Some companies by their very nature demand that little bit of extra respect. Sennheiser is just such a company, and its reputation has been earned not through eye catching marketing or design, but simply by producing high quality products again and again over a long period of time.
As such when this Sennheiser headset arrived in the office it was of significant interest. This, the PC166 USB, represents the very best of the Sennheiser's gaming headset range and features its own USB soundcard, as well as a noise reducing microphone. It has supposedly been developed with the assistance of pro gamers; though in and of itself this is hardly a claim I'd place much faith in. I'd sooner trust the experience of a Sennheiser engineer than some guys that just happen to have the dedication and sheer motivation to be very good at playing games.
Unpacking the set the first thing you'll probably notice is how incredibly long the cable is. In total it measures three metres, and is long enough that you're more likely to have problems with it being too long than too short. Thankfully, there's a cable management system provided that allows you to wrap any superfluous cable around an oval shaped accessory that has slits for fastening the cables and a clip for attaching it to your clothing. It's a pretty essential addition, especially since not using it can result in some annoying entanglements.
Other neat features include a small removable clip that's useful for attaching the wire to your shoulder and away from your arms, while there's also inline volume control and a mic on/off switch. At the end of the cable are two 3.5mm stereo jacks for both the headphones and microphone, while the USB adapter features sockets for each. As a result you can use the headset with or without the USB soundcard, which will please those who have splashed on expensive soundcards for their home PCs.
The USB adapter is, however, a critical factor and one which makes this set ideal for LAN parties and other events where you're not using your own equipment. This ensures consistency and eliminates the possibility of distortion and interference from lower quality on-board sound devices. Using the USB soundcard is certainly preferable to using on-board audio, providing a high level of clarity. It won't, however, ever replace high quality dedicated hardware and the default volume of the USB adapter is noticeably lower than a standard soundcard.
The headset itself is binaural, with the cups sitting on your ears rather than around them. Everyone has their own preference, but though I generally prefer headphones that surround the ear this set still proved to be very comfortable. Each of the cups is mounted on hinges so they adjust to your head, while the foam padded headband is suitably cushy. Both cups can also be adjusted vertically to match the size of your head, and the mechanism strikes a nice balance between being secure enough to not move involuntarily while not being too stiff to adjust either.