|Genius HS-03U USB Gaming Headset|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Audio|
|Written by Nate Swetland|
|Friday, 03 September 2010|
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Testing & Results
The HS-03U Headset was tested playing a variety of games and software. I disabled my motherboard's onboard sound as to not conflict with any devices or drivers installed by the HS-03U. The games and software tested using the HS-03U are: Battlefield: Bad Company 2, StarCraft II, Lord of the Rings: Online, Teamspeak 3, Winamp, Windows Media Player, and Firefox. These were all tested using Windows 7 Professional 64bit.
Plugging the Genius HS-03U into the USB port, I was immediately greeted by a baloon tip saying that Windows detected new hardware. Genius does not provide dedicated drivers, but Windows 7 immediately installed the default drivers, and I was all set. If you are unfamiliar with how USB headsets work, they simply install a Software-based sound card in your system. You then need to be sure that you configure your software and games to use this new soundcard as the default or preferred device, or else you will simply be wearing a fancy pair of ear-warmers. This is especially important if you choose to change back and forth between the headset and external speakers, as your external speakers will use your normal sound device, and your settings must be changed back accordingly. The same rule applies to both the microphone (recording device) and the headphones (playback device).
I first tried out the HS-03U headset with some of my favorite music using Winamp and Windows Media Player. I tried to find some music with a good range to fully test out the sound quality, and also find some music with some bass to test out the vibration functionality. i fired up some Daft Punk and cranked it up using the in-line volume control. The volume control buttons are very handy, and I noticed that they move the volume up and down in very small increments. This is not a good or bad thing, but it is merely a personal preference whether you would like that or not. Listening to the music without the vibration turned off sounded good. The volume gets plenty loud, and the music does not get distorted or scratchy when the volume gets turned up. After turning on the vibration, you can instantly tell the difference. You not only hear the bass, you feel it vibrate too. It gives the sensation of listening to speakers with a dedicated subwoofer. I was pleasantly surprised how much this enhanced my listening experience.
Playing Battlefield: Bad Company 2 was an equally pleasant experience, especially with the vibration turned on. Tanks, explosions, gunfire, etc. all seem a bit more real when your head is vibrating. Being only a stereo headset, it is a bit of a change using the HS-03U versus my typical 5.1 surround headset, but it is not too much of a burden. The headset and drivers do a good job of sound positioning. The other games are very similar. Racing games, MMOs, etc. all have a good amount of sounds and music that can be enhanced with a vibration feature, and I did not find any games that had any trouble outputting sound properly to the audio device.
Using voice chat software such as Ventrillo, Team Speak, and some of the games' built-in voice chat was a breeze. You simply set the input device as the HS-03U Sound device, and that is it. I asked many of my fellow gamers what they thought of my voice quality, volume, and clarity, and they all said that it sounded great. The included microphone mute button is a nice bonus, in case you use the automatic voice detection instead of push-to-talk on your games or voice-chat software, and want to have a moment to vent your frustration and not have everyone hear it.
This headset is not completely without its flaws, however. Once in a while, the headset seemed to have trouble playing sounds, or it would simply play a "screeching" sound at full volume and then sounds after that would only play a screeching noise, or would sound very distorted, and be VERY loud. It seemed to happen the most with things like YouTube videos, or other embedded clips. It happened once or twice in a game. Usually unplugging the device and plugging it back in resolved the problem, but other times it would not fully correct itself until a full system reboot. I would say out of a 3-4 week period, it happened about 5 times. It is possible that this is related to my operating system being Windows 7 64bit, and the drivers may simply not be fully compatible yet.