Psyko Audio Carbon 5.1 Headset

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Product(s): Psyko Audio Carbon 5.1 Gaming Headset
Provided By: Psyko Audio

Price:


Introduction: 

I was pretty excited when I found out that I would be reviewing the new Psyko Audio Carbon headset due to the fact that this gaming headset is really unlike anything available on the market today. I was also excited to review this headset because the only way to test a gaming headset is also a great excuse to play games (and trust me, I tested it thoroughly). The Psyko Audio Carbon headset is built for gaming and that's exactly what we used it for.

We met the guys from Psyko way back at CES 2009 where they were showing off their original Psyko 5.1 headset which was truly like nothing we'd seen before. Now 2 years later Psyko Audio has taken what they've learned from the original Psyko 5.1 headset and released a new and improved version named Carbon which we will be taking a look at today.

In the next section we'll quickly take a look at what sets the Psyko Audio Carbon headset apart from the others and how they are able to produce true 5.1 audio without using any software or having to simulate anything.

 

About Psyko Audio

Before we begin I'll quickly go over what Psyko Audio is all about and how this headset (as well as the original Psyko 5.1 headset) works for those unfamiliar with Psyko's products. The Carbon headset is quite obviously not your average headset and there are a few major differences worth noting.

The biggest difference is that the Carbon features 5 individual speakers in the top of the headset. These speakers are then, for lack of a better word, "piped" into the ear cups. Other "5.1" headsets will use one speaker in each ear cup and simulate 5.1 sounds while the Carbon actually uses 5 speakers (plus the individual sub-woofers in each ear cup). I've included a picture from Psyko Audio that shows you how the Carbon headset is all setup.

2009.04.29 driver positioning.jpg
howitworksblack.gif


Even the way audio passes by your ears is unique and really replicates a 5.1 speaker setup properly. Obviously not everyone has the room or the situation where you can have a 5.1 speaker setup (you can't haul your speakers to a LAN party) and that's exactly where a product like the Carbon headset really shines and sets itself apart from the competition. 

2009.04.29.psyko wave technology.jpg

 

Hopefully the pictures courtesy of Psyko Audio give you a better idea of how their PsykoWave technology works. If you want to find out more about how their headsets work you can head over to Psyko's website for more in depth details.

 

First Impressions:

If you ever seen or demoed the original Psyko 5.1 headset you'll notice that the new Carbon headset shape-wise is pretty much identical to the original, the concept and design is very similar with the Carbon being an "improved" version of the original. The original Psyko 5.1 headset was orange in color but the new Carbon version is pretty much entirely black. Other differences include improved speakers in the headset, an improved amplifier, as well as the construction of the headset itself has been beefed up significantly over the original Psyko 5.1 headset.

 
Box Open
Open Box

You don't score any extra points for having nice packaging but if you did Psyko would gain an extra point or two. Everything is packaged nice and secure to help prevent your friendly delivery man from destroying your headset while delivering it to you.

Carbon Profile
Branded Earpiece

 
On the next page we'll take a closer look at the Carbon headset before we venture onto the specifications.
 

 
 
Closer Look:

As you can see in the pictures above the Carbon (just like the original Psyko 5.1) is a larger headset due to the unique design of having the speakers in the top of the headset. The size at first will feel a bit awkward since chances are good that it will be a bit bigger then what you are used to. After a couple of hours of gaming you get used to the Carbon's size and is much more comfortable than I was expecting it to be. The headset is nice and balanced and doesn't flop around even if you whip your head around a bit, overall I was very happy with just how comfortable it actually was.

Both Open
Both Open
Open Close
Open - Close Up


Another unique feature that the Carbon features is its unique side vents that open and close. This might not seem like a very cool idea at first but after using them you realize just how useful they can be. If you want to be able to hear what is going on around you, or if you need to be able to talk to someone sitting beside you, you can easily open them up, or if you want to block out noise around you they can easily close. These "openable" side vents also are pretty cool and I found myself leaving them open much more than I thought I would and even with them open the sound quality of the Carbon headset is still very good (and you can still hear someone knocking at the door easily).

Microphone
Microphone
Mic Attached
Mic Attached


As you can see above the Carbon headset comes with a detachable mic. The mic attaches and detaches easily yet doesn't flop around and stays in place nicely.


Sound quality on the mic is very decent, more than adequate for any Teamspeak/Ventrilo/Voice Chatting. While it might not be the best mic I have ever heard it is by no means even close to being the worst, all of your friends will be able to clearly hear you when you are making fun of them for their sub-par game play.

AMP - Front with Cables
AMP - Front + Cables


The Psyko Audio Carbon comes with an amplifier that sits on your desk and is where you will plug your headset into. The amp also has 2 knob controls which easily allow you to adjust volume (or turn off) as well as adjust bass levels. These is also an LED display which helps you setup the headset and shows you which channels you are currently using. As you can see in the pictures above and below amp is pretty decent looking and won't stick out like a sore thumb on your desk and the ability to adjust volume and bass quickly is a nice feature to have as well. The ability to quickly attach and detach your Carbon headset from the amp is also very nice and prevents you from having to go in behind your computer every time you need to unplug the headset for whatever reason.

AMP - Rear
AMP - Rear

 

We'll continue our inspection of the Carbon on the next page. 


 

Closer Look - Continued:

The Carbon headset is a larger headset when compared to most other headset on the market, however as you can see in the pictures below thanks to adjustable side cups you can easily adjust the Carbon to comfortable adjust to most people's heads. Once you get the Carbon all adjusted and setup for you it becomes quite comfortable and you quickly forget about how large it is.

Adjustable - Retracted
Adjustable - Retracted
Adjustable - Extended
Adjustable - Extended

Inside Ear
Inside
Inside With Sub
Inside
 
 

The magic behind Psyko Audio comes from their individual speakers in the top of the headset which are then ported to the correct area in the headset and allows you to naturally and directionally hear sound as compared to other 5.1 headsets that use software to artificially simulate surround sound. In the pictures above and below you can see a closer look at these speakers and how they are setup. 

Inside Ear
Inside
Speakers Up Here
Headband with Speakers


There we go, that's the Psyko Audio Carbon headset, in the next sections we'll take a closer look at some of the details as well as do some serious gaming and see how the Carbon performs.


Psyko Audio Carbon 5.1 Headset Specifications:

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All Specification taken from PsykoAudio.com

Psyko Carbon™ is the premium PC headset that delivers the most precise directional audio soundscape in gaming.  Unlike other surround sound headsets that approximate direction through simulation, Psyko Carbon uses precision-tuned front and rear audio waveguides to channel sound instantly and naturally to both ears simultaneously, just like a 5.1 room speaker system.


Features and Benefits

  • Five individual speakers in the bridge of the headset to recreate the perfect room
  • Precision audio waveguides naturally drive the sound to both ears with zero latency and instant positional awareness
  • New high performance speakers deliver enhanced audio performance
  • Simple setup - no software drivers, plug and play
  • Psyko Amp with fully adjustable bass, volume control, and 5 LED visual direction indicator
  • Pivot-open ear cups keep your ears cool during extended play and hear others
  • Removable Mic – out of the way, but there when you need it
  • Tough braided Cable - tangle free and more durable.
  • Gold plated connectors

 


Psyko Amplifier - every Carbon system comes fully equipped with a Psyko Amp, used to power the headset and drive the sound from the top of the headband and into your ears.  It is the workhorse of our PsykoWave Technology and features fully customizable sound and LED directional indicators. The setup is simple, just plug in the four colored jacks into the sound card and you are ready to experience the best directional audio of your gaming life. 

Side Vents - pivot open the ear cups to keep your ears cool and lets you hear others without removing the headset, pivot them closed to block outside sounds.  Extra comfortable padding fits over your ears for marathon gaming sessions.  Game late into the night without disturbing your family or neighbours. 

Carbon is equipped with gold plated connectors and a tangle free braided cable.

Removable Boom Mic - Ultra sensitive Psyko microphone lets you communicate with your team mates.  Removable for when you need it out of the way. 

 

Psyko Audio Carbon 5.1 Headset - Testing:

Testing a gaming headset is pretty simple (and fun). The best type of games that demonstrate the advantages of 5.1 sound is FPS games such as Call of Duty Black Ops (which is the game I used for the majority of testing).

Gaming:

Testing of a headset is pretty simple to do, writing about a gaming headset is a much tougher task. Like with any headset most of the "testing" section will mainly be me writing about my experiences with the headset and what I liked and didn't like.

Before we start I should note that I am by no means a professional gamer. I would probably consider myself somewhere above "casual" maybe a little below "avid" as my gaming frequency has dropped over the years as compared to my years past where playing for hours (and days) straight wasn't uncommon. I enjoy games of all types and genres but for the majority of testing I was using Call of Duty" Black Ops as my game of choice.

In the past I've used a 5.1 speaker setup while playing FPS games in order to gain an advantage by being able to determine where sound (and in most cases gunfire) is coming from. While at home this works well, however my neighbors don't appreciate late night gaming as much as I do, so my usage of my speakers is somewhat limited. Due to my neighbors not being understanding and appreciative of late night gaming the Carbon headset really intrigued me.

The Carbon headset is designed for gaming, and that's really what it does best. The ability to hear exactly where a sound is coming from is pretty important in a game like Call of Duty Black Ops where milliseconds can literally be the difference between getting the kill or being dead. Instead of just knowing that the sound is coming from the left or right you can almost pinpoint exactly at what angle the sound is coming from which is really handy and gives you an advantage in reaction times.


Anybody who has ever played video games with a 5.1 speaker setup can testify that the experience is much more immersive using 5.1 audio then using a regular headset, and that gaming experience is what the Carbon headset is able to replicate. There are other headsets that boast 5.1 surround sound, however they are achieving this by using software to "simulate" 5 speakers while the guys at Psyko Audio are actually using 5 speakers (plus 2 subwoofers). In certain cases like movies and music simulated 5.1 sound is acceptable and sounds good, but in gaming you don't want simulated sound, you want actually sound so you can hear exactly what is going on and from what angle.

In the final section of this review I'll recap my gaming experiences, but overall I must say I am very happy with the gaming performance of the Carbon headset and I really enjoyed testing this headset. Even for the casual gamer the Carbon headset really gives you an edge over players using regular headset. While its hard to say "My game play improved 35% (or whatever number you want to insert there)" I can testify that my scores did increase, but I really felt much more immersed in the game thanks to the increased directionality of the sound and it really reminded me of the days when I used a 5.1 speaker setup while gaming (before my neighbors got angry).

Because I didn't want this section to by only text I made a chart which shows my fun and scores increasing after using the Carbon headset. My scores increased from a 12 all the way up to a 17 as well as fun also increased thanks to the higher scores. As you may have already realized this chart is pretty much useless and really means nothing (but my scores and fun level did increase while using the Carbon).

Fun Chart

 

Music/Movies:

One of the biggest complaints about the original Psyko 5.1 headset was music and movies really didn't sound as good as people were expecting from a $200 dollar set of headphones. The Carbon is a bit of an improvement in sound quality, however it's still not designed to make your MP3's sound amazing and it doesn't even try to claim that. The Carbon headset is for gaming and that is what it does well, but with that being said it obviously works with music and movies and isn't terrible just don't expect to be able to compare it with a $200 dollar set of headphones designed specifically for music and movies. Obviously if you want a headset specifically for listening to your favorite tunes the Psyko Audio Carbon isn't a great choice.

 

Psyko Audio Carbon 5.1 Headset Final Thoughts:

I was pretty excited to get my hands on the Psyko Audio Carbon headset and see how they had been improved when compared to the original Psyko 5.1 headset. I've had the chance over the past couple years to demo and meet with the guys from Psyko numerous times and when I heard them talk about the Carbon I had a good feeling it would be a significant improvement (and it was).

As I have mentioned throughout this review, I am by no means a professional gamer, however, I'm able to hold my own on most games and enjoy playing games of all types even though my days of marathon gaming sessions are well behind me. Saying "Psyko Audio's Carbon increased by game play by 48% (or whatever number you pick)" is tough to say due to the nature of playing games, sometimes you get 10 kills to 2 deaths, sometimes you get 2 kills to 10 deaths, which makes giving you a % increase of my gaming ability pretty much impossible. I will say however that once I got used to the Carbon headset and how it worked my game play did improve due to the fact that I was able to get a bit of an edge thanks to being able to decipher where that noise was coming from. Anybody who plays FPS shooter games knows that an additional millisecond of response time could be the difference between making the kill or being dead. Traditional headsets will let you know if the sound is coming from the left of the right and if a sound is close or near, but with the Carbon headset (as well as with a 5.1 speaker setup) you can gain an advantage by being able to hear the sound coming towards you from different angles.

 

I'll try to break down my final thoughts about the Psyko Audio Carbon headset into a couple different sections from which we used to help determine a final score of this product.

Audio Quality - Nobody at Psyko is going to pretend like these are the audiophile's perfect headset, they aren't going to make your classic albums sound perfect; that is not what it is designed to do. The Carbon is meant for playing games, and that's what it does well. While you might not get the richest audio you do get directional sound and when you're playing your favorite game and someone is shooting at you the advantage of being able to figure out exactly where that sound is coming from is very handy and in the words of Psyko giving you an "Unfair Advantage".

Functionality - The first couple hours of playing with the Carbon is a bit different of an experience/adjustment. I've had numerous demos of the original Psyko 5.1 headset over the years and while demoing you can easily tell they do directional audio very well, however, when I finally had them on my test system and started my "testing" I found the first couple hours of usage were a bit weird due to the fact I was almost having to untrain my brain when it came to audio inside the game (I realize that sounds weird, but bear with me). Once I quit trying to focus and analyzing the audio and where it was coming from and basically just let me brain subconsciously process the audio naturally I found the experience really changed and my final scores in games reflected that in a positive manner.

Gaming - Gaming is what the Carbon headset is designed to do, and in my testing it did not disappoint. The ability to hear exactly where a noise or gunfire is coming from is a huge advantage and while it won't turn a casual gamer into a professional gamer it does give you a bit of a boost in your final score. More than just helping you increase you final score the Carbon headset really allows you to immerse yourself in the game play, something that you can't really achieve unless you have a true 5.1 speaker setup (of if you have a Psyko Audio headset).

Value - The Carbon headset is not a cheap headset by any means (MSRP $199.99 USD), but just like with anything specialized or high end you have to pay for it (and in this headsets case gaming is its specialty). Some people may argue the price is too high but when you consider how much you spend on high end video cards alone in your gaming system the $199.99 price tag doesn't seem so high.

Quality - The overall quality of this headset is pretty decent in my opinion. When compared to the original Psyko 5.1 headset you will notice that the build quality has been improved and that should translate into the Carbon being able to stand up to a bit more abuse. Obviously if you throw this headset around and abuse it chances are good you'll break it eventually, but overall thanks to some of the improvements made to the Carbon they appear to be greatly improved quality-wise.

 

Giving the Psyko Audio Carbon headset a final score wasn't easy due to a few factors. The Carbon headset, just like the original Psyko 5.1 headset, is a very unique and specialized product and therefore we are judging it a little differently based on it living up to it performing in the way it was designed and advertised. Judging the Carbon headset on how it can play Beethoven's classic symphonies is really not fair because that is most definitely not what it was designed for. Comparing the Carbon headset with a traditional headset of the same MSRP is really unfair due to the fact that the Carbon is designed for gaming while most other headsets are designed to be more of an "all-around" experience. If you want a gaming headset the Carbon is truly one of the best gaming headsets I have ever used, if you want something that makes your music sound great then the Carbon is not what you're looking for.


At the end of the day the Psyko Audio Carbon headset is a very specialized product that does what it claims (gaming) very well. The ability to hear where sounds are coming from really gives you an edge while playing your favorite games and that's exactly where the "Psyko Advantage" comes from. Thanks to the improvements that the Carbon offers over the original Psyko 5.1 headset and the fantastic job it does while playing games we've awarded the Psyko Audio Carbon 5.1 Headset with our "Editor's Choice - Gold" award. If you are looking for the ultimate gaming headset the Psyko Audio Carbon might just be the headset you're looking for.

Pros:

  • True Directional Audio
  • True Surround Sound - No "Simulated" 5.1 Experience Here
  • Simple Setup - No Drivers Required
  • Amp makes adjusting volume and bass simple
  • Removable Mic
  • Significant Improvement over Original Psyko 5.1 Headset

 

Cons:

  • Not designed for Music/Movies
  • Expensive
  • Larger than most other headsets

 

BCCRating

Gold 

I'd like to thank Psyko Audio for letting us take a look at their new Carbon headset. If you have any questions, comments, or general feedback, please leave it at the "Comments" link below.