• Sharkoon X-Tatic Digital Surround Sound Headset Review

Hey folks, Valkor here. I just wanted to jump in real quick to give a thanks to the folks at CompuExpert for hookin us up with the 5.1s at this year's CES (CES 2011). I look forward to having a go at the rest of Sharkoon lineup and I can attest that these 5.1 headsets are bad ass! But I'll let Digispa give you the 411.

I have to admit, I've never considered myself a PC gamer. Early FPS's gave me headaches and motion sickness rather quickly and the controls never felt right to me. I've only once found an MMO that I liked - RF Online; it was super boring because you had to grind through your first 30 LEVELS in order to fight in the huge PvP battles they had. I don't like fantasy games with knights, elves and such, so WoW was out. The few games that I play on my computer are doujin fighters (namely Vanguard Princess), and IIDX/Lunatic Rave. Not real intense stuff, so when I was presented with Sharkoon's X-Tatic Digital Surround Sound Headset I thought this would be a chance to see what other applications this headset would work in.

I'm a headphone enthusiast. Every pair I've owned since about 2001 have been circumaural. That basically means that they've all been the large, ear covering, dj style headphones. The X-Tatic Digital is the largest and most complicated headset I've ever dealt with.

Sharkoon X-Tatic Digital Surround Sound Headset

Just for the record, the X-Tatic Digital is a 5.1 surround sounds headset with 4 speakers per ear piece and a built in amp. There is also an illuminated in-line volume control that allows adjustment of each channel. The microphone is very pliable and comes with a quick connect feature.

Also included is the SCU (Sound Control Unit) which is a little box that decodes Dolby Digital and Dolby ProLogic. It also provides the optical (S/PDIF) audio input and has a second headset port so that another user with a 5.1 headset can enjoy the surround sound goodness.

Like I've said, I have some large headsets but this is the biggest I've ever dealt with (that's what she said, lol). They're also the heaviest, feeling even heavier than either my Aerial 7 Tanks or my Pioneer HDJ1000's. I'm sure part of that weight comes from the inline volume control. It's about 3"x 1.5" and has illuminated controls for front, rear, center, and subwoofer channels. There's also a master volume control on one side and on the other side is a mic mute switch, mic volume dial, and input for the Xbox 360's mic attachment.

There are a lot of lights on this thing. The ear cups light up neon green on both sides with the X-Tatic logo. The inline volume control lights up a range of colors from green, blue, white, teal, and finally red depending on how loud you have it set. Finally, the SCU has blue lights for the power and either Dolby Digital or Pro Logic.

Sharkoon X-Tatic Digital Surround Sound Headset

I remember when I thought having lights in my computer and on my peripherals was super cool. Kind of like when I thought having neons under a car was awesome too. Thankfully I've grown up a bit, and now think it's mostly obnoxious. The lights in the headset are pleasantly subtle and are not too bright. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the volume control and SCU. Blue LED's are the worst thing ever. The LED's are bright enough to cast shadows on a wall from across a dark room; I can make shadow puppets, it's that bright. And with no power button or dimming option, it'll stay that bright until they get unplugged.

Oh yeah, speaking of unplugged, did I mention that there is a power adapter for not only the SCU, but the headset too? The headset has to be plugged into a wall socket in order to work. Since when do headphones need external power sources? The one that comes with the set is a travel version with a quick release feature. That's great and all, but no where on Sharkoon's site does it show adapters for other parts of the world. So now I have this quick release travel adapter, but nothing to put on in place of the US prongs that it came with. Also, the power inverter is built into the plug, making it rather bulky if you're trying to fit it into a surge protector.

My feelings about the sound are slightly mixed, leaning more towards great. While the actual sound quality is amazing, I quickly found that I don't have a lot of media that can take advantage of the headset. Everything sounds extra crisp on my computer and I was only using the analog adapter that comes in the set. The adapter splits the 12pin cable to 4 3.5mm adapters. The sound quality is unbelievable and the built in amp is nothing to play with. I kept the volume on the inline control turned down to "blue" and still couldn't hear things in the outside world. My girlfriend noted that even when I turned the volume down, she could still hear them. That's when I discovered that the X-Tatic Digital was the next best to a mute button for my girlfriend (Valkor's note: DOH!!!).

Sharkoon X-Tatic Digital Surround Sound Headset

Connecting the headset to the SCU which I connected to my PS3 via optical cable was the best experience ever. Playing Final Fantasy XIII, I could tell where my other characters and monsters were just by listening for which direction their footsteps were coming from. And watching Blu-Ray, forget it. Unless you already have a sick 5.1 or better setup, you'll never want to use your speakers again. It was literally like being in a theater. Normally this setup would be for one person, but the SCU features another headset port so 2 people can enjoy the surround sound goodness.

Wearing the headset for an extended amount of time is quite pleasurable as the ear cups are very soft and covered in a porous cotton like material; No faux leather or vinyl here to get all slimy and cracked. Be warned though, if you have non traditional ear piercings like me (gauges, barbells, etc), take them out before use. I have fairly large gauges in my ear lobes (5/8") and things got very uncomfortable very quickly. The X-Tatic Digital was not meant to handle all the extra ear jewelry.

Sharkoon X-Tatic Digital Surround Sound Headset

Sharkoon's X-Tatic Digital is an amazing upper tier surround sound headset; if you're a PC gamer and in the market for a new headset, then look no further than Sharkoon. Or if you just want an amazing headset to watch movies and play console games with, also look no further. Out of TOV 5 stars, Sharkoon's X-Tatic Digital earns itself a solid 4.