This time around is an item that's a bit of a change for me-I have Thermaltake's new Shock gaming headset on the temporary bench here, and I've given it a thorough once-over for you guys. Is the shock the sound quality, the sticker price, or the fact that I reviewed a headset? You'll have to keep reading to find out!
Last year Thermaltake released a new line of eSports merchandise, from mice to keyboards to this headset here. I've not taken a look at the other offerings in that line, having a mouse and keyboard I'm perfectly content with, but I was in the market for a new headset. Thermaltake is a new challenger in this market, so I might as well check them out while looking for my next noob-shouting appendage.
Sometimes, the box is a better toy than the toy inside...
Sometimes, though, the toy is worth it.
That's not a CD, don't worry.
Don't miss out on your bag-it's hiding inside that carboard stand!
The Shock comes in black and red retail hanging packaging, with its salient features outlined in multiple languages on the back. It has a long list of features, which means it has a lot to live up to.
Taken straight from the Thermaltake website...
- Interface: 3.5mm
- Driver unit: 40mm
- Frequency Response: 20Hz~20 KHz
- Impedance: 32 ohm
- Sensitivity: 114+/-4 dB
- Max. input: 100mW
- Directivity: Uni-directional
- Impedance: 2.2 k ohm
- Frequency: 100~10KHz
- Sensitivity: -54dB+/-3dB (odB=1Vpa@1KHz)
- Test condition: 4.5V
- Cable length:3m
- Connector: 3.5mm plus x2
Nice specs on paper, no doubt. But on paper and on a head are two different things. And, since they are, that's where these cans are going-on my head.
I first sat for about an hour with the headset on and plugged into nothing while Luthien laughed at me maniacally. I'm sure I did look daft, but there's no better test for a set of headphones than if they're comfortable. Response, sound quality and features mean nothing if you can't sit with them on. And they passed that test with flying colors. They beat my Zalman 5.1 phones for simple plain comfort. And, since Luthien laughed, I put them on her. She absolutely hates over the ear phones and she claimed them to be comfortable enough to wear. That's a serious compliment. I've had lots of headsets, and I've really not been as pleased with fit as I have with these. Absolutely stellar fit and expandability.
Next, I plugged them into my borrowed laptop (Intel Azalia HD, for those about to ask what kind of audio output) and fired up Youtube. Why Youtube? Simple. I'm going to subject it to anything possible musically at MP3 bitrates and see where its weaknesses are. I've been a musician for 22 years, I know response when I hear it. So I dragged it through everything from my Pandora channel (mostly Dropkick Murphys/Finnegan's Wake/Dubliners) to the soundtrack to "How the West Was Won" to Daft Punk.
Here I was surprised repeatedly, but some were not the happy kind. There's a lot of bass in this headset. It says so on the box. That said, there's a lot of bass in this headset. The eternal problem with bass is that in the situations where it's not warranted, it muddies the other channels. I ran into that problem in places, but thankfully not everywhere. Notable (and exceptional) responses were in such recordings as the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra Vienna horn section's recording of the theme to "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" where the response was even across all registers, and the highs were there without being strident (a sure sign of good drivers) and the lows didn't feel distorted, but punchy and tight. It may be the recordings I had, but I tried some of them with the headset, my Zalman cans, and the stock speakers on the laptop with similar results-sometimes the Tt headset sounds a bit flat. But good news everybody (and you are now reading that in the voice of the Professor) I'm reasonably sure that those of you with decicated cards or high-end onboard should be able to tweak to your liking. On recordings that require heavy bass, they're excellent. I'm pretty sure it's simply a move that's more in recognition of popular music and mainstream listening habits. I'd be content with studio monitors duct-taped to my head. I admit i'm a bit strange.
Further abuse of the headphones consisted of setting up background noise and cueing up some good FLAC copies of favorite CDs/composers. FLAC (Fully Lossless Audio Codec) is a format that preserves all the information available, making for much clearer music with much larger file sizes. In FLAC listening, the same boosted bass was present, and clear highs, though the midrange tuned up better overall. It may simply be presets in the software when people rip their MP3s. Without ripping some myself, I'm hard pressed to say exactly.
So, I've pretty thoroughly abused them. They held up just fine to background noise as well. They've handled everything I could throw at that Line Out jack. Now, it's time for the Line In.
What do you test with? Well, I used two tests. One consisted of simple looping in which I recorded myself with Windows Media Recorder, and the other consisted of me bugging the other mods at Guild Wars 2 Guru on their Mumble server. In both instances it picked up from a decently loud level to shouting just fine, and some whispers. That's perfectly acceptable to me, what I whisper about my enemies under their breath I'd rather them not hear. Background noise was not picked up, letting me know the noise cancelling really does work.
So how does this break down?
Simple. This set of cans you will pry from my cold, dead hands. They are simply that good. There are no glaring errors. You get a great length of cable with a built in tie-no swearing at front or rear ports! They're very comfortable, even after extended wear sessions. They drown out others around you easily. The mic works and works well. They even fold and come with a bag for storage (nifty extra surprise there.) I'm hard pressed to find a con based on today's listening profiles and the ability for most sound chipsets to apply equalizer profiles.
How much would you expect these run for? I was easily willing to accept a price of $150 for these (I've used $150 headphones before in the studio) in regular retail. Imagine my shock when I found out that the MSRP was USD $49.99! This is a theft and a crime and you had better commit that crime and sentence your ears to this headset. Believe me, you'll have no problem serving time with it.
If you're looking for a number, I give it a 5/5, most enthusiastically recommended, and I hope they do this well with the other upcoming audio products. If they do, we might hear the name Thermaltake a lot more often.
They are available for purchase on Thermaltake's website as well as through Amazon and other etailers. Prices ran from $48.95 to $53 as of time of writing.
This product was provided free of charge, by its manufacturer for the purpose of review