Date: September 26, 2005
Author(s): Rob Williams
If you are a gamer that uses a headset, you know that it has to be high quality in order to be ahead of the game. You want to know which direction enemies are in, and you want it to sound like you are in the game. We are taking a look at the Altec Lansing AHS602i gamers headset, which includes many features that may appeal to the hardcore gamer.
I personally do not use regular speakers that often, due to a family that will feel the most insignificant bass tremble. So I am forced into using headphones constantly, which is fine with me. Finding a perfect headset can be a challenge though, that’s obvious. With headsets, I have usually found that the sound quality is not usually top rate, being compared to a regular pair of headphones. Sometimes it’s even more difficult to find a headset that actually does sound good in gaming.. some I have tested have been too sharp sounding.
As always, before we get into the heart of the review, here is Altec Lansing’s company bio, as well as details specific to this headset.
In the end, sound has little to do with watts or decibels or digital technology. It’s about the listening experience, those precious moments when the heart is touched or the spirit transformed. The promise of the Altec Lansing brand is that our sound artisans will continue the legacy of blending art with science to stir the soul.
Altec Lansingâ€™s AHS602i features SRS 3-D Audio technology, an audio enhancement technology that provides a realistic and spacious listening experience through headphones. This award-winning technology retrieves the spatial information from surround recordings and restores the original three dimensional sound field. Games and movies have never sounded better!
Once I received the AHS602i for review, I immediately liked the appearance. The headset is composed of a Silver/Black scheme, which many people would find no problems with. I can easily see that comfort was a priority, because the head strap and ear pieces are very well cushioned. If you are a gamer who plays for hours on end, then you will find no problems with them feeling uncomfortable.
To add to the comfort level, the ear pieces also swivel a fair bit, so that it will fit most everyones head perfectly. If you had a square or egg shaped head, you would still find that these feel great. My previous headset review, the Logitech USB 350 had awesome sound, but because I had glasses, I had found I would get irritated after wearing the headset for more than an hour. I have not had any such issues with the AHS602i.
The only issue I have found, and it’s a small one, is that after a while of using the headset, my head would feel warm. Because the ear pieces cover your ears so well, you don’t get that much air circulated around that area. I have only found this to be the case if I wore the headset for more than 3 hours. If you are a normal person, unlike me, you likely would get out of your chair more often than every three hours anyway.
Because the ear pieces cover your ears so well though, it adds to the sound experience, because it cuts off a good amount of sound around you. I have a fan in my bedroom that’s fairly loud when running. After putting on the headset, I can hardly hear it at all. If you have television or other sounds going, you will likely hear them, but it does a good job of blocking them out so you can only hear the game or music that you are playing.
The microphone on this headset is attached to the left ear piece. It’s flexible as well, so you can move it to the best position for you. After being used to the Logitech USB 350, which has the microphone on the right ear, I figured this one would have felt ackward. It certainly didn’t though. As a whole, this is one great looking headset, that’s extremely comfortable.
What makes this headset special though, is the SRS 3D Audio technology. What this does essentially, is allows you the ability to play a game in surround sound, theoretically, with the headset. Generally speaking, this should make the games you play sound much better using Surround Sound, rather than choosing the regular Headphones option. This can be controlled via the remote that you see in the pictures. That control allows you to adjust the volume, and depth of the surround sound. Unrelated to the sound, the control also has a clip so that you can attach it to your shirt if need be.
Lastly, the control requires 1 AAA battery, which is not included. Now that we have got the specifics covered, let’s jump into testing this baby.
I tested the AHS602i using Music, Movies and of course, Games. The sound card I am using is the Chaintech AV-710, which the headset will be directly plugged into.
Of course, this headset is being touted for gamers, so it only makes sense that we test it out using two of the most popular team based FPS on the net! In Counter-Strike: Source, I played a round through the cs_office level, using the “Headphones” audio selection, as well as the “5.1”. In Battlefield 2, I played through the Dalian Plant map, and had selected high audio quality, plus EAX support. I did not have the option to use the Ultra High audio quality setting.
As much as I love CS: Source, it’s not exactly a game that stands out in the audio department. Even so, a good headset should help you determine where the enemy is, as that’s extremely important in this game. The headset performed greatly here, and the sound was crisp and clear, even at loud volumes. That’s important.. it was so clean sounding that it didn’t give me a headache like a previous headset may have. As for Battlefield 2, this is the type of game that this headset was made for! The tanks, firing and chat sounded incredible. Overall, the game was very enjoyable just because of this audio boost. It sounded great without the boost, but when it was enabled.. wow.
Regardless of what game you are playing, it should technically sound better using the booster. In CS: Source, I would have figured that the 5.1 setting would have sounded leaps and bounds better than the headphone setting, but I was wrong. The headphone setting sounded better and clearer, and also could reach higher volumes. So I guess it would pay to experiment with the settings in each individual game to see what sounds better with this headset.
I can’t help but be very impressed with this headset. I have verified with my teammates, that I came in loud and clear. Since being able to communicate with your teammates is a top priority, you want to be clear enough so that they will understand… and the AHS602i delivers.
I am a huge fan of music, so a good headset is required to handle anything I can throw at it. The high pitches and loud volume. If I turn it up high and it crackles or sounds scratchy, that’s a sign that I won’t be using the headset for very long. Bad Religion is my personal favorite band, and if you enjoy punk music, you likely already know their music. DJ TiÃ«sto is a legendary trance artist, and one of the most popular DJ’s in the world. Both CD’s being tested have been ripped to MP3 at 320Kbps, an ultra high quality.
To test, I picked a song from each disc, and listened to it with and without the SRS booster. I chose “Los Angeles is Burning” from the Bad Religion album, and it sounded great without the booster. It was a different story when I turned it on though! The song became immediately distorted, and there is no way someone could listen to it very long. I quickly found out though, that this was actually not the boosters fault. The battery I was using has been used before, and therefore was on the brink of dying. Replacing the battery fixed the entire problem, and it sounded amazing with the booster on.
How about the trance album? The song I chose off the TiÃ«sto album was “Solarstone & JES – Like A Waterfall”, which is the one you may have heard in the commercials for the album. It’s a very smooth sounding song, with lots of bass and voice. As I had hoped, the song sounded just as I wanted.. awesome quality. For fun, I turned up the volume within Windows up to Max, and the same for the headset. There was absolutely no distortion whatsoever. I tried a song from another TiÃ«sto album as well, “Traffic”, which is also loaded with a ton of bass. Again, no distortion. I am extremely pleased with the performance of the headset when it comes to music listening!
For movie testing, I chose to use 8 Mile and Gone In Sixty Seconds, a couple of my favorites. In 8 Mile, I played the “The Final Battle” chapter, which has B Rabbit free styling against a Free World member. The reason this is a great chapter for testing, is because it takes place in an echoey basement, where the voices bounce off the walls. For Gone in Sixty Seconds, I played through the various chapters where Nicholas Cage is escaping with Elenor (1967 Shelby Mustang GT 500). Obviously, any great car chase scene makes for good sound testing.
I first watch both sections from each movie without the SRS boost, to mimic regular headphones. The sounds was good, but nothing spectacular. When I played back the scenes again with the SRS booster enabled, I was thoroughly impressed. In 8 Mile, I could not believe how real the sound was.. as if I was truly there. While watching the section, I flipped back from regular to surround numerous times, and could not believe the difference. The same goes for GI60S again, the sound was amazing. The car engine really can get your blood pumping, especially if you have not watched the scene before. Without a doubt, I am very impressed with the headset with movie watching.
When I first received the headset, I was a bit skeptical, which is usually how I am. The AHS602i headset is not a product Altec Lansing seems to really advertise, at least to my knowledge. Even though it’s one of their top headsets, it’s hidden in a little corner on their site. My doubts were quickly fixed though, because this headset really did impress me. Since this is a gamers headset, I figured that it would sound best in games, and decent during other uses.
That certainly wasn’t the case either. The headphones greatly impressed me while listening to music and watching movies. The SRS booster really does work wonders, and it makes any sound on your computer much more lively. Actually, listening to some studio recorded songs with the booster, made them sound like they were being performed live. That addition to this headset is definitely the selling point, and a greatly proven one.
There are only a few minor faults I have found with the headset. The control that’s used to turn on the booster is rather large. Of course, you do need to put an AAA battery into it, but it still seems rather big. The other problem is that the Mute, Low and High switch on the control had no effect. I tried it various different ways, but it didn’t work.
In the end, this is a headset that I was very impressed by… I didn’t expect to enjoy it so much. It’s also one that comes in at a very reasonable price, $59.99US at NewEgg. I am giving this headset a very well deserved 9/10 with an Editors Choice award! If you are in the market for a killer headset, don’t hesitate to consider the Altec Lansing AHS602i.
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