Date: March 16, 2011
Author(s): Jamie Fletcher
Filling out its eSPORTS line-up, Thermaltake recently released three different gaming headsets under the “Shock” name, with the lowest-end $60 offering being the one we’re taking a look at here. Tuned for gamers in terms of both aesthetics and audio, does Tt’s first go at a gaming headset prove to be an impressive one?
Tt eSPORTS – the professional gaming brand of Thermaltake, brought about a large collection of peripherals to the ever growing gaming market when it launched last year. At the end of November, we reviewed one of the first products in the series, the Challenger Pro keyboard, and came away rather impressed. Under review today is an entry into the extremely competitive gaming headset sector, with the Shock.
The Shock series encompasses three models, starting off with the plain Shock, moving up to the Shock Spin, and finally the Shock One. Each one adds extra features such as a larger driver and USB support.
The Shock is the ‘basic’ model as it were and starts pricing off at about $60. This seems to be the upper end of the mainstream price bracket and has a lot of competition, so let’s see how it holds up.
Starting off, the box – everyone likes a good, well styled protective delivery mechanism and the Shock doesn’t disappoint. I’m a sucker for red and black and this is a well presented package. While still ‘boxy’, it conveys style quite well, definitely appealing (assumed) to the gaming market.
Taking the headset out was a little bit of a fiddle, with the in-line volume control getting stuck in one of the gaps – brute force and ignorance to the rescue. Included in the pack is the headset along with a protective bag – a common gesture with Thermaltake these days, for carrying gear to LAN-Parties.
The Shock headset is actually quite aesthetically pleasing. There are two color versions available, black and white, the latter under review today. The white is of the glossy variety with mesh plates on either side of the headset.
White glossy plastic is rarely seen outside of the Apple ecosystem, but it’s nice to see it creep into the PC market for a change (such as with Corsair’s 600T case as well).
The design allows it to fold in on itself, for easy storage and to put away in the provided bag. The head band needs to be fully extended on either side in order for the cable to not interfere or catch on the headphone.
Hit the next page as we cover some of the features including the in-line volume control and replaceable ear pads.
We’ll run by some of the basic features. The headset has a frequency response range of 20Hz – 20KHz, 32 Ohm impedance, 40mm drivers, noise canceling mic, easily replaceable foam cushions, in-line volume control with mic mute, and a 3 meter upbraided cable. Bar the replaceable cushions, a pretty standard setup.
For $60, the use of 40mm drivers is a little bit of a disappointment, but this is corrected with the Shock Spin Headset, which utilizes a slightly different style and 50mm drivers; retailing just shy of $70.
The cushions that come with the Shock are very easy to replace, they quite literally pop right off without too much force. Getting ahold of replacement pads will prove a little more difficult, but both fabric and synthetic leather are available.
The pads themselves feel quite soft, so too does the headband support. The surprise was to have them digging into my ear when worn. These are not the most roomy as far as allowing ears a little bit of breathing room.
Despite how soft the foam feels, on the side of the head, it does feel firm. After about 2 hours, I had to take them off to give my ear lobe a bit of a rest. Not the most comfortable headset I’ve worn, that’s for sure. Then again, it’s not the worst either.
The headset makes use of 3.5mm jacks with an in-line volume control for direct input to an audio card. For USB support, one would need to go with the Shock One Headset.
When I first saw the jacks – a state of confusion gripped me for a moment – which jack was which? A (very) small etching was made on each of the microphone and headphone jacks. The standard green and pink color coding would be much appreciated in future – trying to find these small etchings can be extremely taxing on the retina in the dark.
The boom-type noise canceling microphone makes use of a soft pliable rubber for it to bend in front of your mouth. Folding the mic down is rather smooth but firm and is unlikely to move around once placed.
As far as recording goes, the noise canceling is ever present and I dare say distracting. Since the mic plugs into the audio card, all noise canceling will be passive, which means you have no control over it. It introduces a background hum but does a fairly good job of keeping fans at bay.
A recording will be provided soon to give you some idea as to what to expect.
Hit the next page for our final thoughts and conclusion.
The Shock headset was put through a wide range of tests, to see what kind of sounds can be squeezed out of it. The drivers have been tuned mainly for gaming as the audible EQ curve will make rather apparent.
Favouring bass and the lower midrange, it pushes ambient noise, footsteps and explosions down your ears, but it tends to drown out everything else. This curve makes sense for gaming, but for anything else, it can be a bit of a problem to tame.
Music really does suffer as a result and requires some very aggressive EQ adjustments to bring some life and warmth back. The low end bass has been pushed quite a lot but it drowns out the rest of the bass range, meaning lots of boom without much definition – the typical ‘sounds impressive’ EQ curve.
The treble and upper mid-range are quite understated, and need a good boost to get anything out of them. The headset is quite capable, but the native tuning does make it a bit of a hassle to get right.
When it comes to dialogue in movies, it can be a little quiet, depending on the movie. The heavy bass push does mean that voices can be a bit heavy and meld into the background.
When it comes to games though, the Shocks do fine. Footsteps are audible, bass is thumping away but a bit over powering. The zip of a bullet can be a little quiet though, due to not enough treble.
The headset has a very pleasant design, it’s not too overpowering but it certainly looks like a gaming piece. Style and audio for that much, are always subjective. As stated earlier in the review, a black version is also available.
Personally, I’d splash out a bit more for some 50mm drivers for a little more definition, but with the Shock already at $60, and an extra $10 for another 10mm, I’d have to listen to them to be sure.
The Shock gaming headset is decent bit of kit, but a little too uncomfortable for extended use, and the bass has been bumped up a little too much (at least for my taste). It is built for gaming rather than music, so bare that in mind. As always with these subjective tests, try before you buy, if you can.
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