Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Time to get lucid! (Testing the LucidSound LS20 Gaming headset)


I have three of the four things it can plug into. This is a good thing.

There's nothing like reading the fine print a couple of hours before an event starts and realising you're one part of equipment short. In today's case it was a free online 3d moddeling course my wife had organised for my son as part of keeping him entertained these school holidays.

'Do we have a microphone that can plug into the laptop?'

Er, no. We don't even have a microphone that could plug into anything else either. Thankfully the closest JB Hi Fi was only ten minutes away and Jackson's course wasn't kicking off for another couple of hours. On the way I had the genius move of trying a gaming headset - he could use it for this, I could use it for potential recording for Youtube work (and playing games loud at night and not waking the neighbourhood.)

So we ventured into the car yard like selection of gaming headsets at JB and got lost incredibly quickly..

WHAT DO I KNOW OF GAMING HEADSETS?

Precious little actually aside from looking at great rows of them in various computer stores and wondering how people would justify spending $450 on them (but then I remembered that the industry standard for studio headphones seems to be $350-$400 Sennheisers or AKG's so I can see why there's a market for upper levels). Like my first gaming keyboard l purchased last year, this will be a learning expereince.

WHERE TO START EXACTLY?

Originally I was set to buy a basic and cheap unit that would do the trick in this case but little else. Something like the Logitech H151 or the Logitech H110 fit the bill. Completely unexciting and looking like they were right out of the local call centre I figured they were all we were going to need. But then with a bit of thought I decided I wanted something a few steps up in performance (and with that performance would come the price obviously) and possibly more comfortable.

Limiting my price point to sub $100 AUD I figured I could still get something interesting, comfortable and a potentially a little more ruggered than the light looking Logitech units. There were three that jumped out at $99 a piece (down from $179-$169 originally).

AUDIO-TECHNICA ATH-PDG1 (Amazon link) - I have heard of Audio-Technica before but my experience with them is very limited. While it looked very much like studio headphones that I use on a day to day basis a quick googling failed to light my interest on fire. Nothing really bad about them but nothing that screamed 'Oh god, what a bargain, grab them noooooooooowwwwww!'
I do like the red though. Tempting.



AUDIO-TECHNICA ATH-PG1 (Amazon link) - What's the difference between these two aside from this looking a touch more subtle? (Well one is open air but that doesn't mean much to me) Nothing that's really obvious to me staring at the box.



LUCIDSOUND LS20 (Amazon link) - I have never heard of this brand whatsover. I did read up on a couple of quick reviews that suggested they were a big snug for people with glasses (I don't wear any) but good quality none the less once you get used to the fit. Oh and they required charging for the bass boost but the USB charge cord came with it. At $99 AUD it was worth a shot so we picked this one.
(Also I've just noticed that these are heavily discounted on Amazon compared to the Audio-Technicas. Bargain time for Amazon shoppers?)

THE UNBOXING


Nothing too exciting going on here - some vague instructions assuming you know what you're doing (ha ha this is me, who are they kidding?) and the barest of necessasry short cords needed. No splitter cord sadly (you'll read why this is important later on...)

These cans have a really solid feel to them. They're not heavy, they just feel sturdy. That's a point in my book already.




So let's get them up and running and see what happens..

TECHNICALLY DIFFICULTIES

I knew it wouldn't be as simple as plug and play (it never really is for anything I end up buying) but with less than an hour to go before Jack's course started I was starting to pull out my non existant hair trying to get it to work with the desktop.
Every time I plugged it in, the computer would ask me what it was (did you put a line in? It's it headphones? Is this a mic? Gah! Which one do I pick?). 5 audio plug holes later and still no dice.
The only way I could get sound through it was by plugging it into my Logitech speakers but the mic didn't seem to do anything at all.
This was not going well.
After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I read through an official LucidSound site that if your pc has a seperate green and pink jack, a splitter is what you need. Guess what doesn't come with the box?
(You can also get around this with a 4 pole 3.5 stereo jack which my pc also doesn't have..) 
Gah! You'd think they might have made this obvious on the box somewhere but no. Optional accesory sold seperately..

In the end with 12 minutes to go, my wife reminded me that we also have a slightly older laptop that may do the trick. Guess what it has on board? A 4 pole 3.5 Jack. Glorious, no splitter required. After pressing a fewbuttons, fine tuning things with a Facetime call to my own phone then not wanting to hurl the laptop through the window my wife took over and setup the conference program so Jackson could learn away.
We got there with two mins to spare. 

'Who is this voice I'm hearing?' he whispered as the class began.
'Probably your teacher for today mate...'

So it worked in the end - Jackson could be heard and he could heard in turn. A pretty decent sound barrier too with these outer ear cans as he completely missed me saying goodbye and rushing off to work.

Of course with my limited time I didn't get much of a chance to test out it's full capabilities but that will come later tonight when it's fully charged again, the kids are in bed and I'll fire up the Xbox One and (potentially) hear everything I've been missing so far.


Later that night: The Xbox one test 



 Again after following the instructions, nothing happened. Plugged everything in, switched it to Xbox one mode (purple light) - the system recognized that it was a headset...but the sound sure didn't and didn't flow through the cans.
Right.
So resorted to some online help which suggested the old IT crowd favorite: Have you tried turning it off and on again?

Which didn't work either.

 However after disconnecting everything and then re plugging it all back in with the Xbox and the controller on, a chorus of angels blasted their holy trumpets. Well the sound from Dragon Age: Inquisition did. And INSERT CHOICE EXPLETIVE HERE did things sound incredible.
Lightning forks exploded, water sloshed, ground crunched under my feet. My hand built two handed war hammer sounded like an assault cannon with every swing. The crossbow on the other dwarf stretched and twanged like a finely tuned guitar. There was the sound of heavy breathing (actually I realized that was me leaving the boom mic on).
Suddenly all of these sounds I had missed out on hearing with the sound coming through the TV at normal levels became more than apparent. Every wind whistle, dog bark and dying solider. All the atmosphere, chatter and activity in the village background. Crystal clear too - it was beautiful cascading waterfall of sound.
 That was just that game. I can't wait to load up Fallout 4 and hear the ear splitting crack of the .50 cal rifle through these things. Or the revs of the 1JZ-GTE in my Sc300 in Forza. I have Mass Effect Andromeda around here somewhere, I bet it's going to sound superb. Oh god, where do I start?

 However there is one niggling thing that I picked up about half an hour in which only got worse over time and that was the comfort. Or the dwindling of it. These things do get uncomfortable after a time with the sound pouring through them and at the early stages more than an hour will be a challenge. This might not be the case with more use obviously but you do need to come up for air occasionally and take a few minutes break with them.

WHAT I LIKE

The price (At $50 AUD these would be a steal)
Solid feel
Can use for different systems
The volume wheel (not buttons, an turning wheel like you'd find on big sound systems. Love it)
My son loves it and now uses it all the time.

WHAT I DON'T LIKE

The instructions are lacking (a simple 'with the light off this unit will still work' would be a great start). 
The cord is a bit short
Having to charge (but at least you're not having to replace batteries.)
The lack of splitters (or an explaination on the box)
The plugs in are a bit tight (but will obviously loosen over time) 
The comfort after a time

OVERALL

Solid feeling with amazing sound (when you play something with amazing sound incorporated) but a little confusing for someone buying their first pair. Comfort could be improved but for a bargain out of the box unit at it's current price, it's a lot of fun and opens up a world of sound your games have been missing. 

3.75 out of 5 games with Stereo Surround Sound. 

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