I think purchasing a surround sound system is one of the rights of passage for any man in America today. I’m on my second one now, and am still amazed when I watch an action movie on my home theatre system at the ability to replicate theatre quality sound in my living room.
While I enjoy gaming, I don’t feel a need to connect my PC to my existing surround sound system, especially with my apartment being a fairly confined space. (I enjoy having a girlfriend, I don’t want to blast her out of the living room with the sound of blaster fire and dying stormtroopers.) That’s where the Saitek GH50 Surround Sound Headset comes in. Surround sound just for me, so when a Jawa is eeking out is last “Nin-tee-dee!”, I can smile as I walk away knowing I’ve left filthy little robot thieves dying in my wake. All of this carnage, without even waking my girlfriend who can be happily napping on the couch.
Of course, the surround sound part needs some explaining. The technology being used for the headset is the SRS TruSurround XT process. This means the headset accepts up to 6.1 SRS input and processes it into 2 channel output. It then virtualizes the channels, essentially creating “phantom” speakers that very successfully mimic a true surround sound environment.
The GH50 itself is somewhat large, similar in design to typical studio “can” headphones, with a self-adjusting support strap that distributes the weight of the unit equally across the top of the head. The weight of the unit is not overwhelming, but unlike smaller headsets, you can clearly feel the weight on your head. It is not uncomfortable, per se. But it isn’t the kind of headset to wear of you’re looking to play DDR without waking up the neighbors. The ear covers are well padded and covered in fake leather which offers a good feel, though they add to the warmth of wearing the unit. The microphone is connected to the left side of the headset, and is mounted via a rotational boom that offers flexible positioning.
Volume controls are mounted on a control unit attached to the cord a few feet from the headset. The control unit contains 1 AAA battery for powering the SRS system, independent volumes for the unit and the SRS processor, as well as 3 settings for the microphone: Mute, Low, and High.
The highlight of the GH50 is that the sound quality is very good. Whether in Stereo or SRS mode, the sound is sharp and clear through all normal volume levels. Maxing out the Stereo mode volume on the unit and on the PC is so loud, I actually had to remove them after a minute before lowering the volume. Even at that level the stereo sound was quite clear.
For the SRS mode, there were a couple of issues. The AAA battery powers the SRS process, and when the battery is low distortion can be quite serious, even at moderate volumes. Using a battery designed for music or photo electronics tends to work best, and limits this issue. Additionally, at the higher end volumes in SRS mode, the sound distorts somewhat as well, though not nearly as much as when dealing with a low battery.
Games designed with surround sound in mind or even watching DVD playback on the PC is where these headphones really shine, but they work equally as well when just hearing the simple sounds of lemmings falling off a cliff.
Finally, these headphones carry a somewhat steep SRP of $99.99, but can be found in the $80 range online. While a very good deal in the $80 range, at the MSRP price point, you may be happier with the Razer Barracuda HP-1s in the $130 range. But if you don’t need the multi-channel physical inputs, and are want very good quality sound at a lesser price, the GH50 is the headset for you.
Superior sound quality in either stereo or surround sound mode. Comfortable to wear, if a bit clunky. Little pressure on ears. No noticeable distortion in stereo mode, even at maximum volume. Some distortion in Surround Sound mode at very high volume or as battery weakens. Microphone is flexible and has nice pickup, but should be detachable.
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