having to tab out of whatever game I'm playing just to avoid transmitting needlessly. Anyway, to see the CM Storm Ceres-400 in the buff move on to the next page!

 

Closer Look:

Before I reveal the headset itself I want to focus your attention on the inline microphone and volume control. Not only does this control sit a perfect distance down the wiring to avoid tangles but it is also extremely lightweight. The volume slider moves very easily with a flick of a finger and the on/off switch for the microphone has just enough resistance to avoid being toggled by accident but not so much that it's hard to reposition when needed. The cable itself is also rather lightweight and is long enough (over eight feet!) that even those with cases positioned relatively far away from them will have no issues plugging in. The cable itself is a single line all the way till the last eight inches or so where it splits for the separate audio and microphone plugs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behold the CM Storm Ceres-400 headset! Let me be very clear here – this headset is not only very lightweight but it also has a huge range of adjustment. I have a pretty big head and it seems that most headsets are designed to cater to that. Not only does this headset fit my large globe without any issues (and I only need about half of the adjustment range for comfort) but it also fits my fiancée's relatively small head without even trying. Even she has to adjust them larger from the minimum setting! This range of adjustment is not only needed but extremely appreciated as I think this headset will appeal to the huge numbers of gamers with smaller heads that tend to have to compromise between good quality and good comfort. With any luck this headset will have both but more on that later. Moving to the top of the headset you can see the fairly wide band connecting the ear cups together. This should reduce any pressure points on the top of your head and work hand-in-hand with the light weight to keep comfort high during extended listening/gaming sessions. At the largest adjustment there is a gap that opens up in the middle of the headband, which serves as a quick visual indicator of how large you have them adjusted. The actual locking mechanism itself has enough resistance to it that you won't be accidentally adjusting them when putting them on.

 

 

 

The microphone on this particular model is not detachable like the CM Storm Sonuz's but it does swing up and out of the way. The rotation itself is notched to keep it in place while gaming and in addition to that the microphone itself mutes when in the fully-up position. Combined with the inline microphone mute these features should make it extremely simple to avoid transmitting anything you don't wish others to hear.

 

 

The ear cups themselves are fairly large and are garnished with the usual CM Storm colors of red, silver, and black. The left ear cup holds the microphone arm and proudly displays the model name. The right ear cup is decorated with a simple CM Storm logo along with a red ring that I personally find very attractive (I'm a sucker for clean and simple designs). The backside of the headset mirrors the front and shows off the fairly thick padding on both the earcups and the headband. Long-term comfort looks to be a prime design point here and I can't say I'm anything but happy to see it.

 

 

Taking a closer look at the massive 90mm ear cups reveals the double-layered padding along the outside edge of the can as well as the padding on the interior of the earpiece. This cloth covered foam is just soft enough to form to your head without being squashed instantly by the light pressure it exerts on the sides of your head. On the opposite end of the spectrum the padding isn't so stiff that they won't mold to your head either – I had no issues with comfort even when wearing them with my glasses. The headband has a similarly comfortable swath of padding that is almost unnoticeable when wearing because of the light weight of the headset itself.

 

 

The CM Storm Ceres-400 has another feature that I love to see on headsets: an adjustable microphone. Not only does it swing up and down to line up with your mouth but it also can be adjusted towards and away from your face with a firm push. Once moved into position it does not move of its own volition, which is something that some manufacturers still haven't managed to master. The microphone arm itself is a bit shorter than I usually see but this is a good thing considering this design doesn't include any noise-blocking foam on the actual microphone. The short arm should keep the microphone itself out of the way of any breathing noises so the foam omission is understandable.

 

Specifications:

Headphone Specifications :

Driver diameter:
40 mm round x 7.5 mm depth
Frequency range:
20 – 20,000 Hz
Impedance:
32 Ohms
Sensitivities:
108 dB +/- 4 dB (at 1 kHz)
Connector:
3.5 mm gold-plated headphone jack
Inner Ear Cup Diameter:
90 mm
Cable Length:
2.5 m
Max Input:
100 mW

 

Microphone Specifications :

Frequency range:
100 – 10,000 Hz
Sensitivities:
-38 dB +/- 3 dB (at 1 kHz)
Signal-to-Noise Ratio:
50 dB
Pick Up pattern:
Noise-cancelling

 

Features:

 

 

All information is courtesy of: http://www.cmstorm.com/en/products/audio/Ceres-400/

Testing:

Testing the CM Storm Ceres-400 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.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Headsets:

 

Games:

My first gaming impressions of the CM Storm Ceres-400 were that they were a bit heavy on the bass and midbass. This impression tended to stick as I continued my listening sessions and gave the headset a fairly warm sound compared to many other headsets I've listened to in the past. I started my play session with the recently released Borderlands 2 from Gearbox Software. The added midbass and bass really added to the impact in Borderlands 2 and made rocket launchers and grenade launchers sound just a bit more powerful than I am used to. This isn't necessarily a bad thing and I would bet many will appreciate the heavier and warmer sound. This trend continued in a few sessions of Skyrim and Warhammer 40K: Retribution as well. The treble response is, by comparison, a bit lacking and tended to sound a bit darker than the other headsets I've dealt with. Extension isn't an issue though – treble response extends up past the limits of my hearing (roughly 18-19 KHz thanks to concerts and loud music). Speaking of loudness though; this headset is loud! The specifications page wasn't lying when it boasted the 108 dB sensitivity rating as very little input produces prodigious output. I did notice that at higher volumes I detected a bit of distortion when really pushing a lot of bass and midbass through the drivers but nothing to the point of being obnoxious. The microphone mutes both work well and my in-game partners had no trouble understanding me and had no complaints about background noise.

 

Movies:

The warmer sound the Ceres-400 produce really helped movie production. Bass response is impressive even when pushed with very challenging soundtracks like those in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Matrix, and Gone in 60 Seconds. Dialog and overall sound quality is what I would call very acceptable and even though the bass was a bit heavy and the treble a bit relaxed, the overall sound is pleasing and doesn't fatigue the ears over long listening sessions. The distortion I noted when pushing the drivers a bit harder was more prominent here but was again not very distracting. The volume levels required to get this headset to distort will damage your hearing quickly enough that you probably won't be able to hear the distortion after a few months anyway.

 

Music:

Music production is by far my most critical category in this review so I will do my best to explain the overall sound of this headset. My first impression held true when moving on to my music tests, which involve a rather odd mix of dubstep, classical, and rock music. Perhaps I'm more picky than most (okay, I am more picky than most) but I found these drivers just a bit too easy to overwhelm at moderate volume levels when listening critically. They are by no means dirty when being driven at relatively loud levels but the combination of the overemphasis on bass and midbass combined with the distortion I described earlier left me a bit disappointed. In complicated passages the drivers seem to hold their composure at lower volume levels but when listening a bit elevated they tend to get muddy and blur details slightly. Granted this effect isn't dramatic but if you're picky like me it will probably annoy you a little bit. The solution is quite easy: turn them down. At lower levels they don't distort much if any even on the most complicated soundtracks. The same darkness (lower treble response) is still present as well but many people find this pleasing especially for long-term listening. Overall they perform quite well and I certainly have no major complaints about the sound quality especially considering the price.

Conclusion:

How do I sum up the CM Storm Ceres-400? I can't praise Cooler Master enough for the light weight, massive adjustable range, and comfortable ear pads. Even after wearing the headset for over five hours I experienced absolutely zero discomfort even with my large ears and large head. The microphone stays safely out of the way of any breathing noises (or drinking; yes beer and games do mix). The long wire allows the headset to reach even if you're forced to use the connections on the rear of your case. The inline volume control is close enough to the headset to be useful and lightweight enough that you can't even tell it's there – the cord is similarly lightweight and un-annoying.

The most important part of any headset is really how it sounds as well and in that case this headset is a bit of a mixed bag. If you're looking for top-notch musical production you're probably better off spending a bit more and buying something designed for that. However, for most of us, pretty good sound quality combined with excellent comfort and design is a winning combination. That, my friends, this headset has in spades. The overall sound is a little on the heavier and darker side, which is something that actually tends to help with long-term listening comfort. The heavy bass response will keep bassheads happy without annoying audiophiles and the strong midbass keeps the sound very warm. For gaming and movies this headset will not disappoint unless you try to blow your ears off; in which case the slight distortion when maxing them out won't matter for long as you'll damage your hearing with the massive output you can generate with them even with onboard sound.

When it comes down to brass tacks there are a lot of choices in the $50 range for headsets and this one should definitely be at the top of your list for consideration. With the combination of extreme comfort, smart design, and overall good quality I can't think of many other headsets that offer this level of quality at this price point.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: