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CMStorm Pulse-R Gaming Headset Review Featured

by on21 September 2013 14328 times

Personal computing has had its ups and downs of the last 10 years and these have not always been because of consumer reaction. In many cases the manufacturers have failed to meet the expectations of the people they are selling to. One of the biggest places where the market has failed the consumer is when they moved to “good enough” computing. We saw this as far back as the Pentium III when Intel pushed for onboard audio, networking, modem etc. These devices were not the greatest of components, but they were “good enough” in the eyes of the manufacturers. Now the situation is shifting (very slowly) as these components are no longer good enough in the consumer’s eyes. They are demanding more from their hardware. One place where this shift has been the most obvious is in the audio market. Today we have a product that is supposed to fall well outside the good enough range. This is the CMStorm Pulse-R gaming headset. Let’s take a look and see if it really can.


The Box and Goodies -
The box that Cooler Master wrapped up the Pulse-R in is a nice one. It is not a typical plastic or cardboard box. Instead it is much more like a gift box with a hinged lid (still cardboard though). This main box is wrapped in a sleeve with some nice graphics. These will leave you with no doubt as to what you are getting (there is a nice picture there).
box01If the picture and the highlights on the front of the box do not sell you then Cooler Master has put some extra highlights on the back. Here all of the major features of the Pulse-R get spelled out for you.
Once you are finished with the outside (we imagine it will only take a couple of seconds) then you can pull the cover off and open the box. To be honest with you I was a little surprised that the Pulse-R was just nestled inside a plastic liner. However, plastic liner aside your Pulse-R will be well protected in shipping. Underneath the liner you will find a small instruction manual and the removable audio cord, in short everything you need to get going.

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The CMStorm Pulse-R Headset -
The CMStorm Pulse-R is a gamer’s headphone and removable microphone combo with 42mm drivers, USB powered lighting, an in-line volume slider, and mic control switch. Cooler Master has wrapped this up in aluminum and plastic to give it some style.

Kicking off the walk around, we will start with the left ear cup. As you can see there is an aluminum plate that extends down from the cross bar to cover the back of the ear cup. Behind this is where Cooler Master (we will call them CM from this point forward) hid their LED lighting. The lights here are white which is something of a departure from the more typical red and blue that we see out there.

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Along the bottom edge of the left ear cup CM has put the plug in for the audio/USB power cable as well as the port for the removable microphone. These have two different shapes which makes it almost impossible to mix up if you are not looking at them. Flipping the cup over we see a very unusually shaped ear piece. It is not the size or shape of most people’s ears and we are not at all certain that it will be comfortable or create enough of a seal to block out noise even with the large foam pads around it.

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The cross bar that makes up the head rest is thick and very sturdy with a nice thick pad in at the top. It does help offset the weight of the Pulse-R. CM also put an aluminum bar through this for both looks and to help make it sturdier. There is also a slight angle to this which is supposed to add extra comfort.
The right side is nearly identical to the left (both are marked) but it has a design on it that is a part of the CMStorm logo.
Technically speaking the Pulse-R might be at a disadvantage. It does have a large 42mm driver, but that single driver is trying to push a range from 20hz to 20KHz. That is a lot of sound from one small speaker. Typically when you do this through a single source you can end up with mud in the mid-range as high and low end frequencies fight for space in the diaphragm. On top of that if the ear cups do not make a good seal around the ear outside noises can leak in while the sound from the driver bleeds out. It is not the best of audio environments. Now that does not mean the Pulse-R is doomed, but unless CM did their homework then the sound might not be up to where it should (or could) be.

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The detachable microphone is nice and is made of a flexible material so that you can curve it to best fit for you. It is an omni-directional mic with a 100Hz to 1KHz (which is the most common range for the human voice). The Signal to Noise Ratio is 10dB + and the sensitivity is -42 plus or minus 3dB. These specs are fairly common and should be more than enough to do its job. You can check out the specs of the headphones below.

The weight of the Pulse-R is much less than other headsets from CM like the Sirus or the Sonuz thanks to the use of aluminum in the construction. This could be a good thing for comfort and extended wear.

cable01 cable02

The included audio cable is cloth shielded which should help prevent the cord from getting damaged over time. At one end there is a connection that looks a lot like a microUSB plug while at the other we find two 1/8-inch jack. One of these is for the headphones and the other is for the mic. There is also a USB plug that is there to power the lights. It is not required to run the headphones, but it does make them look nice.

Our overall impression of the Pulse-R is that they are a constructed well with some unusual design choices (ear cup shape). Of course the proof is in the pudding as they say so let’s dive into the actual performance of the Pulse-R.

Performance -
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.

GamingGaming -
Gaming was the easiest one test and also the easiest one to observe. For testing we used one of our favorite games for audio impact; Medal of Honor. To this we added in Left 4 Dead and BioShock Infinite. Between these three we have a nice selection of audio environments. After about an hour of each of these games the score and comments are below:

For my own experience the audio was fairly clean, perhaps a little too clean as the high end sounds seemed louder than the low or mid-range ones. There was good bass that did not have any mud in it, but again the overly loud high end sounds seemed to overpower everything else. This was very present in Left 4 Dead and BioSock Infinite. In Medal of Honor there we ran into something a little odd. With other headsets there was a thump that you could feel during certain parts of the game (especially during combat scenes) this was absent from the Pulse-R despite having good low-end. We attribute this to the poor seal around our ears which is caused by the unusual design of the ear cups. In short the audio quality during our gaming tests was good, but not stellar.

Movies/Video -
Movies was an easy one also, I have several Bluray 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.moviesFor the most I ran into the same issues with the audio quality when watching movies as I did during gaming. The high-end sounds seemed to overpower the upper end of the mid-range and what should have been back ground noise surged to the forefront. It was not that it was bad, but it was very obvious when listened to especially in the movies that we use for testing.

musicMusic (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. Other 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. The numbers for this along with their corresponding one word comments are below.

Before we get too far into my opinion on the Pulse-R and its ability to reproduce music I will admit that I am an audiophile (pronounce that audio snob). When I listen to music I look for little details and sounds that should be present in the track. These sounds give the track life and soul. When I was listening with the Pulse-R I found that the things that make a track alive were absent. The audio was very, very clean, but it was missing vibrance and life. This was very disappointing considering the fact that both the Sirus and the Sonuz brought that to the table. Again it is not that the audio is bad, it is just that it was massing what brings the audio to life.

Skype/VoIP -

VoIP applications like Skype are not especially intensive on the headphone side of things, but they can be on the microphone. Fortunately the Pulse-R is more than up to the task. In multiple conversation we had no issues with others hearing us and the audio transmitted back was clear and without any distortion.

Other issues -
We found that the volume slider did not work all that well, although this could be an issue with the unit that was shipped to us. The problem came up when we were looking for the sweet-spot on the slider. There was not a real graduation of volume. For the majority of the slider length the audio was very subdued, but at the very end the volume became drastically louder despite the relatively minor movement in the slider. It became almost impossible to find that sweet-spot because of this.

Value -
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 Pulse-R retails for $85 which is an acceptable price for the build quality and materials used. However, we would expect a little better audio quality at this price range though. Again it is not bad audio, it is just that is lacks real life and vibrance.

Conclusion -
We hate to say this but we were a little disappointed with the Pulse-R when compared to other products from Cooler Master (and other companies). Although the look very nice and the combination of Aluminum and white LEDs are a great effect, it takes more than looks to make a headset. Here is where things were not so great. It is true that the audio was very clean, but there was a missing piece that made the audio feel almost monophonic. The high-end was too vivid and was not balanced by the mid and low-end; this was present in gaming, movies, and music. The size and shape of the ear-cups was also an issue and prevented the set from making a good seal around the ears (which also impacted audio performance). This also caused them to pinch a little unless you fold your ears inside the cups (which can become uncomfortable). The Pulse-R is much lighter than many other headsets that are the same size so it should not weigh on your head like some of the others on the market.

Overall the Pulse-R is not a bad headset, it is a pretty cool looking design and well… the audio quality is not bad, it just feels lifeless compared to many other products on the market. We hate to say it but Cooler Master missed on this one.

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Last modified on 07 October 2013
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