The Razer SWTOR headsets showed up at my door a couple of days ago, and of the three SWTOR peripherals I was the least excited about this one. I have a pair of Astro A40s that I absolutely love, so the SWTOR headset had some high standards to live up to. After using this headset pretty much non-stop since then, I think my mind has been changed.
Let me go ahead and state up front that I am not what you would call an "audiophile". I've heard people talk about speakers and headphones the way some people talk about fine wines, finding all sorts of subtle variations in the combination of various components and settings that give music that "perfect blend". I generally don't hear the difference.
But I can say that the sound from the SWTOR headset is simply fantastic. The Dolby surround 7.1 was working great. In-game sounds and music were crisp and clear, and during a Skype call my friends sounded like they were right in the room with me. My A40's sound great as well, but the SWTOR headset sounded a little more... alive.
As far as the mic, I had to rely on my friends for that assessment, and they were less than helpful. They said my voice sounded "different" than when I was using my previous headset, but they were unable to pinpoint exactly how.
As usual, the headset comes with alternate sets of Republic/Sith logo plates, so that you can show off your faction pride, and match it to any of the other peripherals you have. And they do look pretty striking when you have more than one peripheral.
An important part of any gaming headset is comfort, because likely you'll be wearing it for an hour or more at a time. The SWTOR headset features plush cushions that wrap around your ears, blocking out noise and preventing any part of the headset from actually putting pressure on your ears. It's not a heavy headset, so while the top headband part is cushioned as well, I never felt like it was pressing down after extended use.
The only issue I noticed was that due to its shape, the headset wants to press in from the sides. On the one hand it creates a nice, snug fit, but after a while you do start to feel that pressure. I did notice that over the couple of days of using the headset, it eased up noticeably. Perhaps the plastic adjusted/stretched out a bit.
The SWTOR headset is definitely more rigid than the A40s. Parts on the SWTOR headset have limited range of motion. Enough to allow it to sit comfortable on an average head, but if your head is shaped like a summer squash, it may not be able to adapt.
The mic boom is fixed to one side and does not rotate 360 degrees. So you will always have the mic on the left side, and there is no way to change it. The boom is about an inch shorter than the mic on the Astros, and thicker as well. Most of it is constructed of hard plastic. The flexible bendy part (the black rubber section in the picture) is pretty short, but all in all I didn't have any problem getting the mic positioned comfortably, and people had no problem hearing me.
My favorite feature on the headsets are the buttons on each earpiece. On the mic side you can increase/decrease the volume of your mic, as well as mute it. On the right side, you can increase/decrease the volume of the speakers, or mute the speakers altogether. I've had headsets in the past with some of these functions, but never one with all of them right there at my fingertips.
If I had to nitpick anything about these buttons, it would be that they aren't programmable at all. Not that there would be much need, but I'd love to be able to change the "mute speakers" button to "mute Skype", so that when people are talking over the cutscenes in SWTOR, I could just turn them off. But other than that, it's really handy to have all of these buttons right on the headset itself.
Overall between the Razer SWTOR headset, and my Astro A40s, it's a really tough decision. Both provide great sound, both incoming and outgoing. In terms of comfort, I'd give the edge to the Astros, but only slightly. For utility and extra buttons (and the quality of those buttons), the SWTOR headset definitely wins out.
The only other difference is that the SWTOR headset uses USB, whereas the Astro A40s use a traditional headphone/microphone jack. That, and the SWTOR headset costs about half as much.
I've now got two great headsets here, and I'm really torn between which to use regularly. An audio geek might disagree with me, but I'd say the SWTOR headset easily on par with the more expensive A40s. Everything sounded great, and wearing it for a couple of hours as a time caused no issues.
But why take my word for it? Once again Razer has graciously supplied me some extras so that you guys can have a chance to win a headset of your very own!
SWTOR Headset Photo Contest
I have three headsets to give away. If you want to win one of them, you'll have to prove to me that you deserve it. Prove to me that you need this headset more than anyone else.
Take a photograph of yourself wearing something on your head. Something so crazy and ridiculous that I have absolutely no choice but to send you one of these headsets to replace it with.
Use any sort of trickery you want to get these things on your head/appear on your head, but no photoshops or other image manipulation allowed. I'll be judging entries based on humor, creativity, and originality. When you've taken your picture, email it to:
cad.contest (at) gmail.com
The deadline for entries is midnight EST on January 16th 2012. At that point I'll choose my favorite ten entries and post them here on the front page for people to vote on. The top three will win a SWTOR headset by Razer!
Only one entry per person is permitted, multiple entries will disqualify you. Please include your full name and email address with your entry so that we can contact you in the event you win.