A few years ago Thermaltake decided to introduce a new line of hardware, the Level10. The thought behind it was that this was the top of the line, period. The broke into the market with a case that was almost unique in its design. After that case they have released several more products including a pair of gaming mice that are outstanding in design and performance. Now we are taking a look at their headset, the Level10M headset. This gaming headset is designed in the tradition of the original level10 case and the mice that followed it. So let’s take a look and see if this headset deserves to be alongside the other products in the Level10 family.
The Box and Goodies -
We have said it in the past and we will say it again here. There are times when you can tell by the effort put into the packaging what type of product you are going to get. So far with the Thermaltake Level10 products it has been very easy to tell that you are getting something special. The Level10M headset is no exception.
The front has a nice picture of the headset and a few notable features listed. On the sides of the box you get a short narrative about the design concept behind the level10M and the story behind it. These help to build the mythology of the line and adds in the mystique of owning any product belonging to it.
As has become the custom with higher end gaming products you get a colorful outer shell and then a sexier box underneath. Once you pull that outer shell off you get to see the real box underneath. It opens more like a box that would contain jewelry or fine china than a piece of gaming hardware.
Thermaltake has included a decent amount of goodies for use with the level10M headset. You get a carrying bag, two different cables (one for mobile and one for PC use). The PC cable includes a volume and mic control. Both of these plug into the Level10M Via one of two mini USB ports on the headset.
So now that you know what you get in the box, let’s take a look at the headset itself.
The Level10M Headset -
The Level10M Headset follows the same design philosophy that the Level10 case and Level10M mice do. You can easily see this when you look at it. The lines, aluminum construction, even the paint makes this headset stand out from the rest leaving you no doubt who made it.
Starting off at the ear pieces we find an open design using 40mm neodymium magnet drivers. In the world of audio this means that the drivers are open to the surrounding air either with no backing or with a smaller port to allow for normal air pressure. In headphones using a port is not efficient so it is more likely that the drivers we open in the back, but with some sort of sound dampening material to cancel outside noise and reduce leakage of the audio you hear.
The frequency response for these drivers is 10Hz to 22KHz which is not bad at all of for most headphones, but what you should demand in a high-end gaming headset.
Looking at the ear cups we do note one thing that concerns us, that is the depth. If this is too shallow then it might not fit onto every head the same way. This leads to gaps around the ears and sound leakage from external and internal sources. You will get a wash effect where noises from outside can cancel out or interfere with the audio coming from the drivers. We will be checking that in our performance section.
Once very cool feature that we do want to talk about on the ear pieces is the ability to plug in on wither earpiece. With most headsets (even high-end ones) you get one option for connectivity. This means the cable has to run down one side and one side only. Thermaltake decided to give you the option to use either side by putting a mini USB connector on both ear pieces.
Moving up to the crossbar we find a nice mount and also a great idea, you can actually lock the Level10M headset into place once you find the right fit. This is not a common option and considering the ease of adjustment found on this headset was a very good idea to include. Due to the way the mount is setup here Thermaltake decided to run the wires from the earpiece drivers externally. This puts them at risk of getting caught on something and damaged. Although this might be an unlikely occurrence it is something to look out for.
Looking at the top of the crossbar we find a nice pad. Give the weight of the Level10M this should make for a comfortable fit.
Moving all the way around we come to the microphone. This is an omni-directional noise canceling mic that rotates on an axis. When not in use it rotates up and out of the way when down it does not come all the way in front of the mouth, but extends enough that you should not have any issues with people hearing you. This design also has the benefit of naturally removing the pops you get with hard consonants by moving the mic out of the way.
Overall it is a nice clean design with some style behind it. As it stand if there are no issues with the depth of the ear cups we expect performance to be solid. Let’s check that out now.
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 Level10M 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 -
The Level10M has a clean sound with little to no mud in the mid-range. The only thing that was really missing was truly deep low end. The low-end was there, but it seemed muted and not as distinct as it could be. This was evident in our Reggae tracks most of all. On the good side it was not such a large issue that it made the listening experience a bad one.
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 Level10M headset did a solid job during our gaming testing. In BioShock Infinite the voices were clean as were the sounds of the weapons that were firing at you. On the downside explosions did not have the same impact as we would have liked. They were there, but not as deep or as resonate as normal. In Medal of Honor the audio was good but again lacked that lower end that allows for really deep bass.
The microphone worked very well during our gaming testing as well as when used with Skype. We did not have any issues with clarity and voices were easily understood.
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 -
Movies and videos seemed to suffer from the same lack of low-end we saw with our other sample types. Again this did not make the listening experience bad, it just did not have the full and vibrant range were would expect from a top-end headset.
There is one note to be made here: earlier we observed that the depth of the ear cups was a little shallow. This did in fact lead to some issues when wearing them. We found that if you move your head side-to-side you can feel them lift up off of your head. When this happens there is a distinct and noticeable change in pressure. This translates into additional sound leakage. The audio you are hearing from the drivers drops in perceived volume while sounds from the outside appear to become louder. Again this only happens if you move your head around a lot so for many games and setups this will not be an issue at all. For multi-monitor setups this could become an issue in the right circumstances.
With their weight and design the Level10M headset sits easily on your head without discomfort. Even after a couple of hours of play they do not put pressure on the top of your head. There is also no pressure on your ears when you wear them. This is good news for anyone that games for extended periods of time.
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. At around $100 the Level10M headset is a fairly good deal considering the construction and performance. There are headsets that cost much more and do not perform as well. The Level10M headset also has a couple of features that you cannot even find on the market for any price.
With a couple of exceptions the Level10M Headset performed very well in all of our testing. The audio was solid and was more than acceptable. They were comfortable even during extended play while the design is sure to catch the eyes of others. Thermaltake has also priced the Level10M in the right range for the features you are getting. The only downside to the Level10M Headset is that the open driver design limits the reproduction of low-end sounds and also allows for sound from outside to leak in.
All-in-all the Level10M Headset fits right in with other products in the Level10 lineup.
For its combination of price, versatility and performance we awarded the Level10M our Silver Key award.
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