Logitech G35 Headset Review
Ahhh, headset reviews, these are difficult at best because it's sort of like reviewing food. Not everyone likes the same thing. Some people like flat sound, some people like bass heavy, others, like a bit more midrange...it's all a matter of taste. Now, with that said, there is such a thing as ACCURATE sound reproduction, but this too is a difficult thing to quantify, but I'm going to do the best I can in this review of Logitech's new G-35 gaming headset. What makes this $150 headset unique is that it's a USB 7.1 surround sound headphone, which as the package says, is powered by Dolby. It looks like Logitech and Dolby Laboratories worked together on these and incorporated Dolby Headphone. This means you'll get a simulated 7.1 channel surround field from a two channel source...I've heard it before and it was pretty amazing stuff.
First of all, let's take a look at the packaging. As you can see the set delivered to me have obviously been opened before I received them. In the box we'll find the headset themselves, three different headband pads, software disc, and manual. The box is not in 100% perfect condition because the ones shipped to me are early samples.
This product is well packaged and designed for to show off the buttons on the side of the left headset.
Let's have a look inside the package, shall we?
The headset is well protected, and shipping damage shouldn't be a problem.
There's also a driver disc, quick install guide, three different size headbands, and...the headset!
You'll notice on the left side of the headset there are a number of buttons and one rotary knob. These are pre-programmable buttons for for anything the headset is capable of, things like push to talk, voice morphing (more on that later) increase/decrease mic volume, and bass/trebel adjustments. There is also a mute button, and the rotary control is for the headphone volume. I don't know about you, but I've had headsets in the past with volume and mute on the right headphone, and I like it. I always know where the buttons are, I don't have to go searching for that little volume jobby hidden somewhere along the 10' long audio line. All you have to do is smack the side of your head to mute your microphone!!
On the back of the left headphone there's a switch to enable "Dolby Headphone". With this disabled, you're getting 2.0 channel stereo. With it enabled, it's a whole new world, but I'll get into that in the movie/gaming reviews below.
The overall fit and finish of the headset is above average, but not up there with the top line products like Sennheiser, but these aren't $500 either, and for the money, they're exceptionally well built. The USB cord is covered in a nice braided material that give a nice rich feel to the G35s.
The microphone folds up nicely out of the way, and it's very easy to adjust because it's very flexible without feeling flimsy. This is a very well designed microphone, amongst the best I've seen.
Speaking of the top, the headphones come with three different headband pads (for lack of a better description) so you can make them fit almost any size melon. I'llk try out the different versions just to see what the differences are, but this is going to be entirely subjective.
The microphone moves out of the way easily and swings up and out of the way...
So, without further ado, let's get testing.
For testing the microphone I'll be using Ventrilo and Teamspeak. I'll be chatting with a number of different people and ask THEM how well the mic works. I'll also record my voice and play it back to see how good I sound. The other big thing I've found with microphones is sensitivity, but knowing Logitech, this won't be an issue, and all the software I've come across allows input level adjustment if there is an issue of any sort.
For my "Day Job" I do custom home theaters for a living, and I've been lucky enough to work on some truly impressive theaters. I like to think that after designing, installing, and calibrating more than my share of theaters, I know a thing or two about good surround sound.
The laptop is a Sony VAIO VGN-C270CE and the software I'll be using is something I'm sure we're all familiar with; VLC media player. If you're not familiar with it, info can be found here: VideoLAN - Free and Open Source software and video streaming solutions for every OS! . I don't believe that having a higher end PC would make a difference when testing USB headphones. However, just to make sure, I'll also do a couple of comparison tests with my gaming rig.
The G35 headset comes with the "leather" (actually vinyl) ear covers, and I was immediatly struck as to how comfortable they are. Also, because of the full ear cover design, they block out a lot of ambient noise. I can't give an actual reading in decibels of how much sound they cut out, but in a room with televisions and a radio on, they easily cut out 75% of the external noise. Never mind expensive cooling fans, these will do the job for you. If you can still hear your computer running when you have these things on, then you really need to look at the cooling solutions in your PC.
Installation and Logitech G35 configuration software:
The install was a snap, and it automatically went online to get the latest software...
Here's what the control panel looks like:
It's all pretty standard fare, and you can see where you can program the "G" keys for quite a variety of things. I could go into everything that they can do, but that would be an article in itself. Suffice it to say that the options are almost endless.
All movie tests were done with the "Dolby Headphone" engaged.
First up, THX Demo Disc
There are a number of demo tracks on this disc from various movies, and a great selection of THX demo trailers.
I'm sure most of you have heard the Mooo Cow opener, pictured below:
In this THX demo, "Tex" as he's known, has a moo cup, and as he flips it over he's disappointed to find it sounds thin and has no excitement. Then he plugs it in to the THX logo and all is good. Now that's an understatement. The cows were coming from everywhere, yet were well defined, and they sounded believable. This was a truly impressive demo.The bass response was very full, mids and highs were also nice and even. The dynamic range of the G35 headset is fantastic.
Next up, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Biplane Chase scene.
The bass response here was quite good also, but it did not have the dynamics I was expecting. It seemed to be missing some mid range punch. However, after playing with the equalizer in VLC media player I was able to improve the bass response and vocals. The surround effects of the planes flying around, and the weapons being fired was very well reproduced by the G35 headphones.
Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith: Space Battle
The space ships and laser blasts sounded very believable, and the surround effects were impressive, to say the least, but I found the vocals a bit mid range heavy, but this could have been an effect of the original recording. There's a scene where the little droids begin to take apart one of the ships, you can hear that the little buggers are all over the ship stripping parts away from it....quite impressive.
Also on the disc, is the Tom Finch Group's song "Sophia". This track is meant to be played in Dolby Digital surround sound.
The instrument placement is absolutely first rate. Superior to my current Icemat headphones. The maraccas sound perfect, the you can pick out each and every instrument in this quartet. So far this is by far the most impressive test of the bunch. I was blown away by the audio quality in this music track.
For the music tests I disabled "Dolby Headphone" by way of the switch on the back of the headphones.
I decided to use a 320kbps music sample. I chose this because I feel that most people listening to music on their computers would do it through media saved on their PC as opposed to actually putting a CD into their drive. I used iTunes with all settings flat for this test.
I know this music is not to everyone's taste, but for testing audio quality, these are tracks that I know well, and I know what to listen for in them. If the Logitech G35s will reproduce these songs, they'll do justice to anything you listen to.
Cue up Dire Straits "You're Latest Trick". The sax was right there....just off the the right stage. Perfectly placed, and it sounded perfect. The high hat that accompanied it was bright and clear without being overly sharp and sybilant, which is often the case with lesser headphones (and music systems). Mark Knopfler's voice was appropriatly raspy, and spot on dead center of the sound stage.
Next track, Sarah MacLaughlin's "Angel". The piano in this is absolutely perfect, every low note is perfectly reproduced, and her extreme vocal range was well shown off with the G35s. The sense of this song being played in a very large, empty room is astounding. Very subtle in the background you can make out the cello, and it adds an undertone to the music that makes this song what it is.
Finally, Pink Floyd, with "High Hopes" off the Division Bell album. There are three guitars in this song, and every one of them can be heard clearly. This is one of my favorite tracks to show off multi-layed music. There's just so much going on at once, and to get it all right is very difficult. On the G35s, the music sounded great, but not the best I've heard. Unlike the previous two tracks, this just sounded a bit "flat", like something was missing. None the less, keeping in mind the price of the headphones, it was still quite impressive.
So, I guess you could call this a "Sub-Conclusion"....
So far, these headphone perform extremely well for movies and music, as a matter of fact, I'd go as far as to say that for a bedroom system with a home theater PC, the Logitech G35s would do well to replace a 5.1 surround sound system. They played music with aplomb, and movies sound quite good. Actually, funny thing, in my opinion, they play music BETTER than they do movies. However, the true test of this headset is yet to come, because I believe that most of the buyers will be using them for gaming.
So far: 8 out of 10. I took off some points for the movie performance, that, while good, wasn't as good as the music.
Gaming: Ok, this is what you've all been waiting for (probably anyways)...
AND YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE TO WAIT A BIT LONGER!!!
The game testing will come tonight and be posted by morning... Check back then for the gaming review.
Games I'll be testing: Call of Duty 4 and World at War, F.E.A.R. 2, Grid, and Mirror's Edge.
The reason I'll be testing both COD 4 and COD: WaW is that there's some who suggest that World at War has sub-par sound quality, we'll see!!
NEW ADDITION TO THE REVIEW BELOW!!!
So, here are some preliminary game results:
First I fired up COD4...This is the game that I play the most, and this is the game I had highest hopes for...
First off, I tried the game with Dolby Headphone engaged. I played on Bloc. This is a map that has it all, open areas, closed hallways, and burning fires. It can go from a dead silent sniper fest to an all out frag fest in a heartbeat. During the gameplay choppers and an airstrike were called in. I sat quietly back and listened for the chopper's location. And, much to my dismay, the location of the chopper eluded me. Then, I turned off Dolby Headphone, and voila, nothing buy aural bliss. Everything was well located (front, back, left, and right), and it was very easy to tell where everything was coming from. This is very backwards from the results I expected.
That being said, COD4 never sounded better. The gun shots were dynamic, the chopper really did sound like it was right over my head, and I could hear distinct footfalls right over my head (until he came downstairs and I gave him a good old fashion headshot!). Grenade explosions were full and hit with a bang. All in all, this was the best COD4 has ever sounded for me.
Next I fired up a couple laps of Grid. This game sounds great, and you really need to play with a surround sound system so you can tell where the cars are coming from behind you. Here, the Dolby Headphone came through with flying colors. Everything was well defined, I could always tell where the cars were, either behind or in front of me. And although Grid's engine sounds are good, they're not fantastic, but, the G35s made them sound pretty darn good. I turned Dobly Headphone off, and immediately I felt as though something was missing. The feature really worked well for this game.
Tonight I'll give FEAR 2, Ventrilo, and Teamspeak a shot, and see how they work.
Oh, and after an hour or so of playing, the headphones were quite comfortable. I'm going to try the different headband pieces and see if they improve the overall fit (not that I'm complaining, just curious). I also found the volume control on the left earpiece perfeclty placed, and the microphone folds completely out of sight, which is a problem I've had in the past.
Can you compare prosessor useage with the headphones in use versus the audio output coming from your sound card?
I'll let you know what CPU/RAM usage is like going from mini jack headphones to the Logitech USB headset....
nice review man, I'm so gonna get this.. eventually :D
So they are not really 7.1 headphones, but stereo headphones emulating 7.1?
What sound source drives them? Onboard or sound card if you have one?
My sound card (Xonar DX) has that Dolby Headphone emulation as well, which I use with my Senny's. Sounds awesome.
No, they're not TRUE 7.1 surround sound. The software from Logitech drives them and emmulates the 7.1 surround. I've had a pair of actual 5.1 channel surround sound headphones, and they sounded aweful. These are a much more elegant solution to headphones and surround sound. And the end result should be very similar to your Sennheisers. I have a pair of Sennheisers at home, and I can tell you without and question, these sound better (they're not very big Senn's, but they were almost double the price of the G35s.
I of all people appreciate the fact that I now have the (temporary) use of this headset. My GF works strange hours as a nurse, and I like to game with my headset on when she's sleeping, and these will certainly improve the experience!!!
Now, for the question of what software actually drives the headset, the simple and short answer is...I don't know. I have an Asus motherboard and I use onboard sound, so when I plug the USB headset in, what software drives them? Is it Vista, the Asus audio driver, or the logitech software? If anyone can shed some light on this I would appreciate it!
How does the software interact with the other logitech software for say a G5 mouse? it would be nice to not have to run 3 sets of sofware for keyboard mouse and headset.
The software (according to task manager) uses 13mb of RAM, and in today's world of cheap ram, that's really nothing...substantially less than Firefox for example....
Hmm thats not bad, I just hate having so many apps running in the back ground just for peripherals.
Ooh, neat! Been hoping someone here would review these.
Very nice review so far, but there is one, small problem...
Get to the games! The games!!
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