Gaming headsets are a thriving niche of the market and every significant company is targeting every possible price point. However the company from which I am going to review this headset today is a pretty big name in Germany but are only beginning to expand to the international market, so you will be pardoned if you have not heard of them. However expect great things from them and at great prices too as you will see today. However where True 5.1 Surround Sound is concerned, the Speed Link Medusa 5.1 Headset has probably no real competitor at this price point.
Speed Link Medusa NX 5.1 USB Headset- True Surround Sound Gaming Was Never More Affordable
Before I begin a general overview between Virtual Surround and True 5.1 Surround. Basically most headsets are stereo (duh right?) which means that they have one Audio Driver located in each lobe of the headset for a total of 2 Drivers. Now when we play a game, or a movie, the OS employs what we call virtual surround to emulate positional audio in a stereo output. Basically fake surround sound. The only way to achieve True Surround Sound is to have drivers for every direction or atleast, enough drivers to best fit. The Medusa NX 5.1 USB Headset features 8 Drivers in total. Basically 4 drivers in each lobe. One driver functions as the sub woofer and the rest 3 deliver true directional audio.
Now Speed Link’s Medusa 5.1 NX Surround Sound Headset also ships with a built in USB 5.1 Sound Card. This is both a blessing and a curse and I will go into detail about it later. Th headset also has an inbuilt boom mic, and a very well endowed (2.8 meters) cord.
The technical specification of the headset are as follows:
- Impedance: 32 Ω (Front/Rear/Centre) + 16Ω at 1 Khz (Subwoofer)
- Sensitivity: 110 ± 3db (Front), 113 ± 3db (Rear/Centre), 94 ± 3db at 1 Khz (Subwoofer)
- Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20Khz
The microphone technical specifications are as follows:
- Impedance: 2.2 kΩ at 1 Khz
- Sensitivity: -37 ± 3db at 1 Khz
- Frequency Response: 100Hz to 16khz
Packaging and First Look
The Medusa NX ships in a cardboard box with one half of the gaming headset visible in a windowed fashion.
The right and left sides of the cardboard box offer some relevant details and literature. One side also reveals the contents and the collapsible form factor of the headset, while the other details the different Audio Drivers and the Integrated USB Soundcard present in the Medusa.
Unboxing and Contents
Now i think its worth mentioning that the box has plastic seals on both sides of the top entry which pretty much make sure that the box has not been opened before. Upon removal you go on to find the headset comfortably fitted in not one but two layers of plastic holding, along with the literature and accessories. Removing both these layers gives you access to the actual device.
The total contents of the box are three. 1) the Medusa NX 5.1 Gaming Headset, 2) A very nice carrying pouch, 3) Literature. It is to be noted that the box does not contain the drivers and have to be downloaded manually. Without the drivers the headset will only function in 2.0 aka Stereo mode and will not work in 5.1 mode. Everything has been covered in plastic wrapping, apart from the small booklet. The build quality of the puch is very impressive and the strands are very fine. This should be able to survive quite a bit of roughing up.
Now lets meet Medusa itself. The Headset is very aesthetically built and appears to be inspired from heavy duty professional audiophile products. The color scheme is very pleasing to the eye and has a very solid looking feel to it.
Testing Methodology and Results
And it is finally time to take this bad boy out for a drive. As i mentioned before, you need to have drivers without which the integrated USB Sound Card will not work. The drivers were not provided in the box (due to the green initiative?) However I managed to locate the drivers on their site and you can download the same here, if you buy this product and your model does not have the driver CD as well. Medusa NX 5.1 Drivers Download Link.
Before I begin, let me say this. Sound is completely and utterly relative. Audio that appears heavenly to me might appear utterly horrible to you and vice versa. That said, being an enthusiastic audiophile my testing methodology is quite thorough (time to earn the Cynical Critic Stereotype eh?). Without further ado, let me describe my testing methodology. The first part will be to test the audio fidelity of the headset in non-Gaming situations. This will include music and movies. The other part will include Gaming situations.
Music and Movies Test
Remember when I said that the integrated USB Sound Card was a curse as well as a blessing? Well thats because hardcore audiophiles will almost certainly have their own dedicated 5.1 sound card or receiver. And with this USB sound card, they cannot use anything except the integrated sound card, which needless to say is not as powerful as enthusiast solution. However for the average user, the sound card will more than suffice and saves him the hassle of multiple wiring. Now I do have a sound card and I was pretty upset that I could not use it to try out this beauty. However, the sound card delivered above my expectation.
I fired up multiple 5.1 Surround Bluerays first, and fast forwarded to different scenarios including simple conversation, explosions, and general atmosphere. The Medusa NX fared quite well in everything, however, there was a thing I noticed. The bass delivered by the sub woofers is so close to your head (usually the subwoofer sits on the floor and provides omni directional sound) that it feels more like vibration then true bass. However that is sadly true for all 5.1 Headsets. But that is just wishful thinking on my part. In actuality Speed Link’s Medusa NX 5.1 USB Headset performed quite well where 5.1 movies are concerned.
Moving on to Music. Now Music is a very specialized kind of audio. The highs and the lows should be clear. The fidelity should be high and the sound spectrum clear as crystal. Where music is concerned, the Medusa NX does not deliver very well, but once again that is because 5.1 Headsets were not designed for music, no 5.1 Headset (5.1 Surround Systems are another story) will deliver better music than a decent quality stereo surround headphone. It is because of this reason, that I do not consider this a dent in the Medusa’s list of good features.
For gaming purposes, I used Crysis 3, Titanfall, Age of Wonders 3 and DOTA 2. And it is here that Medusa NX 5.1 truly shines. I could hear the perfect ambiance of the urban jungle as a Stalker tried to hunt me in the long grass, I could hear the titan well, falling as PCs swarmed around me. Similarly in Age of Wonders and DOTA 2 the directional sound provided by the headset is simply immersive. Infact my talking about is pretty much redundant because if you have never experienced a 5.1 Headset then it might not be possible for you to relate. Gaming-wise this headset delivers a 10/10 experience. Although users who have a dedicated surround sound system, do not expect a viable replacement for that.
So simply put, if you are a gamer on a budget and do not currently own a Dedicated 5.1 Surround System, these are the perfect headphones for you. They not only deliver brilliant Gaming Performance, but they are quite good at watching movies too. The only actual con of this headset in my opinion is the build quality which is not as rugged as I would have liked. Considering that there are so many drivers cramped in so small a space, it would be wise of you to take good care of these if you want them to last more than a year or so. But honestly, if you look at the competition, there is no actual competition at this price point, and you really cannot argue with the value this headset offers.