There seems to be a wave of seriously featured gaming headsets coming out at the moment. Razer and ThermalTake have both taken aim at the market, but with mixed success. Creative’s delivered some good work, but, again, not quite perfect. So now we have Sennheiser, always well-renowned for its higher-end gear, making a play for the hearts and ears of gamers.
Is the company on target? Pretty much.
If you’d asked us before we’d seen the 333Ds if we thought it were possible to fit more features into a gaming headset, we’d have said no – and been proved wrong. The 333D features an in-line USB sound device to deliver Dolby 7.1 sound in 3D, but there’s a lot more to these cans than that. The swing-down mic features an auto-mute when the mic is levered up and out of the way, and a flexible boom so that you can get it sitting just right no matter how funny shaped your noggin is. The opposite, right-hand enclosure houses a revolving volume control, much like old-fashioned iPods, which means it’s easy to find the controls when you want to drop the sound out or blast it up; controls in line with the headset lead are handy, but can take a bit of hunting to find during an intense firefight. And that cable is super-long, too, as the 333D comes with an extra 1.3m extension, making for a total cable length of three-and-a-half meters with all cables – including the Dolby dongle thingy – attached.
Yes, that means not only can we make it all the way to our bathroom from our gaming rig at home, but even close to downstairs and into the kitchen – great for keeping the talk going during long MMO raids and late night sandwich missions! The Dolby widget itself features a neat little cable-lock to stop the 3.5mm jacks from slipping out during your peregrinations, too. This is a very well thought out package in terms how gamers are likely to use it.
But, possibly our favourite feature is that the entire right-hand enclosure can swivel forward or back off of your ear, allowing for superior communications at a LAN or amongst housemates – a very nice touch. It also means you get to look like a pro-DJ – if you’re into that kind of thing... Sennheiser picked this up by paying attention to the way many gamers keep one can off their ear for this very reason, so actually built it in. Clever.
Sound is the key, though, and thankfully the 333Ds deliver, despite the rather small enclosures. Music is crisp and clear across all ranges, while gaming delivers sharp dialogue, punchy bass and good, crackling gunfire. Movies, which so often combine all of the above, are just as good. The Dolby 7.1 switch doesn’t seem to bring much to the table, however, but we’re still of the opinion that surround sound headsets in general are a touch... over-rated. It makes explosions sound pretty full, but everything else just sounds like it’s in a big open room. If you happen to actually be in a big open room in a game, the effect is magnified to awkward levels. Despite being very comfy to wear, and almost impossible to shake off, the 333Ds are quite hot, and caused us to sweat up a minor storm.
And now is where we get to the real sticking point – price. At just shy of $300 retail (few units have made it into the retail channel yet; the price may drop on the street), these are very expensive. With the exception of the 7.1 functionality, you do get what you pay for however, as these deliver great sound across the board and excellent build quality, along with some features that any gamer might desire. But is that much cool stuff and good sound worth the dosh?
If you must have the best (and if so, Lord bless you, young gamer!), then we’d say that the 333Ds are your best bet. However, if sound’s not your prime motivator in gaming, or if you’re unlikely to be listening to music and movies as well as fragging, save some money and look elsewhere.