PC 330 G4ME Testing Results (Original Article)
To test the PC 330 G4ME we listened to sources of varying quality; from games and CD right up to master quality DVD-Audio and Blu-Ray. In terms of equipment game/CD and Blu-Ray testing was performed on ASUS excellent Essence STX, a high specification soundcard which features an integrated, proprietary Headphone Amplifier. The high impedance headphone amp used by ASUS is a Texas Instruments TI6120A2 which has a 120dB+ dynamic range and SNR of 120dB. With the amplifier circuitry ranging from +12 to -12v with a Slew Rate of 1300 V/µS there are few components available which offer the same high fidelity power source for headphone use/testing.
Finally we have the DVD-Audio tests. DVD-Audio should not be confused with the Dolby Digital/DTS audio track on a standard DVD. The quality available on a standard CD is 48KHz/16-bit, whereas DVD-Audio is capable of 192KHz/24-bit. Our DVD-Audio tests were performed using an X-Fi Xtreme Music and Creative's own DVD-Audio player/software. The line out was passed through a THX certified headphone amp and then into the PC 330.
As this is marketed very much as a gaming headset, even down to the pro-gamer quotes on the packaging, our first test had to be two of the most popular online/pro games... Counter Strike Source and then Left 4 Dead 2. In both games the sound quality produced by the PC 330 was very good. Footfalls and ambient effects were reproduced clearly, offering a level of quality which was a level above multi-purpose headsets.
Moving next to DiRT 2 which provided the headset with an entirely different challenge we found the PC 330 provided a good representation of the various car sounds. Crashes and voiceovers were well created and clear with engine noise also reproduced well, if lacking a little bass.
While the listening experience is important in gaming those who participate in team based gameplay, whether it be FPS or WOW, require top notch voice performance and clarity. In this area the PC 330 G4ME didn't let us down. When asked our teammates commented on the lack of background noise and overall clarity coming from our system.
Rock: Bruce Springsteen's Girls in Their Summer Clothes from Magic.
This Grammy winning track (Best Rock Song) was listened to directly from the CD and features a 1411KBPS specification with 44KHz/16-bit quality. Though essentially a rock track it features 60s pop styling's and orchestration. In terms of sound reproduction this particular song provides a stern test for any equipment due to the huge number of instruments/vocals in use throughout the piece. These include main vocals, 3 guitar tracks, bass guitar, piano, organ, drums, chamberlain, tack piano, violins, violas and sax in addition to backing vocals. Using anything but exceptional quality hardware will result in a very muddy sound on this track.
The first area of this track which often catches out audio products is the introduction of the lower guitar part and bass about 20 seconds into the song. When not reproduced correctly the sound can become distorted or muddy the lead vocal which is very much front and centre, on the PC 330 we have no such problems and any concerns we had about the bass following our experience from DiRT 2 were immediately forgotten. As the song progresses it is clear that the PC 330 provides excellent clarity from the lead vocal.
Orchestral : Battlestar Galactica Season One Soundtrack, Bear McCreary's The Shape of Things to Come.
The Shape of Things to Come is a 1411KBPS track at 44KHz/16-bit which features strings, bass drum, timpani and piano. These combine to create a rich soundscape which leans towards diminished and augmented harmonies. Emotion oozes from the piece throughout and it is hard to find a better orchestral composition written in recent times.
When listening to this track on the PC 330 G4ME the sound is all about the strings. They are presented very strongly, sometimes to the detriment of the piano and drums on this headset. The quality is still very good but it is a little harder to pick out those minor aspects in the mix when compared to the more expensive PC 360 G4ME.
DVD-AUDIO: The Eagle's Hotel California from the album by the same name.
In terms of a reference quality source for audio testing it does not get better than the mix found on the DVD-Audio version of Hotel California. For this version engineer Ted Jensen created stereo mix by converting the original analogue two-track master to digital at 192kHz without any creative changes. This is as close to hearing the original master recording as it gets.
So with Hotel California we have a mix which is as close to how the band/producer intended us to hear it as possible but how does the PC 330 handle it? The answer is very well. There are two particularly telling sections of the track which have left us disappointed with some audio products in the past. These sections are the guitar harmonic at 3.10 which sounds great on the PC 330, continuing its strong mid and high end performance. Then there is near silence at 3.25 followed by a vocal section during which we can clearly hear breathing on good quality headsets, a sign that we are hearing all of the detail on the source and that is present on the PC 330.
High Definition Content
Music: Bon Jovi Live At Madison Square Garden
The Live at Madison Square Garden Blu-Ray features a choice of two audio tracks, Dolby TrueHD 5.1 which can be down mixed in software or Dolby Digital 2.0. Each was overseen by the bands long time sound engineer Obie Obrien and mastered by George Marino, a legend in the mastering industry.
When playing back a concert there are a few aspects which users look for. The first is a spacious sound, giving a good representation of the venue. Next we have power, allowing the track to be heard as the artist intended, whether it is quiet intimate moments or full on rock. Finally we have clarity, the sound produced has to meet the standards the artist intended on the night.
On the PC 330 the crowd noise very much took a back seat, impacting the atmosphere a little but benefiting the vocal and band aspects of each song. Once again it has to be said that the quality and clarity of the main vocal really stood out on this headset. Overall this test actually turned out to be one of the highlights of the PC 330 performance.
Movie: Superman The Movie
Superman The Movie received an audio remix back in 2000 for the films restoration and the high definition soundtrack, a 640KBPS Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 mix, comes from the same source. We chose to use this disc as our test due to an epic soundtrack by John Williams (the opening credits are reason enough!) and the mix between dialogue, action effects and score throughout the various set pieces in the movie.
The PC 330 G4ME has performed well up to this point in the review and it was no different in our final test. From the opening scene to the closing credits every aspect of the soundtrack was recreated well.