Review unit on loan from Roccat.
Audio is something long looked over by all except the die-hards, but now we’re finally starting to see some appreciation for sound with digital streaming companies slowly but surely abandoning the horribly low quality 256kbps compression methods, while the introduction of Blu-ray and now 4k Blu-ray discs has resulted in a marked improvement for films and games. The reason I mention this is that the Roccat Khan claims to be the world’s first “Hi-Res Audio” headset, something usually defined as being 16 bit / 44.1KHz. It’s a meaningless statement for most consumers while audiophiles are all too used to dealing with how to get the best audio possible. As such the Japanese Audio Society (JAS) and the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) have created a certification for what they deem to be Hi-Res Audio, and the Roccat Khan meets the criteria.
That’s all very well, but how does it sound? Well, for testing I hooked it up to my SoundBlasterZ internal sound card, an admittedly aging yet entirely capable product, and began testing on a variety of high-quality audio tracks, movies, and games.
And do you know what? They’re pretty damn good, although I’m going to say right now that the Hi-Res certification is a pointless logo that will most likely end up simply being used to increase the asking price of headsets.
Connection is handed via two 3.5mm jacks, one for the microphone and one for the sound from whatever source you have the headset plugged into. You also get a split cable add-on that merges the two jacks into a single connection.
So, the Khan headset boasts a frequency range of 10Hz to 40Khz which is certainly a boost over the typical range that most companies employ. What you get from the 50mm drivers is sound that seems to favor the mid-tones, creating a warm signature that is especially good at highlighting footsteps in games, which makes sense given that Roccat are also claiming that the Khan is a superb E-sports product. A wide soundstage also helps bring games to life, creating a sense of spatial awareness in which it’s quite easy to pinpoint gunfire, weapons reloading and the other details needed to survive in a hectic multiplayer shooter, or in which you can simply enjoy the ambient noises of an open-world. The payoff is that the bass isn’t quite as punchy as I would have liked and the highs seem a touch muddled with the small details getting hidden. A prime example of the audio actually comes from Star Wars: Battlefront 2, a game with many problems but some bloody good sound design. Charging up Kachiro beach to attack the poor Wookies demonstrates a wide variety of sounds, and the Khan performed admirably, bringing to life the mayhem of blasters, Ion Cannons and MTT’s. The only thing missing was that deeper thud of the bass to help bring it all together. Overall, though, the audio quality is clear, detailed and warm. It didn’t amaze me like some higher-end products, but considering its £89.99 RRP it performs very, very well indeed.
In music, I was a bit less impressed as that lacking base and murky highs meant some of the detail in songs can get lost. They still generally sound good and most people should be happy listening to the latest album with the Khan Pros, but if you’re serious about your music then this isn’t going to be the headset for you.
All of the audio prowess in games seems to have come at a cost to production quality with Roccat seeming more inclined to throw their developmental cash at producing the best sound possible, which to be fair to them is the ideal thing to do as its resulted in a good sounding pair of cans at a reasonable price. Still, I’d be remiss to completely ignore the build quality, so lets get into it.
When you pick the Khan Pro up it’s very, very light at about 230g, which by itself is no bad thing as it helps keep them comfortable during those long sessions, their lack of weight helping them to feel like they’re a part of your skull. A reasonable bit of padding along the headband keeps the top of your noggin happy, and there is a nice bit of padding on the earcups, too, although the cups themselves are a bit small for my liking, coming close to not fitting over my own relatively small ears. The material isn’t particularly breathable, either, but it does do a passable job at passive noise cancellation.
Where the lightness is an issue is when you combine it with the cheap, plastic feel of the headset and how flimsy it is. The large Roccat branding plastered on both earcups and on the headband doesn’t help, and so in my eyes the whole product kind of looks like a cheap pair of headphones you’d pick up at a WHSmith train station shop.
With that said in fairness to Roccat while they might feel flimsy in reality they do seem reasonably strong, and while I don’t quite know if they’d withstand accidentally being sat on, something I didn’t try due to them just being a loan unit, they should do just fine being occasionally dropped or hit against something. The adjustable headband also feels quite nice when you pull it out with a series of clicks being useful for getting both sides the same length, and the 95-degree rotation of the earcups in case you want to have them sitting around your neck. In other words while I still don’t think the headset feels like a quality product or even looks like one there shouldn’t be any issues with them breaking.
The overall comfort is mostly just okay. The lightness and padding on the headband ensure it doesn’t begin to feel heavy on the head after a good few hours of gaming, but the plastic feel of the material of the earcups and their small size created a slightly scratchy feel on my ears which while not major was still a little annoying. More space for ears and better quality material would have gone a long way here.
As for the microphone it juts out from the left earcup like an ugly mobile mast poking out of a forest, and makes a slight clicking sound when raising it or lowering it to indicate when it has been muted. But while it isn’t going to win any awards for aesthetics much like the audio it’s actually pretty damn good in terms of performance. During testing my horribly annoying voice came through clearly, much to the disgust of my online chums, and without too much background noise getting picked up in the process.
On the left earcup you also get a volume control wheel which feels stiff and cheap, but it’s still nice to have the controls located on the earcup rather than on an inline control module which tends to get in the way. However, Roccat have missed out by not having any control for your microphone volume, so to adjust that you’ll need to head into your operating system’s settings.
The final verdict is a little more mixed than I would have liked because the raw audio performance is great, but the comfort and quality is a touch low. With that said the price tag reflects this, and if you want premium then you have to be willing to be the premium price to go with it. Bigger earcups and some better material wouldn’t have raised the price by much and would have gone a long way, though, especially since the small earcups basically stop a lot of people from buying these which is a shame. Still, you get impressive sound, a solid microphone, the simplicity of plug and play with no software faffing needed, and in-built volume controls, and thus the Roccat Khan Pro gets a cautious recommendation from me.
[twitter-follow screen_name=’wolfsgamingblog’ show_count=’yes’]