The P531 from Arctic Sound is a well built and reasonably well designed surround sound headset that uses a USB interface rather than an analog interface in order to be a totally flexible solution.
This is current to the trends we are seeing now, and USB is absolutely massive at the moment, especially with the newest unveiling of USB 3.0 recently which offers huge data rates and will not be bettered for universal appeal until USB 4.0 comes out, we suspect.
This particular headset features four drivers in each ear piece inside of a comfortable and well implemented design. The system also makes use of a small inline volume control to allow for control of the individual channels. The built-in digital processor actually has a big job ahead of it, because the sound coming out of a USB port is not going to be surround sound. So, one would imagine that this processor uses an algorithm much like 'Dolby Headphone' to create the surround environment. We may be wrong, though; it might do it a completely different way.
The P531's enlist the help of a digital audio processor which is located inside of the inline volume pod and handles the work usually done by a sound card. According to the advertising, there is also an 'integrated vibration unit' which is aimed at providing that extra bit of punch for gaming and movies. This is an interesting feature which is just starting to emerge as something new this year, although details on how it works are scarce.
1) 5.1 channel gaming USB headset
2) Installed with special subwoofer to produce deep bass
3) Distortion free digital audio
4) Microphone included
5) Lightweight and highest noise absorption
6) Designed for ultimate gamers
7) Features four individual drivers in each ear cup for uncompromised 5.1 surround sound details and dynamics
8) Integrated vibration units to provide extra sensation to gaming experience
9) Closed cicumaural design to isolate outside noise
Overall, the main thing to take from the list of features is how much is packed into this system that costs a fraction of what some others do. We all know that Arctic Sound has already built a strong reputation for providing good value for money, and it seems as if the P531's look set to continue this trend.
Setup is a breeze. In fact, the only thing that needs to be done is locate a spare USB port, which is becoming increasingly difficult we admit; but in order to use this headset, one must be freed.
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- High End
Great for a small headset which is aimed towards value and flexibility. Truly respectable in every way during our demanding concert music tests. We had no qualms here at all.
- Mid Range
Very good indeed. Percussive tones were full bodied and rich and intelligibility was fine during busy moments of the recording. We were also pleased with the P531's overall timbre and depth.
- Low End
Again, very good indeed. The low end had quite a nice thump to it and performance never really felt like being over the top in this department. When it comes to exaggerating the bass beyond normal levels, there is not a lot to be found. This could be a symptom of power starvation from USB perhaps, but it's not really something we would consider important when deciding on buying this system or not.
Surround performance is a mix, though we must hasten to add. While our test DVD was without a doubt playing back in surround, we could not use the built-in controls to change specific levels. Now, without boring everyone trying to explain why we think this is happening (or not happening, as the case may be), we will simply add that the way to fix this is to use a digital coax or optical connection, which we know works because we have tested it before with a surround headset like this one. But it sort of ruins the one cable USB idea a bit. Still, that's our best bet.
Aside from that small issue with controlling the channel levels, this is a great headset for games, music and movies. It's well built and has a good comfortable fit that should squeeze nicely over most users ears. Our tests for sound quality came back with impressive results, even if this headset cost $100; but the bombshell is that you can pick one up for $66US which is just so cheap that it's almost a steal.
However (here it comes, we hear you say), if simple stereo music listening is all you want, there are better options out there for a handful of dollars more. Having said that, you will struggle to get anything with four drivers in each ear piece for this price.