It’s been some time now since we interviewed James Hildebrandt, founder and CEO of Psyko Audios Labs, who announced his revolutionary creation in terms of 5.1 gaming headsets. It’s worthy checking out what he had to say back then. But now, it’s that time when the coach finishes to deliver his motivational speech and the team faces the field to show if it has what it takes or not. As usual, we’ll beging by describing the physical characteristics of the product and then proceed to evaluating its performance.
The device is really big. What would be a typical headband is, in fact, the brains of the headset, the place where the air ducts – the “waveguides” – are located. The tubes distribute the sound through the air to the ear cups just like they were some kind of tubular speakers. The inside of the headband is covered by cushioned indentations to better distribute the weight. Yes, the Psyko is heavier than the typical headsets, but its bulky appearance leads to believing that it is actually heavier than it looks. The airducts, being hollow, don’t weight as much.
The cushioned earphones are cloth-wrapped and feature a subwoofer and two small speakers on each side. It really looks like a miniature home theater around the user’s ear. The earcup can be opened to relieve the heat. The Psyko comes with a detachable microphone to be plugged in the right earphone.
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Aside from the headset itself, the Psyko system comes with an amplifier with 5.1 jacks. The cable coming from the headset must be connected to the same-colored plugs in the unit. The amplifier has a power cord and a sound cable to be connected to the PC, following the same color system. All audio connections are standard 3.5 mm plugs. Just follow the color code of your 5.1 sound card, no problem.
If the user doesn’t have a 5.1 sound card, there’s some jury-rigging to be done. Use the three rear audio connections and one of the two in the front. All are configurable through Windows. However, as the cable that comes from the amplifier isn’t split, you have to use an extension cord for one of the jacks to reach a front connection. Once this is done, run Realtek audio manager and configure the connections as you see fit. It’s not the most aesthetic pleasing solution, but it works.
The amplifier front features a volume control to the right (that also doubles as an on/off switch), a bass and surround level control and a led display for the active sound channels.
With everything jacked in and the Windows audio manager recognizing the Psyko, it’s high time for playing and putting the headset to test.
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The product slogan is “the dawn of audio as a weapon.” It seems like something out of the Dune movie version, where a sonic weapon is used by the rebels leaving on the desert planet Arrakis (weapon that only exists in the movie, not the book). Geek references aside, the ideia behind the Psyko is that the immersion and sound ambiance be helpful factors in improving gaming performance. FPS players know that sometimes survival depends on knowing where an enemy is coming from or where combat is happening. And of course, thundering bass and well-played sound effects give the sensation of being in the middle of combat, upping the adrenalin level and the enjoyment of the game.
Before playing, we tested the 5.1 sound configuration and the technical performance of the headset. We used some tracks available online to that end, as the ones offered for free by the site Lynne Music and Stealth Settings. The first one features a file in which a voice identifies, one by one, the channel that’s playing. The other site has tracks with THX sound test, some soundbites from several movies and games and some others that realy drives the subwoofer to the max. The test was impressive, specially the sound from the rear channels. It really came up from behind the ear, surrounding the earphone. You don’t have to have a musical ear to notice the subtleties, but those with a keener hearing will enjoy the ambiance.
To enjoy the full potential of the Psyko, we run the game that we think has the best sound environment on the shelves right now: Battlefield Bad Company 2. The game is already impressive in a regular 2.0 headset, but once the Psyko got into the scene we had to recalibrate the game volume and the amplifier output to prevent being overwhelmed by the sound itself. Witt everything set, the immersion was movie-like. One of the most impressive moments was when we were trying to escape an enemy chopper. Once we reached cover inside a bunker, it was possible to know the direction in which the helicopter was flying over by the surround sound blaring into our ears without relying on the minimap. We escaped through the other side and reached the artillery
alive. It’s a feeling that only a gamer knows how to appreciate, specially when your gear adds to the illusion of realism.
The headset weight is an issue to be considered: although it’s lighter than you could imagine, the Psyko is still heavier and bulkier than the competition, so in the long run the user tires more than usual. The solutions to make it comfortable are efficient, but still it’s up to the level of tolerance of each user. We only want to point out that it’s not as heavy as the design makes it look. The ideal scenario would be to physically sample it and see what it feels like for you.
The Psyko gave the feeling of surround as if we were in the external environment of a home theater, fulfilling the promise of its creator James Hildebrandt, who said the experience would occur naturally, without feeling as a simulation of surround.
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The main specifications for the Psyko Audio Labs Psyko 5.1 PC Gaming Headset include:
- Headset impedance: 32 Ω front, rear & center channels; 90 – 120 Ω subwoofer (per ear cup)
- Output SPL: 103 dB A weighted minimum at 1 kHz, 2 channels active, below distortion limit
- Amplifier input impedance: 1 KΩ nominal, 950 Ω minimum
- Amplifier output impedance: < 1 Ω Output
- Power Level: 125 mW per channel minimum, all channels active, 1 kHz; 425 mW minimum any single active channel, 1 kHz (measured below distortion limit into 32 Ω impedance levels)
- Input signal limit: +/- 3 Volts (6 Vpp)
- Connections: 3.5 mm jacks
- Weight: 1.2 lbs (544 g)
- More information: https://www.psykoaudio.com
- Average price in the US*: USD 199,99
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.
Below you can see a summary of our impressions about the Psyko Audio Labs Psyko 5.1 PC Gaming Headset.
- Comfortable headrest
- Easy to install
- Natural and perfect 5.1 surround sound, home theater-like
- Futuristic design goes well with the revolutionary project and lesses the bulkness
- Size makes it unfit to carry around
- A little heavy
- Still pricey even for the results