Great gaming headset, that presents problems for some Max users. (October 25th, 2006)
Product Manufacturer: Altec Lansing
Price: $79.95 US
- Good SRS Surround helps in gaming. Adjustable microphone and headband. Mute button on SRS Surround interface turns off microphone. Gold-plated 3.5mm connectors.
- Microphone input needs pre-amp on most Macs. Requirement of a second product is a big minus. Sound is treble-heavy for music. SRS Surround is bulky and heavy with battery installed.
If you take team-based online gaming seriously, you need a decent gaming headset; one that combines great stereo headphones with a microphone you can use to chat with your teammates. The Altec Lansing AHS615 is serious gear for online gamers, but there are some caveats Mac users have to keep in mind.
Large Comfortable HeadsetThe AHS615 Gaming Headset fits over the head and rests on top of your skull with an adjustable padded headband. It features a pair of open-ear headphones padded with leatherette ear pads that completely cover your ears. The ear pad material is not very porous, so my ears started to heat up and sweat after using them for about half an hour.
Some people may find the design a bit big, but I found them very comfortable, heat notwithstanding. One thing, though, they are certainly larger than you want to carry around. The dual-jack configuration and bulky microphone is less than optimal for iPod use.
A Bit BrightInside the earphones are 40mm neodymium drivers, which is the same material that Apple and other manufacturers use in their earbuds. The drivers deliver sound that may be a bit bright for some listeners. I found it tended to emphasize treble in music, but not to the detriment of mid-range or bass. It was just enough on the sharp side, that I had to compensate for it in the equalizer settings in iTunes. This brightness comes in handy in gaming, by the way. It emphasizes the sound of gun shells hitting the floor, feet shuffling, and other sounds you can use to figure out where the bad guys are hiding.
Good Design, But Needs USBThe microphone descends from the left earphone on a flexible, adjustable gooseneck that you can place close to your mouth or far away. Placement depends on how loud you talk and how heavy you breathe. It is also equipped with a windscreen so the sound of air passing through your nostrils does not drive the people on the other end crazy.
The cable coming off the left headphone is about six feet long and attaches to the headphone and mic jacks on the Mac, using standard 3.5mm connectors. This is the first big warning for Mac users. Most Macs that I am familiar with feature true line-in input, not mic-in input. As a result, connecting the microphone to your Mac will, in all likelihood, not work straightaway. I could scream into the mic and not hear a thing on the receiving end. The solution is to pre-amp the mic signal. Griffin's iMic is very useful for this purpose because it converts the microphone input to USB audio instead, and that worked just fine. That is a big limitation for people that do not want to clutter their configurations with another USB contraption. There are other gaming headsets out there that offer USB connectivity, such as the less expensive AHS302 USB, Stereo Headset with Microphone.
Halfway down the cord there's a small rectangular box about the size of a pen. You clip it to a shirt or belt using an integrated clip on the back. Inside this box is one AAA battery and one of the things that makes the AHS615 special; an amplifier that adds SRS Surround Sound to your audio. This is great for games, because it really adds a sense of space and three-dimensionality to your audio. When you play fast-paced first person shooters, you often need that sense of spatial awareness to figure out where the bad guys are hiding.
Good Volume ControlYou can turn off the surround effects when you listen to music, podcasts, or use the AHS615 to chat via iChat AV or Skype. The battery adds weight to the box, so using the clip is a good idea, because if it slides off your desk and hits the floor it may tug your ear a bit too. You can adjust the level of surround effects by sliding a dial on the side of the interface. That interface also lets you adjust the input volume of the microphone with another volume dial, as well as a three-position toggle with mute, low and high.
In summary, any headphone that does not include USB connectivity is going to require an iMic or something similar. I think you have to consider that you have to buy a second product to get it to work with the Mac. This problem reduces our star rating by a full star. Based on its standalone utility, it just is not a great product for many Mac users.
Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor