Sennheiser PC360 G4ME £130
17th Nov 2010 | 15:10
Will a change in design keep Sennheiser at the top of its game?
Sennheiser PC360 G4ME review: Overview
How would you feel about an open relationship? Put your keys back in your pocket; Sennheiser's latest highend headset, the PC360, isn't a letter of introduction for the local swingers club. Instead it's an invitation to enjoy an open audio experience, in a world where everything is usually so closed.
Confused? Then let us explain. Most expensive gaming headsets, such as the Corsair H1s, Logitech G35s, Creative's Sound Blaster or Sennheiser's own PC350s, are a 'closed back' design. That simply means that behind the speaker driver, the back of the ear cuff is a solid piece of plastic.
Closed back headsets are popular with gamers for several reasons. Firstly, they seal in those tinny-sounding audio leaks that drive people sitting nearby into spasms of pyscotic rage.
They also block out external distractions, which is why they're a good choice for aircraft travel too.
Professional sound engineers, however, tend to prefer the more precise soundstages of open backed earphones. Which brings us smoothly onto the Sennheiser PC360s, which have a carefully perforated pattern in the plastic of each earpiece.
So, are you an open or closed kind of person?
Sennheiser PC360 G4ME review: Verdict
When it comes to build quality, the older PC350s are a sturdier design and the hinged cuffs make them more comfortable than the newer but unyielding PC360s. It's easy to get used to the PC360s, though, because they're velvet lined and much, much lighter.
The lack of an inline volume control is initially disconcerting, until you realise there's a volume dial on the right earpiece and the mic mutes automatically when swung up beside your left cheek. The mic is brilliantly clear and picks up nothing it shouldn't do.
From a technical point of view, the difference between closed and open back headsets is that in a closed back earpiece, soundwaves reflect off the inside wall creating distortion, and the build up of pressure stops the diaphragm moving as freely and accurately as it should. Open backed earphones can therefore be more accurate when it comes to reproducing bass notes in particular.
Unfortunately, that doesn't mean things are as simple as 'open, good; closed, bad'. In the same way that many audio purists gravitate to the warm, rich midtones of a valve amplifier, some prefer closed back headsets for precisely the same reason. Their flaws can be their strength. Plus, for gaming, shutting out background sounds can make for a more immersive experience too.
Exactly as you'd expect, then, the PC360s have a clearer all-round tone at lower volumes with a better bass response than rivals such as the Logitech G35s or Sennheiser PC350s, which booms but is never overwhelming. To our ears, they sound arguably better for games than music, though, lacking a touch of 'warmth' in the midrange thanks to a very wide soundstage, which is great for positional effects, but can make vocals sound distant.
Some judicious use of an equaliser will tune that out, but it does mean that as good as the PC360s are, they're not a clear winner over cheaper, closed-back headset.
Most importantly, closed-back cans won't disturb anyone trying to watch TV in the same room either. If you game at home alone most of the time, you'll appreciate the extra quality that the PC360s deliver. But if it's privacy in your own world you're after, you be happy to settle for something less open.
They're costly, compared to other gaming headsets, but not overly priced given the sound quality, which boasts strong bass and clear high tones. The lightweight design and funky volume and mic controls set off a good overall package too.
Open backed headsets can be a problem if there are others in the room, and they're not as comfortable as we expected for such a light kit. Being picky, midrange performance can be a little cold, too.
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