Gaming laptops are traditionally full of compromises.
Creative Sound Blaster Arena Surround USB Gaming Headset
A soundcard and headset combo which is comfortable to wear but feels flimsy and cheap
- Comfortable, good sound quality, nice software features
- Flimsy build, wobbly microphone
Creative's Sound Blaster Arena Surround USB Gaming Headset is two products in one -- a pair of headphones and a soundcard -- at a reasonable price. It's a good buy.
Price$ 169.95 (AUD)
Creative’s latest foray into the headphone market, the Sound Blaster Arena Surround USB Headset, offers the features of a Sound Blaster sound card — such as X-Fi, Silencer, EAX and VoiceFX audio technologies — in a comfortable headset.
The headphones are attractively designed, with black pleather over the ears and on top of the headband and white plastic for everything in between. Unfortunately the build quality leaves something to be desired, with the plastic feeling thin, flimsy and cheap. The in-line controls include a microphone on/off switch and volume buttons. A circular red LED pulses slowly when the microphone is off and stays solid when it’s on. It’s also worth noting that the volume controls will change the system volume directly, which helps streamline things.
As the headset is aimed at the serious gamer, it also comes with a detachable noise-cancelling microphone that can be rotated upwards when not in use. While the microphone is a welcome addition, it felt a little bit too flimsy and was prone to swinging around and smacking us in the face with any sudden head turns. Gamers who will be staring straight ahead for the majority of their time with the headphones may find this only a minor gripe, however.
The Sound Blaster Arena Surround Headset was comfortable to wear for several hours of music listening and sounded good out of the box when we listened to a selection of tunes from different genres that had a variety of bass levels. After installing the included software, however, sound quality improved noticeably, with heavier bass and a more obvious surround effect thanks to the software’s audio adjustment options.
The accompanying software includes Creative MediaSource 5 — a media converter and organiser — and a trial of Creative Media Toolbox 6 which can be used to tag, record and clean up music by removing noise, hisses and pops. The Creative Entertainment Console is where you’ll find all the options for EAX effects, X-Fi surround and clarity controls, as well as microphone effects such as voice distortion and noise cancellation.
The Sound Blaster Arena Surround USB Gaming Headset is available now for a recommended retail price of $169.95, which, considering you’re paying for a USB soundcard and a comfortable and good quality pair of headphones, seems pretty reasonable.
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