Most people think of gaming as a visual medium, and why not–most of the action takes place right there on the screen, where you can see it.
However, much like the movies, video games are a multi-sensory medium. Take games like last year’s Condemned: Criminal Origins for example. Half of the game’s effect–half of its ambiance–is the sound. Enemies come from all around, but before you see them, you hear their footsteps.
In some cases, it seems that a game’s audio effects are even more important that the visual.
Enter Otto’s brand new Surround Sound Stereo Headset. Retailing for roughly $40, the oversized headphones are meant to give your ears a complete audio experience by amplifying what you want to hear and blocking out what you don’t.
For the most part, it succeeds at this, but in some areas, it oddly falters, leaving us wanting more.
First–the specifics. The headset runs on one AAA battery, which allows roughly 50 hours of use. The right speaker has a simple switch to turn the surround sound on or off, while the left has a convenient volume control dial. The 40 mm neodymium speakers are padded nicely and cushion your ears well enough for extended use, and they run on a 20Hz-20 kHz frequency response.
Right away, I fired up some Doom 3. Standard stereo sound was decent, but the real magic came when I flipped the switch and turned on the surround sound. Suddenly, everything seemed to have more life.
It was truly impressive, but I did notice a little bit of distortion when the action on the screen got hectic. This also happened when I tried out the headphones watching DVD movies. Slower scenes had amazing sound quality, while louder action scenes tended to be a bit muffled and distorted.
The distortion wasn’t much, but it was definitely noticeable.
Oddly enough, where the headset struggled most was when it was connected to an iPod. Even without the surround sound turned on, the music and videos sounded incredibly distorted and uneven. What’s odder is the fact that when I played the exact same songs on a different MP3 player and on a laptop, not only was there no distortion, but the sound actually got better.
For $40, Otto’s Surround Sound Stereo Headset is a good bet for casual gamers and movie watchers. The unit’s long life on only one battery is a major selling point, and you will be impressed with its performance.
Just be careful with an iPod.