Rated 5 out of 5 by 1
Rated 5 out of 5 by MDS1968 THE Reference Standard Headset!
Go back 18 months and the only way you could get a ‘standard quality’ audiophile headset was to buy a pair of £150-200 Reference headphones and fit a separate £60-80 microphone. Thankfully, both Sennheiser and Audi-Technica now produce excellent models which cover music listening and gaming headset requirements for around £200.
I listen to a wide range of Classical (mainly Violin, Cello, Harp and Sitar), Mid rock (Queen, U2), 80s/90s electro-pop and dance music (Armin & Tiesto) and find most headsets either too Bass heavy or light. I prefer the thermal comfort of ‘open back’ headphones which allow the ears to ‘breathe’ rather than sweat. I also prefer the improved fit comfort that ‘over ear’ (circumaural) cups provide for long (>2 hours) listening/gaming sessions. Unfortunately, most manufacturers still use round rather than oval cups and very few fit ears longer than 65mm (measuring from the top of the ear to the bottom of the ear lobe). Thankfully, these XXL ear cups are the largest oval cups I have seen, other than the £1100 Sennheiser Orpheus HD800, and will just fit around 78mm ears.
The PC363D follows Sennheiser’s standard neutral sound design, i.e. the Bass and Treble are not embellished or boosted when plugged directly into a Sound card or Headphone DAC/Amplifier via the 3.5mm jack. However, if you use the supplied USB 7.1 Surround Sound ‘Card’ the neutral sound is replaced with a heavier Bass and brighter treble bias which many gamers will prefer and sounds similar to the excellent, but Bass heavy ATH-ADG1s. Hence, if you want reference audio you will need a good Sound Card or external USB DAC/Amplifier. To date I have tried this headset with my two main PCs: one fitted with an Asus Essence STXII 7.1 and other with a Creative SoundBlaster ZXR. Although I was pleased with the overall sound, the Bass sounded slightly lighter than neutral and I noticed a bit of low frequency distortion on both when pushed (try Depeche Mode’s ‘Fragile Tension’). Contrary to the opinions of some less than expert reviewers, this is not a physical driver issue as this headset can easily be pushed to unbearable volume levels long before any distortion is present. I have also tried the built-in sound on my Asus Rampage IV Extreme Black Motherboard and it sounded absolutely terrible!
I have tried and tested many headphones and headsets over the years and this unit is on par with the best at the £200 mark. If you want better audio quality you will need to revert back to separates (headphone + mic) and pay upwards of £400 to hear any significant improvement. You should also bear in mind that if you want the best possible neutral sound (with realistic Bass) from this headset, a separate USB DAC/Amplifier is the only current way forward. At night, when I do not want to disturb the household, I switch from the supplied ‘gaming’ USB soundcard to a Cambridge Audio DACMagic Plus when listing to music and this provides a noticeable LF improvement and increase in detail beyond my discrete PCIE Sound cards (try Vanessa-Mae’s ‘White Bird’).
25 January 2016