Roccat Studios of Germany will be blitzkreig’ing both our desks and our ears soon this February, with the introduction of their new line of gaming peripherals to North America - starting with this Roccat Kave 5.1 Surround Headset. Their US debut at CES 2012 generated quite the buzz, and they offered me to test drive this product, as well as their upcoming keyboard and mouse, which will also soon be reviewed here at BSN*.Overview and Setup
Compared to other gaming headsets, the Kave is unique in that it will offer a literal approach to a private surround sound experience, by featuring three (3) drivers in each cup. The Left, Right, and Center channels are stimulated through the front drivers, while the Left Surround and Right Surround channels are separately handled by a second set of drivers, positioned at a proportionate 12 degree angle towards the back of your ear. Both of these 40mm speakers are advertised to handle a full 20 Hz to 20 kHz range.
Beneath each set of channels is what Roccat calls the “vibration driver”, a 30 mm low-frequency emitter that handles anything between 20 to 100 Hz. Note this isn’t labeled as a subwoofer or “Bass”, meaning it will only handle information that is fed to the LFE track, or the .1 in 5.1 Surround. In short, if you aren’t listening to a source that doesn’t handle multi-channel information, like a movie, or a game that can emulate having surround information, you’ll most likely not be able to hear anything coming from this driver.
The Kave connects to a desktop control unit below, featuring a volume clicker wheel and microphone control. But most importantly, the unit includes individual faders for the front, center, and rear channel levels - including a technically misleading “Sub” fader (as explained earlier). Roccat recommends to first set all faders to 50%, then to turn up the volume to a comfortable listening level. I enjoyed giving myself a bit more depth in-game by increasing the rear channels to about 65-70%.
From the control unit, the 6.5 ft (2 m) cable breaks out into four 3.5 mm TRS cables, and a USB connector. The 3.5 mm analog audio cables can connect into any existing 5.1 audio device, whether its onboard or dedicated. The headset’s USB connection does not pass any audio information, only serving current to the headset, while presenting itself to the OS as an HID control device, similar to your keyboard’s volume buttons. There is also a switch for two different modes, Game and Movie, which I’ll dive into later in this review.
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