When I started to work on this review, I had already had a great day, and the UPS man showing up with a mysterious box from Cooler Master made it even better. The box inside was mysterious, the attached NDA made it even more so (NDA will have been lifted by time this review is out), and to top it all off, it was supposed to be flashy and sound good at the same time. Will Cooler Master have made the mistake of flash over substance? Will I ever figure out how to use the front 3.5 mm outputs on my case again?
Well, I knew about 3-4 days ahead of time that I would be getting a headset to review, and that I would be one of the few to see it before it was publicly released. Attached in a PDF I received in an e-mail about this headset, was the following blurb (screenshot from PDF):
Will Cooler Master’s claims be fulfilled? Will these have thumping sound and clarity? Will the microphone have pristine quality and will it feel luxurious and be comfy even after long periods of wear? Read on to see the answers to these questions.
Well, it showed up, and the box was in great shape. Inside, it was packed very well. The container for the headset itself was plain black with nothing to denote it was even from Cooler Master. Considering that Overclockers is one of the first in the world to see this headset, that is no surprise. Flashy packaging is for the consumer to get them interested, not for the reviewer who already knows he is getting a headset to review. But, it does lead to a great mystery… the mysterious black box. What wonders are inside?
Now, what would a bit of foreshadowing be without some payoff? Right before sending this article up to the editors to sort out my usual grammatical and formatting errors, I was sent along this image from Cooler Master as to what the Retail Box will look like:
Headset Box Contents
Assembly was a breeze. The microphone snaps into place, and the connector at the base of the headset for the audio and USB power is a unified mini-USB type connector. I did find out rather immediately that this connector is a bit finicky. When I first plugged in the headset and turned on music just to make sure they worked, nothing happened. No lights. I assumed maybe the lights blinked in time to music (thus the name Pulse-R) and quickly loaded up a remix of Double Dragon 2’s final boss fight.
Nothing happened. I then moved the headset and the connector fell out. I immediately felt my heart fall into my stomach and thought “Oh no, I already broke it and haven’t even used it yet!?” But I diligently checked the connector, and went to plug it back in. This time I felt a soft click, which indicated that it was snugly secure. The lights on the headset went on. I then fired off that remix again and the sound came blazing out. I did feel immense relief. The pack-in instructions on the little one page folding booklet did mention to make sure the cables were secure, but as tiny as the text was it was easy to overlook. I won’t ding Cooler Master hard for that considering that I have a headset that isn’t even out to the general public as of the writing of this review, but I do hope that they enlarge the print in the little folding booklet, or enlarge said booklet to make it easier to read.
For you ‘bling’ fans, I haven’t forgotten about you! I did take pictures of the headset hooked up to my PC (please excuse the dusty front of it) and of the headset lit up. The following pics are for all you bling-lovers!
Specifications and Features
Inline Control Module
The Inline control module is definitely different. Instead of rollers – as seems to be industry standard practice – you get a slider for the sound. The microphone switch is pretty standard, and when on, the microphone lights up. When off, the light goes off and the microphone is off – a nice feature. The volume slider is a different beast altogether. While it moves well, it does have slight issues. Near minimum volume, the cans randomly turn on/off or just cut off completely. Go a hair beyond minimum and the issue goes away. That in itself is a bit of a problem, but shouldn’t be noticed often. Honestly, how many people buy a good headset to listen at minimum volume?
Testing the Headset
Once hooked up, the headset is plenty powerful. The faux-leather ear cups are comfy, and the headset itself is very flexible. The headset easily fits larger heads (like mine), as well as being snug and comfy on those with normal sized craniums. The initial impression I had was that the bass on the headset is incredibly over driven. I was able to confirm this with the Rainbow Road and End Credits tracks on my Mario Kart 64 soundtrack. The sound on those tracks have clear and distinct, but not powerful bass. Anyway, back to the comfort/fit of the headset; it puts just enough pressure on the head to hold it in place without being overbearing. However, at full extension on the cans after about 3-4 hours of wear, the top of my head did get a little sore from the pressure. I am pretty confident those of you with normal sized craniums will not have this issue. All the other members of my family with regular sized noggins had no issue, and didn’t suffer from the sore top-of-head issue after several hours of wear.
When it came to my initial impression of the headset – that the bass was heavily over driven – I decided to try my best to not let that influence me. I admit to loving large amounts of bass, but I do have to draw a line at too much, or too over driven bass… especially if it sounds terrible. However, would over driving the bass truly make a poor music listening experience? For the music, aside from my Mario Kart 64 Soundtrack disc, I started with Led Zeppelin. Most of my collection was made muddier. When I moved on to Pink Floyd, the opposite was true, and Pink Floyd came through better. This pretty much happened throughout my entire collection. Some musicians were muddier, some sounded better. Certain genres did better than others, too. For some reason, many of my Techno/Remix music tended to come through better, whereas Rock tended to get muddier. Because of the inconsistencies in music, I would say look elsewhere if you want this headset primarily for music.
With movies, while music is an integral part that helps get you into the mood for what you see onscreen, you are more drawn in by the sound effects themselves. This headset does deliver on this. The music in movies tends be be muddy thanks to the over driven bass, but the sound effects themselves are greatly enhanced. Voices come through loud and clear. Thuds, oomphs, crashes, steel-on-steel, gunfire, and even more subtle things like footsteps and the sound of the wind are all enhanced. This is a trade-off I can personally live with, as aside from my musicals (which I put through my regular speakers anyway), this headset is really decent for movie watching. Fast paced action, which relies on dramatized and enhanced sounds to help sell the action, really comes alive with these. Older movies especially came to life, as when watching The Warriors, it felt more theater-like that I thought possible with this headset.
When it comes to games, the headset comes into it’s own. World of Warplanes has the deep, throaty grumble of prop-engines and the loud booms of explosions sounding like they belong. In World of Tanks, every clank of the treads, every grind of steel on steel, every shot of a tank’s cannon has that loud quality you want out of a war-game. The concentration on over driving the headset has really made it a great one for gamers, as it brings out every sound that gamers listen for. I really believe that as a headset marketed to gamers, this really hits the mark and it does what it was designed for. In Team Fortress 2, the overdone sounds get even more overdone, thus drawing you deeper into the game.
As for the microphone part of the headset, that was tested using the World of Tanks in-game voice chat and Steam chat. Clanmates informed me that it was the clearest they had ever heard my voice. My brother (who also plays World of Tanks) informed me that it sounded as if I were standing right next to him and that out of the headsets I have tested before, easily this was the clearest microphone on any of them.
The headset is quite comfortable. Even after 5-6 hours of wear, I felt no soreness in my ears. However, I did get a slightly sore spot on the top of my head – even with the headset at full extension – but I fully believe that is because the headset is a one-size-fits-all and not designed for larger craniums like mine. Another 1/8″ of extension would do wonders.
The volume is plenty loud. You are at the mercy of the power provided by your onboard/sound card for how loud it gets. With my onboard sound, it gets plenty loud at full volume without getting painfully loud. The microphone works very well. In fact, I have to say, with clanmates and fellow gamers online telling me that it was as if I were standing in the room next to them, and not on a device in another state, I am very impressed.
The CM Storm Pulse-R is well constructed with the overhead strap being made of aluminum, and the ear cups made of very soft leather-like material filled with soft foam. I can confidently flex the headset wider, narrower, and in a semi-corkscrew without any apparent damage to it. Very-well made.
When I first got wind through the higher-ups here at Overclockers that I would be given a chance at an unreleased headset (and one of a handful in the world given the opportunity), I was excited. The mystery box showed up, and I was greeted with a headset that I was told in the press-materials was designed for gamers. Cooler Master came through on this 110%. While I could never recommend these to music lovers, to the target audience – Gamers – I give a whole and 100% hearty Overclockers Approved!