ROCCAT Kulo 7.1 USB Headset Review

BluePanda - 2011-09-30 17:00:45 in Speakers/Headphones
Category: Speakers/Headphones
Reviewed by: BluePanda   
Reviewed on: October 16, 2011
Price: $84.99

Introduction:

Are you tired of your roommate gaming late into the night or during your quiet study hours? Perhaps it is time to get him or her a headset to keep them out of your hair, or better yet, invest in one for yourself to block the noise. Perhaps your roommate is the one frustrated with you! Either way, if you don't already have a headset perhaps now is the time to take a look at the market. There is nothing more convenient than communicating in-game without the obnoxious push-to-chat option enabled. To be honest, I find it extremely irritating when people think it is acceptable to chat with their speakers blaring in the background.

Now that I have made it obvious why you need a headset let me introduce the one up for review. ROCCAT has had a lot of new products released for US purchase recently after being founded in Germany back in 2007. One of its newest products available over at Newegg.com is the ROCCAT Kulo Virtual 7.1 Gaming Headset. The key here is the "virtual" tag in the product name. As it turns out, the 7.1 is a function of a stereo output rerouted through an included USB sound card. Thus it is not true 7.1 quality but perhaps it is still a great headset. Let’s take a gander at how the Kulo Headset looks and also listen to the beauty that comes from those earmuffs.

 

Closer Look:

Taking the retail packaging out of the standard brown shipping box reveals some of ROCCAT’s impressive packaging. I am lucky to have seen a few of ROCCAT’s other products in original packaging and it is clear there is a department dedicated to packaging science. The key features that grab my attention first are "for music + gaming", "noise-canceling", and the shiny silver sticker announcing the headset's claim to fame, the "virtual 7.1 sound card". As a student, I look forward to the noise canceling feature as a way to escape from the hectic bustling going on around the house. Also, it is always nice to see a multipurpose function for both music and gaming. Although most headsets can perform well in both aspects, a lot of them designed for gaming tend to make music sound not so pretty.

The top of the box provides a glimpse of the upper portion of the headset; the lovely padding that will be perched on your head. The metal reinforcement is clearly visible and looks pretty rugged overall. The key features from the front of the package are re-announced along with the addition of an inline volume control. A couple profiles of the headset are shown as well as a depiction of the 7.1 PLUG&PLAY USB soundcard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turning the box around, a more revealing picture of the headphones is given in a high level of detail. There appears to be a soft, squishy part to rest on your head, a fully adjustable microphone arm, 3.5 mm headphone and microphone jacks, and ear pads that appear to be made of the same material as the head cushion.

The side of the box shows different angles of the same features we already discussed. A close-up of the inline volume control is shown as well as an added microphone secret . Alright maybe it's not a secret, but it was not mentioned anywhere else on the box. Swiveling the microphone boom vertically next to your ear automatically mutes the microphone! Now when you have to run for a bathroom break or eat some loud candy during the game you can push your microphone up and not sound like a pig while you chow down.

 

 

Taking a sneak peek into the contents of the box reveals some useful materials. Included is a nice quick start guide to using the headphones along with a quick note in 16 different languages reminding you that "...To experience virtual 7.1 surround sound please download the latest driver at www.roccat.org". Needless to say you will need the internet, or at least a friend with the internet, to fully enjoy this headset. The USB soundcard is small enough that it will not be too obtrusive to hang off the front or back of your case. Also included is what appears to be a credit card but is actually the ROCCAT ID card for your product.  Simply put, it provides an identification number that allows you to register for ROCCAT WORLD, the company's own online community and support site.

 

 

Finally the moment you’ve been waiting for: the headset is out of the box...almost. Tightly packaged like all those toys from when you were a kid, the headset comes securely twist-tied to a plastic shell hiding the cables behind it. Luckily, unlike the best toy at Christmas leaving you waiting to play, no scissors are required here. A few twists is all it takes and the headphones are yours!

Closer Look:

This headset is ready to use right out of the plastic shell. There is no plastic film to pull off anywhere and nothing else to keep you from using them. They do not feel durable enough to throw on the floor but they are not too flimsy either. The ear pads seem to be lined with a synthetic leather and a soft fabric covering the speaker. The earphone pad feels fairly soft but the padding seems as if it might wear down quickly. After opening it up I believe it is just a ring of memory foam. However, their website does advertise two different sets of ear pads to customize your comfort. The Kulo Classic version is supposed to have a little more treble sound with reduced bass while the Memory+ pads are supposed to have a softer yet more robust bass sound. The headset I received was made before they introduced the Memory+ ear pads, but the website does indicate that you can get the additional set for free if you email them. Nifty!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking specifically at the microphone we are again reminded about the automatic microphone-mute. I am not quite sure why they felt the need to print this directly on the microphone, but if you borrowed them from a friend it might be a helpful hint for this feature. Either way, the microphone moves just 20-30 degrees short of making a full 180 degree motion from vertical. Unless your mouth is under your chin I think you will be just fine with the available adjustments. Immediately to the right of "Automatic Mic-Mute" is a rubber segment that allows the microphone to move towards or away from your mouth. It does not stay where you place it but adds the extra flexibility for when you drop them on the floor to prevent the microphone from breaking off of the frame. The outside of the other ear pad shows a simple ROCCAT Kulo logo to prominently display what you are wearing to all those LAN parties.

 

 

The inline volume adjuster is not made out of top-grade materials. Rather, it is a simple plastic slider. It is very easy to slide from one end to the other and makes fine-tuning the volume somewhat difficult. However, it is probably sufficient to use during games when you need to tone down the volume without tabbing out to your options screen or Windows desktop. The nicest part about the volume control is the fact that it has a + and – to remind you in which direction you are going (at least if you are looking at it). When you need to make things quieter you have a better chance of not causing yourself to jump when the volume goes up rather than down. The overall cable length is about that of the average headset. The last 10 inches or so splits off into the microphone and headphone jacks. If the jacks on the front of your case are a little further apart, the split in the cable will allow you to simultaneously plug into both. In reality, since it comes with the USB 7.1 virtual soundcard, I am sure I will be connecting via USB all the time instead of just the 3.5 mm jacks. Besides, everything has a USB hub these days, which is a much faster method in my opinion.

 

 

Before wrapping up, let’s take another look at the headset. I have to admit that they look pretty nice for their size. The earphones are small enough to fit on the ear - they do not quite fit over the ears and are far from the annoyance of small earbuds. That metal reinforcement in the headpiece makes me confident that it will fit snugly on my tiny head yet have the ability to not squeeze the eyes out of someone with a larger head. The upper headrest does not appear too pleasing, however, because it almost feels like a synthetic, leather bag of air. It beats having no padding at all, but I would rather have the same material as the memory foam ear pads. What matters the most, however, is how these will feel after several hours of continuous use.

 

 

Last but not least is the adjustability of the size of the headset. I mentioned in passing before that if it will fit my tiny head then those of you with larger heads will be wondering how they are going to fit you. Well you are in luck because the extension on these is a little more than a full inch on each side. I also had the opportunity to try them out on a big-headed friend of mine. Even with his large-sized skull, there was little adjustment needed. It has a notching system that allows you to get the same number of clicks on both sides, but be careful moving them too fast or you will end up having to count again. Besides, if you need more than a few clicks on either side I worry about your head size.

 

Specifications:

Headset Specifications:

Frequency Range:
20-20,000Hz
Impedance:
50 Ω ± 15%
Sensitivity at 1kHz:
102 dB ± 3dB
Max. Output:
80 mW
Driver Diameter:
40 mm
Driver Magnets:
Neodymium
Driver Membrane:
Mylar

 

Microphone Specifications:

Frequency Range:
70-20,000Hz
Sensitivity:
-47 dB ± 3 dB
SNR:
50 dB
Impedance:
2.2 kΩ
Directivity:
Bi-directional
Type:
Noise Filtering

 

General:

Weight:
178 g (excludes cable)
Connection:
2 x 3.5 mm
Cable Length:
2.5 m

 

Sound Card (Stereo & Virtual 7.1) :

Sampling Rate:
48/44.1 kHz
Connection:
USB 2.0
Jacks:
2 x 3.5 mm
Max. height/length:
27mm/ 250mm

 

 

Features:

 

 

 

All information is curtsey of: http://www.roccat.org/Products/Gaming-Sound/ROCCAT-Kulo-7-1-USB/

Configuration:

After you install the ROCCAT driver for the Kulo headset you will notice it is just another run-of-the-mill C-Media control center. At least it is familiar and there is nothing too fancy to figure out here. This program allows you to add the DSP effects and get that virtual 7.1 output I have been talking about. Back in Windows, you can actually use the Windows configuration to hear the 7.1 setup. However, I felt this is a slight downside to the controls here on the main page since it is difficult to test the changes you make.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mixer tab lets you play around with the volume control for the microphone and speakers separately. This is always a plus but it is something you can already accomplish in Windows. Nothing too fancy here, just your generic microphone playback and volume controls.

 

The Effect tab gives you the ability to sound like you are in the shower, an amphitheater, a living room, and many other locations. Beyond sounding obnoxious and being silly these settings have little purpose. Then you have your typical equalizer with the default setting as well as rock, rap, jazz, metal and other settings for different types of music. In my opinion the equalizer is best left on the default setting (flat response), however the ability to adjust the audio to your overall liking is always a plus.

 

Next is the tab that everyone plays with: The Karaoke/Magic Voice tab. For you males out there who like to increase the pitch of your voice to get free stuff in WoW or decrease the pitch to sound more manly, this tab is for you. The typical key shifter and the fun vocal cancelation for your favorite songs are both in one place. Have at it!

 

The final tab incorporates all the extraneous information the average user does not want to know. Nevertheless, it provides very useful information when you have issues and need to check which driver version you are running. This tab is also where the toggle for turning on or off the configuration icon in your system tray is hidden.

Testing:

Testing the Kulo Headset is nothing more than a purely subjective review. Unfortunately, there is no way to benchmark a headset at the current time. You can play the same music, movies, and games for every headset you compare, but it all comes down to personal preference each time. You will like something about one headset and something else about another. To test the range of the headset's capabilities I played a few games, tested out the microphone with some friends, watched my favorite parts of a few movies I have seen a hundred times over, and listened to tons of music while studying and working. The Kulos have the opportunity to show off their capabilities as well as reveal any flaws they may have.

Testing Setup:

Comparison Headsets:

 

Games:

Clearly designed with gaming in mind, the Kulo headset hits its mark here. Running through several levels of both Left for Dead 2 and Borderlands with a few friends proved to be an easy task. Not only could I hear that sneaky hunter creeping up behind me but my friends could hear me perfectly through the microphone. "Move it further away from your face...no that’s too far...I can’t hear you...stop yelling..." This familiar scene in which your friends tell you how to adjust your microphone is non-existent. On top of this, you can turn up the volume and really be a part of the game. The noise cancelling feature works so well that you might actually miss a few calls while gaming! The inline volume control is a little annoying as it is rather sensitive to the touch, but once it was adjusted properly I just left it in place.

Movies:

The design of this headset was not envisioned with movie-watching in mind, but for the casual movie-goer they are not too bad. The best fight scene in The Matrix is a must-see every time I get new speakers or a headset. Movies are where the 7.1 Virtual surround actually works well. The dropping bullets sound as if you could see where they fell with your eyes closed. The bass here is a little lacking but overall does not leave me disappointed. You can easily sit down and watch Netflix without disturbing those around you. Of course, a home theater setup will always beat a headset, but if you do not have another sound source these will work well.

Music:

Listening to music is part of my everyday life. I thoroughly enjoy a deep bass response so I was very pleased to hear that the Kulo headset could provide some decent levels. Three Six Mafia’s "Late Night Tip" has a very wide range of bass levels and the Kulo managed to handle the song well. The Black Eyed Peas, Basshunter, Eminem, Bruno Mars, Adele, as well as classic Bach and Beethoven all sounded pretty darn good. I would not take the Kulos on a loud plane to listen to my music, but if I am sitting at my desk these will find a home affixed to my head. Overall, the Kulo headset is quite enjoyable.

Conclusion:

Overall I must say I enjoyed the ROCCAT Kulo headset. I found that it works straight out of the box and the ability to plug and play is an awesome feature.  Although you will not get the 7.1 functionality without first installing the proper driver, the headset still sounds great in stereo. Thankfully the driver is easy to acquire and a breeze to install allowing for a quick setup. The headset itself is very comfortable to wear over long periods of time and works exceptionally well for communication. I love the fact that I can easily mute the microphone by swiveling it up: this prevents me from making tons of noise while I tab out to respond to E-mails or attend to other business. The Kulo headset is very comfortable despite some of the components appearing as if they could be very harsh on the head. Since I have been yelling at everyone while wearing the Kulo I can safely assume the noise canceling feature works well. It certainly becomes apparent when people cringe and point to your headset as you talk to them.

The price is a little higher than what I would usually pay for a headset. My comparison headset has a little more bass, is a true 5.1 setup, and cost $20 less at the time. However, the Kulo does have decent overall sound quality. Gaming worked flawlessly as there was no hassling with Windows to get things set up properly. It just worked. Music sounded great, and the only thing I can really complain about is the lack of deep, rumbling bass while playing movies.  Although the bass does not come through with great impact, the Kulo was not designed for this type of low frequency delivery. When listening to any movie through a headset it is hard to not be slightly biased when you compare it to a full home theater setup. Nonetheless, the ROCCAT Kulo is a headset worthy of your consideration.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: