After spending some time with a couple of higher end headsets a few months ago, Genius-KYE was kind enough to send over a couple of lesser expensive headsets for us to have a look at. We received the HS-04U and HS-04V, both sold under the Genius brand name. We will be taking a look at both of them within this single review, but reviewing them separately from each other. Let’s see what they’re all about.
The main features of the HS-04V headset, as advertised by Genius, are the following:
- Inline bass vibration and volume control
- Open-air design ‘perfect for hours of comfortable wear’
- Gooseneck mic boom
- ‘Great for internet games, voice chat or music’
The other feature is the price â€“ a shopping-comparison search will show you any number of places where this headset can be had for $20 USD or less. Is it worth it?
The box is pretty simple. I wonder what the vibration thing is about…
Here I was wondering if this headset comes with it’s own battery powered amplifier for when you’re on the go. Nope…
It turns out that the batteries and usb plug are used to power the bass vibrators. Yes, the main feature of these headphones isn’t exceptionally powerful, vibrating bass; it’s just the vibrating part. There is actually a small vibrator on each ear cup that, when powered, shakes your ears to in order to make you feel like you are hearing powerful, throbbing bass. Sound weird? It is.
Here we see what comes in the box, you have the headset, 6.3mm jack adapter, and the usb cable and battery pack.
The inline remote allows you to control the speaker volume and the intensity of the bass vibration.
Here you can see the open-ear cup, notice that you can’t adjust the fit of this headset manually.
The mic boom, though a little too short, stays where you place it.
So what’s it like getting your ears vibrated? Does it make you smile like the woman on the box?
Performance and Comfort
To test these headphones I used a Creative X-fi XtremeMusic sound card. In the Creative Audio Console, headphones were set as the speaker type. For Music the mode was set to Entertainment Mode, and for games the mode was set to Game Mode.
I listened to a variety of music including both low-detail MP3s and MP4s and high detail CD tracks. I also spent some time playing a couple FPS games.
I sampled mp3s by Ben Lee, Incubus and Zwan, and listened to CD tracks by Interpol, Catch 22, AFI and Bob Marley.
The most noticeable thing about the sound of this headset is that the bass is weak. Listening to AFI’s “Miss Murder” is a perfect example of this. I tried another set of $40 ‘Titanium’ phones I got from Radio Shack a couple years ago, and the bass on this track was kicking my ears in. With the HS-04V, the bass is just… noticeable. It gets a little better with the vibration turned on, although on Max it got irritating. Since everything under ~300Hz was severely underrepresented, everything sounded tinny, especially Interpol’s “No I in Threesome”. The definition was also on the fuzzy side, although this wasn’t as noticeable on the reggae or ska tracks.
The vibrators are certainly an interesting feature. They basically give your ears a little kick whenever a drum beat or loud bass note plays. However, since the bass on this headset is so weak, it feels a little out of place. Turning the vibration on seems to amplify the bass slightly, and the ‘normal’ setting isn’t too distracting, however the ‘max’ setting makes it feel like there are two 6″ drivers strapped to my head thumping away â€“ but I can’t hear them. Also, after listening to some faster tracks, it’s apparent that the vibrators have a maximum frequency and cannot always keep up with the music and so some thumps are lost. Other than that I have to say they feel kind of neat â€“ it does make you feel like you’re hearing loud bass, but I think it’d be better if you actually were.
I played some Quake 4, Counter-Strike: Source, and FEAR. There isn’t a need to get into too much detail here. The headphones worked just fine and sound location was good, but the bass was still weak. As dumb as it sounds, gunshots and explosions really do seem more intense when the headphones are vibrating – I can almost understand how this feature made it to market. Some may like it; other will probably find it annoying.
The microphone quality was good, I didn’t have any trouble understanding my own voice recordings and people on line said I sounded good.
As far as comfort goes, they aren’t bad, but they certainly aren’t that great either. The cups themselves are small and rest right on top of your earlobes. There is a comfortable amount of clamping force applied to your head, but there isn’t any way to manually adjust the headset, and it did tend to move if my head wasn’t level. The synthetic leather rim coverings aren’t the best either and will cause your ears to sweat after a bit, despite the fact that these are open-ear phones. I wouldn’t recommend wearing these for long periods. The build quality seems pretty solid â€“ stepping on them is the only thing I’d try to avoid, but you could definitely fling them across a room without much consequence.
For $20, this isn’t a bad set of headphones. I haven’t seen many other headsets that include a decent mic and an inline remote. The sound is not that good but you shouldn’t expect it to be.
As for the vibration, I think a feature like this might have it’s place somewhere (no, I don’t mean there) â€“ it definitely adds to the shock of explosions and gunshots, for instance. But without the actual sound to back it up, most of the time the vibrations are just annoying. Having your ears shake when it’s obvious that you aren’t actually hearing any bass is just… dumb. The ‘normal’ vibration setting was usually enjoyable because it boosted the bass output slightly yet wasn’t annoying.
So like I said, they’re pretty good for $20, but I’d recommend spending $40 and getting something more comfortable with better speakers… unless you really want the vibrators.