As more and more companies look to expand their product line-ups, we’ve been seeing audio tackled quite a bit. Arctic is one of the companies to dive in there, and the products we’ve seen so far have been noteworthy. In this article, we’re taking a look at the company’s latest gaming headset, the 5.1 P531, a USB-based solution.
Ah, the Swiss; makers of fine cheese, wine, chocolate and after market cooling products. Wait. What?
That’s right. The Swiss also know what they are doing when it comes to keeping computer components cool. Comin’ straight outta Switzerland is Arctic Cooling, a name that is well known among enthusiasts. Many of its products such, as the Freezer 7 Pro CPU cooler, Accelero VGA cooler and MX-2 and MX-3 thermal compounds offer excellent performance without making you empty your wallet.
Recently, like many other companies, Arctic has started to branch out into the chassis, power supply, peripheral and audio markets. This has led to a rebranding of sorts with some of its products. Its cooling products continue to be sold under the Arctic Cooling name, while its peripherals are simply marketed as Arctic but retain the Arctic Cooling badge on the package.
The product up for review today, the P531 5.1 gaming USB Headset comes in under the Arctic Sound banner. It has a lower price point than most other 5.1 headsets, so the questions that need to be answered today are whether or not the sound quality has been sacrificed, and also whether they can provide the level of surround sound that the big boys in a higher price range can.
As the name suggests, this headset features a USB connection, and uses the included driver software to help configure and handle sound output rather than use individual 3.5mm audio connections. This means the processor will do the work instead of a motherboard’s on-board sound or stand-alone soundcard. Since this is a surround sound headset, Arctic Sound has chosen to go with a 30mm center, 40mm front, 30mm surround and 27mm subwoofer driver in each ear cup.
The closed circumaural cups, which are designed to cover the entire ear and passively block outside noise swivel 90 degrees horizontally but also flip outward 180 degrees. If space is an issue they can also be folded up into the headband making a smaller footprint for storage or transportation. They are marked with a white L or R designating which cup goes on which ear and feature a soft, plush-like fabric on top of a cushioned, fake leather wrapped pad.
Attached to the side of the left cup is a noise cancelling microphone that can be rotated 135 degrees all the way up to a 90 degree position, allowing it to be moved out of the way when not in use. The amount of articulation in the boom itself is very impressive and there should be enough length for most users to position the microphone almost in front of their mouth if needed.
The underside of the headband features the same soft, cushioned surface as the cups and is wide enough to spread out any downward force, while the top sports the Arctic Sound logo. Size adjustments are made by way of the typical numbered slide mechanism on each side that ranges from 0, which is fully retracted, to 8, fully extended.
90 cm or 3 feet down the 3 m or 9.8 foot cable that runs from the left cup is the inline volume control. Overall volume can be adjusted along with the volume of each individual driver depending on the output mode selected in the driver. It also features a mute switch for the microphone and a blue LED bar that flashes to indicate when sound is playing, and stays solid when there is no sound output.
Finally there is a small, basic, multi-language, fold out user manual and a driver CD in a plain white sleeve taped to the inside back of the box. On that driver CD is also the software, which I’ll take a look at next.