Review: Roccat Kave 5.1
Any gamer worth his or her salt knows the value of good audio. When we have awesome audio from games like Final Fantasy XIII-2, Uncharted 3 and Star Wars: The Old Republic, you don’t want all that to go to waste, right? When it comes to PC gaming, it’s rather difficult for me personally to find a headset that includes all the features I’d ever want in a compact audio system. The Roccat Kave 5.1 surround sound headset, however, comes pretty darn close.
While the Kave has been out for a while, I now can’t really imagine playing PC games without it. While I’ve used other headsets in the past, they’ve all had some quirks that were hard to get around. Either they only delivered surround sound via optical output from the computer, the cord was extremely long and hard to manage or the headset didn’t allow your ears to breathe.
With the Kave 5.1, all those things were up to my standards, and then some.
Straight up out of the package, the headset comes with a moderate-length cable with individual 3.5 mm jacks for the different internal surround sound speakers. I realize there are more headsets out there that are set up in this manner, but this works perfect for my on-board surround sound setup. The USB cable is, of course, provided to power the entire system, which also includes an in-line “remote” to adjust volume and mute your microphone.
While setting this thing up and plugging it in, I noticed one thing that I think sometimes companies that produce such products forget – it’s a pain in the rear to manage cables. The Kave 5.1 has cabling that’s just the right length (for me, anyway). Especially the span that goes from the “remote” to the headset. In the past, headsets that I’ve used have had a rather unneeded amount of wire to deal with between the volume control and the headset itself, which just gets in my way, but not this one. The “remote” sits perfectly on the top of my PC for quick volume control and muting.
The “remote” itself has a nifty multi-volume feature, which allows you to adjust the various speakers inside the headset to different levels. More often than not, I found one level across the board to be just fine, but if need be, you can adjust your center, rear and side speakers to your liking. This is really nice if you want to boost up the center speaker for either in-game dialog or communication with your partners in crime over in-game or 3rd party voice chat software.
The “remote” also includes a master volume control and mute buttons for both your headset and your mic. The master volume control is nice, and easy to use. If there was one downside to the entire volume control unit, it’s that the mute button is, at times, difficult to press. You really have to press in hard to get it to activate, so it takes a bit more thought than just flipping a switch or hitting a button quickly.
The headset itself is probably the most comfortable headset I’ve used to date. It has a padded band across your head, which alleviates much of the weight on your head from the rather hefty ear pieces. While it does offset that weight, at times it did feel a bit heavy, but never uncomfortable. The band is also adjustable so no matter how big your noggin is, the headset is likely to fit comfortable for many hours of gameplay.
The ear cups themselves, as mentioned, are pretty hefty. They don’t just sit on your ears, but they encompass them, like any good gaming headset should. They also allow your ears to breathe. Hours of gaming with a headset tends to make your ears and, by extension, your entire head, heat up. Not with the Kave 5.1. I was very comfortable the entire time, regardless of how long I had been wearing the headset. The ear cups also fold in toward the band and the microphone itself is detachable, for easy (and safe) transport and storage.
Speaking of the microphone, while it is nothing but a standard mic boom, when it’s muted there is an easy-to-see, bright blue LED that comes on, which is really nice for those of us (myself included) who sometimes forget that the mic is muted. It’s hard to miss when it’s on, and it reminds you right away why your friends can’t hear you on the other end of the line.
Aside from the useful “remote” and how comfortable the headset feels, it sounds great. That should be what’s most important, right? This is the first time I’ve been able to actually make use of surround sound audio on my PC, because previous headsets have required an optical output for those features, and my PC doesn’t have one. The sound was simply amazing and the positional audio blew me away with how great it was. Clear, crisp audio pounded my ears (which were, again, comfortably snug inside the ear cups) and brought a smile to my face. I found myself immediately reacting in-game (playing Mass Effect 3 through most of the testing) to sounds that were heard in all directions. It was a much more visceral feeling than just playing with a stereo headset.
If you’re looking for, not an audiofile headset but, instead, a true gaming headset, you would be hard-pressed to beat this Roccat Kave 5.1. Not only does it feel great on your head, but it sounds amazing. It will improve the audio experience of just about anything you’re doing on your PC, however its true power lies in gaming and making every last sound raise the hairs on the back of your neck. If your PC has a sound card that can handle it (5.1 or 7.1 compatible), this is certainly the way to experience high-definition, surround sound audio from the games you’re playing, making their worlds come alive even more.