Zowie Gear Hammer e-Sports Headset Reviewhardnrg - November 23, 2009
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As soon as I looked at the headset, it instantly reminded me of the Sennheiser HD280 Pro headphones, and other similar headphones used in professional media production. The headphones are circumaural, meaning the earpads rest around the ear. The headphone cord on the Hammer is single-sided and enters on the left earcup. Quite uniquely, the headband is made of a flexible rubber compound which seems to be virtually unbreakable and must surely be a strong selling point for heavy-handed gamers, as well as being able to survive journeys in suitcases. I should point out here that my HD280 Pro headband shattered in several places thanks to baggage handling on a flight, and that I would put money on the Hammer's headband surviving such rough handling.
The earcups are attached to the headband via metal ring segments. These metal pieces act as rails, upon which the headband end can slide up and down, and this is how you can adjust the headset to fit your head. This sliding mechanism relies on friction, so it is infinitely adjustable, unlike many designs which have a limited number of clicked steps. So, the advantage is that you can get an exact fit, but it does make me wonder how well the friction grip would hold up after many adjustments over an extended period of time.
Moving on to the boom mic component of the headset, I have to say right away that it is the most heavy-duty design I have ever seen!
Usually the boom is made of plastic or some sort of flexible metal spiral hose, but the Hammer's boom is a single piece of rigid metal. If you've ever owned PC headsets before, you will probably have run into problems with the microphone boom breaking or falling off completely. The mic's casing is fairly chunky and there is no way to adjust the distance of the mic away from your face, but fortunately it is very well placed. As I mentioned earlier in the review, the boom mic is on the left side of the headset, but the boom itself actually can be rotated a full 360°, so if you really preferred the boom to be on the right side of your face, you could wear the headset the other way round and invert the left and right channels on your soundcard (as long as this is an available feature on your soundcard's software/driver).
The in-line volume/mic control is also fairly chunky, but is very light, so shouldn't present any issues. The mic control is a simple on/off slide switch, and provides a microphone mute ability.
The back of this control has a clip, so you could attach it to your clothing in some way, to stop it flapping against your body if you start flailing around in the middle of a firefight. The photo is taken with the headset above, and the rest of the cable and jack end below, so the control clips downwards. On the opposite side to the mic mute switch, there is a rotary control for the headphone volume. It's always nice to have an in-line volume control on a headset, especially when driving the headset directly from the soundcard, so that you can adjust the volume in-game without alt-tabbing out of the game to the soundcard mixer panel.
Quite standardly, the headset has 3.5mm jacks for both the headphones and mic. If the headset cord is not long enough to reach your computer, or if you like to have a bit more freedom of movement around your computer, an extension cable is provided. You could also use the extension cable to extend the mic connector whilst the headphones are connected to an amplifier.
Each earcup has a flanged edge that allows the earpads to be removed. The speaker grille looks like it might slightly restrict some of the sound, but does of course serve the purpose of protecting the speaker driver very well. You can see that this part is easily removeable by undoing the two screws. So, for the modding eccentrics out there, you could try cutting a few sections of the grille out to free up the sound, if you felt there was some occlusion present.
The earpads have an edge that you can stretch over the earcup's flange, much like a fitted bedsheet over a mattress. It's a little tricky to get the fabric over the plastic, but this results in a very snug fit, so the earpads stay in place. Both the stock leather pads and the alternative velvety pads are very comfortable. It probably would come down to personal preference, but the velvety pads seem like they would be the option most people would choose for extended or frantic gaming sessions.