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Roccat Kulo (7.1 Surround USB) review: Roccat Kulo 7.1 surround USB

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The Good Reasonably comfortable. USB connection is convenient. Better than expected virtual surround sound.

The Bad Incredibly muffled sound quality, missing a large slab of the upper range. Need to be very careful about how the set sits on your head to prevent it coming off.

The Bottom Line The USB dongle adds a bit to the Kulo's price, and does go a small way towards improving sound quality, but you're still better off spending your money elsewhere.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.0 Overall

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We weren't the biggest fans of Roccat's Kulo headset, with the on-ear design, stiff volume control and poor music tone ruffling our feathers.

The Kulo USB does nothing to address this in its native form. It is, after all, just the Kulo, the 3.5mm jacks of which can be plugged into a USB dongle if you desire. Plugging in the USB dongle is essentially plugging a new sound card into your computer, meaning that you'll get consistent sound presented to the headphones no matter where you go, as well as electromagnetic shielding from the innards of your PC — no more pops, clicks and whirls that are so common from on-board sound.

Plugged in without drivers, it does nothing to solve the Kulo's woeful sound quality. While the 'phones are bassy, they still sound quite muffled, with a narrow sound stage and a seemingly missing upper end. They get easily lost whenever the aural-scape gets complex.

After installing the software, things improve marginally. In music, high ends are slightly reclaimed once things are pushed through the 7.1 filter, and fiddling with the equaliser brings some much needed crispness back. Sound tends to attenuate, though, whenever the input volume gets a bit high, soiling the experience. While the software does make a difference, pairing it with the Kulo is like post-processing on a bad photo. If you start with a bad photo in the first place, there's only so much you can do.

Things also improve slightly for games that support multiple channels — the emulated surround sound added a subtle extra depth and a slightly bigger sound stage. It won't make you exclaim at the amazing pinpoint accuracy of positional sound through two channels — nothing does — but it's definitely not the worst implementation we've heard, with panning the full 360° around the head not having any noticeable skips or jumps.

There are other things included in Roccat's software: different environmental effects, pitch shifting, vocal cancellation (which doesn't work particularly well) and microphone effects, allowing you to set a level of echo, or pitch-shift your voice. After an initial play, you're likely to leave all of these alone and never visit them again.

The USB dongle adds a bit to the Kulo's price, and does go a small way towards improving sound quality, but you're still better off spending your money elsewhere. If you must have USB connectivity, there are other options that you can pursue.

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