So how do these speakers actually perform? Pretty well, actually. They sound better than the Zalmans with a crisper sound and more bass. There nowhere near as good as my Grado SR60 stereo pair set but then those are considerably more expensive so that’s to be expected. 5.1 performance was convincing depending on the content. When using the Creative mixer test on an Audigy 2 each channel could clearly be located in each location and the same on a PC with integrated Realtek HD Audio. Using the latter I first tried out Half-Life 2 in 5.1 mode but for some reason I could only hear audio over the centre and sub channel unless I switched to stereo. I triple checked the connections but everything seemed fine. I then tried Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and in this case the surround affects worked superbly. Standing on the shore at the very start of the game I could hear the waves swishing from front to back as they swept under me and sounds moved around convincingly in the game.
In DVDs the performance was decent too, though to get a real sense of the surround will depend on how much the director uses discrete sounds in the audio mix.
For regular stereo music I was again pleased with the performance. Sure a regular stereo set at the same price will be better but it was still involving with enough clarity bass and treble for the occasional listen to MP3s.
The weight of the headphones does mean your ears will get a bit hot after a while, making it more tiring that using speakers, but if that encourages you to take a break from gaming then it’s probably a good thing.
Overall, there’s no way you can say that these are as good as having a real surround sounds speaker system, but if you have to go for headphones these are a fantastic alternative. You retain 5.1 surround, you don’t have to unplug your speakers and you can individually adjust the volume for each channel. You also get a good quality integrated microphone and you can listen in pairs to DVDs if you get the twin set. They’re comfortable to wear and they don’t sound half-bad either. So what the damage? Remarkably CCL is offering them for only £36 – less than that of the far less flexible Zalmans. If you’re a gamer that likes surround sound and you need a headset, these are nothing less than essential.