Is it a duck? Is it a heat sink? Is it a slab of bacon? No! Leaping over a tablet PC with a single bound, running faster than a newborn kitten, and able to withstand bhut jolokia, it is TollhouseFrank! In this edition, can our protagonist survive when he is attacked by a Control Pod shaped like a UFO? Can he outlast the horror that is crawling under his desk to attach 5.1 analog hook-ups to the back of his PC? Is referring to himself in the 3rd person a bit cliche? Possibly, but read on to find out!
First impressions are extremely important. I do my best to not let first impressions sway me, but I am only human. The heft of this box took me completely off guard. I could not imagine wearing a headset that is close to 3 lbs in weight. However, that impression did turn out to be slightly misplaced. It is not the headset that weighs so much, but the UFO, I mean, the Control Module carrying most of that heft.
Headset Box Contents
The contents were packaged very well and snugly. I did notice upon opening the box that the control pod is so hefty that it cracked the plastic holding it, probably sometime during shipping. While the side of the box did mention both sets of ear-cups, I was not expecting two options to hook up the headset. The headset comes with the Control Pod – what I refer to as the UFO – and an analog connector set. Since the headset requires extra power that a single USB port cannot (currently) put out, you need to have 2 free USB ports for the Control Pod, or just 1 for the analog setup. The pack-in slip was a quick-setup guide in about 8 different languages. The driver disc did contain a wonderful PDF with all the features and explanations of every menu setting. While not printed out like I would like – I am old fashioned that way – this is still a wonderful addition.
Specifications and Features
Specifications courtesy of Cooler Master’s included PDF guide on the driver disc:
Driver Information and Settings
First up is basic software information followed by the various output menus.
Most of this is standard fare, though it is spiffed up pretty well. The two settings I want to concentrate on though, are the two that make the most difference in the sound on this headset: 7.1 Virtual Speaker Shifter, and Flex Bass II. The Speaker Shifter is probably the best I have ever used with a headset. You can literally hear the speakers move around your head with the auto shifter, and with manual, you can do near magical things with the surround setup. However, though I am unsure why, this never fully translated into movies and games, as the analog setup still responded better to surround sources. But for those that do not have a built in 5.1 analog output, this is still top notch. You just have to make sure you have two free USB ports, or a powered USB hub for those connecting to a laptop.
Flex Bass is another setting that is important. At first, I was unsure of how it was affecting my music and games. Then after a few songs, I figured it out. This had a tremendous effect on bass response. With the Large Speaker with No Bass setting, you get a smooth, if very flat response curve. Nothing is really punchy, but nothing stands out either and upper end response is kind of lacking with this setting. This mode does give you the benefit of greater response to the equalizer. With the Small Speaker with Bass setting, the sound is no longer a smooth curve and you get better upper end response and a much more aggressive, throaty punch on the bass end, but this comes at the cost of less responsiveness to the equalizer.
Next up are the various input menus.
The setting I had the most fun with was Xear SingFX. Although it is a novelty that wears off after 30 minutes or so, it is very fun to change your voice. This can also be effective if you are chatting with someone that has problems hearing your voice, as you can modulate it up or down to a sound range that they can hear better in. Aside from that, it is very funny to hear your squad commander yelling ‘CHARGE!’ in a cartoon like voice. Your platoon mates just stop and laugh while you get bulldozed in the match. The four voice modulated presets are Monster (makes your voice extremely deep and boomy), Cartoon (imagine a childhood cartoon voice), Male (makes my already deep voice sound like James Earl Jones) and Female (makes my voice sound like I’m speaking falsetto).
Cooler Master CMStorm Sirus
When it comes to this headset, looks and options do not preclude it working well. The ability to switch from cloth (breathable, less sweaty, arguably the more comfortable set, but lets noise leak through both ways) to a soft leathery ear-cup (not as breathable, almost zero sound leakage either way, and arguably the less comfortable set) is wonderful and everyone will find the setup that feels the best to them. I did end up going with the soft leathery setup as it gave me a better environment for testing the headset.
After some experimentation, I did learn that you cannot have both the analog and digital (dual-USB) connected at once. For some reason, neither works while both are plugged in at the same time. This means that personal experimentation to find which setup you prefer will take longer, but you do learn that both have advantages and disadvantages. I will go ahead and give you the TL;DR version: Analog has the better surround response hands down, but you are left to the mercy of your onboard codec for equalization and volume settings. The Control Pod gives better equalization and volume control, at the cost of some surround responses.
The headset also lights up. Both cans on the headset have a soft, red glow to them as long as they are receiving power via USB. The microphone lights up with a very soft red glow from the tip, when you move it down from its vertical position to its horizontal position. When it is in place properly, you hear a small click, and the light comes on. Until that point, the microphone is off and will not respond to any input. I personally like this as it is a secondary way to mute yourself without having to hit the button on the Control Pod.
Inline Control Module
For starters, this ICM is hefty. Unbelievably hefty compared to other similar pods I have used in the past. Then again, all of those used cheap plastic parts and not a hefty metal dial. 95% of the weight is in the round dial that is used to change settings from high to low. Despite how hefty it is, it glides easily and responds instantly to changes. You can mute the headset or the microphone by clicking on the appropriate symbol on the pod – very similar to a mouse click. You can choose which sets of speakers on the headset to adjust independently by clicking the unlabeled button between the headset and microphone buttons. It has a master, front, rear, center, and bass setting.
While my intros can be a bit facetious, I did get ‘attacked’ by the UFO twice. Once, I dropped it on my foot much to my painful surprise. The second time, I bumped the desk while I was under it hooking up the analog connectors and the UFO, which I negligently set on the edge of the desk. It fell off and dinged me right in the family jewels, to which I bolted upright and bashed my head on the underside of the desk. Despite the accidental abuse I put the UFO through, it still worked flawlessly.
Testing the Headset
After the first couple of days of testing, the only reason I could find to use the analog setup was if you do not have two free USB ports, or if surround-fidelity is of most importance to you. Since I do have the two free USB ports and the UFO Pod is a big part of the touted features for the headset, I did most of my testing using that setup.
In the music tests, the headset performed really well. As mentioned much earlier, the Flex Bass setting had a tremendous impact on the music. I found the best response coming from the Small Speaker w/Bass setting. This really enhanced the lower end of the music while keeping the upper-end vocals crisp and clear. With both the software driver and the Control Pod maxed out for all speaker settings, I found that I could get maybe 3/4 maximum volume before distortion hit. But, with as loud as the cans were by this point, it was hard to notice the distortion over the nearly deafening roar of the music.
I did notice one thing missing though, and that was on the upper end. The bass was a pure treat, and the mids responded well. The upper end was missing something at first. After a couple of hours of tweaking settings, I managed to get it sounding very good.
Movies were where I noticed the difference in Analog vs. Control Pod setup the most. Fast action scenes just plain responded better over the analog setup. I found that older, stereo movies were better with the control pod. The rumbles and deep, throaty, growly bass were ever present. Lord of the Rings responded well and it felt like I was present in the Battle of Helm’s Deep. Star Wars was wonderful, as it really sounded like the Imperial Cruiser was coming up behind me, then passing me, then pulling away.
What more can I say about the audio performance of this headset? They responded very well, and everything that was supposed to happen behind me, happened behind me (like conversations in Dragon Age). Things that moved around me sounded like they really were moving around me (teammates in Team Fortress 2).
I only ran into an issue with one game, and that was World of Tanks. The input setting on the game just would not accept the microphone. Every other game or software I used worked perfectly. It took me 3 hours of fiddling with settings to get the microphone input to be accepted about 90% of the time. For this, I am putting it totally on a programming bugaboo in the World of Tanks client. Teammates in Team Fortress 2, or chats using Steam Voice Chat, worked perfectly with no issue.
Comfort – Very comfortable, and with the customizable ear-cups, you can get the comfort zone you want.
Volume – Wow. Very adjustable and can be made painfully loud. Reacts quickly to the slightest flick of the control pod wheel.
Input – Very sensitive, lots of options compared to what is normally available, only one issue and I truly believe it was caused by a glitch in the game.
Construction – Very solid. The added adjustability and customization is a bonus with how sturdy these are.
Price – MSRP is $99.99 for this headset.
All in all, this is a wonderful headset. Aside from my clumsy tendencies in managing to drop the UFO – uhm “Control Pod”- on myself twice, I have to give Kudos to Cooler Master. The included instructional PDF explains everything in simple terminology that makes everything easy to understand. The driver and software settings aren’t completely easy to access at first, but a quick right click on Speakers or Mic solved that. The lights are a nice aesthetic touch, and the UFO is constructed very stoutly. This is a headset that I would recommend to anyone.
I do want to thank Cooler Master for allowing us here at Overclockers to review this headset.