I have taken a look at a few different real 7.1 and 5.1 channel audio products recently and each presented with one common issue: poor sound quality. Other products go for a 'quantity over quality' approach to sound, opting to throw a bunch of drivers in each earcup, but providing poor sound quality to keep costs down.
This product is part of G.Skill's first foray into peripherals, with this headset being released alongside with the virtual 7.1 channel SV710 model. At a first glance, it presents itself quite well, it comes complete with a retractable microphone, cool red LEDs, and a plush leather design just to name a few features. Will the Ripjaws SR910 kick the 'quantity over quality' issues that have plagued all headsets before it?
Featuring a 40mm subwoofer plus 30mm front, 30mm center, 27mm side, and 23mm rear drivers, this true 7.1 surround sound headset draws 1.5W from a single USB connection. My computer had some issues powering this product from the front ports, requesting more power to be given.
The headset as a whole offers a frequency response of 20Hz - 20Khz with an impedance of 32 Ohms. A sensitivity ranging from 118 dB +/- 6dB to 123 dB +/- 3dB is offered across the board. The microphone itself offers a unidirectional noise-cancelling pickup that has an impedance of 2.2k Ohms, a larger frequency response than most of 50Hz - 10kHz and a sensitivity of 36 dB +/- 3dB. This retractable microphone pulls almost completely into the headset and mounts on a manoeuvrable boom, similar to SteelSeries audio products.
Weighing in at a hefty 600g, it features an in-line control unit that offers you red LED illumination, and the ability to mute or activate your microphone. It also can control sound levels on each channel. It supports all Windows operating systems from 7 to 10 and provides a gold-plated USB connection to the PC via a cable that is three meters in total length.
Pricing & Availability
It's not on Amazon but is available from Newegg for $139.99, making it reasonably priced for any true 7.1 option. However, looking at it from an overall perspective, this is the complete upper-tier in the pricing of 'gaming headsets', branching almost into audiophile territory.
What's in the box?
There is a fancy looking box design and a hard to understand internal packaging format. Opening it up like an excited kid at Christmas, we got instruction manuals and, well, only instruction manuals.
No carry pouch, no headset stand, no sticker - nothing. As all my reviews state, a carry pouch is a cheap and handy optional extra for any headset. It allows you to take your product travelling to LAN parties, events or friends' houses, without the risk of scuffs and marks. But coming without a single accessory isn't great, especially when you're purchasing a high-end gaming $140 headset.
Let's dig deeper
With the leather earcups being some of the softest I have felt in my life, plus the expanding bridge headband offering brilliant comfort, G.Skill has done a great job in masking the heavy weight of the device.
The frame is very well constructed, the internal sound cable is woven inside and outside the headset for an aesthetic feel. And to prevent fraying, the expanding bridge leather headband is soft and cushions well, and the earcups are extremely soft in nature. The Perspex sides on the earcups are also a fantastic touch. Coupled with red LEDs means you're able to see all drivers inside, something akin to my old clear-plastic N64 and controllers or a side window on a gaming PC, showing off the beast within.
With all of this being said, the headset is still quite heavy, and it is certainly large. I'm lucky in the fact that my head is a little larger than most, but stick this headset on anyone under 18 and it's going to look like you're wearing DJ speakers on each ear. Although the expanding bridge and soft earcups do a great job of masking the weight, it's still quite apparent over longer gaming sessions.
The in-line control unit looks brilliant. The LEDs indicating sound levels have a slow fade and look awesome when used, but overall this large unit can be annoying. As the cable goes in one side and out the other, there's always the issue of laying it neatly on your desk. Not too much in the way, but close enough to reach and adjust when needed. Bear in mind that the cable is a quite long at 3m, meaning G.Skill does give you a bit of space to play with, however, it's still quite annoying on occasion.
The drivers and connection process are both very simple. The drivers themselves are a little cumbersome, but easy enough to navigate after a little searching around. As with other products, make sure you restart your computer when installing them as they won't function properly otherwise.
How does it compare?
Here's where the push comes to shove. How does it compare to 'fake' 7.1 channel yet similarly-priced headsets like the Corsair VOID RGB and lower priced 2.0 HyperX Cloud II? Unfortunately, the short answer is 'poorly'.
The SR910 suffers from the same issue that every single tested true 5.1 and 7.1 headset does before it, a complete 'quantity over quality' issue. Jamming numerous low-quality drivers into a headset, rather than opting for a fake surround sound experience.
Jumping into Dota 2 and hitting the random button, I got Enigma. Heading off into the jungle, Enigma allows me to test out some booming bass sounds with his black hole ultimate and higher-pitched treble-filled sounds through his little eidolons. There is nothing much to say here besides disappointing. Besides my friends telling me in Mumble that the microphone sounded completely 'tinny' and like I was "inside a toilet roll", the headset lacked any form of clarity and bass. It made my game harder to play due to a confusing low quality of sound.
I listen to a massive range of songs on a daily basis, making a good starting base for testing out all-rounder products. As much as a headset may be marketed towards 'gaming', there's no use buying one for home if it doesn't work well in Skype and Spotify too. Twenty One Pilots' 'Ode To Sleep' reported back a similar experience to that experienced in Dota 2. The clarity is lacking, and the bass is on par with a mainstream smartphone speaker, detracting from the song at hand.
Also tested was some chilled out rap music from Nas to introduce a little punchy bass into the mix, but once again mirroring the same experience as above.
In a last-ditch effort to salvage the sound by moving onto Warcry by Audiofreq, this bass-filled song would be my last 'real-world' test of the SR910. The massive drop of reverse bass heaven at the beginning sounded just as you'd expect. I'd rather not talk about it.
Using Audio Check's 'Ultimate Headphones Test', I'm able to further analyse many aspects of this product.
First up is the frequency response test, checking the highs and the lows to see if they match what the box has to say. The low frequency comes in at 30Hz, which is 10Hz worse than the 20Hz rated on the box. Moving on to the higher range, I can begin to hear the sound from 19KHz, which is 1KHz lower than written in the description. This variance at the lower-end proves an overall lack of bass and rumble, with the previous three headsets tested by me all kicking in at 10-20Hz and scoring well in the bass department.
Moving on to the 'spectral flatness and earbud insert test', this will ensure I can check whether all frequencies play accurately and are audible from the tested 30Hz - 19KHz range. This reported back a 100% result, with all sounds from bottom to the top coming through clearly. Next up is the dynamic range test, checking the ratio between the loudest signal I can hear and the quietest. This is said to help test the isolation offered by this product in a noisy atmosphere. Putting it to the test, I was able to hear the sounds up to 66dB below full scale.
The bass shaker test will ensure low-quality earphones will perform terribly, aiming to vibrate poor headphone drivers and make them rattle through the use of rumbling bass. This headset performed without any shaking. However, this is due to it being unable to play 90% of the bass being sent to it, showcasing once again a disappointing lack of bass.
Further testing brings me to driver matching that tests if both drivers are matched together perfectly in audio output. Putting this part to the test, it seemed that the left channel played sounds slightly stronger than the right, however, it is not noticeable without lots of concentration. The last two technical trials are fairly simple yet effective, being the wiring and Binaural tests. The wiring test came back at 100%, ensuring that ear cup plays the side of sound that it should. Further tests ensure that sounds will play in the correct sphere - testing centre and also 'twisted', which is somewhere in the middle of the lot. The binaural test involves a completely immersive audio recording of someone knocking on wood. It will play in your left and right ear, and if the headphones are working properly, it will sound 100% realistic, and it did.
Last up is a generic music test, covering the full sound spectrum in a short period. The bass was completely missing, and the high-pitched singer sounded slightly muffled, showcasing a lower overall clarity than I expected.
Strong and sturdy: The headset is built extremely sturdily, and should handle a lot of abuse.
The looks and comfort: The headset is engineered well with cables weaving in and out to ensure longevity and aesthetics, the ear cups are crazy comfy. The expanding bridge headband does a great job of masking the weight.
Quantity, not the quality of sound: This headset succumbs to the common issues of all real 5.1 and 7.1 models. Providing many speakers, while still offering a reasonable price, the sound quality suffers greatly.
The Accessories: Not a single one and at $139.99, this is disappointing.
Complete lack of bass: Even though it offers a dedicated 'subwoofer', there is not a sliver of bass.
With amazing first impressions, this headset is built well, engineered brilliantly, it's comfortable, looks great, and is priced well for a real 7.1 headset. However, with a complete lack of sound quality, and not a single accessory in the package, I was quite disappointed after putting it through my regular tests and usage.
The other issue is that of a complete lack of bass. It's something I have seen in every single true 5.1/7.1 headset tested so far. These negatives are a massive shame, especially seeing as the SR910 headset looks incredible, in my opinion. In the end, it doesn't matter how good everything else is when the sound quality is not up to scratch.
|Quality including Design and Build||90%|
|Bundle and Packaging||40%|
|Value for Money||40%|
The Bottom Line: G.Skill's Ripjaws SR910 Real 7.1 gaming headset looks great, is comfortable, and is built well, but the sound quality and bass output is nowhere near as good as it should be for the price, and the accessories are completely lacking also.
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