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The headphones are open backed, meaning sound is allowed to escape and it’s still possible to hear noise from outside such as colleagues talking about the latest important news in the industry – or just larking about.
There are also inline volume controls, with the unusual ability to adjust the rear surround, front, centre and sub-woofer levels independently. Additionally there’s an on/off switch for the microphone, which attaches to the main headphone unit via a 3.5mm jack on the left-hand cup.
The microphone itself is perfectly decent, if a little on the quiet side, but it’s a nice addition for VOIP purposes and gamers will certainly appreciate it for online gaming sessions and LAN events. The fact it’s detachable is a bonus, though it’s not quite as elegant a solution as the pull-out microphone featured on the SteelSeries SteelSound 5H v2s we reviewed back in September.
Listening to music with Headset Masters was a mixed experience. Though the sound adapter will make 5.1 audio out of stereo sources, the result is a painfully disjointed sound that lacks any real cohesion.
Thankfully the software provided does allow for a stereo only output, albeit one that still fails to inspire. To its credit the high and midrange is quite crisp and clear, but the bass is woefully weak and the overall sound produced isn’t especially appealing. For music, a decent set of stereo headphones is still preferable.
This lack of low-range bass performance is a running theme, and does a great deal of damage to the credibility of the headphones overall. Another feature is the “bass shaker” which adds a sort of bass rumble effect, though this is more of an annoyance than anything else and feels rather like having a cheap massage machine strapped to your head.
Watching films highlights the strengths of the headphones rather better, and it’s certainly easier to appreciate the surround sound capabilities. Yet, even in this case, there isn’t a convincing case for choosing these over a stereo alternative. The surround effect may be pleasant enough, but it’s by no means outstanding; lacking somewhat in both power and subtlety.
For many the real attraction of 5.1 headphones is for gaming, and Terratec certainly seem to positioning the Headset Master in this market. For one thing they provide a carry bag, which may come in handy when travelling to LAN parties. Terratec also supplies a simple game demo that’s designed to demonstrate the audio positioning prowess of the headphones.