A miserly win for the eardrums.
Gaming headsets are now as commonplace to the gaming pastime as controllers and keyboards. The number of online gamers continues to grow. Audibly, more gamers mean more "Fire in holes!", more "Launch Magic Missiles!", and more shouting of expletives than a Tarantino movie with every role played by Samuel L. Jackson. All the chatting and campaign planning requires at least a microphone. Might as well grab a pair of audio earmuffs to go with it, right? The multitude of companies producing gaming audio products certainly seem to think so.
[image1]SteelSeries is one such company. They operate seemingly undercover. Even though you may not know them too well, the professional gaming circuit is replete with many happy SteelSeries customers... er, uh, sponsored fraggers. Their newest headset is yet another high-quality, no-frills offering where the price belies the performance. I give you the SteelSeries v2!
Okay, so clearly their nomenclature is not where the genius lies. Be that as it may, the SteelSeries v2 is a mighty performer. After a completely mindless installation (gotta love plug and play), I fired up a few games beginning with Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Shattered Horizon. I found in-game sounds to be clear and distortion-free, with an even balance of bass kick and pitch. Positional audio is handled exceptionally well for pinpointing footsteps, the direction of gunfire, and vehicle sounds.
Game world sounds in Mass Effect 2 are crystal clear against the deep and dramatic background music. Furthermore, the headphones actually lend a new sense of audio awareness in games that aren't known for acoustic supremacy, such as Street Fighter IV and Prototype. That's an impressive audio resume.
[image2]In fact, I was quite surprised to find that the SteelSeries v2 easily gives the Astro Gaming A40 - the Cadillac of audio headgear - a substantial run for its money. True, the A40s come with a ton of other bells and whistles absent from the SteelSeries v2. But in head-to-head sound performance, the audio quality for games and voice chat is fantastic. It should be noted, this canorous audio solution rings in for nearly one-third the cost of the A40 Audio system. Quite the savings!
An added boon: The unit impresses further with super solid music playback for head bangers, head boppers, and heady classical music.
But we're gamers, not Casey Kasem. And the SteelSeries v2 are great for voice communication in online games. The attached mic is unobtrusive with adequate voice sensitivity. There is no need to swallow the mic for your voice to be heard, which is the case for some less effective mics out there. Your voice is picked up and transmitted clear and static-free. The mic also neatly retracts into the left side of the headphone around the left ear speaker. I have a pet peeve regarding cumbersome mics. If the microphone can't be removed, like what we saw with the Astro A40 set, then this is easily the next best (if not THE best) option.
[image3]Yet none of this matters if the comfort is absent. Thankfully, the SteelSeries v2 is a lightweight headset with sufficient padding around each speaker to sustain hours and hours of gaming gab sessions. Unfortunately, the lightweight appeal lends itself to a more flimsy feel. Don't get me wrong, the construction does not seem cheap. But the unit does feel a bit "airy". I much prefer a more solid, slightly heavier feel when it comes to a headphone and mic setup. But really, I'm just splitting
ears hairs at this point.
At the end of the day, the SteelSeries v2 is great headset and mic solution for any gamer demanding quality and clarity. Performance, comfort, and a retractable mic make this more than a viable audio option worth considering. Plus the low cost of entry nicely assuages the tension on your wallet. With an MSRP of $89.99, the unit simply radiates "Smart Buy!".