Feel like you’re not completely immersed in your favorite FPS games? Sony aims to change that with their new DR-GA500 7.1 gaming headset. But does its sleek and sexy design try to cover up a mediocre sound?
Upon first glance, you’ll notice that the design is anything but ordinary. Around each headphone are three separate foam pillows that encase your ear and rest on your head. This design is aimed at prolonged sessions to ensure maximum comfort. They aren't necessarily uncomfortable per se, but I found that this unique design just feels strange and doesn’t get better over time. The extra air flow it gets due to this design prevents ears from getting overly sweaty, which is nice. The one thing I loved was the fold away microphone which until I looked at the manual, didn’t even notice was there.
The sound varies depending on how they’re used and what equipment you have which I’ll touch on later. They can be plugged in as standard headphones that have both a 40mm headphone jack and microphone jack. The sound is fairly high quality, but it doesn’t reach its full potential until the signal processing box is plugged in and configured. While it’s impossible to fully replicate 7.1 audio through headphones, the black box acts as a faux-surround sound that in some cases works. Before you can get it to work however, there is a process in hooking everything up that requires a bundle of cables and most of all, patience.
The box has multiple settings, from 2ch, 5.1 and 7.1 surround, a Surround and FPS effect setting and a compression switch. It’s important to fiddle around with these settings a bit to find which one sounds the best. There are numerous things keeping it from perfection however. First of all you have to own a damn good sound card to get the most out of it. While it technically works with lower end cards, the sound quality is noticeably better on higher end ones.
Secondly, since it’s faux-surround, you’re not exactly getting the same type of sound you’d expect from a 7.1 system connected to your TV. What’s more baffling is that the Surround effect doesn't sound much different when switched over to the FPS effect. This is disappointing since the headset is largely aimed at the FPS crowd. What works like a charm however is the mic. It picked up my voice very clearly and appeared to cancel out any background noise that was going on at my house.
It’s hard to fully recommend this headset unless you have a serious sound card, the patience to hook everything up, some serious cash to fork over or a penchant for buying shiny and strangely designed technology. While it’s not the most impressive surround sound effect, it does provide that extra bit of immersiveness you might have been lacking in your frag sessions, though don’t expect to dominate the battlefield with your newfound surround senses.