Audio: Terratec Headset Master 5.1 USB

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Terratec Headset Master 5.1 USB boxIf you don't have a surround sound system or require the privacy (or the rest of the family do!), then 5.1 surround sound headsets are way to go.  Obviously when condensing the surround sound signal into a single set of headphones, the quality of the surround experience will always suffer.  However, the experience is normally better than a standard headphone set.

Terratec have hit the market with their take on the 5.1-Headset.  Like other equivalent headsets, the Terratec Headset Master 5.1 headphones are connected via USB 2.0 and incorporate an inbuilt sound card which mediates the 5.1 signal, and this of course limits their use to PCs.  The headphones come with individual volume controls for each channel, including a master volume control, and overall volume control can be done through the PC mixer software in a similar way to standard sound cards.

The Terratec Headset Master 5.1 also has a removable microphone with a related mute function alongside the volume controls making the headset ideal for use with VOIP softwares such as Skype and Windows Messenger.  The headset also incorporates around 7 feet of cable allowing users to be quite a distance from the base unit.

The actual headset is solidly built with a secure headband and between the earpieces there are six speakers to recreate the 5.1 effect.  There is extensive padding around the earpieces to minimise extraneous sounds and also give comfort to the wearer.  Presumably due to the inclusion of multiple speakers, the headset uses an open construction with fine wire mesh covering the back of the earpieces.

Terratec Headset Master 5.1 USBDuring our testing, we found setup very easy in Microsoft Windows XP and Vista with each operating recognising the device through the USB and providing relevant drivers.  The earpieces were relativley comfortable to wear, and they were perfectly wearable for longer periods of use, although we found they did not clamp very tightly over the ears, making them feel a bit loose.  Weight wise they only weigh 450g so fatigue through wearing them is unlikely.

The quality to the sound reproduction was fine for the game we tried with all ranges being picked up to give a reasonable aprroimation of a 5.1 setup.  During deep bass sound tracks the "bass shaker" function of the headset gave atmospheric shaking around the ears.  When testing with 5.1 audio test tracks individual channels were well decoded to give relevant positioning, although we felt that the actual bass was lacking and for sound tracks the "bass shaker" function was not really very appropriate (unfortunately this function cannot be turned off).

As with most 5.1 headsets, the Terratec Headset Master 5.1 is not going to be able to replace standalone AV components.  However as a headset for gaming and general PC use, including VOIP (with the built-in microphone), the Terratec Headset Master 5.1 holds it's own amongst similarly priced headsets.

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Amazon: TerraTec Surround Headset Master 5.1 USB