If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that as much as I may enjoy playing games and watching films well into the small hours of the morning it's that fellow residents, and sometimes nearby neighbours, aren't always so appreciative. As great, then, as having a decent surround sound speaker setup cranked up to the max is, it's a fact of every PC (or, indeed console) gamer's life that a decent headset is one of those must haves.
There are, as common sense might suggest, two options. The former, and most obvious, is a simple stereo headset, such as the SteelSeries Siberia which as our review testifies was pretty nifty. The second category comprises devices such as the Saitek Cyborg that offer a virtual 5.1 surround sound from the two available speakers. As the Cyborg headset proved though, this can have mixed results.
If there was a company positioned to make and pair of virtual surround sound headphones and get it right, Creative is probably it. Creative has some real badge cache in the audio arena, with excellent products like the X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty Pro sound card and Auvana X-Fi headphones backing up that reputation. To that end, the Fatal1ty HS-1000 gaming headset should be pretty good. Especially as Creative claims to reserve Jonathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel's branding for the crème de la crème of its products.
Superficially the Fatal1ty gaming headset sets off on the right foot. The Fatal1ty branding is kept pretty low key, and there's no Razer Piranha-esque glowing LEDs, for instance. One trait the Fatal1ty headset does share with the Piranha, though, is the overabundance of pressure. I wouldn't consider my head to be particularly large, but wearing the headset for too long caused enough discomfort that I simply had to remove it for 15 minutes or so before being able to use it again - and too long equated to about an hour of use. Some might argue that such enforced breaks are a good idea, but I'd rather not try playing Left4Dead with throbbing ears. It's an intense enough game as it is without adding pain to the mix!
On the plus side, design-wise, the removable microphone plugs in as securely as could be asked and is nicely flexible, without feeling flimsy. The USB cable for attaching the headset to a PC is of a decent length, too and sports an in-line remote offering volume buttons and a microphone mute switch. This also has a clip on the back, so it can be attached to, say, a belt ensuring it can be easily located while also reducing cable tug on the head.