Cable length is great: two metres ought to be enough for most situations. The cable terminates in one USB plug and stereo microphone and headphone plugs. The large glossy-black inline controller has a selection of options, including silver 5.1 volume buttons, a stereo volume dial, stereo/5.1 switch and microphone mute. The only additions it could have done with are a volume-mute button for the actual phones themselves, and some form of bass/treble control when switching between things like games and music.
While the Cyborg 5.1 Headset will work over USB if you just plug it in, you need to install the driver to make software adjustments, and Saitek have provided a mini-game and an aural demo to let you experience the surround sound. However, installing on an XP system installed the game and demo, but not the driver, while two Vista systems gave the opposite result; giving us access to ”some of” the driver’s functions but not the game or demo.
Not that you’d be missing much, as these two applications are a prime example of poor software more likely to ”put” you off the product than ”show” it off. That aside, the part of the driver I managed to get working was basic, but covered all the important bits. You’ll want to set your system to ‘6 speakers’, which incidentally matches the number of physical sonic drivers in the Cyborgs (compared to eight in the Trittons).
Firing up some good old Farcry and a bit of COD4, I put the headphones through their gaming paces – and they didn’t disappoint, but that was simply because I wasn’t expecting too much. Compared to my Trittons, positional audio was nowhere as clear; in this regard, they barely outperform a decent stereo set with virtual surround. Audio quality when gaming is not as good as the AX360 set either, lacking the range and clarity of treble, and the punch of bass. In their defence, the Saitek headphones do give you a sense of depth that most stereo models can’t quite match.
Microphones are pretty difficult to get wrong these days, and thankfully the detachable one included with the Saitek headset is decent. It picked up everything I said, shouted and whispered clearly, and didn’t pick up on too much background noise either.
Premium music listening is obviously not a primary target for gaming headphones, and audiophiles will want to steer clear. In general, this headset is bass-heavy, and just a tad muddy in general with treble especially lacking distinction. If you’re not too picky though, the Cyborgs are fine, providing quality roughly equivalent to a £20 stereo headset you can buy on the high-street.
However, here we come to the main problem with the Saitek Cyborg 5.1 Headset: it’s not £20, but £55. While this headset is adequate in most respects, it doesn’t excel in any – and personally, I would happily pay twice as much for a Dolby certified Tritton or Sharkoon 5.1 set, which come with their own decoders and multiple digital and analogue inputs. Moreover, since the Cyborg’s don’t offer any of these options, there’s very little separating them from mediocre offerings that can be had for less than £20.
Even the best 5.1 headsets won’t give you an experience equivalent to a real 5.1 speaker system, but they can come pretty darn close. Unfortunately, the Saitek Cyborg 5.1 Headset doesn’t even play in the same room. Though it’s not a bad set as such, there really is nothing here to justify the rather high asking price.
Score in detail