In any event, there is more sound leakage both in and out than closed back earphones, so while open backs can offer more open sound, which some prefer, they're not ideal if you'll be sitting next to others regularly. This isn't a downside of course; it's just a feature that means they'll be better suited to some situations than others.
The DS502 is relatively lightweight, although some early adopters in the US have commented on the inline remote is located too close to the headset. This didn't seem to be a dealbreaker on our unit - the remote is light, if a little on the large side but the cable was long enough to see it planted in your lap on a desk in front of you. In fact, it's only an inch or two shorter than several other headsets we had to hand.
The remote has the usual basic functions - a large volume wheel, mic mute button (on/off) as well as a curious 'bass' button. We heard no difference when using this, even with the software installed, but on closer examination of the features, it solved an issue we found when listening at high volumes. The DS502 has a vibration function that's meant to liven things up in games. We initially thought the unit had serious vibration issues at higher volumes, but as it turns out, this is the vibration function in action - pressing the bass button immediately killed the vibration, although it did add a certain dynamic to explosions and firefights.
Out of the box the sound was very bass-heavy and the software's equaliser proved to be very sensitive. So much so that most of the presets had such a massive impact that they proved fairly useless. Thankfully, the equaliser was able to mostly tame the bass and improve the mid range and high end to be able to make some assessments. We were actually very impressed. The bass is punchy and very capable, but still offered plenty of detail, be it on the battlefield or in heavy basslines. It still lacked some depth compared to some of the 50mm driver models we've seen recently, though.
Music from classical to 80's pop was also well-catered for, although detail was sometimes lacking in the mids and highs at higher volumes or in busy scenes. There was little if any signs of distortion, but similarly, instruments sounded clean and punchy, but occasionally lacked detail.
The software also supports 7.1 surround virtualisation, but as per usual this wasn't massively effective, although was discernable to some extent in games. Meanwhile, the microphone was able to record clean and static-free sound that was very natural and free from distortion, even at higher volumes - it's one of the better microphones we've seen. It's repositionable and rotates down into place, with a small red LED indicating whether it's muted.
For the price, we were impressed by the DS502's audio performance. It punched well-above its weight and was easily on par with any other USB headsets we've seen in a similar price range, although many 50mm driver models we've seen recently are more balanced and offer a little more detail. The bass can be overzealous and you'll need to head to the equaliser to tune things to your liking, but once balanced, we doubt anyone would be disappointed.
Comfort-wise it scores highly too. It's not top marks as we have seen slightly better, but most people will find it very comfortable to use for long periods. If around £50 is your limit then it's way up the chart with the top spot going to the HyperX Cloud, which costs around £5 more for the 3.5mm jack version or around £15 more for the Cloud II USB version. We'd definitely be tempted by the Cloud, but if you're wanting USB connectivity, the DS502 is certainly much cheaper than the Cloud II and that might just persuade us to go for the MSI if we're on a restricted budget.
MSI DS502 Gaming Headset