When Psyko Audio Labs came onto the scene during the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show, they touted new technology that made a lot of people drool with anticipation. True 5.1 sound in a gaming headset? Every other headset for gamers used virtual 5.1 (and later 7.1), where there was still only one (or at max two) speaker driver in each ear cup. A headset promising five actual speakers, plus two bass drivers seemed like a pipe dream. Two years later now, and while there are a few other headsets that use five speakers (the Vibras for one), they’re generally uncomfortable, and the drivers are too small to deliver good, solid sound. So it’s a great relief that Psyko has been able to release their Carbon and Krypton line to show the others how it’s done.
It’s pretty crazy how these things work – Psyko Audio Labs uses what they call “PsykoWave Technology”, to describe how their headsets work. In short, there are five speakers in the bridge (the top) of the headset, and there are channels (called Wave guides) that directs the sound to both the front and back of each ear – much like you would hear from a normal surround system. They’ve measured the sound wave output to place each of the speakers at an optimal location, so that you feel like you’re sitting in the “sweet spot” of a really nice home theater system.
Now you may think that with the added weight of five speakers on your head, that this headset might be pretty awkward and uncomfortable to wear, however that’s not completely the case. Yes, after about a ninety minute gaming marathon my neck was a bit sure from the added weight, but the top of my head felt fine. In fact, I had completely forgotten I had them on while playing, and only realized the weight when I took a break. The cushioning they use is extremely comfortable, and put in just the right locations to relieve pressure. Something else that’s pretty nice is the fact that both ear cups have a clear plastic piece that you can tilt inward, allowing both ventilation (for the heavy sweaters), and the ability to hear someone talking to you without having to adjust the volume. The Psyko headsets also come with their own little amplifier so that you don’t have to mess with the volume settings on your computer once you get everything set up.
Unfortunately, with all the positives has to come some negatives. For one, I couldn’t get past the feeling that I was listening to sound through plastic. I had a friend play a few rounds with them on as well (without telling him anything about the headset), and he said the same thing as well. There’s almost a hollow property to the sounds you hear with a Psyko headset on – it’s not overbearing, but it’s there. Another negative is that for now, these are PC only – yes, you can get a surround sound decoder after the fact, but it’s a crap shoot on weather or not you get one that works well with it, and a decent decoder costs around $70. Also, if you want to use the Psyko headsets on older games, you have to do a fair amount of registry tweaks based on Creative Labs Alchemy. The last real issue, is the high price point for these things. The Psyko Krypton (the “budget” model – it used to be referred to as the Psyko 5.1) will run you $149.99, and the Psyko Carbon (Elite model with better speakers, rubberized finish on the amp, braided cables, and gold plated tips) will run you $199.99.
In relation to other headsets at the same price points, there isn’t much competition. Listening to true 5.1 audio is a much more gratifying experience than listening to virtual 5.1 (or 7.1), hollow sound be damned. If you have the money, I would just skip over the Krypton – the upgraded speakers on the Carbon more than justify it’s cost increase, and with the rubberized design on the amp, there’s little chance of it slipping off of a desk. If you don’t have a surround-capable sound card however, these things will be pretty useless to you unless you upgrade that first (no, one that uses an optical cable won’t work – you need to have actual 3.5mm surround jacks)
Overall, I give the Psyko Carbon 5.1 heasdet by Psyko Audio Labs a 4 out of 5 stars – unless you’re a hardcore PC gamer these will be much more of a luxury item.
You can buy the Psyko Carbon 5.1 headset straight from the Psyko Audio Labs website for $199.99