|Name||Gaming headset: Creative SoundBlaster Tactic3D Sigma|
|At a glance:||Well-padded and comfortable,Can plug in via USB for better sound quality,3D surround sound,Noise-cancelling microphone not effective|
|Summary:||Almost perfect – a high-quality, comfortable piece of gaming headwear.|
In March’s PC World we reviewed Creative’s Draco HS-850 gaming headset. In April's issue we have a higher-end model: the SoundBlaster Tactic3D Sigma. Both headsets are closed, have detachable noise-cancelling microphones and are black with splashes of other colours, but looks can be deceiving – there are some important distinctions between the two.
The Sigma has a few extra features, including larger ear cups, more padding, and the option of connecting via USB rather than plugging straight into analogue headphone and microphone jacks. This dual connectivity was my favourite little surprise of these headphones, as it enabled me to plug them into my MP3 player with its regular 3.5mm minijack, which produced good audio, or plug them into my computer using the USB adapter to improve sound quality further. Still, if I didn’t have a free USB port I could make the sacrifice and use the computer’s regular headset and mic input.
The Sigma boasts “3D surround sound” – meaning you can hear things in front of, behind, to the left and right of you – which is a cool idea but is dependent on your particular game supporting that feature. Beyond games, it has rather limited use. The stereo sound is exceptionally nice though, and the headphones coped well with everything from soft jazz music to explosive games without going all fuzzy and hurting my ears. The frequency response is 20Hz-20kHz – it goes low but not really low – and I still felt the rumble of the bass. I thought the sound quality on the Draco headset was good, but the Sigma blows it out of the water.
My biggest gripe with last month’s gaming headset was that it wasn’t comfortable for long-term wear. If you’re the type who plays MMOs for hours on end and needs to keep quiet to avoid bugging other people, it just wasn’t quite good enough. However, my extensive testing has conclusively determined that the Sigma headset is significantly more comfy than the Draco, for obvious reasons – the cups are too big to pinch around your ears, the headband is more adjustable, and there’s plenty of extra padding.
Before I tested the microphone, I was almost ready to give the Sigma a platinum rating. Unfortunately, the microphone lets the headset down, although it’s really a minor issue. It’s supposed to be a noise-cancelling mic, but when I made Skype calls and did some voice recording with it, I could clearly hear my TV in the background on playback. I could still hear myself speaking over the background noise, so it wasn’t a big deal, but it could potentially be annoying if you have someone watching TV or playing a game in the same room. If I’m paying $199 for a mid- to high-end gaming headset I want the microphone to be more directional.
My niggle with the microphone is definitely not enough to put me off the whole thing. It’s not impeccable, but it’s a fantastic peripheral, especially if you’re looking for audio quality above voice-chat ability. And, of course, if you ask your flatmate, spouse or child-unit nicely, they might even turn the TV down.