5:55 AMPsyko Audio 5.1 Headset aka Zoned Out HeadSets
The Psyko 5.1 audio system. You may have seen this system floating around the internet for the past year or so. This headset has turned heads for some time with its unique look and design, a design which won Psyko Labs’ CES 2009’s most innovative award. So what is so unique about this headset? Well Psyko Labs had set out on delivering 5.1 sound to your ears through a headset unlike any other company has attempted before. Up until now, companies have either relied on multiple small drivers in headsets for discrete 5.1 surround, or they have relied on stereo headsets with Dolby Headphone virtual surround sound technology. Well, what Psyko has done with their product is house 5 30mm drivers in the headband of the headset, and use a series of hollow tubes(known as wave guides) to direct the sound down to the ear cup, in the hopes to recreate a home theater 5.1 setup as closely as possible. Please view the video review linked at the top and the bottom of this written review for an animation demonstrating the technology. So how did this headset fare? Read below for the full in depth review, where I’ll be going over every detail I’ve noticed when using this headset.
I have received a lot of comments from my unboxing of the Psyko 5.1 headset on its design and looks. Comparing this to my other headsets, this one is a tank. I clocked this thing at 551 grams on a scale, which in comparison, Sennheiser hd595’s weigh approximately 311 grams. It’s definitely a big headset, and people have been worried about its comfort. When you first put the headset on, you definitely feel it for the first minute or so, but you then become accustomed to it in no time. The padding Psyko has used is very soft in the ear cups and the headband. The headset proved to be very comfortable thanks to the padding, the only thing you might want to watch out for is rocking your head since you will kind of feel the headset’s weight shift forward. As far as the mic goes, it is pretty simple. It has a twist lock connection into the headset. It doesn’t have the flexible gooseneck design you’ve seen from other headsets (Turtle Beach HPX, SteelSeries Siberia v2, etc.), the only ergonomics the mic has is that it pivots. The video review is dubbed by the headset’s microphone, so view the audio quality of the microphone first hand by clicking the link at the beginning of the review. In my testing with the microphone, I found the responsiveness to be nice, and as far as the quality goes, it’s OK. I’ve used worse microphones, and I’ve used better microphones. The Psyko 5.1 headset comes with an amplifier specifically designed to work with it. Without the amp, you won’t get the bass pumping through the headset’s 2 subwoofers, and the headset’s sound will sound very underpowered. There are 3 basic functions you can see on the amplifier.
You have a volume knob which also turns on the amplifier, you have a bass control knob, and lastly, you have a neat little feature where the amplifier uses LED indicators to show what driver of the Psyko 5.1 headset is currently being used, so if you’re playing a game or doing an audio test, you can look at your amplifier and see “Front Right” light up as you’re hearing the sound to your (you guessed it) front right. One of the things I was interested in with this amplifier was if I would be able to use it with my other headphones to boost their quality. Unfortunately that isn’t the case. Once again, in the video review you can hear firsthand what I’m talking about, but when turning on the amplifier with my hd595’s or ad700’s plugged in, I immediately get a background hissing noise, and the quality of the sound with the headphones actually decrease with the amplifier. After talking with a Psyko customer service representative, I learned that there is no guarantee of the amps working with other headsets, as it was designed specifically for the Psyko 5.1; bummer. On the subject of customer service, I was impressed with Psyko’s fast response and the helpfulness of the staff. I won’t name the names of other companies, but I’ve read some posts on the MLG forums of some of your guys’ past experiences in other companies’ customer service. Well with Psyko, I emailed in the morning on a Wednesday and received a reply in 1-2 hours. And although my particular questions didn’t need it, the representative offered to help over the phone, which I don’t see other companies do. So if you have a problem with your headset at all, these guys will sit down and call YOU and talk you through troubleshooting steps to get down to the root of whatever problem you have. There’s no 1-800 number, dial 1 for English, a representative will be with you shortly; the person who gets your help desk ticket will simply do what they need to help you personally. I really liked that. The last thing I wanted to mention is the ear cups.
The Psyko 5.1 headset has earcups that can pop open letting you choose between closed and open headphones while you are playing. Now what are the key differences between closed and open headphones: sound signature and noise cancelling (for both you and the people around you). For this headset, the feature is sort of moot in audio’s respect. I did not like the change in sound quality when the cups were popped open, I would only do it when things were getting steamy on the inside, other than that it was shut tight. And for noise cancelling, well, it doesn’t cancel for the user or the people around the user. The ear cups are velour; they aren’t going to give you a seal to block out noises. Even with the ear cups closed I can still hear my xbox turned on while I’m paused or just in a game menu. And as far as other people go, even if your ear cups are closed, the sound is quite audible emanating from the headband where the drivers are located, so no matter what, if you are in a room with someone, chances are they’re going to be listening in on some of your action.
Onto the audio side of things, this is where the headset gets tricky. I first tested the Psyko 5.1 with music and movies, where I felt this headset fell very short. The immersion factor that I look forward to when using headsets or home theater setups was just not present with this headset. When watching action movies, I couldn’t get sucked in even with the 5.1 sound. When people would have conversations, by the time it got from the drivers in the headband to my ears, it sounded like I was hearing them through a telephone; it was muffled and tinny when compared to other headsets. The sound from the subwoofers was ok, but not near the likes of woofers in 2.1/5.1 speaker setups, and left me prone to ear fatigue faster than other headsets do (that sort of throbbing you get in your ears after a while of listening to music really loud).
But with the highs and mids the way they were, even in heavily orchestrated scenes in movies I just couldn’t find myself being immersed like I would love to be, and the quality of the audio was leaving much to be desired. But how does this transfer into gaming? Well, first let me get into the directionality of the headset. This was where the entire concept of the headset had to sort of…put up or shut up …so to speak. I’ve only listened to a handful of discrete 5.1 headsets in my time (though really, how many discrete 5.1 headsets are out there), but the way the sound from the headset came into my ear felt a lot more natural than the run of the mill 5.1 headsets out there.
I had fun doing the 5.1 speakers test on my computer, and like I was saying earlier, the LED’s on the amp are a neat little additional feature. I could really feel the sound coming from behind me when I was doing the test. Just to warn those who purchase this headset, before you dive into a movie or a gaming session, do a speaker test with the Psyko headset. With the 2 Psyko systems I tried, at times one of the led indicators and drivers wouldn’t come through, for me it was the front right driver every time. I had to unplug/re plug cables in order to get it to come in, afterwards it was fine, so after you do the test you should be good for your entire session. The idea Pysko has come up with this setup has definitely proved successful in my opinion as far as directionality is concerned, but it’s just the quality so far that has been lacking. It’s recreating a 5.1 speaker system; it’s just not recreating a good one. We now approach the most important part of the review, gaming. It’s what the headset is designed for after all.
My choices of gaming titles for the PC were Modern Warfare 2, Left 4 Dead, and Half Life 2 with my home PC with the specs listed below:
Core i7 920 @2.66GHZ 6GB DDR3 triple channel RAM Asus P6T SE motherboard XFX HD4850 1GB GPU Asus Xonar DS sound card Something neat that I was able to do with the Psyko 5.1 was I was also able to make the Psyko headset compatible with the Xbox 360 thanks to my man Mason from Gamebattles (you might know him as Auxillio).
He hooked me up with a package designed to let you use 5.1 headsets on Xbox 360’s (more info in the video review). So now I could play a lot more game titles with this headset. So with this I now had a little preview of what we can expect from an Xbox 360 version of the Psyko 5.1. Unfortunately, the Psyko’s are sort of a finicky headset, they really just want to interact with your soundcard and its dedicated amp, I experienced some quality loss/less power from the subwoofers when playing Xbox 360 with the Psyko 5.1, but don’t worry, I was more or less using it on Xbox Live for kicks. The brunt of my gaming was good ol’ fashioned PC Modern Warfare 2, it just has so much depth to its audio that I feel it makes for a great game to test headsets on, and I wanted to test the headset for its native use, 5.1 PC gaming. But an Xbox 360 Psyko will come soon enough, and Psyko will be sure to optimize their unit so it performs just as well as it does on PC. So, staying on the directionality subject, like I said, it is pretty sweet. When I’m in the heat of battles I’m not really paying attention to the sound whisking from behind my ears, it just sort of naturally happens that way without me thinking about it. It just felt more natural than the other 5.1 headsets I’ve used. That being said however, the sound quality I still feel was lacking. The whole “telephone” problem I had with music/movies wasn’t as noticeable in the gaming; but I still didn’t have the immersion factor that I get with my other headsets as far as cut scenes go and whatnot; but the headset fulfilled some key duties. I could tell where gunfire and explosions were coming from very well which is good, but footsteps had its ups and downs. If I found myself in a quiet area of a map, I would be able to basically camp and wait to surprise people running from around a corner by pin pointing the footsteps, but in most of the situations I run into when I have harriers flying about and the different gunfire going through, it’s harder. I just feel that with this headset, other sounds can overpower the sounds of footsteps a little easier than they can in some of the other headsets I’ve reviewed. So gunfire, grenade explosions, and other distinct sounds can be pin pointed with the headset, but I felt some of the more subtle sounds were getting a bit lost.
So what are we left with? To be frank, I was really looking forward to this headset, and was hoping to be blown away. The theory seemed interesting and sound, and Psyko definitely fulfilled on the directional aspect of this headset, like I said, it is an improvement over the conventional 5.1 headsets in my opinion directionality wise. And looking at the previews of the headset, I thought “Hey, with the drivers being in the headband, this can solve the…stigma 5.1 headsets have had with the low sound quality from cramming smaller drivers into the ear cups, since you could fit larger drivers into the headband, but then Psyko has taken a turn into a stigma of their own with lower sound quality due to the distortion the sound gets when it passes through those wave guides. So as I was saying, with all of this said, what do we have? As it currently stands, I would not choose this headset over the other ones currently in my arsenal. I just don’t think the sound positioning compensates enough for the loss of quality when compared to normal stereo headsets and Dolby Headphone, especially when factoring in the prices. At 300 dollars, I wanted the Psyko 5.1 to deliver better audio quality and better directional positioning over conventional 5.1 headsets, and I only found it delivered one of those. However, I do believe that the concept Psyko has created is an idea worth investing in. The directional aspect is down, but in future products, I think Psyko just needs to do some research on the distortion of sound when it’s going through those waveguides, and perhaps find a way to distort the sound right out of the gate so when that distorted sound goes through the waveguides, it sort of gets distorted…back into a viable sound…if that makes any sense. It does recreate a 5.1 system quite well…but it’s not the Polk Audio 5.1 quality I was hoping for. But give the company and the concept time to grow, and hopefully we can expect a better performing implementation for a more consumer friendly price.You can purchase the head site at the company site by clicking on the link
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