I don’t normally do headset reviews. I think it might be something to do with the fact that I don’t really do that much multiplayer online gaming that would warrant using a headset so much. Perhaps it’s more of a gentle reminder from Rich and Dave that I ought to get a little more involved.
The headset in question then, the Gioteck HC4 amplified stereo headset, when it arrived, was a medium sized box of mysteries and I opened it with a little trepidation. This is a multi-platform headset, and as such, you’ll need the Microsoft controller adapter in order to use the gaming features on your shiny Xbox One. This isn’t, unfortunately, compatible with the 360.
In that mysterious box, you’ll find the headset itself, a couple of handy user guides and a mini-usb cable to charge the headset up. Pulling the headset out of the packaging, I was surprised to feel how heavy they are. This is mainly down to the battery pack inside the left ear cup, which allows the headset power, handy as they are amplified.
I’d like to pass comment on the design front before I talk about the sound quality. The headset itself is very attractively designed, with smooth, velvet-like black plastic surrounds on the ear cups, a triple whammy of cushioning on the underside of the headband and ultra-soft ear cup cushioning for the speakers themselves. The left side has a set of four buttons and the all-important mic arm. Power them on and you have a futuristic blue glow gently caressing the side of your face. The headband itself has a snap-adjustment allow for a wider head fitting and the mic arm pivots up and down so you can tuck it away nicely.
The ear cups are nice and large, for those of us with massive old-man ears and the connecting cable is flat, anti-tangle, with a 3.5mm jack. The mic arm is the only disappointment in the design overall as it is soft rubber with no wire insert to keep the mic in position nearer to your mouth. This didn’t seem to have an effect on the mic pickup though and is merely a cosmetic grumble from myself. The usb charging cable length is a little short too, if I’m honest, but the audio cable is a tangle-free metre or so in length.
The sound on these is simply brilliant. Having been used to small earbud-type headphones for so long, I’ve really forgotten what proper over the ear headsets can offer from a sound quality perspective. Of course, having no point of reference to compare them to helps, but as I get used to them I’m sure I’ll start to take the sound quality for granted. The gaming adapter allows you to adjust game and chat volume independently, and you can adjust the volume of the headset using the buttons. There is a mute button in those controls also and it’s easy to lose where this is when you have the headset on, but again, you can use the controller adapter to mute so this isn’t too much of a hassle.
The bass notes from the speakers are juicy, some might say phat, and the treble pips along at a good rate, giving an all-round healthy sound to these. It might take you a minute or two to get the headband in a comfortable position and it’s really worth making sure the ear cups are covering the ear completely to fully appreciate how well these sound. I tested the sound range as I normally do with these, by plugging them in to my laptop and popping some Nine Inch Nails on. The multi-layered tones from Trent and the gang really put headphones through their paces and the HC4 coped magnificently.
How do they fare in the gaming world? Well, the sound is crisp, chat was very clear and the unit itself, while slightly heavy is very comfortable, even if I did feel as if my ears were in a vacuum for the first ten minutes. This soon wears off though and despite the ungainliness in their initial feel, you soon forget that you’re wearing them. My co-gamer let me know that my voice was coming through loud and clear from mic with little background pickup from the sounds in my lounge. Despite that slight suction sensation there is a little noise leakage when these are on, even with the dampening effects of the cushioning and the efforts of the headband spring to attach these firmly to the side of your head.
Summing the HC4 up then, the sound quality is brilliant, even if it is just plain old stereo. The mic picks up well enough and seems to miss out background noise, which is a bonus if you’re gaming in a noisy room. The ear cups fit well, once you’ve got the headband adjusted correctly and the amplify option is a nice touch, even if it isn’t necessary all of the time. The cable is roughly the right length for connecting to the controller and design touches like the soft feel surrounds are pleasant and stop you feeling like a military helicopter pilot from M.A.S.H.
I think this could have done with an adjustable mic arm and a slightly longer usb charging cable though. The in-built battery has a stated life of 8 hours but I managed a little more before it needed a charge with the bonus being that even without the amplification, the headset will still work. Would I buy this as an alternative to the big-hitters Astro and Turtle Beach? Probably yes. They look good and sound good, what more could you ask for?