Zowie Gear Hammer e-Sports Headset Reviewhardnrg - November 23, 2009
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- Processor: Opteron 170 10x240
- CPU Cooling: Thermalright XP-120
- CPU Fan(s): 2x Noctua NF-P12
- Motherboard: DFI NF4 Infinity
- Memory: 2x1GB G.Skill HZ PC4000 3-4-4-8-1T
- Video Card: Sapphire HD4850 512MB
- Video Card Cooling: Arctic Cooling Accelero S1 rev2 (passive)
- Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling 510 SLI/Express
- Soundcard: Soundblaster Audigy 2 ZS (LM4562 + Blackgate mod)
- Headset: Zowie Gear Hammer
- Hard Drive: 4x Hitachi T7K500 250GB SATA2 (Highpoint RAID-10)
- OS: Windows Server 2008 SP2 (Vista SP2)
- Headset: Speed-Link Medusa 5.1 Home Edition
- Headset: Turtle Beach Ear Force X-52
I listened to a wide selection of music, from psychedelic trance to symphonic classical, to explore the ability to deliver powerful sound whilst maintaining the clarity of finer detail. The Hammer headphones provide a tidy and controlled bottom-end, more punchy than the X-52, but not boomy like the Medusa. The mids appear well balanced and again are favourable to the X-52 and Medusa, but the high end seems somewhat muted or muffled. So, the Hammer is not quite as bright sounding as the X-52 or Medusa, but because of the well-executed bass and mids, it sounds the best overall.
I should point out here that the Hammer didn't really need much EQ adjustment at all, whereas the X-52 and Medusa pretty much required EQ adjustment to make them sound decent.
Both of the comparison headsets are 5.1 designs, with 4 drivers in each earcup, and they suffer from slightly imbalanced sound across the frequency range, sometimes resulting in quiet dialogue, or overly boomy explosions (not in a good way). As the Hammer is a straightforward stereo design, the resulting movie sound is reproduced more faithfully, as it doesn't not have the mismatched speaker problem of the X-52 and Medusa. So, although the other headsets can seem more exciting and dramatic, the Hammer is more accurate and clear.
The Hammer is a closed-back design, meaning the earcups don't have holes on the back. This did seem to restrain the sound somewhat, and the soundstage didn't seem all that wide compared to the X-52. It was a tough call, but I think the Hammer and X-52 are neck and neck in movies. While the Hammer reproduces all the sound levels better (i.e. dialogue vs. foley vs. music etc), the X-52 has a wider sound, so things appear further apart from left to right.
Although the headphones are a closed-back design, there is some sound leakage in both directions, so other people in the room (or on the train/bus/plane) can hear what you are listening to (if it's very loud), and you can hear loud things around you. I personally feel that professional gaming headsets should have at least some level of sound isolation, mostly so that the only sounds that you hear are from the headphones, from the gaming world, not the real world. With the velvet earpads, there is almost no sound isolation; switching to the leather earpads provided a little sound dampening, but it was still very little. This means that your gaming environment would need to be fairly quiet, and if you are gaming late at night, you might annoy other people in the same room.
I tried driving a Hummer in Crysis and could hear the engine properly, unlike with the X-52. There was also no problem with other sounds in front of, or behind, the player in other FPS games (e.g. gunshots, grenades, and other explosions). So, as with movies, the sound delivered is much more accurate than the comparison headsets.
Testing the microphone out in VoIP apps (Ventrilo, TeamSpeak and Skype), I found that the mic does pic up some plosives and breathing noise when the mic is directly in front of the mouth, but it is not as pronounced as with the X-52 or Medusa. Adjusting the mic slightly above or below the mouth eliminated these unwanted noises. This is quite a basic concept that people should follow when using a headset, but the large housing on the mic appears to do a better job at filtering out the unwanted noises and capture your voice better.