Sennheiser PC160 review: Sennheiser PC160

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The Good Impressive sound with games and music; exceptional performance from built-in-microphone; in-line controller module; solid construction.

The Bad Somewhat pricey; no simulated surround sound.

The Bottom Line The Sennheiser PC160 two-way headset performs equally well with games and music, and its mic sounds exceptionally clean.

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7.0 Overall

For decades, Germany-based Sennheiser has been among the world's most respected manufacturers of microphones and headphones. Considering the company's pedigree, it should come as no surprise that it is now offering two-way multimedia headsets such as the PC160s. The Sennheiser PC160s' ($99) well-rounded performance makes it a good choice for gamers who require a versatile headset that also does justice to music.

The black-and-silver Sennheiser PC160s look and feel like a quality set of headphones that happens to have a microphone attached to the left earpiece. The full-size 'phones incorporate an exceptionally well-padded adjustable headband. The terrycloth-covered ear pads cup your ears. For the most part, we found the Sennheisers comfortable, although the ear pads tended to feel a bit itchy during long gaming sessions. You can swivel the PC160s' microphone up and out of the way when it's not in use, and it bends to further facilitate optimal positioning.

The Sennheiser PC160s' 10-foot cord is long enough to connect to a floor-standing PC's rear-panel sound-card jacks, but it may seem excessively long if you use a laptop (in which case, a cable wrap may come in handy). The cord terminates in a 1/8-inch mic plug and a 1/8-inch headphone plug. In order to connect the PC160s to the 1/4-inch front-panel jacks of our Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS Pro, we had to use two inexpensive plug adapters that weren't included with the headphones. The cord has a basic in-line module that includes a volume control for the headphones, a mic on/off switch, and a shirt clip.

In Half-Life 2's deathmatch mode, the Sennheiser PC160s didn't disappoint. Small-arms fire had a suitably gritty rattle, and grenades and RPGs exploded with adequate, albeit not gut-wrenching, punch. Game maps had convincing sonic depth, and the soundstage didn't seem muddy, the way it can with headphones that use simulated surround-sound technology.

The 'phones delivered average performance with DVDs such as Star Trek: Insurrection, which sounded fine but lacked the expansiveness, the crispness, and the subwooferlike bass presence we heard through the Turtle Beach Ear Force HPA ($99). The Sennheiser PC160s are among the more versatile two-way headsets we've tested, as they excelled with music, where many gaming headsets, including the Turtle Beach model, fall short. Tracks such as Shannon McNally's "Geronimo" demonstrated Sennheiser's pleasant musicality and well-textured midrange, which was most evident in the acoustic guitar's overtone-rich sound.

To test the Sennheiser PC160s' microphone, we not only played online games (such as Half-Life 2's deathmatch mode) but also recorded the mic's signal to our PC's hard drive. The well-designed microphone picked up our voice clearly without requiring us to crank up the sound card's mic input. As a result, the microphone introduced less hiss into the sound than we've experienced with other two-way headsets, such as Logitech's less pricey Precision PC Gaming Headset ($29). The informal recording test further revealed that the PC160s' mic captured our voice with good detail and comparatively little background noise, making it a suitable candidate for Voice over IP (VoIP) applications and voice recognition.

In the final analysis, the Sennheiser PC160s don't dominate in any single area, but they're a well-rounded option for users who divide their time between gaming, voice-based applications, and music listening. We just wish they were a bit more affordable.

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