Review: Sennheiser 161 Headset

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Another first for The Irish Gamers – we’ve started talking about hardware. Being PC gamers, we perhaps have a bit more interest in this stuff than your average console junky, but having good quality peripherals regardless of platform should be a priority for gamers. Here’s new contributor Oli “Cloak Raider” Stiel to talk about some hardware close to his heart. Or at least his head.

There are two extremes in the headset market. There are the cheap high street variants that are usually about €14 (£10), have bad wires that break if so much as a fly lands on it and a microphone that makes you sound like you are in a submarine full of rustling paper. This is clearly no good for most gamers, as people have an eye for quality when it comes to online gaming where communication is vital to success. But then you have the super high-end headsets, the ones ranging from upwards of €85 (£70), boasting a huge range of technical jargon that means very little in the scheme of things. Let me tell you a little fact about the audio codec used for gaming.

It’s not very good. It’s designed to reduce latency as much as possible so that using voice communication doesn’t kill pings. The quality that you hear in online multiplayer games is usually very far from the actual quality of the microphone. When you buy a new microphone, use Audacity or the recorder that is already in Windows to get an accurate representation of the quality you are getting. What I’m saying here is, having a bad quality microphone will have a detrimental effect on what people are hearing on the other end of a multiplayer game, but shelling out for a headset worth €85 more will not be any better than one worth €50 (£40) in terms of microphone quality on multiplayer games.

The Sennheiser 161 is a sturdy headset. It isn’t flimsy, the microphone boom isn’t made out of toilet paper, it is flexible, it has volume adjusters and a clip that you can put on your collar and is, overall, a robust headset. It uses the mic in and audio in jacks on your PC, which can be an advantage or a disadvantage, say if you need those for your speakers or if you want to free up a USB port, it’s all based on your personal situation. It leads to one possible large criticism – On my PC, I have the jacks located on the front, so I thought this was handy having it simply plug into these. But that’s when I realized that the cable on this headset is absolutely huge. It is about 3 metres in length. Now you may be of the opinion that, “Hey, there’s no disadvantage to having a long cable, some people might sit quite a distance back”, but for those of us who like to be in the same continent as our screens, it’s an annoyance. It was getting caught on my feet, wrapped around furniture, and worst of all, my chair’s wheels were rolling over it.

Another problem with it was the strength of the headset itself. When you buy a headset, you expect it to be on your head a lot, in excess of an hour. So it is imperative that it is comfortable, and it is. Mostly. The padding around the ears is thick enough to provide adequate exterior sound dampening, while not being too padded and acting like ear muffs. The headset itself is retractable so is almost one size fits all, but the problem lies with the Sennheiser’s solid design. When I use it, it feels like my head is being slightly squashed. I’m not exaggerating and saying it’s like my head is being rammed in a vice and crushed like a pumpkin, but after extensive games, it feels uncomfortable to the point I’ve had to take them off and use my speakers.

Now, this is quite a nasty point but it is still a great headset. It’s not going to break your bank, and it’s going to last quite a while before it breaks. Getting it to work went reasonably smoothly – originally Windows had trouble setting it to my default microphone over my current one, but other than that, it was generally painless compared to the troubles that I have had getting the USB microphones to work, such as driver struggles and recognition failures. The microphone is of good quality, and has great background noise cancellation, the speakers themselves are fantastic, with not too much bass, but enough to feel powerful, and enough treble to catch every noise.

A recommended purchase, 9/10

The Sennheiser 161 headset is currently available at Dabs.ie

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4 Responses to “Review: Sennheiser 161 Headset”

  1. bmoviehero Says:

    I swear by Sennheiser, I used to have a cheap pair of backbanded Sennheiser phones – beautiful audio quality and incredibly comfortable (I’d actually say they are more comfortable than not wearing the headphones!). Unfortunately they didn’t last forever and broke recently, however I had them for a good 2 years (maybe 3) and even went travelling with them for 3 and a half months of that so they stood the test of time. And they were only 20 quid! So as far as I’m concerned I’m willing to fork out for a new pair every few years.

    Anyway good review. I imagine the wire length is probably because the set is designed for audio work and recording where you may need a longer length of wire? If it was designed specifically as a gaming headset then it was a pretty stupid design flaw!

  2. Cloak Raider Says:

    “The PC 161 is an over the head binaural headset. The ultimate open back gaming headset providing unparalleled audio performance.”

    According to a seller. So it’s being sold as a gaming headset.

  3. Pete Says:

    I don’t think the size of your giant head should be held against the headsets. 😛

    Cool review, also it might be worth noting that Dave is outta action due to foreign countries and such. 😀

  4. imperialcreed Says:

    I know Pete, I miss him terribly

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