When we say ‘Asus’, we immediately conjure up images of stylish notebooks, decked out motherboards and snazzy graphics cards. Heck, some would even think of their Garmin smartphones that, unfortunately, didn’t do too well. Plus, hey, we still don’t know how the company name is pronounced – ‘a’sus? ‘aasus’? ‘asuiz’?
But gaming hardware? Nope, that belongs to the likes of Razer, Roccat, Steeleries and Madcatz. Which is ironic, as Asus has never ventured into the territory despite running Republic of Gamers, a brand specifically born to, let me quote, “put an ever-greater emphasis on PC gaming”. But that’s a thing of the past as the Taiwanese company has finally stepped into the sweet realm of oversized, black and weird looking peripherals with Vulcan ANC, a stereo gaming headset that hopes to make you deaf while using it – in a good way.
When Asus first announced the headphones, the pictures did nothing to my gaming hormones (that even
reads weird). They appeared big and black, with red strips running around the cups to emphasize the Republic of Gamer insignia.
But in flesh, the headphone does well to chase away any doubts of incompetence. They are imposing, and the color combination is well contrasted to give it a unique presence on your desktop. The smooth finish is a plus, with the checkered ROC logos on the sides giving it a touch of gamer class.
The Vulcan has a hulking presence but Asus has made sure it is easy to carry around as well. Not only do the ear cups fold neatly into place (the provided hard shell case is a nice little bonus), the mic, and even the main cord can be removed and stashed away separately.
The ear cups are a little wobbly as a result, but that is only when you try to manhandle the headphone with one hand - it’s just too eager to fold itself. But what it lacks in steadiness, it more than makes up for it in comfort. The flushed ear cups don’t scream ‘comfortable’, but it fits snug and remains remarkably light and soft even after hours of use. The cup also has a nice little grip that shoos away plenty of ambient noise. You will notice it when you start feeling
the cord rubbing against your collar than hearing
But if that much noise cutting doesn’t quite slice your bread, Vulcan has a neat little feature tucked under its right ear cup. Powered by a single AAA battery, the Active Noise Cancellation feature (the ‘ANC’ from its name) will drown out all and any remaining noises. It’s uncanny at first – when you flick the switch for the first time, it kills the slight white noise and brings you in pin drop silence. You cannot hear any ambient noise, at all
. It was so…peaceful.
To try the ANC even further, I turned on a nice masala
Bollywood number booming with full-on dhols and tablas, and then placed a laptop right next to me running an energetic song - and flicked on the switch. Nothing
. I couldn’t hear the song running on the laptop at all. I, in fact, checked if the track was actually playing or not. It was
And there it is
, I thought, the Holy Grail of noise reduction headphones
, except, there was this little problem. The noise cancellation killed any sense of bass along with it, too. Music sounded flat, while it was equally boring and uninspiring in Crysis 2 and Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
That’s too bad, because without the ANC, the Vulcan is a champion performer. The 40mm driver produces full, rich sounds that engulfs and engrosses. They are a pleasure while listening to music – there is enough noise cancellation to go along with its superb comfort. But for gaming, we found the sound position lacking, falling below average in many cases. I could admit of being spoiled by the Roccat Kave’s outstanding 5.1 surround sound, but the Steelseries 5H, a stereo set, performed equally well, so the Vulcan does loses out on a few points here. But in terms of details, clarity and pump, the Vulcan remained right with the toppers.
The Vulcan ANC is a right first step for Asus. They are good for someone living in a noisy environment and want to drown out the daily cribbing of the household dwellers. Its rich sound and supreme comfort will ensure hours of fantastic engrossing experience. However, as a gaming headset, at a price point of AED 500, they are hard to recommend over the Steelseries 5H or Roccat Kave, both bordering on a similar price range. The Active Noise Cancellation is, then, the only thing going for the Vulcan and will only appeal to those that need it.