Play Tested: Four Gaming Headsets Page 3

Creative Soundblaster Recon 3D

Because the novelty of slapping "HD" on any product has worn off, we're left at the mercy of marketers putting "3D" on everything from kitchen countertops to bifocal lenses in an effort to make old products seem new. Creative's Sound Blaster Recon 3D is a USB powered surround sound processor that enhances any pair of speakers or headphones for gaming. While it doesn't quite live up to its three-dimensional moniker, it's as convincing as you're going to get with simulated surround technology.

My concert-hardened (some might say deafened) ears are never happy and I always wish a pair of gaming headphones were louder. I used the Astro A40 cans with this setup and I couldn't stand more than a few minutes of a firefight with the volume fully maxed with Scout mode on. What impressed me the most, however, was that -unlike with some other setups I've used - there wasn't any white noise or distortion of any kind the higher the volume went.

My first test of the Soundblaster was Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare's opening mission, "Crew Expendable." I've played through this level dozens of times, but on this run I was actually feeling seasick. The creaks and groans of the seesawing vessel combined with waves crashing over port and stern were almost too much for my stomach to handle.

Opting for calmer, more stable ground, I loaded Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary's second mission, "Halo," next. I ran out of the crashed escape pod and across the first bridge, taking cover behind the ever-so-conveniently placed boulder. It was here I switched from THX TruStudio Pro to Scout mode. I heard the first of two Banshees flying in on my position a few seconds before they ever appeared onscreen. After fighting off the gaggle of grunts and lone elite, I stood in the middle of the bridge, slowly panning the camera around. With Scout Mode turned on, the waterfall behind me was deafening as it moved naturally from ear to ear, channel to channel. My pistol had more of a crack to it with each shot. Moving back to the THX TruStudio Pro mode, the sound grew quieter, more natural and more nuanced.

The best A-B comparison I found was taking a nighttime stroll through the forests of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Scout Mode amplifies otherwise background sound effects, bringing them to the front of the soundstage. In the case of Skyrim, the drone of insects, rustling leaves and whatever else inhabits the primeval landscapes of Tamriel hurt my ears with how buzzy they were. Going back to TruStudio, everything was natural and normal - right down to the giants chasing me down for attacking their wooly mammoths. For shooters, Scout is the only way to fly, but everything else? Going au naturel never hurt anyone.


* Easy PC setup and interface* The setup is very, very wired.
* Brings new life and functionality to any set of speakers or headphones* Scout mode is unnaturral sounding.
* Scout mode is very effective.