gadg-et-oid [gaj-it-oid]


1. having the characteristics or form of a gadget;
resembling a mechanical contrivance or device.

Sennheiser PC350 Gaming Headset Review

Borrowing heavily from the design of Sennheiser’s award winning PXC350 “cloak of silence” noise canceling headphones the PC350 Gaming Headset removes the noise canceling, adds a microphone and positions itself as a high-end gaming product designed to help you keep your in-game noise to yourself.

The Sennheiser PC350 headset features a closed-back design that ensures minimal sound leakage; the build quality is simply fantastic and incredibly suited to a hardcore gaming environment where they’re not quite going to be placed upon a velvet pillow when they are not in use, even though they should be.

Alongside the incredibly sturdy build comes a surprising level of comfort, the cans are well padded and remain comfortable for hours. The band over the top of the head has at least a centimeter of foam padding, that’s not a small amount! It’s quite clear to see that the PC350 have built upon years of Sennheisers headphone producing experience to deliver a gaming headset that is almost perfection. The Sennheiser PC350 headset is comfortable enough to fall asleep in and I’ve done this many, many times whilst listening to podcasts late at night. Never once have I had to worry about breaking them in my sleep, either, they are truly reassuringly sturdy.

Just like the PXC350 the PC350 cans swivel through 90 degrees and fold inward toward the head band allowing the headset to be safely stored on the flat, alas unlike their far more expensive cousin the Sennheiser PC350 does not come with a case in which to stow them but, when flattened, should be at home in the front pocket of any reasonably sized laptop bag. Suffice to say, carrying these safely to a LAN gaming event is not going to be an issue; perhaps even if you come under attack by rampaging mutant dinosaurs on your journey.

The tilt-down microphone is the most sturdily built I have seen on anything, including the professional aviation headsets also produced by Sennheiser. It’s a behemoth microphone boom with a slightly flexible portion for positioning it to your personal preference. The grille at the end, whilst plastic, echos the design of the iconic 1950s radio microphone. If you’re not a fan of brick-outhouse build quality then it might be a turn off, but if you like your gear to last (and possibly even deflect bullets) you will certainly find the PC350 drool-inducing!

Unlike previous gaming headset offerings from Sennheiser, such as the PC156 USB, the PC350 does not come with a USB audio adaptor, and there’s no option to buy it with one. This is all well and good for its intended market where any self respecting gamer will be packing an expensive sound card and will scoff at the idea of routing their audio through a naff little device. But for Mac gamers who enjoy playing World of Warcraft with a decent pair of headphones this poses a small problem. The audio-inputs on Mac computers are line-in only, this means they require a pre-amped input in order to pick up any sound whatsoever. The PC350 does no pre-amping and thus, for example, the microphone simply does not work with my MacBook Pro. This is more a fault of Macs than the PC350 itself and is something that really irks me. A quick dig through my boxes of bits yielded a Sennheiser USB audio adaptor (the one from the Sennheiser PC156 USB incidentally) which I was able to use to get the PC350 microphone up and running. If you’re really pedantic about audio quality you can run the sound output through the normal, onboard port and the input through a USB dongle on a Mac but I’m not convinced it makes a bit of difference.

I’ve used the PC350 quite extensively to listen to music and podcasts in the late hours when I need something to help shut down my brain and bring on the sweet embrace of sleep. The enclosed design ensures that no sound leaks out and wakes my other half. The sound quality is in line with what I would expect from Sennheiser; Suitably excellent. I always go for ‘phones that are capable of achieving high volume levels without distortion and whilst I never managed to get the excessive levels I need out of the PXC350 the PC350 are quite capable of delivering them and get extremely close to my Roland RH-300 favorites. Suffice to say that the PC350 will satisfy all but the discerning audiophile.

As a laptop user I found the PC350 cord to be excessively long but quickly fixed the problem using one of the billion cable ties floating about in boxes, mugs and drawers on my desk at work and at home; I can’t see to throw the things away, okay! Cable management solutions are nice to have, but you really can’t beat a cable tie for flexibility and, I suppose, some degree of environmental friendliness.

What I do lament for, however, is a detachable cable. This is something that doesn’t find its way onto nearly enough headphones, however Sennheiser have implemented it into the PXC350 rather elegantly but not the PC350. In a gaming headset an easily detachable cable would allow for any one of several desired lengths to be fitted and additionally allow for that most vulnerable of components to be easily replaced should it get decimated by the hungry caster wheels of an office chair.

Please could somebody standardize a secure connection for detachable headphone cables already? The slot-into-the-back PXC350 solution is a good point of reference, start there and make it generic!

Along the lines of detachable components, I’m sure the ability to detach the microphone would be welcome by some in a future revision of the Sennheiser PC350 but I can’t seem to get over the thought that it would compromise the sturdy build quality. As someone who clings to a pair of obnoxious, loud and lovely Roland RH-300s for wearing out-and-about I can’t outright discount the idea that someone might be mad enough to wear the PC350s out also. They’re definitely not designed for it though; unless you enjoy pulling off the whole “Cyborg” look in public.

Having looked reasonably recently at a wealth of gaming headsets I can say with some reasonable confidence that the Sennheiser PC350 is probably the best choice on the market at the moment. Leave the surround-sound to surround-sound speaker setups and treat yourself to some of these babies. You will definitely not be disappointed!

Friday, August 8th, 2008, Computer Gaming, Featured, Home Entertainment, Personal Audio.