After putting out a line of gaming-grade mice, CM Storm – Cooler Master’s special label – now enters the realm of the headsets for gamers with the Sirus. The company is just missing a keyboard to complete the holy trinity of gaming peripherals. The Sirus is a big headset, the kind of model that covers the entire ear, and can be plugged into a PC either by analog connections (3.5 mm minijacks) or by two USB plugs. The appearance is robust, yet it’s quite comfortable. Let’s describe the Sirus first and then proceed to testing the performance.
The package contains the Sirus headset in itself, a disc-shaped volume and control unit called “Tactical Mixing Console” and two sets of connections – cables with 3.5 mm minijacks or two USB plugs. The headset is made of hard plastic with rubbery inlays. It comes with a flexible microphone that can be rotated and a cloth padding inside the headband. The soft fabric cushions cover the ears completely and can be replaced by a pair of faux leather cushions included in the package. Unfortunately, the earcups don’t rotate in their axis so that the Sirus could be easily stored or carried in a backpack.
[nextpage title=”The Control Module”]
The console is the eye catcher of the whole bunch; it’s a very heavy disc with a rubber base that only an earthquake will move on the table. It features a dial to control the volume of the five channels (front, rear, center, bass and master) that resembles a CD mixer for DJs. A selection button navigates through the channels, and two others mute the microphone or the headphones independently. The console requires two USB ports to be connected. If the user chooses the analog connection, he/she forgoes the console, but still needs to have a spare USB port to light up the CM Storm logo.
[nextpage title=”Installing the Sirus”]
The way the Sirus is connected to the PC is up to the user. It can be plugged into the 5.1 audio connections of a PC, or it can perform as a USB audio device. The Windows audio device manager instantly recognizes the Sirus once it’s hooked up. It comes with a software that is, unfortunately, very primitive; it features only volume controls for sound and voice and a pre-mix selection for games and music. Without installing the application or even a driver, we were able to make calls with MSN Messenger. Skype, however, said it recognized the Sirus and even performed test calls with success, but once we tried a conference call to our gaming buddies, the microphone kept mute. So we really had to install the Sirus applications and driver to solve the problem – Skype was to blame (it is a rather quirky software), but it made it clear that it’s better to install both driver and application to make the headset be recognized by all audio programs.
Due to the application being unfriendly, we missed the fact that there is indeed a more advanced menu: you just have to click on the microphone and speakers icons to open up an equalizer, a bass booster and even environment effects. Unfortunately, this feature was so well hidden that took an email from Cooler Master for us to notice it.
[nextpage title=”Using the Sirus”]
When we face a 5.1 headset, we always get test tracks to that end. In this case, we used the ones available online for free in the site Lynne Music and Stealth Settings. With these tracks and the “Tactical Mixing Console,” it’s possible to calibrate the volume of each channel individually to our liking. This module is the great strength of the whole package because it allows the user to control the sound like a DJ during gameplay, without having to run an application. During sessions of Battlefield Bad Company 2 – a game we feel has the best all around sound experience in the market – we managed to lower the level of bass of the explosions (which are plenty) without taking our eyes off the monitor or using Alt+Tab to another application. By the way, we felt the headset lacked in the bass department. If the CM Storm application came with a better mixer, that might have been solved.
We also noticed some difference between connecting the Sirus through the analog plugs and the USB ports. The latter gives a somewhat flatter sound without much nuance, while the 3.5 mm minijacks performed better. It takes some gaming sessions to get the whole 5.1 surround in the confinement of an earcup (which, obviously, is not the same space as a 5.1 home theater room) and to get some sort of tactical advantage of knowing if there’s an enemy behind or a tank coming over the left flank. In game, we stayed under allied helicopters hovering to get the surround sound experience of their maneuvers.
The Sirus disappointed us with the microphone performance. You have to really bend it towards your mouth and tweak the mic volume high up (both in game and Windows audio manager) to avoid complaints such as “your voice is too low” or “I can’t hear you” as we got from our gaming buddies during the first tests. On the other hand, the microphone didn’t catch some distant background noises on the street that s
ometimes bother our fellow gamers – something that happens in products with more accurate microphones. However CM Stom contacted us to say that the review sample used an old microphone that has been replaced in the second batch (retail). According to them, the microphone is a new unidirectional model that got tweaked a bit. So, the previous opinion is based on the review model we tested.
Comfort is a main issue for those about to spend hours playing with a headset, and the Sirus just has a sturdiness that is deceiving – the product is quite comfortable despite not being that light on the head. The acoustic isolation of the earcups (especially the cloth ones) left a few unanswered phone calls right by our side.
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]The CM Storm Sirus headset main specifications are:
- 5.1 surround headset
- Connections: USB (2) or 3.5 mm + 1 USB
- Front/rear/center driver: 30 mm
- Subwoofer driver: 40 mm
- Front/rear/center impedance: 32 Ω
- Subwoofer impedance: 16 Ω
- Sensitivity: > 105 dB
- Frequency Response: 10 Hz – 20 kHz
- Distortion: less than 1%
- Unidirecional microphone
- Microphone impedance: 2.2 Ω
- Microphone frequency Response: 100 Hz – 10 kHz
- Microphone sensitivity: -46dB +/-3 dB
- More information: https://www.cmstorm.com
- MSRP in the US: USD 129.00
Below you can see a summary of our impressions about the CM Storm Sirus headset:
- True 5.1 surround sound, not just a simulation
- Great acoustic isolation
- Two choices of earcups
- Comfortable headband
- Module for independent channel volume control
- Two choices of connectability
- Robust design, yet not heavy
- Bass lacked punch
- Sound was less nuanced when plugged into the USB ports
- Earcups don’t rotate to facilitate storage/transportation
- Microphone of the review sample needed tweaking to better capture the voice