Author: Carl Poirier
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Tuesday, July 19th, 2011
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/cm_storm_sirus/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
It's funny how many hardware companies previously without any prior presence in to the audio market have suddenly taken the plunge into it recently. Names like Corsair and Thermaltake come to mind since Neoseeker has reviewed some of their HS1 and the eSports Shock headsets, respectively.
As the review title plainly suggests, Cooler Master also joins the party today with its first audio product that will part of the CM Storm product lineup, specifically aimed at gamers. Its approach will be quite different, as the CM Storm Sirius product is actually a 5.1 surround sound headset instead of a stereo one. Neither Thermaltake nor Corsair have comparable products. Not even ASUS, which has been in the PC audio domain for a good while, has a comparable product. Until now, one had to turn to Razer or Psyko if they were curious about getting 5.1 surround in headsets for PC.
Compared to the Psyko's product, the Sirus is more standard in design, with all the speakers placed in the earcup, so it's going to be interesting to see how it fares against the best (and more established) when it comes to spatial sound representation.
Front, rear, center: 30mm
Front, rear, center: 32Ω
Sub: 16 Ω
|Transducer Principle||Dynamic Closed|
|Ear Cushions||Detachable Micro-fiber|
|Frequency Response||10Hz - 20kHz|
|Distortion||Less than 1%|
|Frequency Response||100Hz - 10kHz|
|Sensitivity||-46dB ± 3dB|
The package contains the headset itself, an extra pair of ear cushions, a bunch of wires and a small module with a big volume knob. One can spot analog jacks, USB ports and another odd round connector on the addiional connector cable. At first glance, it might be tough to find out how the Sirus actually plugs into your PC audio setup.
In fact, the connector options will prove quite intriguing! The headset has only one wire coming from it, which ends in the round connector you see to the complete left in the following photo. Then, it can either be connected to the wire leading to four analog jacks and a USB port serving only as an extra power source, or the aforementioned module that plugs in digitally via dual USB ports.
The Sirus is made out of black plastic, with the kind of rubbery finish seen on many other peripherals. Each earcup can extend up to 4cm, and turn a small ~5o each side. On the left side of the headset is the microphone, with its middle section being flexible.
All cushions are made of soft fabric. The spare ones which come in the package are leather, however. To change the cushions, one simply has to un-clip the small plastic piece retaining them in place to the headset. The cushion can then be removed and replaced. It's very easy to do, so there is no danger in accidently break them in the process.
Moving on to the volume control, one can adjust the level of each channel separately. The center button right above the "MASTER" label allows toggling between them, while the two other buttons will mute their matching channels.
The module unit is actually very heavy; at the back is a big steel plate, painted in black with a rubber foot. For sure it will not slip and fall off from the desk!
That's how the Sirius looks on someone's head. When plugged in, the Storm logos on the side will actually light up in red.
The CM Storm Sirus will be put to the test with music, movies and gaming. It will be tested using ASUS's Xonar Xense gaming soundcard, and compared against the Sennheiser PC350, the Thermaltake eSports Shock, the Corsair HS1 and the Psyko 5.1 Original.
The CM Storm Sirus works decently for listening to music, but at one condition: all speakers in its 5.1 setup must be put to work. In analog mode, this will mean configuring the soundcard to a 5.1 configuration, but specifying a stereo sound source so that the other channels duplicate the front ones.
So in its best configuration and using the ASUS Xonar Xense soundcard, the Sirius felt on par with the stereo Thermaltake eSports Shock headset. It still was no match for the Seinheiser PC350. Most importantly, in many of our tested audio tracks, the Sirius clearly missed out some very low frequency sounds that were audible with the PC350. What's odd is that according to the specifications, both headsets should have the same low frequency response threshold. Furthermore, the low frequency sounds which were audible with the Sirus were perhaps a bit overpowering.
These two drawbacks together made many sounds come across as much more acute; for example if one spans the 10Hz-20Hz range but the headset actually cuts out at 15Hz and amplifies the ranges above, in the end it's not the same effect at all. This can partly be fixed by playing with the soundcard's equalizer, assuming there is one available to play with. The Sirus demonstrated some distortion with the voice of Alice Russel in Mr. Scruff's Music Takes Me Up, when in fact, the headset specifications promised no more than 10 times as much as the PC350.
When plugged in via USB, it was perhaps unsurprising to see that the sound quality was greatly reduced, below what the eSports Shock offers. In this configuration, it performs at the level of the Corsair HS1, which also uses the USB interface. It's still decent though; most people not in search for the best sound quality possible should still be pleased.
With its 5.1 speaker setup, the Sirus is clearly targeted to those who want a great surround sound experience. Locating nearby noises in games can definitely give an edge to a player, especially in first-person shooter titles, and to this extent the Sirus performed on average. Sounds from the front and back were a bit tough to discern, as were those from the center. With some practice, a minor difference could be heard, but it's just not as natural as with a true 5.1 surround speaker setup, or even the Psyko headset using the patented PsykoWave technology. The Sirius is definitely better than other stereo headsets simulating surround sound, though.
The other important factor for gaming is communication. To that extent, the Sirius microphone performed reasonably well. Voice sounded clear, although the recording volume is a bit low. This sets it a bit above the Psyko, but below the other comparison headsets used. The Sirius handled background noise cancellation nicely, as music emerging from some speakers on the desk at a reasonable volume sounded faint in the microphone recordings.
As in gaming, the Sirius allows for great spacial representation of sounds. It's much more immersive than a stereo setup! The sound quality is pretty much the same as with music, obviously. One thing worth noting is how well the explosions sounded, so in the end the overpowered low frequencies weren't actually that bad.
Comfort and Practicality
Cooler Master was able to pack 8 speakers in a headset that remains light enough to be fairly comfortable. The soft cushions too play a big role in the fact that one does not have to "break in" the Sirus compared to many other headsets, namely the heavy Psyko.
Furthermore, the two sets of ear cushions, with the extra pair being mock leather, will cater to every taste out there. That's not considering how easy it is to wash them or replace them if they break. It would have been great is the head cushion also had a leather replacement to match the optional earcups, but that's purely aesthetic as hair would prevent the user from feeling the texture up there anyways.
Being able to adjust each channel individually In USB mode without the need of software is great, especially when a fullscreen game is running. Speaking of software, here are some screenshots of its driver, accessible via the system tray or the start menu. The first two images show how one can adjust the headphones and microphone volume. Custom user profiles can also be created and selected. The bottommost image shows the GUI preferences which pop up by clicking on the small gear at the top right corner.
The CM Storm Sirus 5.1 headset demonstrated run-of-the-mill sound quality, as it's comparable with the Thermaltake eSports Shock. For gamers, "more" isn't always really needed, and they are the target market segment for the Sirus. To get the best sound quality, it needed to be connected via analog directly. This is well served by the fact that the Sirus can actually be connected directly to analog jacks if a 5.1 soundcard is present, or via two USB ports using the tactical mixing console, as they call the module, that provides the ability to control the channel's volumes independently without the use of software. It does however come at the sacrifice of sound quality.
It's also very impressive that all of these speakers could be packed in a headset that's very comfortable. Most people will not have to get accustomed to having the Sirus on their head.
For the spatial representation of sounds, one will need a little bit of practice to determine their locations, which will not be the case with the Psyko or a true 5.1 speaker setup due to the them yielding more natural sound effects. It's nothing worse compared to surround simulation we've come to expect in stereo headsets though, which are usually very tough to get used to.
At $130, the Sirius is definitely more expensive than other stereo gaming headsets, but it's definitely worth it if one is looking for surround sound capabilities that aren't really too shabby, and versatile connectivity all for a reasonable price.
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