With the amazing growth of online games like Counter-Strike and Tribes 2 of late,headset mics are becoming more and more commonplace. Any gamer will tell you that good headphones are much better than any speakers for gaming, due to the fact that stereo separation is so much easier to pick up on headphones - in other words, you can tell which direction something is coming from very easily. In addition, with the release of the new voice patch for Half Life (and the imminent patch for CS implementing this) microphones are going to become more and more essential for online gaming - already, clans are finding that they can gain a huge advantage over their opponents by using voice commnication with an application such as Roger Wilco.
So, with this in mind, we're going to be looking at this headset from Plantronics, who are the worlds largest supplier of headsets. The model is the LS1 - a lightweight gaming model with mic. It is very similar to the one Plantronics supplied to Microsoft to use in their Game Voice Pro package - and no matter what you may say about MS, you can't deny they make Godly peripherals, so that should give you an idea of the quality of the headset :)
This is the box it all comes in. Is it just me, or does the woman in the box look well out of it?? After 10 minutes taking pics, I was well freaked out by her!! :p
Here you can see the actual headset. It's silver with blue trim, and very thing and light. Plantronics supply a couple of little plastic headphone covers so that the material doesn't get spoilt in the box!
This is a close up of the mic. Its on a fully adjustable boom stand - you can pull it back and forwards, twiddle it around, and move it out of the way when not in use.
This is the little remote that goes with it. It incorporates a little dial for volume, and a mute switch for the mic.
The output and mic input jacks - they're very sturdy, and have a really nice tactile quality to them :)
This little collar clip enables you to clip the headphone wire and the remote to your shirt, which is very handy to keep the wire out of the way of your keyboard whilst playing!
Judging sound quality is very subjective, and so it's hard for me to tell you what these phones sound like, so let me put it like this - they sound better quality than any 99% of normal gaming headphones, about the same quality as my £20 pair of Sony Hi-Fi headphones, and worse than my DTT2500 5.1 setup. The sound quality, for such a lightweight pair of headphones, is amazing - I was blown away, to say the least, as I was expecting a fairly tinny and crackly sound from the phones - this was definitely not the case. Only on extremely high volumes was there any hint of crackling. some may find that they lack a bit of bass - however, not being a dance music junkie, I had no complaints. I tested the phones with a few different types of music : every spat syllable of Papa Roach's Last Resort sounded amazingly crisp, the huge vocal chorus of Carl Orffs O Fortuna sounded suprisingly epic on such a small pair of phones, and the addictive beat of Gigi D'Agostino's Bla Bla was pumped out well. On the sound quality front, I have no hesitation on recommending these headphones to all but the most audiophile of users. On the gaming front, the swooshy Bullet Time effects of Max Payne sounded fantastic and the gun shots of Counter-Strike resounded satisfyingly - what else do you need to know? ;) The phones also block out exterior noise very well, and leak only a little sound.
I was even more amazed by the performance of the microphone. For such a tiny little thing, it produces very high fidelity recordings. Plantronics recommend you adjust the mic so that it is two finger widths from the corner of your mouth, which is what I did. I conversed with a couple of my friends over the net, and they reported that the mic sounded very good, even with internet compression.
The headphones appear on first use to be a little flimsy, due to their lightweight construction. This was something I was worried about, as I tend to break stuff rather easily :) However, after a weekend lanning at my friends house, they survived being carted in my bag back and forth, and the rigour of frequent usage, bending, crushing, throwing etc that a LAN usually entails :p The volume control remote is also fairly hight qality, although the wheel that controls the volume is quite easy to rotate too far and break, resulting in a 360 degree volume control rather than just 180 degrees from quiet to loud. However, this doesn't actually make any difference to operation, so is only a minor niggle. One other thing to note is that as the headphones are lightweight, and they dont crush your ears, they're brilliant for people who have to wear glasses like me. Conventional hi-fi headphones crush the arms of my glasses into my ear and the side of my head, but these perch nicely without bothering me, a real plus point for those long gaming sessions!! Being lightweight, they're also comfortable to hang around the neck whilst not in use, and the microphone rotates up out of the way when not in use.
So, overall, I have absoloutely no hesitation in recommending these headphones to you.
They're lightweight but sturdy, have fantastic sound quality (abeit perhaps lacking a little bass) and a great quality fully adjustable microphone. The time is coming to upgrade from headphones to headset mics, and I would urge you to seriously consider this pair.