Rating: ★★★☆☆

Pros:

  • Mid- and high-range sounds are spot on accurate
  • DJ tilt feature is smart and useful

Cons:

  • Headband and cans sit too tightly on the ear, no adjustment option
  • Lows and bass is very muffled and weak
  • General feel of the headset is below average
  • Expensive for a PC stereo gaming headset

Sennheiser isn’t a name typically associated with gaming equipment. As a top-notch audio equipment manufacturer, they’re likes aren’t what one would expect for a group of mangy, 5-O’clock shadow types sitting in front of a big screen. Yet not long ago the company announced four new headsets, and today we’re taking a look at one, the Sennheiser PC 330 G4ME headset.

The PC 330 is an on-the-ear headset with a giant boom microphone. It connects via 9’ long 3.5mm jacks (stereo and microphone) on a standard rubber cable. Synthetic leather – much softer and more malleable than real leather, but definitely not as comfortable – coats the inside of the cans and headband. The boom microphone extends a dashing 6” on a pivot and is slightly adjustable in two directions. The microphone sits on the left ear while on the right is a round volume rocker. The right headphone can be partially rotated about 45°, allowing the headband to be worn either behind or in-front of the head. A carrying case is included with the PC 330.

As a Sennheiser headset, I came in with high expectations. This is, in some respects, wrong, but the company caters to professionals in the audio business, and has done so for decades. Even if they offer an inexpensive sound and communication device for gamers (though how expensive anything is for gamers varies wildly), their product line speaks for itself, the the quality should carry over.

Design

The PC 330 looks cool, using a rubberized-black on silver that has great contrast when it comes to the reflective surfaces, such as the chrome “PC 330 G4ME” finishes on both sides of the headband, as well as the Sennheiser “S” logo on both hinges. The synthetic leather is heavily wrinkled, which doesn’t do the headset’s look any favors but is functional in its own right. The boom microphone is grotesquely large, so much that it sticks out above the headband.

Overall, the visual appeal of the PC 330 is good. I was happy to wear the set in public, though the huge microphone did raise some questions and eyebrows. Who was I calling, Mars, one person asked incredulously.

When it comes to functionality, there’s a few lacking areas in the PC 330’s design. The volume control is a notable addition, one I always recommend for gaming, especially for mobile gamers who can’t be bothered with changing the volume on their computers or devices. However, the rotating wheel isn’t easy to use, and volume controls on the earpiece itself should be effortless to adjust. It isn’t, for two reasons. First, the only indicator that you’re on the wheel is a concave slab, which users must feel around for to change the volume. Second, the wheel has too much friction and doesn’t flow back and forth easily enough.

The right side’s rotating can is a smart and unique design choice from Sennheiser. It enables the wearer to keep the headphones on just one ear in what they call a DJ mode. This is especially useful when players need to be able to hear the outside world. For instance, I couldn’t shut out the world when the kids were little and asleep – this would have been a great solution for me instead of not playing at all. In the office or perhaps just on a Skype call, this feature is well thought out save for one thing: it’s only available on the right can. Why can’t both cans be adjustable like this, in case one ear gets tired? I see no reason why that shouldn’t be an option.

Performance

I tested performance of the PC 330 in two ways: physical and audio performance. That is, how it felt to wear over a few set periods of time and the audio quality.

The PC 330 has questionable comfort. Anyone who likes on-the-ear headphones will certainly appreciate this set, but the headband is extremely tight and I found it uncomfortable in a matter of minutes. At one point I found a sweet spot where it was comfortable for an hour, but after that it just felt too tight on the ears. My preference is towards over-the-ear headphones, though having tested many on-ear headphones, these were certainly the tightest.

Tilting the right earcan either backwards or forwards didn’t cause any more or less discomfort. TheDJ mode worked just fine.

Audio performance is mixed. High and mid-range sounds performed very well. In several cases, I heard fragments in songs. That is to say, in recording sometimes music technicians miss extraneous noise and it is added to the master recording. They’re almost impossible to hear on low and mid-quality audio equipment. The fact that I heard them on several songs right off the bat is, frankly, quite remarkable.

This level of audio performance, however, isn’t always good. It means that for gaming, you may hear things not actually in the game, fragments sound engineers missed, and that can be distracting. This is the first time I’ve ever penalized videogame audio equipment for something like this. In the games I tested with the PC 330, no games had fragments, but that only proves a handful of AAA titles had excellent sound engineering. That said, if you plan on listening to low bitrate or streaming audio, this won’t be a concern.

Low and bass audio suffers. The sounds are muffled and feel extremely underpowered, almost to the extent that listening to audio with heavy bass is a waste. Lower quality and less expensive headsets easily outperform the PC 330 when it comes to bass.

The microphone is clear and crisp, and sometimes too sensitive, picking up breathing and whispers at times. Users will have to play around with the sensitivity settings on their computers, as well as finding the proper distance from the mouth, that the microphone boom should sit.

Conclusion

Sennheiser did a good job with the PC 330, but for every positive aspect of the headset there is a downside. The overall build is good, but not great. The sound quality could be superb, but for games it’s too accurate and poor bass seriously holds it back. It fits well, but too tightly. The DJ hinge is smart, but it’s only on one side. The microphone is very clear, but it’s too big.  For $129 it’s inexpensive for a non-gaming headset, but gamers will immediately cringe at the “high price”. The PC 330 G4ME is an okay headset. When it comes to excellent gaming, and excellent audio hardware in general, there can’t be any buts about it.

You can buy the Sennheiser PC 330 headset at Amazon for $129.95.



James Pikover

 
Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.