All that science and design pays off in the quality of the audio experience. When I spoke with James Hildebrandt, founder of Psyko Audio, he explained to me that the headset was designed with gaming in mind, and that movie audio actually didn’t work very well with the headset because of the way the audio is balanced for the theatre surround sound experience. One thing I learned a while ago, is that when a manufacturer admits a weakness, ignore them, and test the product on that very weakness.
So I popped in Top Gun, and to my surprise, the sound quality blew me away. I mean serious sound, seriously good sound. At the Psyko’s price point ($299), the sound quality was of course top notch. It was the distinctively strong directional sound definition that blew me away. Left to right front to back, and most importantly front to back sound was absolutely clear. More than any headset I’ve ever used, it was easy to tell the difference between front and back generated sounds.
Top Gun gives you an easy way into the ability to push out directional sound. Cranking the volume while an F-14 Tomcat flies from over your head tells you if the headset is susceptible to distortion. The Psyko definitely doesn’t have a problem with that. In fact, the only sound problem I had is that I wish there was a tiny bit more center channel/subwoofer sound available. This is a problem typical of the 5.1 headsets with multiple sounds drivers, and in this case a very minor one.
Next, I was looking for some more discrete sounds to understand if the headset would handle directional sound in a gaming application that has more of a life and death feel to it. So I turned to The Saboteur, a Grand Theft Auto clone that is set in Paris during the time of Nazi occupation. The thing about sandbox games is that they’re immersive, and therefore pretty easy to find different sounds to identify. In and around the burlesque where the protagonist lives, there are literally scores of characters speaking. Approaching each one, gives you a chance to hear what they’re saying. Further, approaching from a different angle provides sounds from a different direction. Finally, gunshots and footsteps coming from behind are sharp and clear, even when quiet.
As I mentioned, the form factor plays a part in the whole of the sound quality and it does have a small cost associated with it. While the Psyko avoids the extra power adapter of the Tritton, it also carries some additional weight due to the modifications necessary for the Psyko to deliver audio as intended. It’s not so heavy as to render it uncomfortable from the get go, but after a few hours, it does put some tension in the neck. One additional thoughtful aspect to the design is that the covers to the ear cones can be opened to let some air in during longer gaming sessions. I like it for the fact that my ears get sweaty after an hour or two. It doesn’t dramatically decrease the sound quality, but you can tell a difference. Still it’s worth it to make the unit more comfortable to wear.
The Psyko’s volume controls are simple but effective; one knob for overall volume, another for the balance between sub-woofer and directional sound. Further, there are 5 LED indicators that display which drivers are producing sound, as well as one to indicate power. The controls are on the amplifier/decoder and the module is light as well.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
In the end, if you’re looking for the top of the line audio headset for PC, this is likely it. The weight isn’t so much a major problem as much as it’s a minor disturbance in the otherwise excellent audio experience. The cost makes it a niche product, but if you have the scratch, it’s worth the money.
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