Gaming Headsets have advanced dramatically in recent years. Being able to hear enemies coming from behind or wandering round a corner is a great advantage in-game and could be the factor which allows you to win a game, or lose. The technology which helps with this is surround sound. 5.1 surround sound has made itself heard in Gaming Headsets in the last couple of years and one such company, Cyber Snipa have come up with a 5.1 Gaming Headset. Today we’ll be reviewing this headset, introducing, the Cyber Snipa Sonar…
About Cyber Snipa
Established in 1998 the founding members of Cyber Snipa have over 18 years of experience in producing exclusively manufactured products. Cyber Snipa is a subsidiary of Flexiglow, a global supplier of PC modding and gaming accessories.
- Connection: USB
- Cord Length: 3.0m
- Microphone:Microphone Dimensions: Ø9.7mmx5.0mm
|Signal to noise ratio||>50dB||>50dB||>50dB||>50dB|
The product comes in a fairly graphical black box. Printed along the bottom edge of the box are all the features of the headset, complete with little photos of the product, and the Cyber Snipa website address. For browsing in a shop, the features listed on the bottom edge are very useful and give a good indication of what you’re buying.
On the back of the box is a more detailed features list of the headset and a snazzy looking cross section diagram. The features list comes in six different languages. Along the bottom of the back there are some specifications for the microphone, speakers and software that comes with the product. For a hardcore sound techy, like me, this information proves very useful in making a decision before buying this product.
When you open the packaging the headset itself is in an injection moulded plastic casing, with the remote sitting in the middle. There are no fiddly wire ties to get undone, so no going mad trying to get your fingers into an impossible hole to get the product out of its casing.
Cyber Snipa Sonar 5.1
The product looks very nice when it comes out of the box. The red wire mesh that can be seen in the image above looks incredible in contrast with the black outer rim. The mesh also serves to help ventilation to the ear- there’s nothing more annoying than a sweaty ear when wearing headphones! The velour cushion around the edge of the ear cups is also very good looking; again in contrast to the black it looks very pleasing. The head band feels of good quality and is cushioned enough not to hurt your head.
The headphone cups are very adjustable, with a small amount of tilt on the phones twistable joints – as seen above – the cups can be folded up in towards the headband for easy transportation. The tilt on the phones is just so they will mould round your head better and feel more comfortable, even during long gaming sessions.
The twistable joints make for more “head moulding” ability, as well as making the phones more comfortable if worn around the neck for brief periods e.g. to talk to someone.
The foldable construction is perhaps one of the better movement features on this product as it means the Sonar 5.1 can be transported without the worry that it will break in your bag.
The remote is another very good feature of this headset. It only has three buttons (volume up, volume down and mute) but this is all that’s needed in a game situation – any more buttons would be confusing. Two lights on the remote indicate power and microphone status. The blue glow of the power button shows that the Sonar is turned on; if it flashes it means sound is being played through the headset. Although, I think you’d notice if sound wasn’t being played; however CyberSnipa obviously felt it was necessary for the product. The microphone light is either on or off, depending on the position of the switch positioned on the side of the remote. The remote has one other feature which is essential to many gamers. As seen in the picture above, the remote has a clip on the back, stylishly angled with big serrations, the remote can clip almost anywhere on your clothes and proves invaluable when you don’t have any time to reach for your speakers.
To test the Sonar Headset, we tested it both in-game and by watching everyone’s favourite film, Saving Private Ryan.
Firstly I would like to mention that this headset is not a cheap alternative to conventional surround sound speakers. If you try to watch a movie through this headset you will be sorely disappointed, as I was when testing the headset with Saving Private Ryan. There is a reason Cyber Snipa calls this a gaming headset and that is because it simply cannot do all the jobs that a movie demands of standard surround sound.
After failing at watching a movie with the headset I took it for a ride on team fortress 2. This game is pretty mad, with things happening in every single direction, its ideal for testing a surround sound headset. This was proven correct. Every sound made by the opposing team was linked directly to my ears. As a scout this proved invaluable as I could hear any nearby heavy’s and could listen around corners for any enemies. I was fortunate enough to find someone else on the server who had a Sonar 5.1 – what are the odds of that!? His microphone was of very good quality and told me mine was to. Judging by windows sound recorder I can only agree.
I cannot fault the Sonar in any way on volume or microphone effectiveness. However one thing wouldn’t stop annoying me and that was the headphones inability to project sound behind me. With normal surround sound you simply place some speakers behind your head and any decent 5.1 game will have you thinking someone is walking up behind you with a chainsaw. When speakers are placed in a headset, the distance from the actual driver to the back of your head cannot be achieved so rear sound is not created. This is fine when there isn’t a marauding soldier sneaking up behind you but when there is, a massive problem occurs. This inability for rear sound creation makes me think that Sonar has created another step in stereo sound technology but haven’t made full surround sound yet.
I also chose to play Half Life 2 to test this product. From what I’ve heard when playing it through my normal computer speakers, my hi-fi and a Bose surround sound system the sound quality is excellent and the surround sound is incredible. The level I played was “we don’t go to ravenholm”, if you haven’t played Half Life 2 the short story is a bunch of zombies who go around making creepy sounds, eating anything that comes by and you need to get through them to progress through the game. This is an excellent time to test the audio quality and 5.1 surround effectiveness as things are constantly sneaking up on you and trying to eat your face! Again the rear surround is nowhere to be heard.
To give you an idea of what was creeping up on me here is a screen shot of when I turned around at one point in the level.
The product also comes complete with software apparently to enhance the sound quality of Cyber Snipa’s new toy. The install is standard, follow the instructions on screen wait for the install and then restart your computer.
The software itself leaves much to be desired and feels a bit like a last minute rush to include some sort of software with the headphones.
Above is the main page of the software suitably named “USB multi-channel Audio Device”, this page is where you can control your headsets analogue output and hear a preview of all the speaker positions inside the phones. Not much can actually be done on this screen of much use – there really is no point in putting any fewer or any more virtual speakers on a headset designed for 5.1 surround sound.
This page is activated by clicking the little hammer icon next to the words DSP mode. From here you can control the position the speakers sound like they’re in. for example I could move the speaker labelled R’s more to the bottom of the white ring, which represents the speaker positions in relation to you, however this is an entirely pointless part of the program as the speakers themselves cannot be turned. Although making a difference to the sound through the headphones, the speakers not being able to turn is like having your hi-fi facing the wall in order to try to improve the sound quality – it simply will not work. This part of the software could be better with some more work but as it is, it certainly does not feel complete.
The mixer tab is shown above. This tab can be fairly useful for fine tuning the speakers output to a way that suits you and adjusting the microphone to your voice. However there is nothing that can be done here, that can’t be done in the volume control already installed on your computer, or by simply adjusting the volume at the right time. Again this feels rushed and pointless but could become better with more time spent on advancing it.
This may well be the most useful tab of all with this software actually allowing you to change the EQ of the speakers in a way that suits you. With small movements of the sliders you can optimise your bass output and get rid of any nasty tingles in your ear via the treble sliders. This is a simple yet effective tab that could actually benefit more by not having the rest of the Sonar 5.1 software dragging it down.
There are 2 demos that come with the main piece of software these are called “Helicopter” and “Rockwar”. Helicopter – as seen above – is just a helicopter flying around a radar station. Moving the mouse moves your camera angle, this changes the direction that the sound is coming from. A nice little program but yet again one that feels rushed and shows the inadequacies of the “surround sound” claims. Rockwar is much the same as helicopter except this time rocks make sounds and you have to follow the sound to be able to shoot the rocks (shown below).
The Sonar 5.1 pro surround sound headset is by no means a bad product, in fact in many ways it’s the opposite, however it is plagued by an exaggerated name, claims and underdeveloped software. If you are looking for a gaming headset with good sound quality at a reasonable price (just £35) then this is definitely the thing for you. If you are like me and expect your surround sound to be perfect, your enemies heard and your software professional and integral to your experience with sound devices I would not recommend this. Lots of little niggles will ruin your experience and Cyber Snipa’s hard work will sit getting dusty in a corner.
- Outstanding value for money
- Good sound quality
- Amazing looks
- Very comfortable
- Poor software
- Ambitious claims