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Roccat Kave review: Roccat Kave

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The Good 5.1 sound that actually works. Independent centre, surround and front speaker volume sliders. Quite comfortable.

The Bad Restrictive sound stage, everything feels far closer than it should. Mid-tones sound muffled in stereo mode. Sub slider appears to do nothing. Unwieldy for travel.

The Bottom Line The Kave passes muster as the first 5.1 headphones we've seen that actually produce decent positional audio. While a set of speakers will always do better in this regard, and the soundstage is rather claustrophobic, the Kave doesn't do too badly at all.

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7.9 Overall

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If we were to use one word to sum up our first impressions of the Roccat Kave headphones, we'd say "chunky". If we had a full sentence, we'd say "oh no, not more surround sound headphones!"

Traditionally, headphones that attempt positional sound are awful, whether simulated or with discrete speakers. Primarily, it's an issue of sound stage and panning that's never quite been achieved correctly, particularly the transition from side to rear.

Plantronics sidestepped the issue with its GameCom 777, by making the surround sound optional in the form of a USB dongle. The headset's individual 3.5mm jacks could then be plugged into this USB dongle, which in turn could be plugged into the computer. Surround was turned on by a switch, meaning you could even have the convenience of USB without the effect if you desired.

A different path

The Kave's connections, on the other hand, can be best described as nuts. It's got a rather large brick hanging off its cable, from which a mass of cables spew forth like the kraken's tentacles: 3.5mm jacks for centre, front and surround speakers, another for the microphone and a USB cable.

The Kave's microphone can rotate a full 360° but is so flexible that you'd be hard-pressed to tell whether it's rotating or bending. Several times when intending to stow the mic up, it simply flexed instead. Ultimately it has the same result, but can catch you off-guard the first few times.

The USB cable allows the attached brick to change the system volume through a jog wheel, mute it by pressing a button in the middle of said jog wheel and mute the microphone using another button, lighting up the microphone to let you know that no sound is transmitting. That's not all: peel back a lid on top of the brick, and you get independent volume sliders for centre, front, rear and sub channels, along with a hardware switch for "game" and "movie" modes. "Game" has no post processing, while "movie" attempts to push voices closer. We've never been fans of presets of any type, but we'll leave it to others to decide whether it's useful for them.

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