If you can remember back to early last year, we did an article featuring an interview with acclaimed pioneer inventor, James Hildebrandt. What we discussed in that interview were the masterfully created Psyko 5.1 surround gaming headphones.
Touted as the absolute final word in positional gaming audio, the aforementioned headset took the greater gaming community by storm with systems having to be pre ordered to assure delivery. You see, what was being offered was a drastic shift away from traditional algorithm based surround sound in a set of headphones.
But that's not all; absolutely not. What made these things so intrinsically new/better/different (take your pick), was the way in which sound was funneled down from the headband containing the speaker, to positions both behind and in front of the users ears, creating a one man 'perfect room' surround experience.
This is why TweakTown has been so excited in finally taking a look at the Psyko 5.1 Gaming Headset to see how well the design works straight up.
Package and Contents
The Package and Contents
Now that we know what we are dealing with, let's take a closer look at the package and contents and see what's included.
The Psyko Headset comes in what can only be described as a beautiful box, if there can ever be such a thing. It instantly reminds me of the Razer Megalodon box that we were so thoroughly pleased with some time ago.
It's made from a very nice high quality type of cardboard and has nothing other than the headset itself adorning the front. The rear features a very detailed diagram of all the most notable aspects of Psyko Headset.
Inside, once the silver seal is broken, can be found a molded cardboard insert housing the hefty headset and amplifier along with all the necessary cables. It must be said that this is one of the nicer overall packages I've come across and is all wonderfully colour coordinated.
It's also a nice touch to have a colour printed manual that only features English instead of having every language under the sun (bar Sanskrit) to wade through. The manual here is a good one. We were actually inclined to read it, which is not a feeling that usually strikes often.
The only issue was that the plug included was indeed 240V for Australian shores, but alas, it did not conform to our angled sockets. So, a wee bit of ingenuity on our part was needed. However, let me assure you that any retail version bought by your good selves will be ready to go out of the box. Certainly this was just a nuance of getting a sample box sent out.
Speaking technically, let's start by looking at some specifications.
Impedance: 32O front, rear, center channels
90-120O Subwoofer (per ear cup)
Output SPL: 103dB at 1kHz, 2 channels active, below distortion limit
Input Impedance: 1kO nominal, 950O minimum
Output Impedance: < 1O
Power Level: 125 mW per channel minimum, all channels active, 1 KHz
425 mW minimum any single active channel, 1 KHz below distortion limit into 32 Ohm impedance levels
Input Signal Limit : ± 3V (6V p-p)
The flagship piece of innovation that sets apart the Psyko headset from others is known as 'Psyko Waveguide Technology'. What this technology does is to re-create in miniature the same environment that would be experienced with a properly setup 5.1 channel system in a dedicated room.
The way the system accomplishes this is by introducing small plastic channels in the chassis of the headset that act to funnel sound down from the speakers themselves located in the top of the headset.
Facing parallel to one another on either side of the headset, these 'channels' take sound information down in front and behind of the users ears. Once this important stage has been passed, the sound information sent from the top of the headset to the ears gets mixed with the low frequency information being produced by the adjoining subwoofers in the chassis of each ear cup.
Another important aspect to this process is the way this system uses physical channeling of audio to distribute surround information rather than relying on algorithm based methods.
The reason this is key is because of something called latency, which basically is any real world time loss experienced by equipment processing times and or signal traveling times through cable networks aside from simply sending the appropriate information for surround sound to the users ears in a manor not seen before.
Another key to this whole process is the timing of the information being delivered. Because of the symmetrical nature of the Psyko headset, sound from all channels is delivered with perfect timing to the users ears along with providing perfect directionality when required.
When we start to bring all of these totally new innovations together at once, a new sense of special awareness is created for the gamer.
If this were to be discussed in audio/visual terms, we would throw about such terms as 'perfect room' and 'sound treatments'. Whether you're a gamer looking for a half second advantage on an opponent or an audiophile looking for accurate reproduction of your favorite album, a poor sounding room can make a bad experience of even a great system.
We think that what has been offered here today (technically speaking) by Psyko Audio Labs is a real injection of fresh thought and innovation in a landscape clouded with a lot of (algorithm driven) headsets of which claim to offer a rivalry to a proper surround system, but never really deliver anything substantial.
No, the Psyko system is truly original in its conception and will hopefully open others eyes to the potential on offer outside of boring old software (which has become the leaning post of many a shortcut taker). Surely there will still be some bewilderment as to how this system works, as there inevitably is whenever something with a totally new design is introduced.
Below is an image from Psyko demonstrating exactly the placement of the five speakers and two subwoofers; this is relative to the chassis of the headset as a whole.
Moving over quickly to paper specs and interestingly enough Psyko have only given a 'skeleton staff' of specs to accompany the headset. Not that this bothers us, because we all know how much specs can be overblown and wholly irrelevant beasts at times. We do, however, have power levels given, which are an indication that this headset does have some grunt. A better one, though, is the great big pre amp they ship with!
Impendence/sensitivity specs for the headset given at 103db @1KHz are perfectly acceptable. The included mic seemed to be of a high quality and connected rather firmly to the headset chassis.
Although, as is usually the case with these mics, it seems quite small and rugged and is perhaps a slight after the fact inclusion to be built in, although that's only an opinion.
A mains power point must first be located when setting this headset up; this due to the use of the external pre amp.
Once this is done, the connection of the supplied 5.1 channel stereo mini jack cable must be made with an appropriate device, such as a PC based soundcard.
Above is where the connection is made to the external pre amp to allow the signal to sent along to the headset.
During our testing of the Psyko Audio Labs headset, we found overall surround effects to be of a very high standard with very precise positioning of particular sounds within the environment.
Overall volume was more than enough for all applications and we found bass to be very pronounced and quite loud at times. Treble had moments when it could have been better, though.
The Psyko headset uses two large subwoofers angled towards the user's ears in a vented enclosure around them. Going by that criteria, we had high expectations which were met for the most part.
Turning the bass dial beyond 4 o'clock was the point where we began to find distortion noticeable. Though this point is only reached after a considerable amount of bass is flowing forth. It would be fair to say that keeping the dial around midday would be recommended.
This dial also acts as a dual feature wherein a lower setting exploits the systems surround capabilities fully and increasing it acts to minimize them.
An area where this system probably is tuned to sound the best and does. At all times the Psyko headset had a warm and smooth tonality to the mid range, which is all important, particularly when taking into consideration that many in game effects contain a lot of the mid frequencies.
Tuning has been done to allow higher frequencies to be rolled off a little bit to save on ear damage over long periods and it is quite noticeable. Although not in the worst way, it does save on ear strain under all conditions. It's just a little bit of a concern if users want to multitask and listen to music with this headset, which might be a factor considering its cost.
During testing we found positional audio effects to sound very impressive and allowed for a good environmental awareness level to be achieved. Placement of various effects was accurate to the rest of the audio as well as onscreen action. Specific character driven audio in game created a convincing surround environment under all conditions.
The environment created did indeed sound very much like one from a small surround speaker system. We thought it was very open and venting the side windows also had a positive effect. Transitional effects also sound very progressive and accurate from front to rear. Timing of effects was also accurate with on screen action and allowed for precise control in game.
This is the backbone of the Psyko headset and a really cool idea in its own right. The delivery of sound to the ear is very well done using these proprietary 'sound channels' and sounded very convincing to our ears.
Also interesting were the vents built into the sides of the headset. Opening these gave the sound a very similar sound to what might be produced by a room speaker system; it definitely made it sound more open and airy.
The bottom line is that this is a great positional audio headset for gamers who want the best of the best when it comes to positional audio. We found game audio sounded fantastic with some of the most defined positional effects heard to date.
Music listening tests were really good also with the slight issue of the 'rounded treble', making listening a little bit restricted in the high end.
Movies sounded very open and warm during our testing with really positive all round results. During some testing of the latest movie trailers we thought that the overall tonality and enveloping nature of the audio to be very much like being in a cinema with that feeling of immense depth of sound that builds upon itself to create a very immersive experience.
The Psyko Audio Labs 5.1 channel headset offers some really exciting new ideas about how surround information can be delivered. Developing Psykowave proprietary technology as the flagship feature truly makes this headset something quite unique. Plus, the added design feature of building the speakers into the top of the headband chassis allows for two large subwoofers with a vented ear enclosure, which is another key part of making this system work the way it does.
Adding an external amplifier really allows all of the speakers to reach their full potential and is also quite an attractive unit in its own right. The included mic is also a bonus for those users who seem to swear by them when they play games.
Performance was very impressive when it came to the timing of the sound being delivered to our ears. Onscreen action seemed to match up very closely with what was being heard and the system felt very much more like a small surround speaker system rather than a headset with processed digital audio. Transitional sound effects were also very impressive and provided a good overall awareness of the scene being played.
High frequency sound has been tuned down in the factory to save ears, but this causes a slight shortage when using this headset for different applications such as music listening. On the upside once again, positional effects were also very clear and had a nice raw unprocessed feel during listening.
Overall, the Psyko Audio Labs headset is a winner in our books. It's not without a couple of minor foibles, though, which are to be expected. But all in all, this is probably one of the best gaming experiences out there. For those who are willing to save up the money, there's no doubting that fact. Today, we think they deserve some recognition for said innovation.