Recently, we reviewed X2's Solarblast headset, which promised to deliver a virtual 7.1 audio system experience. This time we test another product of X2, under the commercial name Saturn 5.1, composing of a real 5.1 audio system, with dedicated speakers for every auditory direction and an embedded subwoofer
Many believe that headsets of this category fail to deliver their promises, because humans are made to listen in stereo. Therefore, these believers support the idea that stereo headphones are more than adequate to reproduce any required sound from all directions, when used in the right way. Will Saturn 5.1 stand out as an exception or not?
[BREAK=Packaging & Contents]
The headset comes in a cardboard box with plastic outer covering. Scattered all over the box we will find mentions of the key feature of Saturn 5.1, which is none other than the real 5.1 sound system.
The manufacturer claims that it offers the mostly anticipated solution to the problem of acoustic orientation , using dedicated speakers to simulate sound from various directions . This technique has been known for several years in home cinemas, in which 4+ speakers are placed around the viewer at a certain distance. By controlling the playback source for each stream of a multichannel multimedia file, we offer a vivid playback experience to the viewer.
On the back side, the product's characteristics can be clearly seen, such as sensitivity, impedance and cable length. We can also spot the fact that each speaker cavity bears two separate 40mm speakers, a 30mm speaker and a 30mm subwoofer. The first image that comes to mind when seeing the word "subwoofer " is the bulky speaker put in an occult position, which takes charge of the reproduction of very low frequencies, which are non-directional. In this case, however, this is not true, as we shall see below.
The contents of this box are limited to the absolutely necessary. These include the headset, an instruction manual and an extra pair of leather pads. The last ones are considered of increasing importance, as more and more users are not pleased with the fabric/mesh pads, which the Saturn X2 wears by default. According to public opinion, leather pads offer better noise isolation but simultaneously cause your ears to warm up during use.
The color palette used by the manufacturer is at least elegant. The combination of black and bright red adds character to the product, while silver details highlight its modern design. The microphone is unfortunately not removable or telescopic, while the small bending resistance gave us the impression that the microphone will not survive any abuse.
Even though this headset is made entirely of plastic, it gives the impression that it is very durable and sturdy. The red surfaces (parts of the ear pads and the upper head pad) are made of leatherette. Both the ear pads and the head pad are quite soft [/ B], in order to adjust to the shape of your head. The pads have an internal depth of about 2 cm and are removable by taking off a plastic flange with extreme caution. As a point of size reference, we have put next to it the screen of an iphone 5.
Saturn X2 comes with an inline audio controller, which can adjust the headset's general volume, the volume of back, side and front speakers, the volume of vibrator/subwoofer and enable/disable the microphone. All pots are dimmers apart from the general volume modulator, which is a three-position switch and changes the OS's general volume.
The headset comes equipped with a USB port, which means that the sound card (or more precisely a DAC - Digital to Analog Converter) must be located somewhere on the headset. In this case, we found a CM6206 Taiwanese C-Media chip. This chip includes a 7.1CH DAC, a 2CH ADC (Analog to Digital Converter) for the microphone , the USB host, an audio buffer, PLL and other stuff. According to the manufacturer, this specific IC is recommended for outdoor high performance sound systems, while offering on-board capabilities of changing virtually the speaker placement and processing karaoke functions.
The controller has lighting at the side of its silver details. Perhaps it would be better if the lighting highlighted somehow the potentiometers' labels, as numerous times we've found into the situation of having to turn on the lights in order to adjust the appropriate potentiometer.
As we can see in the pictures above , each cabinet contains 3 speakers capable of reproducing sound from the rear, side and front. By dissecting the cabinet we notice a little clutter in both wiring and their support structure. The drum, which appears to be supported by the three speakers, is a subwoofer . It's just a vibrator, which fuctions similarly to that of a mobile phone. The vibration generated by the vibrator is of low frequencies and, in combination with the design of the cabinet and its structure, converts these vibrations to low frequency sound, simulating the behavior of a subwoofer. Finally, we observe that the wiring is distinct, meaning that each wire "carries" the signal of the corresponding speaker, and starts from the inline controller.
The headset looks particularly beautiful in low light conditions, while matching marvelously with CM Storm Trigger's [/ URL]lighting. The illumination is permanent,with the exception of the microphones, which is active as long as the microphone is enabled.
The plug is -as expected- a USB port, while the cable is braided with an alternating pattern of black and red. We would also like to see gilded end of the USB cable, for enhanced resistance to general wear and tear.
General useAs general use we define the use on daily desktop operations, such as navigating the operating system's UI, skype, watching videos on youtube and other multimedia streaming websites.In this area we haven't detected any problems. The headset worked just fine. It proved to be really comfortable and its use in skype conversations the microphone preserved the overall image. The microphone's end light proved particularly useful as it allows us to know if the microphone is enabled or not. We recommend that you do not use this specific headset on official conversations, as the various lights may not emit the necessary serious aura of the situation.One peculiarity we noticed is that when we activate the subwoofer by slightly turning the little dimmer,white noise of low intensity starts appearing. This noise is not distinguishable when playing a music track.Music
In the field of music we chose pieces that cover the whole spectrum of the world of music, from classical to hard rock. A prerequisite for a proper test is to know by heart the songs we listen to, in order to detect any deformation or loss of frequencies in the song. Therefore, we preferred albums of Scorpions, ACDC, Michael Jackson, Elton John, Bryan Adams, John Denver, Beethoven and official film soundtracks such as Frozen, The Hobbit and Inception. All pieces tested were formated in FLAC 44.1KHz 16bits resolution with approximately 900kbps bitrate.Since these headphones are not considered suitable for audiophiles, we didn't have great expectations in this sector. The tracks sounded rich and full, with clear highs and mids . At low frequencies there is a lack of depth, with the bass sounding muffled. The related frequencies exist, but their performance is not as rich as one would expect . In case you choose 2CH input instead of 6CH , all speakers will be used, including the bass vibrators. The latter might probably annoy some, so it is advisable to regulate them at will by the corresponding potentiometer and software .
We watched fullHD movies with hifi audio of DTS 5.1 48KHz 1500kbps bitrate and more specifically The Hobbit and Riddick. In movies, the behavior is similar to that of the music playback, the main difference being its 5.1 content. Its audible content, that simulates sounds in front and sides of the viewer, was accurately positioned. The side audio effects that are played through the dedicated speakers, which simulate speakers placed directly beside and slightly behind the viewer, were perceived slightly forward than regular.The bass vibrator is a pleasant addition to the whole experience, although in some cases it gave the impression of simply vibrating our ears. Besides, the component implementing the vibration must contain some sort of spring and tapping slightly the cabinet produces a metallic oscillation. This oscillation must be the cause of lack of depth. The situation improved considerably when we introduced the leather pads .Its almost certain that the permanent illumination of the headset may seem annoying to some users with extended peripheral vision and even more to those who wear prescription glasses -as does the writer- because they create a small but significant reflection on the lenses, especially while watching movies in dark environments.
There was no way of finishing this review without testing the headset's performance in games and specifically in Battlefield 3 and World of Tanks, where the accuracy of the direction of sounds is vital for surviving the game.Several times I caught myself sitting at the beginning of the map, rotating unnecessarily the player in circles just to hear the curses of my team, which was waiting for me, and the sounds of explosions around me.
A special moment was when a missile that was targeting me, missed me completely, when I happened to rotate the turret of my tank. The experience was very convincing, so much in fact that it disorientated me in the middle of the battle and later I found the next missile with my name on it. My personal assessment is that the increased number of speakers helps the playback of multichannel audio, not so much regarding the direction of the sound as in terms of better playback of sounds to be reproduced simultaneously.
By purchasing X2's Saturn 5.1, the user must be aware that he will receive exactly what the manufacturer promised. The system's 5.1 function exists and works well, allowing the use of the headset as the playback source of multichannel content found in games and movies . However in some cases the playback quality was not quite as expected. For this reason , the demanding user and audiophile, who is not interested in gaming, could opt for a pair of stereo headphones. Finally, although the design of the lights is beautiful and futuristic, there could be an option to turn them off, either through software or through a dedicated switch, for example when using them in dark environments or during teleconference.
- Real 5.1 experience
- Excellent build quality
- Extra pair of pads
- Beautiful design
- Comfortable fit
- Permanent "on" side illumination LEDs
- Limited depth in low frequencies
- Strong vibration on ears due to vibrator-subwoofer
- Adjustment of general volume by changing OS's volume
- Absence of illumination where it is definately needed
Many thanks to X2 from Netherlands for offering this review sample. Its price value is estimated at 60€.
Miltiadis Alexios Papadopoulos