By Mohammad Abubakr, OnRPG Journalist
A typical gaming headset comes with two speakers, one for each ear, a microphone and usually offers inline volume control. This has changed over the years as we see more and more headsets with additional speakers. However, the question remains whether these surround sound headsets are required or will a stereo headset be enough? Read on to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of a 5.1 surround sound headset.
The Roccat Kave comes in a clean all black design with blue LEDs on the remote and microphone. It is one of the better looking headsets and is not lacking in the visual appeal department. The size is easily adjustable and is marked, allowing for precise adjustment and ability to maintain symmetry.
Before purchasing this headset, please ensure that your sound card supports 5.1 audio. A dedicated sound card is recommended for the best experience.
Unlike stereo headsets, the Roccat Kave requires three 3.5mm audio connections, one 3.5mm microphone connection and one USB connection. This will most likely mean you will not be able to connect the headset using the front ports but this is not a problem due to the very long cable.
Along the cable there is a full sized remote control allowing users to manually adjust volume for all the speakers (centre, front, rear, and subwoofer), mute microphone and change between movie and game sound profiles. I absolutely love this remote control. It sits on your desk without sliding off while you move around and pull the wire due to the rubber feet and with a rotating wheel it is very easy to change the volume. One improvement that could be added in the future is better indication when the sound is muted. Currently the LED flashes for a few seconds but after that it returns to normal.
By far the best headset remote I have ever used.
It features 3 speakers in each ear cup making a total of six speakers. With these speakers you get centre, front and rear audio along with a subwoofer. The sound quality is amazing both for games and movies. With so many speakers the headset is very loud, I tend to use it at 4-6% volume at all times and even then it is difficult to hear anything in the real world due to the external noise cancelling ear cups.
The most noticeable improvement over my stereo headset is the vibrations due to the subwoofer. This makes games sound amazing and grenade kills feel even more amazing.
However, with so many speakers the headset is very heavy. After wearing the headset for more than two hours the top of your head begins to hurt and requires you to move the headset. This is not ideal for gamers that spend the majority of their day on the computer or game in long sessions. Due to the loudness of the headset, it is possible to use them as speakers by raising the volume and setting them on the table. This is not a good sign as that is not how the headset was intended to be used.
Roccat does advertise the headset as being designed to equally distribute the weight to perfectly fit your head but my head still begins to hurt during gaming sessions longer than two hours. Initially my thought was that this was due to not being used to the headset but even after using the headset for over a month, this issue still occurs. I believe this is due to the headband having very thin and hard pads.
On the bright side, the ear cups are very comfortable. Some headsets that I have used in the past tend to be uncomfortable and feel too tight after hours of gaming. This was not a problem with the Roccat Kave. They feel great and block all external noise immersing the player into the game's world.
The ear cups also fold, allowing for easy transportation. However, I would not recommend this headset to those that will be carrying it around.
The microphone has great quality and is Teamspeak certified. You will never have to worry about the other party not understanding your speech. A good microphone is to be expected from all headsets at this price point but Roccat takes it even further. The microphone is removable, meaning that if it is not needed, simply pull it off and keep it elsewhere. It easily comes off and goes back on but still does not feel like it will fall off. Additionally, the microphone has an LED which lights up if the microphone is muted. Never again will you feel like a fool talking to yourself.
Over the past month, I have tried the 5.1 surround sound in many genres of games. For RTS style games such as Starcraft II and Dota 2, you do see a difference with the sound having depth but it has no impact on your gameplay. In MMORPGs you feel more immersed in the world due to the surround sound and the external noise cancelling but once again, there is no impact on your gameplay. FPS games are the focus of this headset and the surround sound does impact your gameplay. Alongside sounding amazing as seen in all other genres, the surround sound gives you a slight edge to locating your enemies.
Definitely one of the better looking headsets.
You can pinpoint the exact location of your enemies based on sounds from gunshots and even footsteps. With the traditional stereo headsets you can still listen to find your enemies but with two additional speakers for each ear, you will know their exact location.
However, this edge will not make much of a difference unless you are the best of the best. This is similar to other small things such as tread swapping in Dota 2 or race selection in World of Warcraft. They will definitely help you but it will not matter unless you are playing at the highest level. Do not expect your rankings to skyrocket by simply picking up this headset.
Watching movies with this headset is amazing. It sounds just like you are at the theatre or sitting in the middle of a surround sound setup in your living room. If you are looking for enjoyable experiences in movies, I would definitely recommend picking up the Roccat Kave.
In conclusion, the Roccat Kave is a very well built headset that sounds amazing. However, due to its weight it becomes uncomfortable after long play sessions. The surround sound is only worth the extra cost for first person shooters and movies although the Roccat Kave is not much more expensive than a traditional headset. If you are a casual gamer that plays in short sessions, the Roccat Kave is a great choice however if you like to play in long sessions, I would look elsewhere. If future versions improve upon the weight and strain they put on the top of your head, I would highly recommend this headset for its build quality and sound. Currently I am not willing to sacrifice comfort for superior sound quality.