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Psyko Interview with James Hildebrandt


by Stuart Davidson - 17th Mar 2009
Discuss Here
Visit psykoaudio.com

James Hildebrandt - Head Psyko


DH: Our readers will know a little about Psyko Audio as we covered your booth in our CES report, can you give us some detailed background on the origins of the company?

James: Two things came together to create the product and company. First, I had a graduate degree in mechanical engineering that focused on acoustics, so, I had training that gave me many of the tools to study this field, design, analyze and build systems.

Second, after practicing engineering for several years, a friend said that there must be a better way to make headphones. He wanted the advantages of playing games with surround sound room speakers, but he wanted to play late at night and he didn’t want the sound to bother his family. Until then I had not worked on headphones, but I started to look at the problem and came up with a new way to make headphones that would deliver surround sound.

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DH: What background to the current employees have? Any experience in the PC audio market?

James: When I started I had the training in acoustics but no experience in PC audio. Now I’ve been working on it for nine years and Psyko now has a small group of people, each from various backgrounds in industrial design, audio and electronics, who have a few years each in this technology. We also now have a circle of advisors, some of whom helped develop some of the previous electronic technologies.

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DH: What was the main factor that prompted you to begin development of the Psyko 5.1 gaming headphones?

James: That no headphones really delivered a natural sounding surround sound. The motivation was to make a headphone sound like a room system and get the best game experience.

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DH: Which part of the development was the hardest? Was there a particular problem that was hard to solve, or aspect which needed a lot of work to improve in the first prototype?

James: There were hundreds of problems and challenges in developing a fundamentally new way to build headphones. One of the most interesting was to make a product that originally looked like an octopus of tubes on a person’s head and making it look not just normal, but making it look good. Early in the development my girlfriend at that time saw someone testing a prototype and whispered to me that guys that wore that wouldn’t have girlfriends. What a change, last week an ex-pro gamer who saw our current product said that if he had had our headphones when he was in high school he would have had more girlfriends. He thought they looked great.

When we get some time, some day, we’ll show what the original prototypes looked like.

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DH: There are already a number of 5.1 headsets on the market, one which would seem to be your direct competition would be the Razer Barracuda. What would you say is the number one reason that the Psyko 5.1 is better than that product?

James: You’ll have to experience it, but it will be the complete sense of knowing where everything is around you.

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DH: What aspect of the Psyko 5.1 are you most proud of?

James: I can tell you what feels the best - Every time a person says “I can hear exactly where every sound is” the hair on the back of my neck stands up. It is a thrill to make something that solves a problem. Plus, I love using them.

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DH: The Psyko 5.1 have an RRP of $299, this seems a little high for the average gamer. Do you have anything you would like to say to that audience on why they should save for your product rather than a new CPU, memory or Graphics card?

James: The difference between using Psyko headphones and others is the difference between having the sound turned off or on. It is a new experience.

We had a ranked Halo player that usually used his 6.1 room system test a Psyko prototype and say he heard the action better with the Psyko headphones than with his room system. After 10 minutes of game play he actually had beads of sweat on his forehead because he was more immersed in the game than ever before. It added adrenaline.

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DH: How long will the warranty on the product last and what support processes are in place for end users who have problems with the headset?

James: For products bought on our web site you can return them for a full refund no-questions-asked in the first 10 days if you don’t like them. Well, we would like to ask why you didn’t like them. They can be returned for exchange in the first year for manufacturer’s defects. For retailers we will be working out a return policy.

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DH: What is next for Psyko Audio Labs?

James: This first product is for PC’s. The next products will be for console gaming.
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