Speed Link Medusa Pro Gamer 5.1 Headset Review
|Product:||MEDUSA 5.1 ProGamer Edition|
|Platform:||PC, Mac, MP3|
|Reviewer:||James Barlow (Malis)|
Speed-Link have been producing quality gaming products for some time now, hailing from Germany, they may well be unfamiliar to English speaking gamers. This is a real shame, as a quick glance at their bulging catalogue reveals a wealth of products, ranging from PS2 controllers and Wii composite cables all the way up to PC peripherals catering for the hardcore LAN crowd. It's into this latter category that my first experience with Speed-Link has been, as I tested out the Medusa 5.1 ProGamer Edition Headset.
Before we get any further, it's number crunching time:
Normally reviews focus on the features out of the box, but I'd like to take a brief moment to mention just how fabulous the Medusa is inside the box. The packaging on these headphones really is a joy to behold - each set comes with a high quality zip-up padded carry case. Perfect for LAN users carrying their headsets too and fro between events, and the high quality of it all gives the entire package a satisfyingly elite feel. Not only that, but the first time you bust it open you'll notice that your plush new headphones are wrapped in a romantic red ribbon. Depending on your mindset, it's either like getting a birthday present or taking a peek at your missus' new knickers. Either way, it's a pleasure to see such effort go into packaging.
As for the headset itself, it's chunky and bold, with a reassuring weight that reinforces just how robust the frame is. Finished in black and metal grill, it looks suitably reserved, though perhaps not as sexy as others out there on the market. Ear cups are huge and padded, covered in a felt-like material. Additionally there's a wide and thick padded band across the headband. It all produces a comfortable package that feels quite luxurious on the ears, the only niggle I found was while comfy, the headset felt quite loose on my head - just don't get too carried away head-banging if you like heavy music.
Connection wise, the Medusa comes equipped with standard stereo and microphone jacks, but also rear and sub ones too - to take advantage of its 5.1 support. The whole thing is powered by USB, but Speed-Link helpfully include a mains adaptor if you don't have enough USB slots. Lead quality is excellent, being thick and supple with plenty of length. I certainly don't foresee any wear and tear problems on these wires. These connect nicely into the in-line volume control.
Sadly this is a major area where the Medusa falls short. Remember when you were younger and you wanted that cool expensive toy? Then your mum went to the shop and brought you back the unbranded 99p version. It looked slightly similar but was made out that horrible light plastic, with wobbly parts and mold lines. For some reason Speed-Link have gone down this route with the volume control. In a baffling move the control is both ugly and cheap - I know it's called a Medusa but the power switch shouldn't rattle for Hades' sake! While it does have four useful volume controls for front, rear, centre and bass - there's a complete lack of mic volume control or mute. For something as large as a hand grenade you'd hope to have all the features. It's a shame as this tarnishes an otherwise complete and tidy package.
Of course ultimately headsets are for sound, and luckily the Medusa picks up its game again here. First impressions are loud - really loud. This headset doesn't hang about, and as soon as I click on an mp3 I'm off the chair in shock. Powerful and crisp, the sound quality is superb. A race through my varied and diverse collection of music only served to emphasise how great it all sounds. Powerful bass thunders through, but never muddies or drowns out the more subtle mids and trebles. Rock and metal in particular sound fantastic through these babies.
In addition, the padded cups do an excellent job at drowning out background noise - though with the volume the Medusa outputs that's no surprise ( I wouldn't be surprised if the cups could act as mini-speakers at top volume). The only drawback is that it doesn't seem too hot at keeping sound in at top volumes, and at quiet volumes the Medusa doesn't fare so well as fiddling with all 4 volume controls is required to get a semi-decent quiet sound.
Moving on to gaming and it's time to try out the 5.1 capabilities of the headset - useful or marketing gimmick? A bit of both, but certainly one that didn't harm my game-play experience. Booting up Oblivion and Half-Life 2 it was immediately obvious how good everything sounded, with gunfire, birdsong and village ruffian all sweetly amplified by the terrific speakers. However, while the 5.1 aspect was certainly there and fully operational, I found sounds behind me slightly too quiet and muffled. A bit of fiddling with my soundcard settings managed to improve things, but it wasn't perfect. Of course, headphones will never replace speakers in this capacity, and the efforts of the Medusa are certainly admirable, especially for the gamer on the move. Overall, the headset played well in game, and I could certainly here everything in front of me in crystal clear quality, whether it be a mouse sneezing or a building collapsing.
Finally we come to the microphone. Again, solid and mounted on a flexi-boom, I don't predict many breakages to this appendage. Sound quality, I am told, was clear and full on both Skype and Ventrilo with my housemate. Deciding to test for myself I quickly recorded myself on my acoustic guitar, and was rewarded with a refreshing lack of noise and clips. As mentioned earlier, there are no mute or mic volume controls on the control pod - the only drawback to microphone that I could see.
Medusa 5.1 ProGamer Edition Headset is a great set of headphones, with brilliantly powerful speakers and a clear and solid microphone. Packaged in a lovely high-quality carry-case, this would seem to tick all the right boxes for both the average and hardcore gamer. It's just a pity that the volume control isn't up to the same build quality as the rest of the package, and is missing some key features. While the 5.1 features are by no means perfect, the overall sound from this headset is top quality, and I doubt anyone buying it will be disappointed.
- Top-notch sound, particularly in Windows
- Lush carry-case
- Comfortable over prolonged periods.
- Sound in-game is strong overall, microphone is very clear
Not so good stuff
- That horrible volume control...
- Felt slightly loose on my head
- 5.1 sound not implemented perfectly