Sennheiser U 320 Universal Gaming Headset

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Product: Sennheiser U 320 Universal Gaming Headset
Provided By: Sennheiser
Price: ~$169.95 MSRP at time of publication

Introduction:

It's no secret that many of the staff here at BCCHardware are gamers.  I am part of a clan myself and enjoy some good PC gaming.  Lately, I've also enjoy some console gaming on my Xbox 360 and have actually lined up for the past two Halo titles with some friends.  Many gaming headsets only cover one specific platform, and while there are some multi-platform headsets on the market, many of them are clunky and are certainly not elegant.  Often to get all the platform compatibility, the companies seem to skimp in the way of build and audio quality in order to make the price attractive.

Sennheiser has a new product to help answer these short comings.  A while back we looked at both the PC360 Gaming headset for the PC and we later looked at the X320 headset for the Xbox 360 console.  Today we are looking at the U 320 Universal Gaming headset that promises support for Mac, PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.  This headset looks like a refreshed X320 and we'll find out today just what it offers and how it compares to other gaming headsets we've looked at recently.

U 320 Package Front
Box Front
U 320 Package Back
Box Back

 

The U 320 has a lot of great features - including being very comfortable.  The open design allows sound to leak in (and out) and helps keep your ears and head cool during long gaming sessions.  As is the case with other Sennheiser headsets we've looked at recently, microphone mute is achieved by raising the "boom".  This is great when you have a phone call and you don't want others listening in.

Another great feature is the dual-volume control that we've seen on other headsets from Sennheiser, SteelSeries and others.  This allows you to adjust your in-game volume and the voice-chat volume independently of each other.  This is extremely handy if you want to hear the strategy of your team, in-game sounds or if you have some 12-year old thinking he's God's Gift to Gaming and you simply want to turn him down.  It works well (on the Xbox 360) for all of these.

Before we dive into the review much further, we'll take a quick refresh at who Sennheiser is and what they are all about.

About Sennheiser:

Sennheiser has been around for over 65 years and they know audio.  They have pioneered soem great audio technology over the years and ahve positioned themselves in such a way that they will likely be around long after many other audio companies bite the dust.  Below is some information from their site that better describes a few aspects of their vision.

Integrity:
We apply the highest ethical standards, exhibit honesty and fairness in everything we do, and honor our commitments. We take personal responsibility for our actions and treat everyone fairly and with trust and respect.

Respect:
We treat our team members, clients, partners, and suppliers with respect and sensitivity and recognize the importance of diversity. We respect all individuals and value their contributions.

Entrepreneurial Spirit:
We believe in developing a sense of entrepreneurship in each and every employee with regard to their work, projects, and roles. We all strive to be proactive and take an active interest in Sennheiser’s business. We continuously strive to improve efficiency, quality, and cost control. We encourage innovation, new ideas, and opportunities for improvement.

Empathy:
We carefully consider all perspectives and consequences in our decisions and acknowledge our responsibility for the things we do. We work towards solutions that are optimal for the company, considering all stakeholders’ input.

Excellence:
We strive for excellence in everything we do. This includes, but is not limited to, serving our clients in the best possible way, managing our internal processes and people as well as focusing on financial performance.

Passion:
We do business with our full energy and commitment for the industry we work in. We take pride in our job and draw satisfaction from excellence.

Curiosity & Openness:
We support and foster a climate of innovation in the things we do. Innovation is a key element of our success, be it in our products and services as well as in the way we do business.

 

We've reviewed quite a few headsets over the years - most recently the CM Storm Ceres 400 Headset and the Tt eSPORTS Shock Spin Headset.  The U 320 is the first "Universal" headset that I've done, although I've used a bunch of headsets on a bunch of different platforms, this is the first one that claims to handle all of the current popular consoles and computer OS'.

U 320 Profile

The U 320 is Sennheiser's top-of-the-line (and only) Universal Gaming Headset that has almost identical specifications to the X320, but it falls slightly behind their top-end PC gaming headsets.  When priced out at $170, it ranks up there with other high-end headsets from Turtle Beach, Triton, Psyko Audio and Astro.  Sennheiser believes they can compete by offering a great product that works equally well on pretty much any platform that you will use for gaming.

Let's find out if they have what it takes in the U 320.  On the next page we'll start by taking a closer look at this unit.


Closer Look:

As you'll notice on the previous page the package is a nice clear clamshell that opens very easy - just like the X320.  Inside the package is the headset, the cables and a quick install card - again, just like the X320.  In fact, at first glance you can't really see any difference between these two packages - other than the X320 has a green theme and the U 320 is done up in blue.

Cables
Cables
Profile
Profile

 

The headset is not a really small unit as you can see in the image above.  It is a full over-the-ear headset (thankfully) and the open air design is comfortable and cool to wear for hours.  The microphone boom is quite large as well but the entire headset is very light - much lighter than the PC 360 and probably a couple pounds lighter than a Psyko Audio headset.  When the microphone is in the "up" position, it automatically mutes and you can hear a soft "click" when the mute switch is activated.  I hope that they are using a high-quality switch on the headset as this would be a shame to lose the mute feature down the road due to wearing out.

U 320 Headset
Headset Upright

If you're hooking this up to your PS3, PC or Mac, all you have to do is plug in the USB cable to the device and you're good to go.  If you want to still have sound on your TV, you'll have to  use the included RCA audio cable and pass-through in order to get audio out of each of these.

USB Connector
USB Cable

The Xbox 360 requires the additional cable that goes from the control module located on the cord and will connect to the controller.  This is solely for the purpose of microphone communication - as Microsoft has bound the wireless microphone through the controller - this sucks, but that's how it is if you choose the green team.

Controller
Controller

The controller also houses a "bass boost" switch that gives explosions and music an extra thump.  Also located next to the "bass boost" switch is a "side tone" switch that monitors voice levels in the game for better adjustment.

Control Module
Other Side of Controller

The circle-flex infused ear pads make sure that their is even pressure on your head - all the way around and this gives the headset extra comfort and it's clearly wearable for hours.  I've done it lots of times, so I can vouch for that.

On the next page we'll take a quick look at the features and specifications of this headset as claimed by Sennheiser before we dive into testing.

 


Features and More:

The following information has been taken from the product page over at Sennheiser.  For up to date information, it's always best to confirm with the manufacturer, but we've copy and pasted some of the information here for your convenience.  If you have any questions, check at the manufacturers site.

 

Overview:

A headful of thrills
If you game on more than one device or just want the perfect overall gaming headset, then the Sennheiser U 320 is the ideal choice. Because it’s multi-platform, you get great audio whether you’re gaming on your PC, MAC, Xbox® or PS3®. For optimum comfort, CircleFlex™ ear cups ensure the ear pads adjust automatically to your head. An open acoustic design allows built-up heat to escape, keeping your head cool while gaming.
 
Bring the game to life
The U 320 has Sennheiser’s trademark superb sound. You get two volume controls – one for the game audio, one for other players – and a super-clear microphone to take your gaming communication to a new level. Plus, a punchy bass boost makes those roaring engines, car crashes and explosions even more realistic. 
 
Ear Pad
 
A sofa for your ears 
Sennheiser CircleFlex™ technology ensures the ear pads adjust automatically to your head.
 
Multi-platform gaming headset
Switch between all gaming platforms (PC, MAC, Xbox® or PS3®) and still get the same sound quality.
 
Get deeper into the game
Make the most of your gaming experience and clearly hear fellow players. Also, a special bass boost lets you hear sounds like engine roar, car crashes or explosions in more detail.

 

Features:
  • Superb Sennheiser amplified sound – make the most of your Xbox LIVE® experience with amplified sound and clearly hear your teammates or opponents
  • Dual volume control – gives you flexibility to independently adjust the audio of the game or your fellow players
  • Noise canceling clarity – the pro microphone reduces ambient noise and is highly sensitive for taking your gaming chat to a new level
  • Bass boost – turn on the powerful bass to hear the sounds of the engine, car crashes or explosions in more details
  • Soft-padded comfort – CircleFlex™ ear cups ensure the ear pads rotate and adjust automatically to your head
  • Automatic microphone mute – mute the microphone by raising the boom
  • Great for long gaming sessions – open-acoustic design of the ear cups keeps your head cool, so you can play as long as you like
  • Low-noise amplifier – engineered to maximize clarity, while minimizing any hissing sound
  • Hassle-free setup – colored connectors and Quick Start Guide ensure an intuitive, easy start
  • 2-year warranty

Specifications:

 
Wearing style Headband
Cable length 4 m
Connector 2.5mm to Xbox® controller, 2 x RCA to TV/console, USB for PS3®and PC audio
Weight 284 g
Impedance 32 Ω
Sound pressure level (SPL) 113 dB
Pick-up pattern Uni-directional
Sensitivity -38 dBV/Pa

 


U 320 Testing:

Testing a gaming headset is pretty simple - and a lot of fun.  I made sure I scheduled a lot of "bench" time to test this headset out and played a whole lot of Halo 4 online with a few of my friends.  I did play some Black Ops II and other games as well to test out the whole scope of the gaming experience.  Unlike the Psyko Audio Xbox headset I got to play around with at VulcLAN 2012, this headset is just a stereo headset, but in turn it offers a wider range of function than just gaming.  I took time to listen to some Zune through the Xbox as well as Hulu, Netflix and more.  All in all, I gave this headset a good "work"over on the console.  I also testing it out on the PC for gaming, music and more - and the results were equally satisfying.

Gaming:

As I've said before, testing a headset is pretty easy but writing about it is a little bit tougher.  It's hard to explain the fit, feel and sound of any audio product - especially headsets as there are a lot of different heads for this product to fit on.  Also, because of the size of the speakers, it's pretty hard to test them with a reference microphone so most of my testing will based off of my experiences with the headset and what I liked and didn't like about the unit.

Before we start, I really need to explain that I'm NOT a good console gamer - especially when it comes to FPS games online.  I can hold my own in a map of rookies, but I'm not way a solid FPS player online.  I enjoy these games and love them on my PC, but I have no skill when it comes to the console.  I do like the sense of community and the relaxed approach to console gaming and that is why I've started playing my Xbox more.  I've played with a few pretty nice headsets over the years - including the 5.1 Psyko kit so I've got a bit of experience (in my mind at least) to compare this unit too.

Profile

In the past, most of my headsets for Xbox gaming have been of the closed design - with the exception of the Psyko kit that could be either open or closed.  While closed headsets block out external sounds, they do make it hard to hear the environment right around you.  The U 320's design allows you to be able to listen to the game and those sitting next to you on the couch that are side-seat-playing.  This is great for playing at home or at your favorite LAN.

The U 320 headset gives you the ability to hear generally where sound is coming from and when you're trying to survive against the Promethians or the Covenant, the bass boost can cause chills to run down your spine when the Promethians roars, rattle and come charging at you.

The quality of the in-game audio coming out of these when connected to the console that I keep in my office is excellent.  The U 320 delivers amazing audio quality in your favorite game in terms of crispness, clarity and bass.  It makes playing a game like Mass Effect 3 a lot more fun when the banshee's shriek before attacking.  (~chills~)

The U 320 probably won't make you that much of a better gamer, but they do provide excellent - I'll say it again - excellent quality audio in game.  I've played with other headsets that offer greater surround sound precision and others that cost less, but the overall price/quality on this headset is wonderful.  During "testing" here at the office and when writing reviews, hunting for news, editing and listening to movies and music, I've worn this headset for hours on end and I've never found it to be the least bit uncomfortable.  These clearly are a great fitting and comfortable kit.  Even though the PC 360 is pretty light, these are lighter and I often forget I'm wearing them.

Music and Movies:

According to the specifications, the frequency response range of this headset is from 15Hz to 23,000Hz which should make it ideal for pretty much any audio that you play on your gaming device and pump through it.  Music is very good on this headset.  All of your audio can be played back uncomfortably loud and I never actually used an SPL meter as audio output is dependent upon direct connection to your Xbox or the display that you hook it too.  If you turn up the audio on your TV, plug the headphone jack in, it will be much louder than a direct in-line connection so this wasn't fair to test.

How do they translate to end user experience?  These are very good for your favorite music genre.  They are crisp and very clean for a gaming headset and offer a lot of bass - with the boost turned on.  They seem to be pretty accurate on the music I listened to and when the boost is off - they seem to be pretty well balanced.  Vocal tracks and power ballads from the 80's are stellar, and tracks from bands like FM Static and Treble Charger are nice and crisp.  Bass heavy tracks will shake your brain if you turn up the boost.  Really, there is something for everyone.

 

Microphone Quality:

I was able to connect this headset to my PC and recorded an audio sample from the microphone using Audacity.  Check it out here to see and listen.  It's a great microphone and it cancels out all of the other white noise in the background here at the office.  Download the sample here.

Gamers confirmed that I sounded way better than other people using stock or cheaper headsets.  I'll prove it to you if you add me on Xbox live - BCCZeus or on steam by searching for bcchardware.

 


Final Thoughts:

After reviewing the last few Sennheiser products, my expectations were a little higher than they used to be when it came to German-engineered headphones.  I expected quite a lot and after playing around with the U 320 headset for about a month, I got what I expected - a lot.  The U 320 headset is a pretty solid piece of kit and while it extremely light-weight, it performs like a champion.

While I'm a pretty decent PC gamer, my expertise at console gaming is limited to Break-Out, or maybe even some Need for Speed.  I played around quite a bit with a lot of different titles on both the PC and the console and overall, I'm very impressed with the U 320.  The stereo headset may not make you a professional gamer, but it does add a lot more enjoyment to every game I played.  I can play my favorite games late into the night without having to worry about keeping others awake - or experiencing the crappy audio of a TV.

I'll try to break down my final thoughts about this headset much the same way I did for other headsets I've reviewed recently.  This will help me determine a final score for the product.

Audio Quality - This is one of the areas when Sennheiser shines.  The audio quality for games, movies and music is very good.  All of the aspects appear to be quite balanced and while I did turn up the bass in some games, the overall experience and quality didn't require a bass boost - although it helped.

Functionality - The Sennheiser U 320 headset fits great and they are so light and comfortable that I can wear them for hours without discomfort.  Even though they are light, they don't feel too flimsy - albeit they do feel a bit more fragile than the 5XB from SteelSeries.  Those things are a tank.  The U 320 fits well and the microphone mute feels natural.  If I don't want everyone in game to hear me rage, I flip it up and contain my ranting to those in the immediate area.  The in-line control and way the microphone hooks to the controller allow it to be used with any controller than has an multifunction port in the bottom.  I love the fact that the USB connection works for both Microphone and Headphones on the PC side of things. 

U 320

Gaming - Gaming is what these are designed for and gaming is what they do best.  For ~$170 they are a decent value for what you get in terms of quality, features and compatibility - a bit on the expensive side for sure, but when you figure in the fact that they replace headphones on all of your gaming systems, they gain some value points for sure.  I love the open design of the ear cups and enjoy that I can hear those around me without tipping up one to hear and thereby losing the in-game audio experience.  The microphone works well for multiplayer games and according to those I queried, sounds great.

Value - The Sennheiser U 320 headset is not the cheapest headset on the market - nor is it the most expensive.  As I mentioned before, it comes in around $170 (at time of publication) and when you compare the audio quality, comfort and compatibility of this headset, it's not a bad buy. 

Quality - The overall quality of the U 320 headset is above average.  The microphone boom seems to be solid enough and after hundreds of mute flips, it still feels nice and tight and secure.  The overall light weight of the headset can make you feel that the build quality is lacking, but I'm not gentle on stuff like this and they seem to be holding up like a trooper.

At the end of the day the Sennheiser U 320 headset for the your universal gaming needs is a pretty solid product and if you have the budget for these I know you won't be disappointed.  They are very comfortable, have great audio quality and plug into any device that you use for mainstream gaming.  These did win our Editor's Choice "Gold" award, but they could use a tweak on the price to really make them stand out.

Pros:

  • Super comfortable
  • Excellent audio quality
  • Good build quality
  • Lightweight and open-desing allows for long wearing
  • PC, Mac, PS3 & Xbox 360 support

 

Cons:

  • Lots of wires for the Xbox
  • A bit expensive

Gold

 

I'd like to thank Sennheiser for letting us take a look at the U 320 Headset.  If you have any questions or comments, please post it in the forum at the link below.