Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Sennheiser PC163D G4ME headset
Sennheiser PC 163D G4ME review: This headset from Sennheiser has a USB dongle that delivers virtual 7.1 Dolby surround sound
- Comfortable, good sound quality, Dolby Headphone USB dongle adds a nice soundstage to gaming audio
- Open design leaks a fair amount of sound, the surround effect is poor for music
Sennheiser's PC163D G4ME headset is not for music listeners -- the surround sound effect of the Dolby Headphone USB dongle altered our music in a way we didn't like, and with the setting turned off we still found the audio a little dull. For gaming, though, it's an excellent choice -- it's a relatively lightweight headset that responds well to the booming bass and loud sound effects of PC gaming audio, and the microphone is of decent quality.
Price$ 259.95 (AUD)
Sennheiser's PC 163D G4ME headset is a solid product for a gamer looking to embrace 3D positional audio — the bundled Dolby Headphone USB dongle simulates 7.1-surround sound. We preferred playing fast-paced PC games with the software boost enabled, but it did strange things to our test music. The headphones are comfortable, have good audio quality overall and are comfortable, although they leak sound at high volumes.
Sennheiser PC 163D G4ME: Design and construction
The Sennheiser PC 163D G4ME headset is an on-the-ear design, with the ear-cups resting against your ear rather than your head. This means it's smaller and lighter than a headset like the Sennheiser PC 360 G4ME, but it's also marginally less comfortable. The headset is sturdily built, but our one concern is with the small range of movement offered by the headset's earpieces — they don't swivel and only have a small range of motion away from the headband. The band itself is flexible and easily adjustable for larger or smaller heads.
Sennheiser PC 163D G4ME: Sound quality
Like the Sennheiser PC 161 headphones that have been our long-time beater PC headset around the office, the Sennheiser PC 163D G4ME has good sound quality that's well suited to the punchy audio of PC games and blockbuster movies. It's not as clear or as deeply bassy as the Sennheiser PC 360 G4ME headset we tested at the same time, but it's also half the price. We'd say that bass is overall the strongest aspect of these headphones — explosions are well represented — but this has the effect of drowning out a little of the clarity of mid-range and treble.
Because of the on-the-ear design the Sennheiser PC 163D headset has an open ear-cup and leaks audio. It won't be a problem at moderate listening volumes, but if you're blasting out some PC games at full volume your boss or co-workers might not be impressed.
The swing-down boom microphone of the Sennheiser PC 163D is good — our test recordings were entirely audible and no clipping occurred — but in comparison to the Sennheiser PC 360D it's slightly muffled, with less overall clarity. It'll do a perfectly acceptable job for team chat and video calls, but we wouldn't use it to record a podcast.
Sennheiser PC 163D G4ME: Dolby Headphone 7.1 sound
As well as its microphone/headphone jacks, the Sennheiser PC 163D G4ME comes with a USB sound card supporting Dolby Headphone and 7.1 virtual surround sound. The virtual sound setting can be enabled and disabled easily via software — it basically mixes stereo audio to a virtual surround sound mapping, downmixes it to stereo again and outputs it to the headphones. The Dolby Headphone mix adds a small amount of extra separation between audio channels — it's easier to hear what's behind you, what's to your left and to your right. It's an audio processing trick that purists will find tiresome — and it doesn't have a pleasant effect on music — but gamers will appreciate the increased in-game awareness it fosters.
Sennheiser PC 163D G4ME: Conclusion
The Sennheiser PC 163D G4ME headset is a competent headset for gamers, and the inclusion of the Dolby Headphone-enabled USB sound card makes positional audio in games a little more realistic. We wouldn't pick them for music listening, but otherwise the Sennheiser PC 163D G4ME is a decent choice for PC use.
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