Regardless of what type of gamer you are or what type of games you play, communication is vital. Being able to hear what's happening around and relay that to your team could decide if you'll have bragging rights for the rest of the LAN party or go home with a $10,000 cash prize. We've put many entries from Cooler Master's Storm gaming line to our test, but today we sit down with the company's first audio solution. All that’s left is to see if it lives up to the highest of standards. In a sea of great competition; it's going to need to.
Product Name: Storm Sirus
Review Sample Provided by: Cooler Master
Review by: Adam
Pictures by: Adam
- Channel: True 5.1
- Driver: F/R/C: 30mm Sub: 40mm
- Impedance: F/R/C: 32 Ohms Sub: 16 Ohms
- Transducer principle: Dynamic closed
- Ear coupling: Circumaural
- Ear cushions: Detachable micro fiber
- Sensitivity: >105dB
- Frequency Response: 10Hz – 20,000Hz
- Distortion: Less than 1%
- Pick-up pattern: uni-directional
- Frequency Response: 100Hz – 10,000 Hz
- Impedance: 2.2k Ohms
- Sensitivity: -46 dB ±3dB
When we got our sample of the Sirus, the packaging was still not finalized. A concept image did give us a little preview however, and it looks like the headset will be featured in a retail packaging sporting the Storm gaming line's red and black color scheme. The headset itself and the Tactical Mixing Console are likely to take spotlight, with features including the microphone and exchangeable ear cups listed on the packaging. Cooler Master was kind enough to send out a few photos of the finished packaging just before launch as you can see below.
Our package came with the mixing console situated between the two ear cups of the Sirus, with the alternative leatherette cups and direct 3.5mm plugs nestled underneath the plastic container.
Since the Sirus is a high-end audio product, there is a little more involved than simply plugging the set in. The mentioned Tactical Mixing Console is a controller that connects the line from the headset to the PC. Using this controller, users have access to quick mute buttons for both audio and voice, and can tune the different channels (rear, front, center, bass, or master) on the fly through use of the navigation wheel.
Using the Mixing Console requires two USB ports. Alternatively, Cooler Master has included the option to by-pass the console altogether and use a straight 3.5mm input. This option still uses a single USB, as well as four 3.5mm plugs, including microphone in and subwoofer.
We also found two types of ear cups included with the Sirus: micro-fiber and leatherette. Interchanging between the two is extremely easy: the entire cup snaps off the base of the headset, the plastic frame of which is stripped and re-applied with the desired material. While the cup is detached from the headset, you can also get a nice look at the speaker system of the Sirus.
The customization doesn't stop there, as Cooler Master has also included a little software suite for further tweaking. This program allows users to visually adjust channel volumes for both the speakers and microphone.
Cooler Master addresses comfort with three main areas of padding: the left and right ear cups and a piece to rest on the top of the head. The choice of ear cups was mentioned before, which is a nice option that allows users to decide which is more important to them: noise cancel or comfort. Each ear cup has about an inch or so thickness of padding, which even after a few hours of gaming was enough to keep my ears from being irritated.
The ear cups are more of a trapezoid shape, the width along the top of the piece longer than that on the bottom. Compared to the common egg-shaped cup, this form tends to better suit a larger array of ear sizes, as the egg often cuts into the cartilage for larger ears. The design also helps to house the directional surround sound speakers.
I'm notorious for breaking little clips, and with an expensive pair such as the Sirus, I was definitely nervous to try exchanging them for the first time. To my relief, the cups are engineered to be friendly to use and survive several detachments.
Along the top is a piece of padding around six inches in length, which is fairly thick and does an excellent job keeping pressure off the head. Both sides of the Sirus also extends to guarantee the set will fit regardless of head size.
I was also initially a little concerned about the weight of the headset, simply because it looks heavy. As opposed to similar competitive models that use thinner lines of plastic and fabric, the entirety of the Sirus is a plastic mold. Combined with the cushioning of the headset however, the only reason I knew the set was on was the amazing quality of sound, even in extended sessions.
Testing a piece of hardware such as the Sirus is always great because it is an excuse to play games, watch movies, and listen to music while working. I ran the headset initially through a myriad of surround sound and bass tests to monitor how well the directional sound performed and test the feedback of the subwoofer. Every test was dead on when it came to which angle was being played, and the bass was impressive enough that I could take the set off and watch the speaker vibrate through the plastic.
I then happily put the set on for some gaming, favoring the first-person shooter genre but also felt I had to play several types of games, you know, just to be sure. One of the runs that really stood out to me was Left 4 Dead 2's Cold Stream campaign, the opening of which follows a running river and meets with the survivors to start the level. At different twists and turns in the river there was waves and white caps beating against the environment, which I could as I approached in front of me and as it passed, I heard it eventually drown out behind me. It was a great example of the Sirus's directional ability.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Sirus has power. Even now as I type with a little soft music playing, I'm using the set as external speakers just sitting on my desk and can hear fine. To put the speakers to the test however, I turned all volume controls to the maximum, put the headset on, and popped in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. I had watched this movie for the first time when I set up my entertainment center's surround sound, and living in an apartment I wasn't able to pump up the amazing music and great sound effects of this movie to the level I really wanted to. This time, there was nothing stopping me except a little concern for my ear drums. The Sirus performed beautifully, and loud, without and distortion at its highest volumes as the movie hit some pretty high pitches. Though this was my favorite test to talk about, I also ran the set through several other soundtracks and games to be sure.
The Tactical Mixing Console is a nice addition to the package, creating more of a surround sound system feeling that allows customization without launching the software. As mentioned, this controller can be used to mute the speakers and microphone with the touch of a button, as well as cycle through the different channels to adjust their volume via the navigation wheel.
This could come in handy especially in-game. An example Cooler Master uses is while playing a first-person shooter, a gamer may want to turn down the center volume (drowning out the gunfire) and give boost to the remaining channels in order to better hear footsteps from approaching enemies, which is fantastic for snipers. This can all be achieved from the Tactical Mixing Console without loading any sort of software.
Our review sample's navigation wheel seems to be backwards however. Wheel's we have seen in the past, or even on other stereo equipment, turn to the right to increase volume and to the left to decrease; in this case, it is the opposite. It's not a huge flaw and one that is easy to get used to, but will probably cause more problems if or when you switch to a navigation wheel that has typical orientation. Again, our sample is a pre-production model, and this may be different when the Sirus is released on a large scale.
The microphone comes through clear as day, while setting up the receive volume in both Steam and through Windows, the Sirus is the first headset with which I actually had to turn down from maximum. The microphone is sturdy yet a has a little flexibility to it, so you can bend it how you'd like and it will keep that shape. An indicator both on the Tactical Mixing Console and an LED on the microphone itself show when mute is enabled.
The Storm Sirus is a fantastic piece of equipment for any user. Hearing is a sense that is crucial to all types of media, and Cooler Master helps you take advantage of it with 360 degree directional surround sound, powerful bass, clear audio, and a mixing console that puts it all at your fingertips. About the only thing that disappointed me about the headset was that the experience was limited to the PC; once I was enlightened to the difference a professional grade headset can make, I wanted to take that to my consoles as well. I was ecstatic to learned however that even though the Xbox 360 doesn't support the protocol needed to use the Sirus, Cooler Master will be offering a decoder in the future that allows it to become a universal console headset as well.