Heard of Roccat? Unless you are into professional gaming, live in Germany, or have been searching for menacing sounding cats, probably not. To simply put, Roccat is to Germany, what Razer is to…well, most of us. Much like its American counterpart, Roccat are also known to produce hardcore gaming peripherals with solid build quality and a gamut of features. Oh, and they also believe in black.
Only recently founded in 2007, Roccat isn’t easy to find beyond Germany, with gamers mostly having to resort to dealing on eBay to get their hands on some Kaves and Kones. Fortunately, the company is expanding its reach and one of their latest stop is the United Arab Emirates. To kick start things, Roccat has been kind enough to bestow us with some of its latest products, one of which is the Roccat Kave REAL 5.1 Surround Sound headphones.
When they say REAL, they actual do mean it, as its exquisitely detailed box tries to convince us. The real surround sound is promised from a special 12 degree angled set of speakers, which is apparently the magical degree to get true surround at such close quarters. Excited and doubtful, we tore (not literally) into the box and put the cans through its paces.
The best way to describe the Kave is…chubby. They are so perfectly round, it’s hard not to go ‘oogly-woogly wuush!’ on them. Despite that, the headphones still manage to look alluring, and more importantly, gamer-ish.
There is no gloss here, just one single coat of smooth subdued matte black. The only thing that gives it a fashionable strut is the round blue glow on the base of the mic attachment, and a tiny LED on the included controller.
The cans and the headband are of special notice. Covered in high grade leather, the thick padding on the cans is hand stitched, and the fine craft is very noticeable. The headband uses three small paddings, instead of single foam, in order to provide a more stable headrest and better fitting. The whole package can be compacted by folding the cans, though it does not make much of a difference to the size.
The microphone can move 360 degrees and is flexible as well. It is detachable too, so it can be removed when not needed, or for a safer transportation. Interestingly, the mic has a small band that glows when it is muted, giving us a quick glance before we launch into a spat-ial attack against our wife/girlfriend/mother to defend our excessive need to pop heads in lame virtual worlds.
The Kave is powered by three 3.5mm jacks and a USB. This can be a bit of an issue – if you are using a sound card that only has one set of jacks for the center, front and rear, it will have to be either your speakers or these headphones that will occupy the slot. Of course, a simple solution would be to use one of them with the onboard sound card on your PC’s motherboard, but for some, that may not a feasible option.
Also included in the package is what Roccat likes to call the Tip ‘N Control Desk Remote. At first glance, it only offers a large radial to control the volume, and a mic on/off button. But pop open the lid that covers the rest of the unit and you will find possibly the most important controls for the headphones: the center, front, rear and subwoofer adjusters. More on this the coming sections.
It also has a Movie and Game preset switcher, though there is hardly any difference between both. However, I do feel that the Movie preset gives a better surround than the Game preset which appears to ‘normalize’ the sound throughout.
Unfortunately, as much as the effort has gone into making the headphones comfortable, I found them to be bulky and tight. Much like the Siberia V2 I had reviewed a few days back, the Kave too drills right onto the sides of my head, pressurizing my glasses on my nose and making them uncomfortable to wear. Even with the glasses removed, I could still feel the bulk surrounding my head. The three-piece headband is certainly noticeable, though I assume the hit would be less if you have a good mop of hair. But for us balding/balded folks, it will give us a tingle on the top.
The first time I tried the headphones with the manual-recommended channel settings, I immediately took them off. Wow, they are bad
, I thought. It can’t be!
The manual recommends that you keep the center, front, rear and subwoofer on the same level, and that’s possibly the worst settings to give to this headphone. There was no bass at all, voices sounded muffled and surround was non-existent.
The Kave needs a personalized touch. You will have to adjust the individual channels and find the sweet spot that sounds correct to your ears. We do not recommend the following settings, after all every ear is different, however straight out-the-box, you can give these a try:
Once calibrated, the headphones came into its own. And how
. I immediately launched them into some gaming with Homefront and Crysis 2. Having completed a large part of Homefront with these headphones, I can honestly admit that the Kave made the game better that what it probably was (although, I did enjoy the game very much). Dull and subdued before, Homefront suddenly came alive – explosions rumbled in the distance, gun fire spattered around me, screams of pain and agony blanketed the war zone, and the music kept every action sequence exciting and energetic.
And to make things even more exciting, the Kave has a rather interesting feature up its sleeve, and since it is not explicitly mentioned on the box and hence, has no name, we will go ahead and call it The Kave Rumbler. Yes, the headphones rumbles
. Unlike other headphones that have implemented such a feature before, this one here is not just a gimmick. It’s not over done or over used. It works when you expect it to and it definitely adds to the immersion. The rumble was most noticeable in Crysis 2. Throw a nade and the headphones will give slight ‘brrrr’ when it explodes. An LMG will make it produce a continuous thump. Going in and out of the suit modes will make you feel as if the effect is slithering of you, with a slight dud on the ears confirming the change. It’s truly fantastic, and I wish I had played Crysis 2 with these headphones on.
Coming to the lofty claims of real 5.1 surround sound, what better than the Virtual Barbershop to truly test the effect? As I got my virtual haircut, the Kave expertly worked its way to produce proper sound positioning when and where required - from the scissors ploughing through thin hairline to the trimmer clipping my ungroomed side locks. On my first hearing, I had flinched when at one point in the clip, the barber whisper-bombed in my ears unexpectedly. Even in Crysis 2, the surround was unmistakable. I could easily track where the salvo of gun fire was coming from, even before my eyes could decipher the visual cue.
It’s surprising what Roccat has managed to do here: produce a 5.1 surround field at such close quarters to your ears. Of course, it’s nowhere close to a true 5.1 setup, but it comes as close as any headphones have been.
Priced at a competitive 545Dhs (approx.), Roccat Kave is somewhat of a no-brainer for those wanting good surround headphones and full control over the channels. However, if you wear glasses, comfort can be an issue. Bar that, the Roccat Kave is exceptional in almost every way. It’s got sold build quality, excellent portability, and great number of features, and the performance that will just blow you away.