Sharkoon X-Tatic Digital ReviewIndybird - August 31, 2010
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To test the Sharkoon X-Tatic 5.1 Digital Headset I’ll be playing a couple 5.1 surround sound games, 5.1 surround sound movies and some stereo music.
- Processor: AMD Phenom II X4 955 BE
- Cooling: Noctua NH-U12P
- Motherboard: ASUS M4A89GTD USB3
- Memory: Mushkin Blackline 996782 PC3 12800 2x2GB
- Video Card: Palit Geforce GTX 260
- Power Supply: OCZ 700W Modular Power Supply
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 750GB SATA
- Optical Drive: Lite-on DVD-RW SATA
- OS: Windows Vista Ultimate 64-Bit
- Sound Card: Realtek Onboard
To test out the X-Tatic’s gaming performance, I started up Crysis, as Crysis will make full use of a 5.1 surround sound system. With highly detailed sounds ranging from leaves rustling to nano-suit noise, with a proper audio setup, you can experience a whole other dimension of immersion.
After a few levels on the campaign, some competitive multiplayer and then some specific 5.1 tests with friends on multiplayer, I am able to conclude that the positional audio on the X-Tatic is decent, but it definitely takes some getting used to. Though the rear speakers don’t sound like they are perfectly behind you, they definitely are distinguishable from the front speakers, and the same with the center. Once I had my ears trained to the headset's “front” and “back”, I was able to fairly accurately pinpoint the origin of fine sounds all around me. It essentially offered more of a tactical advantage in multiplayer, than it did immersion in single player.
Now what 5.1 headset test would be complete without a movie testing? For this I watched “The Hurt Locker”, because of its top-notch sound design, for which it was award winning. Listening to this movie on the X-Tatic was also quite interesting. Though it was definitely not the same level of positional accuracy from a full-fledged 5.1 speaker setup, it did offer slightly more immersion than stereo. Bullets seemed to whiz by and explosions would take up my whole field of listening. Much like in Crysis, it took a little while to get used to the “placement” of the surround speakers in the headset. The only problem I had was the depth of the explosions; the X-Tatic seems to not be able to produce low frequencies very well.
Lastly, I put on various types of music to test the pure audio quality, including some classical pieces, some 70s rock and some electronic music.
I started with Camille Saint-Saëns’ "Samson and Delila". Here I was a little disappointed, as the X-Tatic had decent high to mid-range, such as the strings and woodwinds, but was severely lacking in the lows (timpani and string bass) and the highs (bells).
Moving on to the 70s Rock, I threw on "Us and Them" from Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”. I found the exact same issues here, a lack of deep lows and highs. Mid clarity was pretty decent, allowing the background voices to come through fairly clearly, but that was it.
Lastly was some electronic, and for that I put on "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. This song really showed the acoustic weak points of the X-Tatic. Mainly the bass was missing much like in the other songs, but I noticed that whenever the bass in the song kicked in, I would lose the low mids that the headphones could normally produce just fine.
Now despite the headphones below-par music performance, this weak point does not carry much weight in the overall testing, because these headphones are primarily designed for gaming, in which they performed fairly well.
I tested out the microphone with in-game audio in Crysis and then with Skype. In both situations the people I was chatting with said that my voice was very clear, and even with all the background noise in my house, none of it came through during chat. Just for my own reference, I made some quick sound recorder recordings and I personally found it to be way above par, being clear, and not too quiet or too loud.
During all of the testing, these headphones remained very comfortable, despite their weight. The cushioned felt-like ear-pieces and headband proved to be quite effective. The inline control was fairly easy to use, but I found the digital volume control to be kind of clunky. Also as expected, the cords did get in the way and I could never really get them situated in a good spot.