Audio on gaming computers is one of the things that gets overlooked when people are building their systems. While they are busy making sure they have a powerful CPU, GPU and enough RAM they seem to forget that audio is an important part of the gaming experience. With good audio the gaming experience becomes more immersive. Of course even if you do get a good audio card you still need something that can reproduce the audio properly or that is just a waste of money. Headphones, Speakers, etc. all need to be able to do their job or you lose a part of the overall gaming experience. With that in mind we are taking a look at set of gaming headphones from Cooler Master’s CMStorm line, the Ceres 300. Let’s see if this set of headphones can bring out the best in your gaming audio.
The Box and Goodies -
The box is typical for most new gaming products. You get the obligatory “artistic” picture of the product along with something to make it look more interesting. The name of the product is clearly visible along with the company logos.
On the back you have another picture of the Ceres 300, but with details of the product highlighted.
Inside the box (which you are more concerned about) we find the Ceres 300… and that is about it. You get the detachable mic and a small instruction pamphlet, but that is really all you need.
The CMStorm Ceres 300 Headphones -
The CMStorm follows the typical headphone design. You have two ear pieces that house the speakers (these are over the ear), a crossbar that connects the two and a cable that leads away from them that is intended to be plugged into your audio source. As the Ceres 300 also has a removable microphone there is, of course, a port for that and another plug to accommodate it. It is a pretty simple design and hard to screw up.
The Ceres 300 is extremely light which almost gives it a feeling of, cheapness (for lack of a better word). Although Cooler Master has done a good job on the design they still are very obviously plastic and make all of the little plastic creeks when handled.
Kicking off our inspection of the Ceres 300 we will take a look at the ear pieces where the speakers are tucked away. These are 40mm drivers with a stated frequency response of 20Hz to 20KHz and impedance of 32 Ohms. This is a pretty decent spec for speakers and depending on how they are tuned you should get good separation. On the down side the plastic enclosure (with a single metal mesh piece) could present an issue with lower frequency sounds as it is simply not the best material to use. Despite this little fact the overall design has a good look to it. Cooler Master built a nice looking headset and the pads that go around your ears look fairly comfortable.
On the left ear cup has the input cable and there is also a small port that is meant for the removable microphone. This is a nice feature for anyone that just wants to use the Ceres 300 as a set of headphones. The mic is fairly standard with a range of 100Hz to 10KHz and a sensitivity of -54db (+/- 3db). Nothing to write home about, but it will get the job done.
The ear cups are connected to the rest of the headset by a large arm. This arm does restrict movement of the ear cup a bit and could end up preventing a good fit for some people’s heads. It is also made of plastic which raises concerns about longevity. From there you find a fairly stiff cross bar to hold everything together. This cross bar is how the two ear cups are connected electronically and is adjustable to give you the best comfort. Cooler Master has put in a pretty nice pad to keep the top of your head happy.
Moving down to the cable there is a control unit that comes complete with a volume dial and an on/off switch for the Microphone. It is a nice, although common, feature. Over all the Ceres 300 is a good looking product, but it simply does not feel like it is a high quality product due to the construction materials. Of course, in the end what it sounds like and feels like to wear will trump all of that. So let’s dive into that part of the review.
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 Ceres 300 headphones are intended to be a gaming headset so while we wanted to make sure we cover the gaming end of things we also wanted to find out how well they operate with other audio content.
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 -
Music over the Ceres 300 was not a bad experience, but something was just not right. Although the sound was pretty good it seemed like the bass was coming from a long way away, it was present but quiet. There was also an issue with outside noises interfering with the sounds we were listening to. While wearing the Ceres 300 I was able to hear just about everything going on around me. Even the sound of the keyboard my laptop was audible.
So for this test we did something a little different. In addition to our normal testing with desktop games, we decided that we would also throw in a couple of games on our Galaxy Note III just to see how good the audio reproduction is there. Our normal games are Medal of Honor, BioShock Infinite and Modern Warfare 3. These games have different audio qualities that can push a headset nicely.
Our take -
The gaming experience was much like what we saw listening to music. The sound coming from the games we normally use seemed muted in many ways. Although there was good range and separation the feel of the audio was not what we expected. Instead of feeling like we were surrounded by the audio (not surround sound, just enveloped) it felt very directional. This is most likely due to the poor fit we experienced with the headset. We still found that outside noises were quite audible when wearing the Ceres 300.
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 -
Once again the lack of a secure fit on our head ended up giving us a less than stellar experience with the Ceres 300. The audio was good, but the fit allowed external noises to lessen the experience. This did not happen with all of our test subjects so it really depends on the way the headphones fit on your head as to what experience you will have.
The Ceres 300 was one of the first uncomfortable headsets that I have used. It just did not seem to fit on my head properly. Additionally after about an hour my ears became warm which made me want to take them off. This is unusual as they are very light and should not be that uncomfortable to wear. Additionally we found that two of our test subjects found they extremely uncomfortable when wearing their glasses. The way the headset pressed in on the upper side of the head caused the arms on the glasses to bite in painfully.
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. When looking online we found the Ceres 300 for around $50 which is odd because you can also find the more flexible Ceres 400 for around the same price. Still $50 is not a lot to pay for a headset if when you think about it. We would caution you that you might not find the fit very comfortable and if you wear glasses it can become even worse.
So what do we think about the Ceres 300? That is actually a tough one to say. Our initial thoughts are with comfort and being able to wear these for extended periods of time. After all if the headset is uncomfortable then it really does not matter what the sound is like. However in our extended testing we found that not everyone had this issue and many liked the audio quality. All of that having been said we stand by the comment that a set of adjustable headphones should be designed to properly fit the range of head sizes they are designed for. If you are at the extreme ends (small or large) it should not be uncomfortable or loose, but should fit properly. If the design was a little different the Ceres 300 would be an excellent choice of headphones for gaming. After all the audio is good, if they fit you.
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