Reviews

Logitech Artemis G933 Surround Sound Headset Review – I Can hear You Breathing Over There, Random Player

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For some people a stack of colossal speakers and an amplifier the size of Wales is not a viable option, and we shall pity those people because they will never know the joys of listening to Back in Black at a volume so loud France has begun complaining. For those people a good headset is a worthy investment because they can really increase the quality of your gaming, as well as the clarity of your spewed insults. But how Logitech may have taken things slightly too far by slapping on LED lights on their newest headset. So yes, they have the capacity to blind people, but do they sound good?

Packaging is normally such a boring thing to talk about, but Logitech always seem to make unpacking their products a simple little pleasure. The box has a chunky, slide-off lid that immediately reveals the headset which lies nestled in its own little molded plastic tray that also lifts out to allow access to a small box containing all the bits and bobs you need to get going, minus the official Logitech software which  will need to be downloaded. There’s a lengthy micro-USB to USB cable used for charging the headset, a reasonably long 3.5mm jack for stereo connection and a 3.5mm splitter, meaning that in total the Artemis can can have up three audio sources feeding into it at any time, presumably in case you want to let people hear what the voices in your head sound like when they’re arguing. With the software installed you just plug in the wireless USB dongle, plop them on your head and proceed to drown out the general sorrows of life by shooting lots of people online. Alcohol is recommended.

The level of comfort and build quality manage to impress almost across the board, Logitech crafting within their mystical forges a pleasingly comfy set of cans that seem quite sturdy, although I’m yet to take a hammer to them in order to test this. The headset sports a relatively clean, black look with a few molded lines that break up the flow and a chunky design philosophy when it comes to the earcups, which look a bit like they’re actually some form of breaching charge intended for blasting through human skulls. It all feels solid in the hands aside from a small tendency to creak a little when being moved around, the entire unit feeling all the stronger for its relatively hefty weight of. The half-inch wide padding on the earcups is made of a sports mesh material with memory foam that is just a tiny bit itchy and warm for my own tastes but is otherwise extremely comfortable for those long sessions into the early morning hours. Seriously, I had them on while binging on a mixture of Star Wars: The Clone Wars (animated series), Jessica Jones and Fallout 4, and the only flaw was having to take them off every now and then for a bit of a cooldown.  The same padding runs along the headband and provides ample support. In a lovely touch the right earcup panel can be removed to reveal a small compartment to store the USB dongle needed for wireless, while both earcups can be swiveled to lie flat on the shoulders with almost no restriction on head movement.

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LED lighting has become a massive trend within the gaming market, becoming a staple of mice and keyboards. To see it on a headset, though, is somewhat odd. You can visibly see the fancy lighting effects on a keyboard or mouse and admire them, but unless you have the ability to somehow view the back of your own head then having LEDs on a headset seems rather pointless, except possibly to blind potential atackers sneaking up on you. And yet Logitech clearly believe otherwise, introducing their Spectrum RGB lighting system into the audio world. The Logitech Software lets you choose between having solid lighting, a breathing effect or cycling between different colors. It also lets you tweak the brightness, and whether you want different effects or colors on the logo and the sides, so that you can have one pulsing red and the other solid blue, or something else. It’s a useless suite of features, yet some small part of me – some very vain part of me – enjoyed knowing that my headset matched the lighting on my PC, keyboard and mouse. Still, it’s hard not to wonder how much this feature adds to the pricetag, and it is ultimately pointless.

The left earcup carries a small assortment of buttons on the rear that let you cycle the EQ, change the lighting effect, mute the mic and turn the surround sound on or off. Three of these buttons can also be reprogrammed if you feel like it, and there’s a lovely feeling volume wheel that emits two different beeps depending on whether you’re altering the volume up or down, which is a nice touch. There’s also a switch that changes the headset from passive mode for use with the 3.5mm jack and wireless mode. Overall I found the position of these buttons to be quite reasonable. Although Logitech have designed the buttons so that they all feel different it takes a little bit of time to become familiar enough with them to ensure you press the correct one. Even after many hours with them I still tended to hit the wrong button.

The Logitech Software, which seems wholly incapable of detecting new Logitech hardware without being reinstalled, provides access to the advanced sound options. Here you can either opt to use one of the six preset settings or create your own custom profile. The volume on both the mic and headset as a whole can, of course, be adjusted, as can the sidetone so that you can hear yourself speaking in-game. Bass and treble can, of course, be tweaked. Or you can start playing around with the advanced EQ settings if you feel more adventurous or just want to see how much you can royally screw up the sound in five seconds. The answer is quite a lot. The software also lets you swap between Dolby surround sound and DTS Headphone X surround sound, with separate volume adjustments for every channel and a demo button so you can test it out. The argument as to whether Dolby or DTS provides the best surround sound solution is one for another time, but personally I found myself heavily favoring DTS. Finally you can also setup profiles so that upon launching a certain game the headset will load up a preset lighting program and equalizer.

The software also lets you check out the battery life of the headset, which Logitech claims will last twelve hours on a full charge. Happily that seems to be pretty accurate, so I don’t have any complaints here. Also, I quite like how the LED lighting is used to indicate when the battery is fully charged. It’s the little things that count, after all.

The mic is housed within the left earcup and to use it you simply need to reach upwards and pull it down, which unmutes it in the process. It’s a fairly short mic but features a pull-out extension that’s flexible so you can get it better positioned, and to my surprise the quality of the mic itself was reasonable. Lately the microphones on gaming orientated headsets seem to be in a downward spiral, heading toward the ground in some sort of strange death-dive, but the G933’s mic delivered acceptable clarity, even if it was a little hollow. It’s still far from great or the equal of a decent standalone option, which is disappointing given the price-tag, but compared to a lot of other offerings on the market its solid. All those lovely people online will be able to clearly tell exactly what you did to their mom last night. You horrible person. The biggest flaw is the lack of noise cancellation, so other people can hear you typing.

Here’s the major flaw that doesn’t get mentioned in a lot of other reviews, though; the G933 doesn’t so 7.1 surround sound on console. At all. And on Xbox One it can’t do wireless, either, as the wireless dongle is simply unusuable. Instead you need to connect the headset via an included 3.5mm jack to either the TV, some speakers or to your Xbox One controller. On the PS4 the audio will still be standard stereo that the peasantry use, but at least the dongle can be used to ensure a wireless headset so that you can merrily stroll around your house in the nude listening to the Witcher 3 soundtrack. Or whatever it is you do in your spare time. I don’t judge.  The way the mic works on Xbox One is also interesting. To use the primary mic you must have the wireless switch on, which uses a small amount of battery power. Without it on you can use the in-line mic on the cable, but its quality is far worse.

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So with all this praise is the G933 going to become my new daily driver? No, that honor is still retained by the mighty Steelseries Wireless H, or as it’s now been rebranded the Siberia 800. The reasons are simple; the Artemis only provides stereo sound on my Xbox One where as Wireless H delivers 7.1  and  lets me charge its secondary battery in its base-station when not in use, so I can hotswap batteries as needed, which is just a little easier than plugging in a charging cable. However, the Artemis is now sitting quite proudly as my primary PC headset, where the Siberia 800 used to be used but only on stereo mode because I didn’t have a second base-station to plug into the sound card in order to get that delicious surround sound. One could of course argue that this means my beloved Wireless H is only providing 7.1 on one platform as well, and to a degree you’d be right, but it does have the capacity to deliver 7.1 audio on PC, console and even a Blu-ray player or home theatre , making it a flexible device suitable for most setups, while the Artemis can only do it on PC or laptop. Is the stereo quality of the Artemis good? Absolutely, but no better than a considerably cheaper headset, like the Siberia 200 I just reviewed.

It does have an interesting idea to deliver wireless stereo, however. What you do is plug the dongle, which has a 3.5mm connection, into a powered slot, and then connection your audio source to the dongle using the supplied cable. What happens then is that the audio is sent to the dongle, and then transmitted wirelessly to the headset. It’s a neat feature, even if it doesn’t work with Xbox one either, because Microsoft’s console just likes to be difficult. Still, you can hook up a home theatre setup in this manner.

Yet when The Artemis G933 is connected to a PC and pumping out surround sound it truly delivers on its promise of quality audio. Like always I tested the headset across a variety of games, from DiRT Rally and Far Cry 4 to the Witcher 3 and Fallout 4, plus a selection of TV and movies including Ash vs Evil Dead, Jessica Jones and Mad Max: Fury Road. Driving the experience are Logitech’s own Pro-G drivers which utilise a hybrid mesh which promises to stop distortion to provide a crisper, clearer sound. They deliver, too, with no notable distortion, even when cranked up to max volume.  The bass delivers a pleasingly punchy thud without overpowering the rest of the audio, especially when increased to higher levels. Meanwhile the highs are perfectly clear and the level of detail across the range is is fantastic, quickly letting you pick out the sound of a reloading enemy or new aspects to a movies already impressive sound design. Getting in the middle of a heated firefight on Star Wars: Battlefront is nothing short of beautiful, the game’s  sublime audio being presented to your eardrums in wonderful fashion.  The surround sound works very well, letting you pinpoint the direction of those sounds with ease and thereby helping immerse you into the game.  Again, I found DTS provided the best positional audio, because while Dolby expands the sound stage it comes at the cost of precision. I honestly can’t find anything to complain about in the audio department, except that there is a slight hollowness. Movies

In other words, I’m damn impressed with Logitech’s latest headset, although it has some clear problems. Although it certainly can be used on a wide variety of platforms it’s clearly meant to be a PC device where it can deliver that lovely 7.1 audio for gaming. In other words if you’re an Xbox One or PS4 gamer don’t bother with the Artemis; go ahead and spend the same cash on a headset that can deliver that virtual surround sound. However, if you’re a PC gamer then the Artemis G933 really is rather exceptional, providing comfort and fantastic audio with the added benefit of being able to work with consoles or home theatre setups provided you’re okay with standard stereo sound, which it should be said the G933 still does well. Perhaps the problem really just stems from how the G933 is marketed. Logitech’s sales pitch firmly places this as a great choice for multiplatform gaming, when in reality it would have been better marketed as a PC headset with the bonus ability to connect to console via 3.5mm. Regardless, I was genuinely impressed by Logitech’s latest effort, hence my the massive red sticker below.

Reco

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