Monoprice just sent in their Dolby Digital Amplified Gaming Headset. Wow – that’s a mouthful. Most gamers are using headsets to chat during gaming with their teammates. This headset offers much more than that. Imagine all the sound coming from a headset that also lets you communicate with your teammates. Further, the unit offers 7.1 surround sound within the headset – letting you hear the game all around you and allowing you to react faster to things that aren't on the screen.
The unit comes with the headset, and removable mic, the audio station (more on that later), and about all the cables to connect it to a PS3, Xbox 360, a phone or MP3 player, or PC. I say just about all the cables because I had to run down to Game Stop and pick up an adapter from the composite out for my Xbox 360 so that I could connect the audio station to the optical sound out of the system. That’s right – optical out had so much promise before HDMI hit the market but it’s the perfect application for that technology in this device.
The headset isn't bad looking. It features very nice construction with comfortable ear pieces that can fold in. The seal with the ear pieces is very tight but not uncomfortable and the unit has good adjust-ability for different users. The detachable microphone makes it easy for transporting your headset without breaking it. One thing that is very impressive is that the audio station can support two headsets. The second headset can be a cheaper design as the audio station is what creates the Dolby surround effect. That’s a nice touch – as long as your friend brings his headset he can hookup to your surround system and enjoy all the benefits. Pretty cool stuff there.
How does it work?
I have to say that the surround effect is very well done. I know that’s the most important feature any gamer will be interested in. When you play a game on a TV the sound between the left and right channel can get lost – the short distance between speakers basically makes sure you won’t have much stereo separation. This headset completely isolates stereo (as all headsets do) but the 7.1 effect produced by the audio station can be startling.
You can hear explosions behind you or to your left or right. Usually the sounds are produced by the TV but you have to do a 180 spin in a first person shooter to figure out what produced the sound. This headset isolates not only sounds to the left or right, but also in front of you or behind you. More importantly, the effect is seamless. Because human hearing naturally gives us the ability to figure out what direction a sound is coming from it makes game playing easier without jarring you that there is an effect in place. I later popped in Dead Space 2, turned off all the lights, and was literally freaking out. You hear sounds you never hear when playing through stereo. I am still having nightmares.
Initially I had a problem with hearing my own speech in the headset. Talking to other players and hearing yourself feels odd – disconnecting as a matter of fact. I finally figured out that there is a switch on the audio station to disable that. Ah perfection. I Compared this set to the infamous Turtle Beaches line used by most major gamers. The Monoprice Dolby headset sounds just as good as Turtle Beaches X42 wireless headset and is half the price!
If you want a surround setup you could run your audio through a surround decoder/surround system. Games natively support Dolby Surround so you’ll get good left and right separation with rear and center channels. The problem with this is that unless you are by yourself, no one within earshot is going to enjoy you blowing up enemy targets. Add that you still have to wear a headset to talk to your teammates and this setup doesn’t seem all that optimal - you’ll be screaming before too long not realizing why you find yourself having to yell over the sound produced by your surround setup.
A simpler and more elegant solution is the Monoprice 7.1
Gaming Headset. You get all the benefits of surround - with great stereo
separation – a built in mic and you can play in the same room someone else is
in without driving them nuts.