Published on October 19th, 2011 | by Greg0
Sound Off: Mad Catz, Xbox 360, Gears of War 3
The holidays have begun, for gamers at least. Major console and PC titles are coming out, publishers rushing them into stores to avoid competing for the blockbuster season that is especially full this year. One of the first out of the gate is the Xbox 360 exclusive, Gears of War 3, the crowning game in the trilogy so far, taking the already-slick cover-based gameplay and adding some new eye candy and a solid story. We aren’t reviewing the game, though, but a peripheral that is built to enhance your experience. Featuring Dolby 7.1, this is a headset that can be a game-changer.
The Mad Catz Gears of War 3 Surround Sound Headset is actually made by Tritton, a company acquired in the recent past by Mad Catz, and maker of some our favorite gaming audio gear. It has the look and feel of the previous Call of Duty custom models from Tritton we reviewed last holiday season, which hadn’t changed too much from one of our most-loved headsets, the AX Pro. Some of the changes are positive, some a bit unfortunate, but the bottom line is that this is an quite good headset with only a few things to quibble about. You’ll love or hate the style, depending on how you feel about GOW3, but the backlit logos were a nice touch- even if the sheer quantity of branding was a bit overwhelming. And while we missed the multi-platform support from some of the other headsets and weren’t sure how to feel about the left-side only detachable microphone, we were impressed by the comfort and sound of this set. Certainly, you can use this model with PC or PS3, but at least on the PS3, it’d be as headphones only.
Setup is fairly easy, and it’s a wired model so no batteries are required. On the flip side, the nice braided cabling is a bit heavy, and can exert some downward force on the headset while it’s being used. The headset itself is surprisingly light, and we weren’t sure how to feel at first about the ‘Digital Audio Control Box’, which was a little wobbly when upright but can easily be set horizontally. Full Dolby Digital and Pro Logic IIX support is hard to find fault with- sounds are distinct, ambient noise is nicely blocked out, bass is heavy and puts you in the game. We didn’t love these for movies or television- they felt a little off-balance with dialogue being too bright, but that may be because we’ve been trying out so many expensive amplifiers and other audiophile gear recently. It’s not clear the 7.1 provides any obvious benefits over 5.1, frankly, but we could definitely appreciate the soundstage and accuracy- shots and noises were highly directional, allowing us to quickly identify the source of any suspicious sounds.
The inline remote control is handy, if placed a bit oddly, and offers volume control, muting, as well as an odd feature called Selectable Voice Monitoring. This allows you to independently control voice chat and in-game volume, and we didn’t try it out much since we rarely had trouble with volume levels. Folks on the other end of our gaming sessions reported fair-to-good quality from the microphone, a bit of flatness and occasional pops. If you’re still using the default Microsoft headset, we’re disappointed in you. There are so many better options out there, and these are nicely padded plus sound great. The cups felt a bit small at times, but everything was pretty adjustable, and the spare earpad was a smart inclusion. At $190, these aren’t cheap- but are the perfect gift for anyone who loves Gears of War.