Arctic Sound P531 5.1 USB Gaming Headset

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Product: Arctic Sound P531 5.1 USB Gaming Headset
Provided By: Arctic
Price: $66.55 MSRP

 

Introduction:

Arctic has been doing a lot of branching out as of late.  They used to be just PC cooling, and then they created a few decent and very quiet cases.  Eventually, they moved into the PSU market and now they have an entire line of peripherals and headphones.  We've looked at some of their earbud-style earphones in the past and overall, they were great.  Today we are looking at their first 5.1 gaming headset and hope to find that it has the same quality and enjoyable experience as their other products.  These 5.1 headphones have a USB interface which makes them work on pretty much any PC with a USB port.  This is a beautiful thing as they can work with your laptop as easily as your desktop PC.  Let's find out if they are worth using at all.

 

First Impressions:

Arctic has really stepped up the retail packaging since they went with the new logo, new innovations and new corporate identity.  This works very well for them in the retail format as the package is attractive and the box has a lot of information that should help you make your decision at the store.  Also, the fact that these headphones are under $70 for a 5.1 headset helps a whole bunch as well.

Box Front
Box Front
Box Back
Box Back

 

This headset is the on-the-ear style that can bother some people if they have sensitive ears.  We'll find out if they squeeze too hard as we carry on.  I don't mind this style of headset, but over-the-ear ones are sometimes better for long periods of gaming.  As far as a bundle, you don't get a whole lot in the box - other that the headset and a CD that contains drivers, a 5.1 audio codec and some sample media.  It's not worth writing home about, but after the drives are codec are installed, the sample media (both straight audio and video) is worth checking out to hear the 5.1 capabilities of these when not in a game.

The Headset
P531 Headset
Control & Bundle
Control & Bundle

 

On the next page we'll take a look at the features and specifications of this headset before we take a closer look and then jump into testing.


General Features: 

The following information has been pulled from the Arctic product page for this headset and posted here for your convenience.  For full details, please be sure to head on over to the Arctic website and check out all the information.

ARCTIC SOUND P531  is the most professional computer headset and literally elevates gamers to a new dimension of sounds. It is like having a home theatre crammed into a headset. This 5.1 channel surround sound gaming headset that can be connected via USB. This headset is designed for ultimate gamers as it features four individual drivers in each earcup to provide true surround sound.

Main Features

  • 5.1 channel gaming USB headset
  • Installed with special subwoofer to produce deep bass
  • Distortion free digital audio
  • Microphone included
  • Lightweight and highest noise absorption
  • Designed for ultimate gamers
  • Features 4 individual drivers in each earcup for uncompromised 5.1 surround sound details and dynamics
  • Integrated vibration units to provide extra sensation to gaming experience
  • Closed cicumaural design to isolate outside noise


To enhance exceptional gaming experience, the ARCTIC SOUND P531 is integrated with vibration units on the earcups to provide extra sensation. The ARCTIC SOUND P531  is installed with a special subwoofer to produce deep bass sounds The illuminated remote control is dedicated to tune the drivers individually.. Thanks to the 5.1 surround sound system, gamers can experience 3-dimensional game settings during their game play. From enemy footsteps, to grenade explosions, gamers can experience everything on a whole new level with this headset. With its integrated microphone, gamers can easily communicate with their teammates.

The ARCTIC SOUND P531 features premium soft fabric and ultra-thick cushioned earcups to provide optimum comfort for long-hours of game play. Its circumaural design and padded adjustable headband is to provide secure fit and eliminate any noise interruption. The earcups are reversible for added flexibility and the 90-degree swivel earcups mechanism is designed for easy single-ear monitoring. This foldable design allows users to fold the headset into a compact unit for protection and portability.

Since the ARCTIC SOUND P531  uses an USB connector, it delivers pure digital audio straight from the source without much distortion. The distortion that affected analog devices from alternating current is no longer an issue because the built-in sound processor ensures superb quality. Gamers can concentrate on their intense game play without being interrupted by much distortion.

 


Specifications are often fudged by companies and aren’t always that import when considering picking between two sets of headphones but they are worth mentioning.  They can give you an idea of what to expect and I actually really appreciate the graphic that Arctic Sound has included with their audio products so that you know what to expect with them.  

 

P531 Specifications:

 Specs

 

 Specs

Arctic has their little breakdown of how the headset performs in terms of Bass, Highs, Clarity, Noise Isolation and Comfort.  As you can see, they rate this headset pretty high in terms of bass, highs and noise isolation and after gaming with it for a couple of weeks, I'd have to agree with the noise isolation and highs.  The bass response, while strong seems a bit muddy to me, but we'll talk more about that on the next page.  The specifications above look pretty solid with the speakers ranging from 12Hz - 24kHz.  If you believe everything you read, these should be some of the best headphones you've ever heard.

The trouble with speakers is that they very well may produce sound at the frequencies claimed, but do it at such low volume that it is indistinguishable.  Either way, the proof is in the listening, right?

 

Closer Look:

As we get more familiar with the P531 headset, it's important to note that the main audio control on the line allows control and adjustment over the front, rear, center, subwoofer, volume and microphone controls.  Each of these can be adjusted independently and once they are adjusted to your liking, it makes a big difference in your favorite game or movie.  If the front, rear or center channels are too strong, you don't get any positional audio experience and the sound can easily be a bit weak.  Make sure you take the time to fine-tune your headset until you get a good balance.  You won't be disappointed.

P531 Profile
P531 Profile
Headset w/Mic Extended
Headset w/Mic Extended

 

The headset is very adjustable in terms of size, position of earcups and microphone position.  It is actually very comfortable on my average-sized head as the padding is nice and soft and made out of good quality material that seems to breathe.  This keeps your ears and the top of your head nice and cool. 

Top Down
Top Down
Foldable
Foldable

 

Arctic is quite proud to have their name displayed on this headset as you can see from the Top Down view above.  You can also see how flexible they are in terms of folding.  This allows them to be stored almost anywhere in your LAN bag as you pack them from venue to venue.  It would have been awesome if they would include a nice case for these as well.

 

Testing the Arctic Sound:

For testing these earphones we plugged them into a desktop PC as well as my laptop to use the 6-channel audio on multiple platforms.  We tested the microphone on Skype as well as TeamSpeak and in-game chat on MW2.

Before we get into testing, I have to say that listening to audio is very subjective.  What one person believes is "good quality" audio can be very different from what another person hears.  I am no audiophile, but I do like to hear the full spectrum of sound without the bass being over-powering or the midrange and treble being too sharp and harsh.  Please bear in mind that all of our observations are subjective.

With that being said, we'll jump into actual testing on the next page.

 

 

Game Testing:

The Arctic Sound P531 headset claims to be a 5.1 channel USB gaming headset so of course we have to play some games with these.  Although your game choice and tastes will vary, I still love Call of Duty: World at War and Modern Warfare 2 a whole bunch.  It's definitely because of the community and the people I get to play with that makes these games fun.  That being said, I configured the sound, fine-tuned the surround in game and let it the sticky 'nades fly!

Call of Duty: World at War:
I’m part of a gaming clan – TDR – and we play a fair bit of CoD5 competitively.  I enjoyed fragging it up with my buddies, Cottonmouth, HooRaH, Onion and Deck.  A couple of things that makes these headphones great is that they are simple plug-and-play USB and this allows you to easily change from you existing speaker setup to these very quickly.  Once the audio was tuned, the positional audio was very good and it allowed me to hear Cottonmouth charging around a corner as I lay in wait with a shotgun.  Onion, had soft shoes on and destroyed me with his bayonet though.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2:
Although many will complain about the multi-player incapability of CoD6, my clan-mates have made the transition and I'm currently sitting at Prestige 10 - level 65.  I completed a couple of prestige levels with this headset alone and it works very well.  The audio is very positional, although not as natural as the Psyko Audio headset we've been playing with as well.  The only downside is the microphone quality as it is much "thinner" and tinny compared to other microphones I've used for online gaming.

 Side View

Music Testing:

I enjoy music a whole bunch and my Zunepass is certainly my friend.  I download and listen to a lot of new music and I’ve spent a little bit of time over the last couple of weeks this headset on my head.  I’ve listened to everything from acoustic country music to some metal, as well as some Thousand Foot Krutch and a little Skillet.  Everything I’ve listened sounds very acceptable on these headphones.  Unless you have multi-channel audio such as some SACD or DVD-A, you'll only get a couple of channels, but overall the experience isn't too bad.  If you are playing some games and want to listen to some music between matches, you certainly don't need to go get a different pair of earphones. 

The bass is quite punchy in these and while the additional vibration makes games a little more enjoyable, it is a little distracting when listening to music.  It only seems to kick in at quite low frequencies, but I wish it could be turned off when listening to music.

 

Skype / Mic Testing:

The microphone is definitely the weakest part of the P531 headset.  The audio quality is not very good and while it works for basic communication, I sure wouldn't want to try and use it for recording an episode of WeeklyTechUpdate.  The moment I plugged it in and used it, my fellow TDR Clan buddies noticed it immediately and commented that I didn't sound near as good as with my old microphone.

 

Conclusion:

The Arctic Sound P531 5.1 headset is a great addition to any gamer's arsenal.  It offers very good positional audio as well as a good overall audio experience for gaming, movies and even a little music.  The USB interface is great in that it can bring 5.1 audio to any PC with a USB port.  The only downside to USB is that you can't use these with your Xbox, audio receiver or media player.  It is a PC-only headset that works great for almost any application that provides you with 6-channels of audio.

In terms of bang-for-the-buck, this headset probably can't be beat.  With an MSRP of $66.55, you really can't go wrong with these.  They aren't the best headset on the market - due to the poor microphone quality, but they are one of the most affordable.  

Pros:

  • Comfortable headset
  • Good audio quality
  • Good positional 5.1 channel capability
  • USB interface allows it to work on laptop or desktop
  • Folds for easy carrying

 

Cons:

  • Microphone quality is poor
  • No carrying case 

BCCRating 

Silver

 

I'd like to thank Arctic for sending us this headset to review.  For the price, it is a great listen and gives you a bit of an edge in your favorite PC game.

Please post your thoughts, comments and questions at the "Comments" link below.