Psyko 5.1 PC Gaming Headset Reviewhardnrg - November 1, 2010
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- Processor: Intel Core i7 920 @ 150x20 3GHz
- Cooling: Noctua NH-U12P SE 1366
- Motherboard: Asus P6T Deluxe V2
- Memory: 3x2GB Corsair XMS3 PC3-10666 9-9-9-24 1333 MHz
- Video Card: BFG GTX260
- Video Card: XFX GTX260
- Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling 750 Silencer
- Soundcard: Soundblaster X-Fi XtremeMusic (LM4562 + Blackgate mod)
- Hard Drive: 4x Hitachi T7K500 250GB SATA2 (Highpoint RAID-10)
- OS: Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard (Windows 7 64-bit)
- Headset: Psyko 5.1
- Headset: Zowie Gear Hammer
- Headset: Speed-Link Medusa 5.1 Home Edition
- Headset: Turtle Beach Ear Force X-52
As with most audio equipment, I listened to a selection of music in lossless FLAC format, ranging from delicate and dynamic classical music to fierce and unrelenting drum and bass. I listen to music every day, mostly on headphones (Westone UM2, Sennheiser HD25-1 II, AKG K701), and am very familiar with certain tracks. So, if something sounds wildly different in a track I've listened to over 100 times, it becomes apparent very quickly. There was definitely something amiss with the sound when listening to music.
At first, I was playing tracks without any channel upmixing, which meant only the front left and front right speakers were playing. I was initially very skeptical about how well the 30mm drivers could perform in this scenario, but was surprised to find the low-end reproduced quite well. The bass control definitely helps here, and I found it best set at ~80%. What disappointed me at this stage was the fact that it seems as though a lot of the sound is either missing, muffled or accentuated. This problem remains even if applying Creative's upmix modes (CMSS Stereo, CMSS Surround), with and without bass redirection, and even when plugging each of the headset's jacks into the front channels of the soundcard, or an MP3 player. The problem is quite severe, with the headset performing worse than a pair of decent budget headphones (e.g. Koss Porta Pro, Panasonic RP-HTX7).
Okay, so on to the next stage of testing: pre-recorded surround sound from movies, in the form of Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1. This is the first time I heard discrete surround sound on the Psyko 5.1 headset, and I really have mixed feelings on how it sounds. The rear sounds do sound as though they are coming from behind you, but their position is not anywhere as clear as with real speakers, and I certainly remember checking over my shoulder much more when using Dolby Headphone mode on the Asus Xonar soundcards with stereo headphones. Psyko Audio Labs claim that the surround effect in this headset works for all types of ear shapes (pinnae), but it doesn't really work at all for me. My ears are fairly normal looking, and I can point to the direction of a sound in a blind test to a decent level of accuracy, but I really was fairly lost with the Psyko 5.1. Perhaps the handy-dandy, clear, pivoting windows on the ear cups reflect the sound around the ear, resulting in the front and rear sounds getting muddled up. There is quite a lot of sound leakage from the headband area itself, so maybe this is why a lot of the surround effect is missing.
My disappointment turned into painful annoyance however, as the headset's peculiar frequency response makes every movie sound like someone pirated it by recording the sound with microphones in a cinema. The bass trails off too early, there is also no punch to the high bass sounds of slams and thumps. Some of the dialogue sounds slightly distorted, like the sound from a speaker that has been over-driven at a party or music gig, it just sounds harsh when it shouldn't. You know when you hold a shell to your ear, and you are supposed to hear the sea? Except you don't, you just hear the real world in an odd way, some sounds are obscured, while other noises sound have a whistley, ringing quality added to them. That's how I would describe how the Psyko 5.1's sound is different to real-life.
The Psyko 5.1 headset is designed specifically for gaming, and it performs better than any other 5.1 headset I have heard, but this is largely down to the fact that other surround headsets are horrendous, whereas the Psyko 5.1 is merely mediocre. Compared to other 5.1 headsets, there is a much more even reproduction of sound from different angles, so grenades and gunshots sound consistent, whether to the side, out in front, or behind. One problem though is that the angle is not very clear at all, and I found it harder to discern the position of off-camera action by listening to the headset sound, compared to stereo headphones.
Also, unlike other 5.1 headsets, the engine noise of the Hummer in Crysis games sounds a lot more natural; the other surround headsets seem to lose the engine noise almost completely. Whereas the other 5.1 headsets lose specific sounds and have difficulty producing sounds from certain angles, this headset loses sound from the frequency imbalance. At times, it's subtle, like when your ears are blocked but haven't popped; you walk around and get on as usual, but don't consciously realise until your ears pop. However, if you are very familiar with certain games, you will notice a large portion of the audio either missing or sounding weird. I certainly felt lost and disoriented in Unreal Tournament 2004, even though I used to play it in European leagues.
The microphone was pretty standard in performance, not as good as the Hammer's mic, and suffered from its inability to be swung up or down. Not being able to position the microphone in the exact position above or below the mouth meant that the sound from the mic had more background noise compared to the other headsets.