I’ve been testing surround sound headphones for almost three years now, and it never gets old taking the new set out of the package and setting up for a review. It gives me an excuse to play games with lots of explosions and music, as well as bust out some favorite movies designed for the theatre sound experience. The set I put through its paces this time was the Vibras 5.1 CH Surround Sound Xbox 360 Gaming Headset from Track-Scan.
For those of you unfamiliar with Track-Scan, they primarily make audio equipment for use by fans of auto racing. They rent and sell scanners and headphones so fans watching rednecks drive in circles can eavesdrop on driver and pit conversations. They’ve been in the business of headphones for quite a while and diversified into gaming audio in late 2008. The Vibras 5.1 CH Surround Sound Xbox 360 Gaming Headset released in time for 2009 CES where it won an innovation award.
The Vibras 5.1 (I’m not typing the rest of that again) for 360 is identical to its sibling USB unit, other than the color (white vs. black) and the device connection cord. The headphones have a 3 prong mini audio jack connection which attaches to the Dolby decoder. The decoder has 3 volume controls to mix the output from the 5 speakers in each ear, and attaches to any device with an optical out port with the included optical cable. There’s also a power cord for the decoder adding to the volume of cables required to make use of the device. This is sadly the norm for almost all ultra high end gaming headphones.
When connecting to the 360 for XBL, there’s also the requisite cord to connect the headphones to the controller connected to the microphone. This cord has an audio and mute control for the chat volume which requires 2 x AAA batteries. The microphone is on an adjustable post and is detachable from the headset.
I actually started using the Vibras 5.1 to play Star Wars Galaxies quietly after my wife goes to bed. My PC motherboard has an optical audio out, and I figured this was as good as any way to begin with the headset.
The first thing I noticed about the Vibras 5.1 was the strength of the construction. In comparison to both the Tritton AX Pro and Astro Gaming A40, the Vibras 5.1 is a far smaller form factor. This leads to natural concerns regarding the heartiness and longevity, but the plastic used for the unit is dense enough to be strong while remaining somewhat flexible.
The ear pads have a nice soft cushion and cover even my large ears fully. Unfortunately, due to a decision not to go with ear cones, the pads put a not insignificant amount of pressure on the ears. The rigidity of the plastic combines with a lack of significant adjustment for larger heads to make the unit uncomfortable to wear for longer periods of time. My wife put them on and found them comfortable to wear, so clearly smaller heads will find the Vibras to be more comfortable.
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