Creative Fatal1ty Gaming Headset Review

Desja - 2007-10-11 12:30:11 in Speakers/Headphones
Category: Speakers/Headphones
Reviewed by: Desja   
Reviewed on: October 17, 2007
Creative Labs
Creative Labs
Price: $49.99

Introduction:

I think almost all of us remember a time - maybe even as recently as last night - when one or more of your family members shouted at you from their beds to turn down your *expletive inserted here* computer speakers. So reluctantly, you had to grab your trusty old pair of headphones to stop your live-in grandma from laying a beat down on you.

A lot has changed in the world of headphones and headsets for PC gaming. Creative Labs' new Fatal1ty series sound cards have a new feature called X-fi CMSS-3D, which turns your old pair of headphones into a fully 3D surround sound system. When I first read about this I scoffed. I have never been a fan of headphones for gaming, as the idea of two headphone speakers putting out 3D sound made no sense to me. As mentioned in my previous Fatal1ty sound card review, I was surprised to find that Creative was not lying to me, and my internal cynic was dumbfounded. To keep the goodness rolling, we’ll check out the new headset made specifically for the Sound Blaster Fatal1ty cards endorsed by Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel himself. Is it worth the beating to keep your speakers on, or has headset gaming come far enough for you to skip over your speakers and reach for your headset? Let’s find out together.

"Since launching the phenomenally successful Sound Blaster sound cards and setting the de facto standard for PC audio in 1989, Creative has been able to leverage on its leading-edge audio technology, huge user base and strong brand name to expand into the exciting lifestyle Personal Digital Entertainment (PDE) market. Today, Creative is widely recognized as a global leader for product innovation in the audio and PDE segments, offering consumers a complete, high quality digital entertainment experience through Creative's hardware, software applications and services. Finding the perfect balance between form and function, Creative strives for every product to be a sensory feast for the eyes and ears."

 

Closer Look:

Upon receiving the package, I moved the packing peanuts out of the way and found the headset packaging. Unlike the last package I received from Creative, this one was not the OEM version, but rather the retail version. The colors chosen for the packaging are perfect, I have always liked black and red together. By including the brushed steel look to the box, it seems to denote strength and power, which is what I look for in a headset for FPS gaming.

 

 

 

 

The package contains the headset complete with removable mic. The headset also comes with a carrying case and a limited warranty.

Closer look:

The headphones have a swivel on them, along with velvet padded earpieces, for more comfort. You can also see the autograph of Jonathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel over the left ear piece showing his endorsement of this product. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, being a headset, the product comes with a mic that can be easily attached and detached as needed. I liked this aspect because the mic stays out of my way and I don’t have to stick it straight up like most headsets. I can just remove it if I want to use the headset as headphones. The mic was also easy to position; wherever I bent or moved, the mic stayed in place.

 

 

 

Now let's plug these bad boys in.

Installation:

Installation is very simple, just plug the pink cable into your mic port (or "line in" as the case may be) and then plug your green cable into your speaker jack. You can adjust the volume and turn your mic on and off with the inline switch shown below. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Configuration:

If you have the Creative Fatal1ty Xtreme Gamer sound card, then under your speakers tab you can select what type of setup you have. In this case, of course we will be selecting headphones. Then under the X-Fi CMSS-3D tab you will want to make sure CMSS-3D is enabled in order to reap the full benefits from this headset's abilities. Now that we are done configuring, let's check out some specs and testing.

 

Specifications:

 

Driver Units

40mm Neodymium

Frequency Response

20Hz - 20kHz

Impedance

32ohms

Sensitivity (1kHz)

110dB/mW

Microphone Type

Noise Canceling Condenser

Frequency Response

100Hz - 15kHz

Impedance

10ohms

Sensitivity

-40dBv / Pa

Cord Length

8 feet

Input / Output Plugs 1/8" (3.5mm)

gold-plated stereo miniplugs

Net Weight

7oz / 200g

 

 

Features:

 

 

 

Testing:

I was very impressed when I got to review the Xtreme Gamer Card from Creative, so I am really going to thoroughly test this headset’s capabilities. We will be running through a gaming test, a music test, and a DVD movie test to find the limitations of its capabilities. My goal is to make this headset crackle. As for the mic, I am going to test it out on Teamspeak to see if the noise canceling really works. I also want to see if the voice quality is up to par. For comparison, I will be testing the Sennheiser 437 HD's and the KOSS UR/10 headphones.

 

Testing System

 

 

Benchmarks:

 

 

Gaming:

Bioshock:

Fatal1ty:

As I did in the last review, I looked on the Creative website and Bioshock still seems to be the game of choice for the Fatal1ty series testing. So I started up the game, turned the volume all the way up and jumped right in. The Fatal1ty headset fits my ear much better then my Sennheiser HD 437 did the last time I tested with this game. With the Sennheiser headphones, I could still hear traffic outside and dogs barking in the neighborhood. I couldn’t get totally into the game, which I didn’t mind so much because, as I stated in the previous article, this game is creepy as hell. For those that want intimate game play, the Fatal1ty headset succeeded in scaring the hell out of me. The Fatal1ty headset blocks out almost all background noise, making for a much more interactive game. To test the 3D capability, I would walk up to a flame and slowly turn. The sound actually does seem to be three dimensional. It put me off a bit when I remembered I was still wearing headphones and not sitting in the middle of my 5.1 surround sound system.

Sennheiser 437 HD:

Sennheiser headphones are built for sound quality, and that is just what I experienced. I heard every shot, scrape, bang, and crash as clear as I did with the Fatal1ty headset. The only drawback was the design of the headphones; I was able to hear too much background noise in the neighborhood. It was just noticeable enough to be an annoyance that got worse as I played.

KOSS UR/10:

Ah yes, now I remember why I hate headphones for gaming. Unlike the other two headphones, this pair did not have the two-way headset speakers necessary for taking advantage of the CMSS-3D effect. I could not pinpoint where sound was coming from unless it was to my right or left. I died much more often with this set of headphones and would not recommend gaming with them.

 

 

Music:

iTunes:

Fatal1ty:

I went through a range of music, starting with some mellow stuff for sound quality. Then progressed into what I like to call headphone breakers (heavy bass rap and distorted punk with hundreds of bass pedal hits per minute). The classical music was probably the best on this headset, as it hit every note, even notes I didn’t notice in the past with my surround sound. The only other time I was ever this wowed by a pair of headphones was when I put on a $500 pair of Grados. The Fatal1ty’s came very close, every instrument and every percussion note was easily picked out.

When I switched over to rap, I completely expected it all to end for the Fatalit1y. I was mistaken. Every bass hit and every note hit hard, and hit clean. The bass actually vibrated the headset a little, and I had to turn them down because my ears started to hurt. In the past I would have never had to turn a headset down for any reason other then crackling. I could not get the Fatal1ty headset to crackle no matter how hard I tried. The distorted punk with fast drumming didn’t pan out either, no fraps or crackles throughout the entire test.

Sennheiser 437 HD:

This is where the Sennheiser’s show their true colors. Although I did get a bit of crackle with the “headphone breaker” styled music, these headphones excelled in the classical and more melody intensive tracks. The quality is incredible and certain songs actually made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. The Fatal1ty and the Sennheisers were neck and neck. Fatal1ty won for the bass, but the Senheisers inched a bit ahead for the classical arrangements.

KOSS UR/10:

Oh what can I say about the KOSS headphones for music? Okay I got it now: first take a bucket of water, second stick your head in it, then place your headphones into a tin can next to the bucket (assuming you're talented enough to do this with your head in a bucket) and try to guess what song is playing. Perhaps I may have overexaggerated this a tad, so I will conclude by saying that the KOSS did not perform well at all. The headphones crackled for all types of music, and the overall volume was about half the loudness of the other two headphones tested.

 

 

DVD:

Superman Returns:

Fatal1ty:

Great clean sound, and I very easily picked out where everything was coming from. It is hard to watch a movie with headphones on, but as the movie went on, I once again almost forgot that I had the headset on. The 3D sound was great and the bass in Jor-El’s voice was very clear and impressive. I don’t think I would mind watching movies with this headset again in the future.

Sennheiser 437 HD:

Clarity was very noticeable, but the bass left something to be desired, something I noticed in the music test as well. I liked the sound, but nowhere near as much as I enjoyed the Fatal1ty headset. It was a bit more comfortable than the Fatal1ty headset as the movie went on, which was notable.

KOSS UR/10:

Out of all the tests, I would say this is the one where the KOSS headphones did their personal best. I can give it at least the booby prize; there is no comparison to the other two headsets, it was uncomfortable and bass was non-existent. The KOSS do serve a purpose for working outside, hiking, biking, or anything of the sort, they will do in a pinch. For serious gaming, DVD watching, or music for us music snobs, they don’t make the cut.

 

 

Voice:

Teamspeak:

Fatal1ty:

Since this is a headset, its main purpose is for communication. Being able to contact your teammates in a clear, loud, and understandable way could mean the difference between victory and defeat. There is nothing worse then having to repeat yourself.

While using Team Speak, I was able to communicate very easily with my teammates. Having the mic on/off button close at hand is nice for those times you get shot and don’t want everyone else to hear your colorful language. I also found it useful for playing with my eight year old son when he beats me in an online game. Instead of taunting the poor child, I can scream my head off in my office and no one is the wiser.

Being that the other two comparisons are headphones and not headsets, I did not use them for this test.

 

Testing:

Below I will be testing the Fatal1ty headphones against the Sennheiser 437 HDs and KOSS UR/10. I am going broad spectrum with this test from high end to low end headphones. I want to see if there truly is a difference between price and quality. I will be testing sound quality, bass, distortion, and total volume (with clarity). The scale will be from one to ten, ten being the best.

Sound quality:

 

 

 

 

Bass and distortion:

 

 

Total volume:

 

 

The battle between quality and price is both right and wrong. The KOSS were the cheapest and did horrible in comparison, but the Sennheiser’s price tag was almost $30 over the Fatal1ty and the Fatal1ty did better overall. Fatal1ty really out-shined the competition for these tests.

Conclusion:

Once again, Creative changed my perspective on a few things. Apparently, my hatred for headphone gaming is starting to wane. The CMSS-3D technology lives up to the Creative standard and exceeds even my expectations and I was trying to set them pretty high.

So if it was up to me, I think next time I’ll reach for the headset and skip the beating. For $49 the headphones are a steal. I spent $80 on my Sennheisers (a year ago, the price may be comparable now) and the Fatal1ty headset seems to have blown them out of the water. I am a huge fan of Sennheisers, so this was a hard review for me to write. Like watching your boyhood hero being mowed down in a hail of gunfire. A little part of me died today, but there is a new hero in town.

If you’re in the market for some new headphones, don’t skip over the Fatal1ty headset. I would personally recommend this product to anyone.

 

 

Pros:

 

 

Cons: