Ozone Strato 5.1 Gaming Headset Review

Indybird - 2010-07-20 23:03:02 in Speakers/Headphones
Category: Speakers/Headphones
Reviewed by: Indybird   
Reviewed on: September 21, 2010
Price: $88.58


Headsets have always had certain qualities that make them the perfect audio peripheral for gaming. They are compact, have clear audio, are non-intrusive to others and allow for online communication. There’s not much room for improvement to the base headset technology. All you need is a good pair of headphones with a microphone attached and perhaps some convenient inline controls. Where there is room to improve is more specific to their application. Games have had surround sound audio for some time now, yet the audio standard for gaming is still stereo. Gaming in surround sound provides deeper immersion and an advantage in multiplayer. Though some gamers will opt for a full surround system, this isn’t really a practical option for most. A fairly new phenomenon that has occurred in the last three to four years is the growing popularity of simulated surround sound and true surround sound headsets. Both technologies are in still in the earlier stages of development and so far there are very few surround sound headsets (simulated or true) that provide the same advantages as a physical speaker system.

Today we have the Strato 5.1 Professional Gaming headset from Ozone, a fairly new brand out of Europe that caters directly to gamers through their line of headsets and peripherals. The Strato takes the true 5.1 route and contains 4 speakers in each ear. Full inline controls, adjustable microphone and a built in USB amplifier make the Strato a strong contender in the surround sound headset market. Lets see how it stacks up.

Closer Look:

The Ozone Strato comes in medium sized box with a red and black colour scheme. Across the front you have the name and a brief description. The side contains three detail pictures with captions along with more detailed features in seven different languages. Around the back, you have the technical specs of the headset. The window is a nice touch as you can see the better part of the headset before purchasing or opening the box.
















Inside the package you’ll find the headphones, manual and drivers CD. Being that the headphones are USB powered and have a built in sound card, the whole package remains fairly simple.


Let’s take a closer look at the headset itself.

Closer Look:

The Ozone Strato is a very attractive peripheral. The whole headset is of extremely high quality. The plastic is very solid and does not feel cheap. Everything is covered in a smooth rubbery texture and the earcups and headband have a leathery feel. The center speakers and rear speakers visibly stick out from the front and back of each ear, which is promising in terms of how well the surround sound should work. Each earcup is adjustable in length by about 32mm or 1.25”. In addition, each earcup rotates to better fit the shape of the user's head. The headset is touted with having a folding design for portability, but when folded they take up nearly the same amount of space.
















The microphone is adjustable 150° from straight up to about mouth level. Though it isn’t detachable when it is aimed straight up, it stays out of the way. Moving over to the control pod, you’ll find the same smooth, rubbery coating and general high quality feel. Here you can adjust the individual volume of the rear, front, sub and center speakers. In addition, you have the microphone mute switch and rocker-style volume wheel. This actually directly controls the windows volume leaving you with only one volume level to deal with.



Now that we know our way around the Ozone Strato, let's get it setup and see how it performs.


The control panel for the Strato is a generic C-Media control center. The layout is fairly simple and the whole control panel is broken up into five tabs. The first tab is the main settings. Here you adjust the input channels, DSP effects (such as virtual 7.1), output speakers and modes and output device adjustment. Moving over to the mixer tab you can adjust the volumes of the speakers and microphone. This panel confused me somewhat because it showed multiple outputs along with line-in and SPDIF in, even though the headset obviously does not have any of these. Moving on to the effects tab, you can adjust the environment (delay and reverb) effects, environment size, a graphic equalizer and equalizer presets. The next tab, Karaoke/Magic Voice has your basic microphone noise cancellation and boost along with pitch-shifting and voice cancellation. Lastly, the information tab simply shows your device and software info, along with the system tray icon check box.
















Cord Length
20Hz - 20kHz, >120db SPL @ 1kHz
Mic Dimensions
9.7mm x 5.0mm
Mic Sensitivity
Mic Directivity
Mic Impedance
Controller Functions Main volume control; Single Volume control: rear,front,center, subwoofer; Mic On/Off




All information courtesy of Ozone @ http://www.ozonegaming.com/product.php?id=4



To test the Ozone Strato 5.1 Gaming Headset I’m going play some games and movies in 5.1 and then test some music for pure sound quality. Since the headset has a built in sound card, I won’t have to worry about the quality or processing capabilities of the test system’s audio card.

Testing Setup:



To test out the Strato’s gaming performance I started up Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 for PC. With the Strato control panel set to 6-speaker input and 6-speaker output, the game defaulted to 5.1. Starting up an online match, I immediately noticed that the headphones were above-par in their clarity. As for the surround sound, the differences in front and back weren’t immediately apparent. After a while though, I could (just barely) distinguish sounds at my back. I’m not sure if it was enough to give me an edge but it was there. However, I never really established a front-center direction.



Next, I put on “The Hurt Locker” to test the Strato’s movie performance. “The Hurt Locker” has won several awards for sound so this made it an ideal choice. While watching the movie on the Strato I noticed two major things. The first is that this headset has very strong bass. It's not overpowering or boomy, but it was noticeably stronger than most headphones. The second is that the surround sound exhibited the exact opposite behaviour, the center was slightly better established while I could not distinguish the rear from the front speakers.



Lastly I threw on various types of music to test pure audio quality. These being some classical pieces, some 70s rock and some electronic music. I started with Camille Saint-Saëns’ Samson and Delila. This was the first point in which the Ozone Strato disappointed me in pure audio quality. The headphones seemed to be very focused on mids and low-mids, making the orchestra sound ever-so-slightly muffled. Moving onto 70s rock, I threw on Us and Them from Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”. This song focuses a lot more on vocals, theoretically making the behaviour noticed in Samson and Delila more favourable. This ended up being true to a degree. The voices, guitar and bass came through very clear, but the whispers were lost in the background. Lastly I put on some electronic music and for that I listened to Propane Nightmares from Pendulum’s “In Silico”. This song has a lot of bass but has a generally full spectrum of highs and mids also. Here the strong low bass I noticed during “The Hurt Locker” really came through. In addition the synthesized brass was strong and clear.


Testing the microphone quality I found it to be average. It was neither particularly clear, but I’ve heard a lot worse. During in-game chat and skyping with friends, they reported it to sound “ok”.


Overall, the surround sound feature proved to be somewhat sketchy. Center and Rear speakers were intermittently distinguishable, but even then I had to train my ear to hear them. The audio quality was pretty good actually, but it seemed to be slightly lacking in high tones. During use, the inline control pod worked great and I really didn’t have any operational gripes with it. Comfort-wise, I was however, disappointed. The earcups, being supra-aural (or on-ear), are supposed to clamp on to your head as opposed to resting on your head and ears. The Strato has the clamping ability but it is centralized on the top of the earcups. This not only made them slightly uncomfortable, but also made them fall off my head if I looked up or down, or turned too fast.


Much like any other surround sound headset, I was skeptical from the very start as to how well it would actually work. After just over a week of testing in games and two hours worth of testing in a movie, my skepticism was well-founded. The center and rear speakers (being the only speakers really unique to 5.1 setups) came through intermittently and even then took a while to get used to. In addition to the problems with the surround sound, the headset did not sit on my head very well and was slightly uncomfortable.

These issues are rather unfortunate because, in addition to the promising design for the placement of the speakers, the headset has quite a few positive qualities to it. It feels very sturdy and well built, the base audio quality is pretty decent (although slightly lacking in highs), the control pod does everything it needs to do and the whole thing is run via USB.

The Strato is only available from one US e-tailer for just under $90. Even with the above pros, the spotty surround sound and non-comfortable design make that $90 price tag a hard one to justify.