Friday, Jul 20, 2018
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PEACH WEEKENDER | GAME ON

$300 headphones fall short of expectations

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Is a $300 set of headphones worth the money?

After some time with the Victrix Pro AF ANC headphones, I am not any more competitive in Overwatch or Heroes of the Storm. Yet, you’re getting a pair of great sounding over-ear cans that have some cool, if overwrought features and poor design choices.

So, probably not. Professionals, technicians, and the talented people who work in and around the video game industry all have a claim to the features that exist in such an expensive piece of hardware.

The rest of us? We have brands and marketing slogans, shouting from the highest of heavens that we need — nay, require — gear formulated for only the most elite of consumers: the gamer.

You know the kind of products I’m talking about: special gaming sunglasses, performance hand lotion, and limited edition, gamer-themed versions of Mountain Dew. My favorite of all, “Gamer Grub,” were sleeves of the exact kind of greasy snacks you’d expect in the hands of any true gamer, coming in flavors such as “Action Pizza” and “Strategy Chocolate.”

Why, yes, I do feel myself performing better already with the knowledge that “Strategy Chocolate” Gamer Grub is in my corner. I assume it also has the electrolytes that plants crave.

I feel the same way about hardware that’s marketed for competitive gaming that I do about the dearly departed Gamer Grub. What’s wrong with the products sold to nongamers? Are these devices made with gamers in mind going to fix some inadequacy I possess?

Will my keyboard changing colors also change the color of my aura? Do $300 headphones make up for the fact that I’m over the age of 30 and my reflexes aren’t what they used to be?

Sadly, these headphones will not do as Cher posited in 1989 and turn back time. That I can make that reference is evidence enough that no amount of gadgetry is ever going to increase my performance.

What the Victrix Pro AF will do is combine excellent sound design and comfort in a way that feels luxurious. Featuring aircraft-grade aluminum and over-the-ear headphone cups made of slow-return memory foam, these are the lightest, most well-resting headphones I’ve had the pleasure of using. 

While I love the design and feel, the set is haunted by plastic on the outside of the headphones. The plastic is not only smudge-prone but comes off as cheap looking on such an expensive device.

The microphone is bi-directional and noise-canceling, designed after the same type of mics found in the Cobra military attack helicopter. The quality is serviceable for gaming purposes, but all the same, I found myself switching back to my Blue Yeti mic for superior audio clarity.

This headset’s true power is unlocked via the in-line controller that sits about halfway between the auxiliary jack and the headset itself. From this device, the user can control two equalization modes, mic gain, mic monitor, and even the lighting on the sides of the headphones. But, the best feature on the controller is the active noise-canceling mode that uses four built-in microphones to silence the world outside.

With this mode on, it feels like you’re being sucked into the ground and placed into a soundproof box. My eyes watered the first time I turned on the feature and found it useful, as it drowns out almost all outside noise. While not as impressive as the noise-canceling featured on high-end Bose headphones, the deprivation at work here is great for gaming in a noisy area.

The in-line controller suffers from more puzzling design choices. Victrix decided to go with two AA batteries as the power source in lieu of a rechargeable option. This would be fine if the feature-laden device didn’t suck battery life down like a frat bro at a kegger.

This is made all the worse by a lack of an auto-off feature to preserve battery life. Many times I accidentally left the controller on overnight, only to realize I had killed yet another pair of batteries.

The Victrix Pro AF has great sound and a wealth of features that the average consumer just doesn’t need, along with confounding design choices that belie the price of admission. For a similar price you can get a pair of solid wireless headphones, and for half the price options from the likes of SteelSeries are perfectly reasonable options.

If you’re a professional gamer or streamer, one can argue that the Pro AF provides the features you crave. For the rest of us, moderately priced devices suit any awful attempts at playing Street Fighter V or Call of Duty.

For more information, visit victrixpro.com/en.

A review unit of the device was supplied by the manufacturer.

Contact William Harrison at DoubleUHarrison@gmail.com or on Twitter @DoubleUHarrison.

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