So, headphones then…
I haven’t spent much time thinking about headphones over the years, to be honest. They’re the sort of device that tends to go largely unnoticed, at least in a conscious way. Like monitors, keyboards, mice and the like, the tool itself is largely superseded by the operations they facilitate in our consciousness. I don’t really focus on the headphones because they’re a portal to the music or sounds they produce. I focus on those sounds rather than the object producing them.
However, in today’s digital world, consumers are becoming more and more aware of the devices they use to interact with their experiences. You only need look at the increasing value of the peripherals market to see that the way we interact with our experiences is becoming a huge consideration for the public at large.
So to that end, we at Zero1gaming will be taking a greater look at the tech and hardware we use to access our digital experiences, starting today with a new set of headphones on the market:
The Extreme One-Eighties active noise-cancelling headphones.
General specs up front; they’re a wired, traditional over the ear headset boasting three sound modes: standard sound, Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and Vortex Drive™ Sound (VTX) mode.
The set comes with two sets of 3.5mm audio cable that fit into standard headphone jacks; a basic cable and one with inline controls and a microphone. Along with this come a flight adapter and a ¼ jack adapter for connecting to decks and the like. To carry all this, the set comes with a neoprene carry case, into which the headphones fold.
The whole shebang will set you back £149.99 RRP, so a fairly hefty price tag, headphones-wise. Not quote Beats prices, but certainly not your entry-level consumer brand either.
So, how does the kit measure up?
We may as well start here, because, let’s face it, that’s the core function. If they look nice but sound awful you’re not going to be that interested right?…. right??
So, as mentioned above, the One-Eighties come with three sound settings. The first is the standard sound setting (labelled as ‘OFF’ on the headset itself. This is the bog-standard, unpowered setting; consider it the default setting. In this mode, the One-Eighties sound pretty good. The ear mounts do a good job of isolating external sound so not much sound bleeds in to disturb your experience. Some external conversation from around the office was certainly audible, but then, as a basic setting you can’t complain too much. The general sound levels were good; pretty much the same as I get from my in-ear JVC Marshmallow headphones, which isn’t to be sniffed at. The bass is pretty reserved in this mode, and there’s, unsurprisingly, no sound level boosting or amplification in evidence, so all-in-all, a pretty solid, but unremarkable setting.
The Active Noise Cancelling mode, is, rather eponymously, the mode designed to cancel out the most external noise, a task at which it is rather successful. Switching to this mode noticeably lowers the amount of external sounds that penetrate to your ear, though this does come with a noticeable change in sound. It’s hard to exactly define how the sound quality changes, but the general volume of the music/sound the headphones output drops, rather oddly. In addition, the sound at first feels a little washed out; somewhat weaker, though your ears soon adjust to it. I’d say the base feels a bit underpowered in this mode, but that’s likely a consequence of the noise-reduction efforts. However, the sound is certainly still of high quality and it does what it claims with regards to blocking out external sounds.
The final and by far my favourite setting is the Vortex Drive setting. This drive purports to intelligently boost audio levels when activated. I had trouble getting a definitive explanation for exactly how this works, but from what I gather it amounts to actively adjusting various settings such as bass, treble etc. on the fly to create a rich and vibrant sound. However it actually works, one thing is certain; it certainly does work. I’ve not come across any headphones, at any price, that had this rich a sound. I listened to music on the One-Eighties and heard aspects of the track that I’d not heard before, entirely down to the dynamic boosting of the Vortex Drive. I was hugely impressed with how vibrant the sound was in this mode compared to standard settings. The VTX mode was what I had the headphones in the majority of the time and, to be fair, is really what they’re made to be in.
The only down side with the ANC and VTX modes is they require power. To this end the headset is powered by a pair of AAA batteries in the left can. Not anything huge I suppose, but still mean that you will require additional purchases of additional batteries or rechargeable. The pack does come with a pair of batteries to get you started, which is nice, but it is a slight down side all the same.
Overall, the quality and comfort is pretty spot on with the One-Eighties, as you would expect for the price point. The headset feels reliably robust and weighty when held in your hands. It feels like a decent bit of kit, which doesn’t necessarily guarantee reliability, but it’s nice that they don’t feel cheap. In contrast, when worn, the headset doesn’t feel especially weighty and lengthy use tends to result in you forgetting you have them on rather than fatigue from pressure or weight. The pressure exerted by the ear-pads is just about right and they fit my ears excellently. Admittedly I do have tiny ears, so whether they would be as comfortable for those with larger ears is something I cannot confirm, but all the people who tried them out reported nothing but comfortable experiences, so there you go.
The carry case is light-weight, but seems pretty robust, or as robust as a fabric padded bag could be. It fits all the accoutrements in it easily, but one annoyance is the way the handle sits over the zipper when zipped shut, meaning fishing the zip out to open it can be a bit of a pain. First-world problems, yes, but still a light annoyance.
The One-Eighties are available in three versions; the Artist (which I got), the Heritage and the Blackout editions. The Blackout is a basic plain black model, the Heritage is purple with black and silver decals and the Artist is black with bright decals.
All versions are pretty standard, visually. The externals are the same on all three, with a matte black finish on the ear covers and a gloss black on the headband. They look pretty standard as headsets go, though the slight flash of colour from the Artist and Heritage editions are quite nice. They look like a quality headset, which is good, because they’re priced like one.
While three versions may not seem like much choice, they’re all visually striking and I’d say there would be one at least that would appeal to most people. They do sit quote far out from the side of your head though, so they’re pretty big looking. Not an issue for most people and pretty common for bigger headphones, but it may still be an issue for some people.
Overall I was left very impressed with the Extreme One-Eighties. They feel and look high-quality and the three sound settings are solid, with the VTX setting being genuinely impressive. They’re among the most comfortable over-ear headphones I’ve used and I was pleasantly surprised by the overall package.
If you’re looking for a great all-round headset then I’d say the One-Eighties are definitely worth consideration for day-to-day use. Video games wise, they’re not necessarily the best option out there, as they’re designed for extreme sports and general day use, meaning their mic is only suitable for phone calls, rather than gaming chat. However, if you’re looking for solo gaming and fancy a set of standard-type headphones for it, you probably can’t go wrong looking at these.
As an all-rounder headphone for general use, I’d give these a real look though.
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Paul Izod is a lifelong gamer. Since he was old enough to tap at his Dad's PC's keyboard he's been a gamer. Dedicated and often opinionated, you can be sure he'll always have something interesting to say about the subject at hand. Find him on Twitter at @PaulIzod or @FaultyPixelUK or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org