It's back to gaming peripherals again, this time with the Creative Fatal1ty Professional Series Gaming Headset. As with the Creative Fatal1ty 1010 Mouse, this is hardware endorsed by Johnathan "Fatal1ty" Wendel; if you're an optimist that means it's hardware that will enable you to play somewhat like the man himself; if you're a pessimist, it just means that a dump truck full of Creative's money was driven up to his house. He's not made of steel, y'know.
Marketing arguments aside, the Fatal1ty Gaming Headset is a generously sized headset worn fully over the ears with an adjustable steel headband and swivel boom microphone. The first thing you'll notice when you pick up the box for the Fatal1ty Gaming Headset is how large it is; the next thing you'll notice when you extricate it from the packaging is that holding the foam headpieces in your hands feels rather like you're getting unduly intimate with a Muppet of some sort. The headpieces are very large and wrapped in extremely soft velvet, so they should fit very comfortably on anyone's head. Our test monkey (hereafter referred to as "the author") wears glasses, and the soft foam worked comfortably within frames as well.
In keeping with the behemoth style of the headset, the accompanying cable is extremely lengthy. We can't see too many gamers that will need to sit 2.4 metres away from their PCs while gaming, but it's always nice to have a bit of slack in your headphone cable. The cable also includes a sliding crocodile clip and inline volume/microphone mute switch.
As with the other products in Creative's Fatal1ty line, Wendel's signature and gamer name are plastered over every feasible part of the Fatal1ty Gaming Headset. There's a signature above the right earpiece, a Fatal1ty logo on the volume control and stylised "F" logos on each ear. This brings up a serious design consideration, namely whether a serious PC gamer (with AU$269.95 to spend) wants to spend that money promoting another gamer. In a totally unscientific study, we showed the Fatal1ty Gaming Headset to a group of Australian games journalists and posed that question; the resounding response (without technically testing the headset) is that you might look like a bit of a fool wearing them. Well, the exact words used were a touch more harsh, but you get the meaning. If the opinion of a group of Aussie games journos -- and how that view might be reflected in the wider gaming community -- is something that matters to you, it's worth bearing in mind.
The Fatal1ty Gaming Headset features a large 40mm dynamic driver that utilises Neodymium magnets for what Creative claims are capable of rapidly responding to any audio cues - bearing in mind that these are intended as gaming headphones. The cable utilises Oxygen-Free Copper wires that terminate in gold-plated audio jacks (for the headphones and microphones respectively). The microphone features noise-cancelling technology, designed to make in-game communications as clear as possible. Creative also claims that the microphone is "Military Grade", although it's unclear what they're getting at here -- will the microphone suddenly invade your living room if your back is turned? We don't think so.
We tested the Fatal1ty Gaming Headset both within games applications and for how well it works in general audio situations; we suspect that any potential purchasers of the headset are unlikely to reserve it purely for gaming use. From a fit and wearing point of view, the Fatal1ty Gaming Headset is extremely comfortable, although predictably you may find that your enclosed ears get a bit warm after particularly long gaming sessions.
The only other minor physical niggle that we had with the headset is found on the inline control; specifically, the light for the mute switch isn't terribly bright, and unless you're staring straight at it, it's can be hard to pick if it's actually on or off.
On the microphone front, we found the headset to have very good clarity indeed, as you'd expect on a unit with this kind of price tag. We can't say exactly the same for the audio quality of the headphones, however. While it was never poor, it's arguably a touch on the weak side, especially for louder bass or treble sounds given the price point. Given the kinds of headphones many gamers make do with, it's undoubtedly a step up, but at this kind of price point you can get headphones that deliver stunning audio from multiple types of audio sources, not just game audio, and particularly speech.
On the plus side for the Fatal1ty Gaming Headset, it's got a very sturdy construction that should see it survive more than its fair share of LAN parties and the like -- not to mention being thrown at the wall when you're sniped unexpectedly. The less than expected quality of the audio, given the price point, however, makes the Fatal1ty Gaming Headset something of an exercise in either narcissism or marketing muscle rather than a product that we'd wholeheartedly endorse.