A rather long time ago (in computer years) when real audio first came out on the computer the market was pretty bare for not only sound cards, but also for anything to use to listen to them. I can vividly remember buying an expensive ISA Soundblaster card and not being able to find any decent speakers to use with it. There simply was not a lot of choice out there to reproduce your audio. Of course before that I can still remember only having 8-bit audio through the motherboard speaker so decent is relative there. Now the market is flood of products many are just plain terrible (bad design, bad quality and bad audio playback). There are a few companies that have been working to break the “good enough” trend in audio. Cooler Master is one of them as we have shown you with their CMStorm Sirus headset. Now Cooler Master has another gaming headset available. This one is called the Sonuz and features a pair of massive 53mm drivers to push the sound deep into your skull. Let’s listen to them shall we?
The Box and Goodies -
The Sonuz comes in the same style of box that the Sirus shipped in. You get a distorted image of the headphones on the front of the box along with a large see through area that allows you to actually see the Sonuz and its inline controller. Of importance on the front is the 53mm driver line right below the name of the headset. It is an important selling point as typically the bigger the driver the more “alive” the audio will be, but it really all depends on how Cooler Master has tuned things.
The back has a nice marketing write up along with product highlights in a few languages. It is a nice looking box, but other than the appearance and a few small details there is nothing special about it. Inside the box is much more interesting. We have the Sonuz and a small leaflet. The Sonuz are safe in a cocoon of plastic which should prevent most types of damage that could happen to them.
The CMStorm Sonuz Headphones -
The CMStorm Sonuz have an interesting shape to them. Unlike many traditional designs that have the crossbar at the center of the earpieces Cooler Master opted to put this at the back and have given them a look similar to earmuffs. We are assuming this was for comfort and we will be sure to check that out during our time with them. Another unusual design choice is that the outer framework for the ear pieces does not tilt. Instead the actual ear cups inside are mounted on what looks like a ball joint that allows for good mobility. This should allow the Sonuz to fit comfortably on most heads.
The head strap is adjustable through a fairly typical mechanism and is only noteworthy here because it is a little beefier than what we are used to on other headsets. This means that the Sonuz (despite its plastic construction) should have a decent product life. At the top of the head strap is a foam cushion that is covered in cloth. Although this feels soft to the touch we wonder about heat buildup in this over some of the more open weave styles like we saw on the Sirus. Cooler Master has also chosen to use the same material for the ear pads. We will be checking to see how hot our ears will get after extended usage.
Keeping our focus on the ear pieces for a moment we want to point out a very nice feature that we see here. You can move the microphone from one ear piece to the other. To do this all you have to do is rotate the Mic back past vertical and pull it out of its socket. After that simply remove the rubber plug from the ear piece you want to attach it to and insert the mic. We were a little disappointed that Cooler Master did not include a second plug for people that might not want the Mic at all (like us) for some types of listening, but it is a relatively small thing here.
For those of you not all that concerned with the looks or the design we are heading into the more technical area here. To power the new Sonuz Cooler Master has chosen to forgo any attempt at surround sound (even virtual) and instead opted for a large pair of 53mm stereo drivers. These are much larger than what is typically found even in professional headsets where 40mm is the usual standard.
The 53mm drivers allow for a decent 10Hz-20KHz frequency range with a this gives you a sensitivity of 98dB which equates to an efficiency of .0398. Efficiency is the rating that shows the speakers convert electrical power to acoustical power; the higher the number the more efficient the speakers. The speakers on the Sounz are actually better than average as most speakers have an efficiency rating of .02. This means that the Sounz are capable of providing more “sound” for every watt of power they use when compared to the average headphone speakers.
The Microphone on the other hand has a range of 100Hz to 10KHz. This is not all that bad, but it does mean that it will not pick up a wide range of low frequencies. The sensitivity here is -47dB with a signal to noise ratio of 50dB. In all it is a fairly typical microphone, but one that will be able to do the job without any issues.
The cable that connects the Sonuz with your audio device is 2 meters (about 6 feet) and is also braided to help reduce electronic noise and to prevent damage to the cable. A little way down the cable Cooler Master has put in a “remote control” which allows you to turn the mic on and off as well as adjust the volume of the headset. Continuing down the cable we come to a Y in where the separate inputs for the headphones speakers and the microphone split up. The separation is protected by a hard rubberized Y that while flexible will still make sure this vulnerable part of the cable is not going to give you any issues. At the end of the cable we find the two gold plated 3.5mm (1/8-inch) plugs for the headphones and the Mic.
Overall the design is interesting, but it feels a little heavy and potentially awkward at this stage. We also have concerns about comfort during extended us due to the materials used for the ear padding and the head strap. Technically they appear to be very well put together and should produce some very high-quality audio.
With audio gear it is hard to be objective. After all different people like different music and even people that like the same music might like to listen to it in different ways. To make sure that I cover the audio products that we get here at DecryptedTech I like to have more than one opinion. Usually I gather 5 other people to listen to different audio types (gaming, movies, MP3 and CD-Audio). I then ask for a rating of one to five with one being the worst and 5 being the best for each category. As an added item I also ask for a single word to describe the audio quality. I then follow up with my personal feelings and observations. The HOM Redemption Song headphones are meant more for music reproduction. We also wanted to try them out in our other environments so we will cover them hear, but will focus on their performance with music and in particular digital music.
Music (MP3 and CD-Audio)
For Music I have a few favorite tracks that I like to use. These are not always other people’s favorites but they serve as a baseline and have some impressive audio features to them that can distinguish between good audio and bad. One of them is Stevie Ray Vaughn’s rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing. It is an amazing track. Others are A Day in the Life by the Beetles, Are you Experienced by Jimi Hendrix, and Cage the Elephant’s Ain’t no Rest for the Wicked. To this listing we added some jazz, funk, and of course Reggae. The numbers for this along with their corresponding one word comments are below.
Our take -
For MP3 audio on our Zune and through the Xonar Xense the quality was top notch. The bass had a little bit of mud in it, but for the most part there was clean separation between lows, mids and highs at most volume levels. The Sonuz are not as crisp as the House of Marley, Sirus or the Xense Sennheiser PC350 set. We also noticed that the Sonuz needed a little more volume to convey the same “force” in the audio; which lead to a little distortion at higher levels. It was something that we did not see with the House of Marley, Xense or Sirus headphones. It was still very good audio, but we have heard better in particular the cover of Little Wing was interesting as we could still hear the buzz of the amp, but other sounds that make the track personal were conspicuously missing. The stereo separation was very good showing this very clearly during the song Aint no Rest for the Wicked here we heard something new that we have missed, the lead singers voice cracks quite a bit (not in an unpleasant way, but in a way that adds to the song), also the bass was a little more muddy and did not have the same live feeling that we like to hear. Overall the audio experience with MP3s was good, but there is some mud in the low end depending on your choice of music. We saw this in our Jazz, Reggae, Funk and even some of our more mainstream selections.
So for this test we did something a little different. As we have mentioned (and you can see from the box) these are meant for portable personal media players like the iPhone, iPad iPod and even other tablets. We decided that in addition to our normal gaming tests with a few choice PC games we would also throw in a couple of games on our Galaxy Nexus just to see how good the audio reproduction is there.
Some of the word use here were; Wow, Nice, and Strong.
Our take -
Gaming is what the Sonuz are meant for. The whopping 32mm drivers make sounds in your game jump out at you. While playing Crysis 2 with these we really got a good appreciation for them by the way the explosions and gun shots sounded. There was the subsonic “thump” from the shots followed by the higher pitched “crack” and the lingering slight echo that a round being fired has. We had the same experience with the rest of the in-game sounds which, as we have said, help to make games much more immersive. For mobile gaming the Sonuz added a little to the experience, but were honestly too cumbersome for regular use. Your experience is also going to depend heavily on the audio codec that is in your Phone. Samsung chose to put in a higher-quality audio CODEC than what we found in the iPhone or iPad so we were getting much cleaner audio than what we saw with the Nexus. In general the Sonuz excel when connected to a PC for gaming and if your audio card has a headphone amplifier then the sound is just that much better.
Movies was an easy one also, I have several Blu-ray titles that are great for this including Pirates of the Caribbean. So I loaded up this title and then dropped in a couple of other movies that have good surround effects. The numbers and words are shown below.
Our take -
The Sonuz also showed itself capable when it came to watching movies and videos. Here the 53mm driver came in handy to help push the audio from the system to your ears. Here we found that the mud from the lower end gave a little bit of life to the audio. In real life it is rare that you hear the sounds around you in clear and separated tones. Instead there is a mixing of frequencies and muddling of tones. This provided a great movie experience as the background noised blended in, but were also separate in an oddly distinct manner. A good example of this is in the movie Lord of War, although the sounds in the weapons expo are blended into background clutter you can still hear some separation in them which is how you would experience it in real life. It was a nice effect.
The Sonuz are a little heavy and as such can get uncomfortable after wearing them for a long period of time. We also found that the cloth of the ear pads did cause our ears to sweat after about an hour of use. This was a little disappointing as we would have expected more from Cooler Master and what is obviously a gaming headset. We also found that the pad in the head strap felt a little odd due to its placement, we continually wanted to adjust it because it felt strange at the back of our head. Others that used the headset also mentioned the same problems with their ears and the positioning of the headset. The issue was not so bad that people said they would not use the headset still it is something to keep in mind.
Value is another very subjective topic. What is expensive to some might be a deal to others. You can look at this topic in multiple ways. One is raw price and the other is what you get for the money. Each is accurate and both are correct ways to look at price/value. We tend to look at features, performance and real-property when we discuss value. However, we also take into account the raw cash cost of the item. The CMStorm Sonuz are only $70 from most online stores which is an excellent deal considering the quality and at that price you can overlook the mud in the base and the sweaty ears. In fact to our knowledge you will not find another pair of headphones with a 53mm driver at this price. The build quality also means that you will be able to keep a hold of your investment for a while. This makes the price even better when you look at it with that in mind. Cooler Master also stands behind their products with a one year limited warranty on parts and labor needed to fix any issues.
The $70 CMStorm Sonuz have a lot going for them. We found that they were able to produce some amazing in game audio as well as reproduce most movie and video sounds with excellent quality. However when it came to MP3 and CD audio they started to falter with slight distortion in the mids and mud in the bass for most of the audio choices we use for testing. They were still good, but not as good as some of the other headsets we have tested. There were also some minor comfort issues with the choice of ear pads. After extended use heat will begin to build up and they become uncomfortable the placement of the head strap also made them feel a little awkward after wearing them for a while. Still for $70 you really cannot beat the audio quality that the 53mm drivers provide if you are looking for a set of gaming headphones. The price is good enough that you can even overlook the slight mud and comfort issues that we noted.
For its excellent value combined with great gaming audio quality we are happy to award the CMStorm Sonuz our Silver Key Award.
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