I’m pretty particular when picking out my PC gaming gear. I have been through a pretty good amount of hardware over the years and keep up my life cycle of gaming gear. Arctic sent us out some gear to check out and review a few weeks ago. I had a chance to check it all out and see how it fared on a few solid hours of Call of Duty Black Ops for the PC. I had a chance to check out some gaming oriented hardware including 2 headsets, a mouse, and a standard slim profile keyboard. Arctic offers some pretty great cooling products, but also has a nice line of headsets, headphones as well as some other sound and gaming peripherals. I’m very picky when it comes to my gaming hardware, so I rated all this gear against what I already have and love which is a Logitech G9 gaming mouse and a Razer Carcharias headset. They keyboard is not really setup for any type of gaming, so it’s not fair to put it up against my Razer Lycosis, but as you’ll see later it’s a nice slim keyboard great for everyday use.
The first thing I had to try out was the P531 Surround Sound Headset USB headset. This headset offers full 5.1 surround sound, has 4 drivers on each side of your head, and has a built-in digital signal processing (DSP) chip. You have to almost think to yourself surround sound in a pair of headphones? Not the first pair to hit the market, but only the second pair that I’ve tried out. One of my biggest concerns when I choose a headset is if it will be comfortable after extended use. It will have to last and hour at least comfortably on my head to even be considered a usable product. The P531 is well padded on both the top strap and ear cups. There is not too much padding where it drowns everything out but enough to sit on your head and not bend my ears over too much to cause pain when I take them on and off. The top strap is easily adjustable but rigid enough not to loosen up on its own while I’m engaging in combat. The switch control has a volume gain control for front, rear, center, sub, and a master volume rocker switch for all sound overall.
I was a little annoyed that I could not find the software online to install, instead I had to use the included disc and install the software by hitting setup. After a reboot I saw the option in my sound control panel and liked that I could switch between my speakers and the headset without unplugging my speakers in order to use the headset. The software I found a little generic but does have some nice features and tuning abilities to customize the sound more to your liking. I kept everything at the default setting to get a good baseline before I changed anything. Right away the sound really jumped out and me and immersed me into the game. The sounds of brass dropping at my feet, grenade pins being pulled out, and bullets crackling by my head really gave me a great first impression of the headset. The sound was very clear and the bass is absolutely amazing when compared to a larger reference speaker design. The headset cups have a built-in vibration device to further enhance the bass and give you the sensation of a true subwoofer. The ambient sound around you is nearly silent and the surround effects are pretty accurate when it comes to your in game surroundings. COD Black Ops was great choice to test these out on and indeed uses the full array of speakers for a full featured sound. After some minor mixer tweaking, some gain changes, and choosing a large room profile, I had the P531 headset exactly the way I wanted it.
I tested the chat capabilities over Google Chat, and in-game and found after a level adjustment it was easily as clear as my cell phone. I heard no echo and most of all not my own voice past just the normal sidetone. Everyone who heard me said I came in clear with no static and was easily understandable. Overall this headset feels a little heavier than I am used to. The earpieces are quite large but Arctic manages to keep them comfortable and out-of-the-way. After about 15 minutes I really didn’t even realize that I had them on anymore. The sound is extremely intense and the imaging built-in makes the sound feel like it’s 360 degrees around you. My Razer Carcharias are not match for these and I can tell you that I paid more for them than the MSRP of the P531’s. Movies and games really come to life with this headset. You get thunderous bass and a full range of sound and it’s all powered by a single USB plug. You can easily switch between speakers and headset without crawling around under your computer desk or fiddling with the cables in the back. At an MSRP of $66 this headset gets a full thumbs up. You can check out more info at the Arctic site or from you favorite online retailer. Thanks again to Arctic for letting us test out this great headset.
What I like:
- True 5.1 surround sound in a headset
- bendable quality mic
- Bass sounds fantastic and feels real with the built-in vibration devices
- Long cord so it stays out of your way
- Easy to use control box for gain and volume levels
- Lots of adjustment and extremely comfortable with super plush ear cups
What could use improvement:
- Software had to be manually installed, used device manager to update driver from disk
- Could not find software online to download newer version (if any)
- Software interface could use some work