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Psyko Carbon Review

July 6, 2011

By Greg Gazin - Apple Gazin’ - G4 Canada

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Psyko Carbon Back in November, we reviewed the Psyko Audio Labs , PC 5.1 Gaming headset. We put it through its paces and while we decided that it was certainly a true sound wonder, we did feel that it could use a few enhancements.

New: Psyko Carbon

Fast forward half a year or so and the Calgary based company has brought to market, a second model and successor, the Psyko Carbon, so we figured we would take it for a test drive. The original is still around; it was just given a little branding refresh, new packaging and including a new name - Psyko Krypton and a significantly lower price point.

Psyko has not changed their philosophy. Their headsets are still designed around how the human ear interprets sound and how our ears actually hear things, rather than try to simulate what the sound using a digital signal processor.

"They haven't changed what makes it unique, " says Kevin Achtzener, who participated in our original tests. But this time, he decided give the Psyko Carbon a workout, with his PlayStation 3, rather than his PC, connecting to the headset via a S/PDIF decoder box.

The idea is to reproduce in 3D, natural sounds from the games in a headset form factor as if the individual was actually playing while listening to the sound coming from a 5.1 surround sound home theatre.

Psyko Carbon is really the evolution of the original headset.  Physically, it maintains the same form factor with external amplifier for bass and volume controls and 5.1 connectivity. Gone is the tri-tone Robert Downey, Jr. Ironman look, being replaced with an all black, with a slight touch of red and somewhat less metallic looking shell. The changes also extend to the colour-matched external amplifier. The new colour scheme makes it impossible to mistake it for the original (now Krypton).

Psyko Carbon Enhanced Components

The unit has also been enhanced with gold connectors for better connectivity and a new tangle-free heavy duty-braided cable. The sound has been enhanced with new audio drivers with higher sensitivity and a much better frequency response than before, making the experience all the more realistic.

"I was just as impressed as well the second time around," says Achtzener. "The sound was incredibly crisp and clear."

The sound quality for music has been improved with Psyko Carbon, but it's still not really designed for music, be Achtzener found it more than acceptable for watching and listening to Netflix movies.

However, it was in playing games like Grand Turismo, that he found the sound almost scary.

"It makes you feel like the cars are zipping by right next to you.  It also puts you more into the game."

Richard Amable, IT professional and avid gamer familiar with the original headset, likes the new packaging and the build quality praising the redesigned braided-cable.

"The Psyko Carbon is the ultimate geek headset, but I find it a little heavier than others - you feel it after you've worn it after an hour."

Amable compared the Carbon directly to the Corsair HS-1 that he was used to, which has a more traditional form factor and was much lighter.  Amable did acknowledge that both offered 5.1 but the Corsair was simulated.

Amable found that in a couple of cases, the Carbon unit sound seemed more hollow; he couldn't get as much depth when running around Call of Duty: Modern Warfare when compared to his Corsair.

Also, in Call of Duty, Amble noted during comments by his fellow comrades, at times, it didn't feel like they were right along side of you.

 "I thought it might be because the sound passed through the sound tubes."

Amable did have much better luck with Crisis II. "There was much better balance."

Amable suggests not staying with the default EQ settings, offering, that to get better results, you would need to tweak them.

Achtzener had a different experience when it came to Call of Duty, finding it more realistic.

"When you are wearing you helmet and you turn around and someone is talking to you the voices are muffled. But when you turn around and face you get clarity. Just like wearing a real helmet."

Interestingly, Achtzener was not totally sold on the new cable.

It's strong and solid. But when I twisted my head the braided cable felt like a zipper going up and down my shirt."

But Achtzener says that he could easily resolve that problem, reiterating the major features that he like in both the original and the Psyko Carbon.

"I like having quality sound without annoying anyone else or waking people up."

Psyko Carbon But the big one for him was the vented ear cups, since as a parent it was great to be able to listen for his toddler in the background but still be able to be immersed in the game.

One of the minor annoyances we all had, was not on the headset itself, but in the identifying of the connectors. While Achtzener used a decoder box to hook to his PS/3 and Amable had a 7.1 sound card, we all found it a little cumbersome and a little tedious to match up the colour-coded cables to quickly get things hooked up.

Another nice touch would have been, a wireless or Bluetooth device to totally do away with the cable - although given its 2-piece design might be a challenge.

Thumbs Up & New Lower Pricing

Overall we were all reasonably impressed with the enhancements over the original and what it could deliver, getting that much closer to actually being there. Nevertheless, the biggest bonus of all was the price.

Because of it, adds Achtzener, "it's less of a hardcore gamer accessory and now an everyday persons item."

The Psyko Carbon retails for $199.99US making it an incredible value for such a high performance 3D gaming surround sound headset. In case you were wondering, the Psyko Krypton (formerly Psyko 5.1 and was $299USD) is now only $149.99US, making it an option for a lot more people.

All Pics courtesy: Psyko Audio Labs

Greg Gazin can be reached at  gadgetguy "at" telus "dot" net , GadgetGreg.com , or on Twitter @gadgetgreg

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