In the growing world of competitive gaming, good clear audio is becoming as important as crisp graphics. It is important that you hear your opponent before you see him so you can secure that pre-emptive strike on him. Good audio isn’t just for hardcore, competitive gamers though. Game developers spend equal amounts of time on sound design as they do for the rest of the game so why not bask in the glory of audio? With Roccat’s “Kave” headphones, this is more accessible than ever with great audio at a low price.

“Why surround sound? I have a pair of ear phones in my drawer.”

 Sure, you could use a pair of old earphones you found in your drawer along with all the other spare wires but it wouldn’t deliver the same immersive experience you get from the Kave headphones. The 5.1 surround sound provides direction sound which creates depth. This is great when gaming or watching films and recreates audio exactly as the director/developers intended.

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What’s in the box? 

 The headphones come in a very nice black box with blue and silver accents that outline the features of the product. Everything is packaged very comfortably within the box so you will not have to worry about it being damaged during shipping and overall has a very solid feeling. Included in the box you find the headphones themselves, the volume control box, all the cables you need, driver CD and quick start manual.

The Technical Details

 The true 5.1 audio surround is provided by 4x40mm drivers, two per ear. This delivers realistic sound representation for both sound in front and behind. Not just simulated like in some competing products. The headphones use 4x 3.5mm jacks in order to produce the surround experience and are powered by 1 USB plug.  With a frequency range of 20-20,000Hz, the headphones can reproduce the highest highs and the lowest lows audible to the human ear, ensuring you don’t miss a single sound in the game.

The headphones feature a generously long 3.4m cable, 2 metres from the PC to the remote and then the rest from the remote to the headset.

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The Headphones

 Despite their budget price coming in at £67.54, Roccat have not compromised in any way with the build quality. The headphones do not feel cheap at all comprised of a rubberised plastic exterior and aluminium elements. The choice of materials and construction allows them to remain lightweight despite their large appearance. Along the thick, sturdy headband are three soft foam cushions to provide comfort and support around your noggin. The ear cups are fully adjustable with 10 different markings which allow you to change it to whatever size head you carry around. Not only that, the cups also tilt and pivot to allow them to morph for your comfort. This also allows them to be folded completely for easy transport. The cups themselves have thick foam with a rectangle cut out to sit comfortably around the entire ear.

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 Although the headphones do not feature active noise cancelling, the foam cups do a good job at passively blocking out some background noise. Whilst the headset appears large and cumbersome, they are actually very comfortable due to their lightweight nature. The weight is equally distributed around your head which means there are no pressure points. They can become uncomfortable during extended gaming sessions but this is easily solved by giving the headset a simple adjustment on your head. 

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 Along the exterior of the left cup is a microphone which can be rotated up and down or detached completely. This is useful when the microphone is not in use. As well as being able to rotate, the microphone has a flexible boom which allows you to angle it to the exact position you need it. At the head of the microphone is a blue LED which indicates whether the microphone is active. Off means it is mute, on indicates it is active. At the base of the microphone another blue LED which circles around the microphone input. This indicates that there is power to the headphones. I did find that it was very easy for the microphone to become loose when you are moving it into position but you simply need to press it back in and isn’t a big problem.

 

The Desktop Remote

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The remote control is built using the same rubberised plastic construction as the headphones themselves. Along the top of the unit is a volume control dial which produces a satisfying click as you spin it allowing you to have more direct control over the amount of increments you wish to increase or decrease the volume. In the middle of this dial is a large headphone mute button. This allows you to quickly stop all audio so you can hear you mum/wife shout you for tea. Beside this dial is a blue LED. Not only does this indicate that there is power to the device but it also blinks when the headset is muted. Moving around the side of the remote there is a “mic mute” button for muting and un-muting the microphone with ease.

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At the base of the unit you will find two rubber pads. This is to prevent it slipping around on your desk and help to keep it anchored in position. But wait! There’s more! Opening the hinged door you find more precise controls for controlling the volume of each channel, front, back, centre, bass, in the form of sliders.

 


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There is also a switch which lets you switch between two present audio profiles, movie and gaming. The remote has a very solid construction and overall feels good to use. Each button has a click to it so you receive feedback when you press them. The hinged door does feel slightly ‘plasticy’ when compared to the rest of the product and can be difficult to open at times but this is the only complaint I have with the remote.

 

Testing

These features are all well and good but it is all just information on paper. What you want to know is how they perform in the real world. I tested the headphones in three different usage scenarios. I tested them during gaming, watching films and listening to music.

Gaming: Gaming is by far where the headphones stand out. They deliver excellent sound reproduction. Due to their surround sound nature, not only can you hear an enemy approaching before you can see him, you can also figure out from which direction, giving you that critical first strike. Now, these headphones alone won’t turn you into a gaming God but they do a very good job at getting you on your way to becoming one. With tweaking of the volume sliders on the desktop remote control, you can clearly hear your friends chatting in your Skype call but keep all the detail and fidelity of the in game audio. Not only did the headphones perform excellently at multiplayer games, they did a great job during single player games too, creating a deep immersive, cinematic experience. One thing I noticed however, during quiet sections of games, you can hear some quiet static in the headset. This was also noticed in other tests. It disappears however once there is some audio pumping through. I was thoroughly impressed with the performance during gaming tests.

Movie: I tested the headset with the Blu-Ray version of The Fast and The Furious and I must say I was blown away. It gave the film a whole new depth and was much better than anything my home cinema system has ever produced. It felt real and immersive. The voices were clear and crisp and you could hear everything that was being said, even in the thick of the action with engines roaring. It had better audio reproduction than any system I have tried which was helped by the fine adjustments you are able to make to each channel using the volume sliders on the remote. By far one of the best features of the headphones is the slight vibration you get during deep bass rumbles. It just adds to the power of the scene.

Music: Music is definitely where the headphones disappoint. It seems that all that bass and sound quality seen when gaming and watching films, disappears. It isn’t terrible by any means. It is passable but when you have been treated to the audio experience during the aforementioned scenarios, it disappoints. Everything just sounds a little flat. You have to bare in mind however, these headphones are not designed for music. They were designed for gaming and considering how well they perform in that area, I’d say that it is forgivable.

The microphone quality is as you would come to expect from a headset. Good enough for in game applications and Skype calls. It gets the job done. Don’t be expecting studio quality audio recordings from it. Stick to studio priced equipment for that. As a built in microphone, it functions well.

To conclude

Overall the sound quality is very good for the price. If you are looking for good surround sound audio solution and shopping on a budget, this is probably the best you will find. They even out performed my £200 home cinema system in some areas.

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A couple of things to remember when you are purchasing these however, the do require a 5.1 surround soundcard or on-board sound. Check that your motherboard or soundcard has a green, black and orange 3.5mm input for the surround sound and a pink input for the microphone. Another thing to remember, these are powered headphones. This means that they have to be plugged in to USB in order to work. This means that you cannot use them with your iPod on the bus for example. Not that I can see why you would want to.  The rubberised plastic does well to resist finger prints from your greasy mits and overall, I am impressed with the build quality.

Roccat are offering a huge package for a low price so if you are in the market for some surround sound audio, you can’t go wrong with the Kave. You can find the product page here.

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