Roccat Kulo Gaming Headset Review
Not really so Kool.
Being a reviewer, it gets complex when you have to write negatively about a company that you know are very good at what they do. But that’s the call of duty that we must adhere to, and it is only sad that Roccat, one of the finest gaming hardware manufacturers, is today facing the other side of the barrel.
Roccat Kulo is one of their newest stereo gaming headsets on the market. The compact, 40mm driver sporting headset tick-boxes all of the important features that is required to make it to elite-list of gaming peripherals: sexy and stylish form features, noise-filtering, premium neodymium drivers, and a 7.1 USB sound card that provides a virtual surround sound environment. Unfortunately, the Kulo suffers from the ‘looks-great-on-paper’ syndrome and is far less of a performer than its excellent packaging and sophisticated lines might suggest.
It’s hard to not eyeball the Kulo. I mean, just look at it. Roccat does have a consistency for great design, but they seem to be outdoing themselves with every new product launch, be it the Isku gaming keyboard, the Alumic mousepad, or even something as basic as a USB hub in Apuri. Kulo is another example of their craftsmanship and is one the sexiest design I have seen grace a hardware product.
Probably drawing inspiration from the Cyborg R.A.T mices, the Kulo has that appealing ‘shattered’ look that is as complex as it is simplistic and elegant. The combination of hard plastic and rubberized portions heightens its appeal, giving it a premium feel to the whole product. The finesse of the build helps, a lot for the Kulo in fact, as its lightness and jiggling ear cups might give off a cheap, off-the-shelf feel to it otherwise.
However, great designs don’t always translate into great practical solutions. Despite being light, Kulo’s over-the-ear design drills into your tragus (whoa) and starts hurting almost immediately. The faux leather covering the cups doesn’t help much either. Due to the tight fit and poor moisture exhaust, the leather tends to stick after prolonged use. I had to literally ‘peel’ off the headset after a single game of Battlefield 3. It wasn’t very pretty.
Another example of great concepts not being very practical is the in-line volume controller. The Kulo features a unique volume slider that doesn’t work well as intended, whatever that maybe. The first impression I had of it was that it offered three levels of volume: mute, medium, highest. But the volume controller does slide, so it’s just cosmetic, and by being so big, it actually limits users to truly fine tune the volume to their requirements.
Thankfully, Roccat hasn’t tried anything fancy with the mic. It actually features a simple mechanic that auto-mutes the mic when it’s rolled up and enables it back when it is brought back down. It works flawlessly, too, with great distortion-free sound quality.
Here is where I really hoped the Kulo would really redeem itself but unfortunately it continues to disappoint.
Sound from the Kulo felt as if it was being tunneled through a pipe. The audio was loud and clear but it felt as if it was passing through from somewhere in the middle. It wouldn’t fill the whole ear cup, making anything playing from it very odd at first. You, of course, get used to it after a while, but as soon as you move to another set of headset, you immediately notice how limited the Kulo sounded. Switching between the excellent Roccat Kave and the Kulo felt like day and night. There was just no comparison.
As a result, everything felt underwhelming. It just wasn’t there, it just wasn’t wholesome enough. Mid-tones felt muddy too, and the limited bass did not help much either. In terms of sound positioning, since it is marketed towards the gamer segment, it wasn’t much at all. There was absolutely no sense of direction, and in a game like Battlefield 3, which is tuned for a surround sound experience, you do immediately take notice of the fact. I honestly can’t believe how terrible the Kulo is; is this really from the guys that made the Roccat Kave?
I don’t like the Kulo much, but every time I look at it I ask myself, “they can’t be that bad, are they?”, but they are, despite how stunningly it is. At $89, Kulo is supremely overpriced. Just save up and buy the Roccat Kave.
Good: Beautiful design.
Bad: Faux leathers sticks in the ear; over-the-ear design hurts; muddy mid-tones and poor bass performance; absolutely average sound positioning; expensive; USB sound card is useless.