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Gaming

Dell's USB headset does right by the hobbyist (hands-on)

There are a few small issues with the AE2, but the price makes them easy to ignore.

Dave Cheng/CNET

I was determined to like the AE2s the second I put it on. I'd like to tell you it was because of the superior sound quality or a robust feature set, but really it was because I finally found a pair of over-ear headphones that fit comfortably on my enormous head.

Thankfully, the big cups were ringed with leather pads that offered decent noise reduction, the speakers pumped out great sound and better yet, the AE2s will only run you $70, AU$95 or £49 and you'll be able to pick them up from July 21. That's a great price, but with it comes a few caveats.

It runs off a single USB connection (no 3.5mm audio jack to be seen), so it's strictly computer-only fare -- but the SteelSeries branding should have tipped you off to that already. The Danish company is known for computer gaming accessories, and definitely shows its hand in the headset's impressive virtual 7.1 surround sound.

You can also tinker around with the AE2's settings via the SteelSeries engine software, which is good news if you want to play with the equalizer or simply must have the RGB LEDs programmed to flash in exactly the right pattern.

Dave Cheng/CNET

The AE2s only really stumbled when I tried to use it as a gaming headset. The low-profile mic nestled against the left cup had me curious. It staved off the usual flight controller aesthetic, but the omni-directional mic was a magnet for ambient noise. While my own voice was clear, if a little tinny, the person on the other end was easily picking up sounds from across the room. The left cup doubles as an easily accessible mute button for the mic, just in case you don't want to share the TV preferences of anyone else in the room with your squad.

Honestly, it was a bit of a bugbear, but at a sub-$100 price it's the kind that you'll find very easy to ignore. The AE2 isn't really a headset for the hardcore, but when you package over-ear leather pads, remarkable sound quality and SteelSeries engine functionality with such a low pricetag, it's hobbyist money well spent.

Specs

  • USB connector
  • DTS Headphone:X 7.1 Virtual Surround
  • SteelSeries engine functionality
  • Programmable RGB LEDs
  • 40mm neodymium drivers
  • Headset frequency response 20Hz to 20kHz
  • Leather ear pads
  • Omni-directional microphone
  • $70, AU$95, £49

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