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The ROCCAT Kave is a large, funky and complex looking headset that packs in some fancy features that are designed to appeal to a gamer’s heart. We took the set for a spin and came back pretty darn impressed, but also somewhat disappointed. What was the set like? Let’s find out.
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Design and build
The headset is quite large, but also very comfortable. It folds up into itself, making it comparatively more compact and portable, but it's still a far cry from being called a compact set. The build quality itself feels a little flimsy, the set being predominantly made of plastic and the lack of sheathing on the cables was also disappointing. Speaking of cables, the microphone's cable is also exposed and not sheathed and neither is the microphone retractable, it is on a pivot so you can at least move it out of the way when you don't need it.
Despite all this, the set is very comfortable and at least while using it, the build quality didn't seem to come in the way. The set uses a control hub to manage the audio and we must say, it's a nice touch. You get sliders to adjust the decibel level for individual channels (centre, front, rear and sub) and we found it to be essential for optimizing the sound quality.
Keeping in mind that this is a 5.1 set, we plugged in our ASUS Xonar Phoebus and hooked the set up to it. The first game we tried was Dead Space 3 and what an impressive run through it was! The set excels at reproducing ambient noises and while there is a distinct lack of precision to the bass, the ambience more than made up for any other short-comings that we may or may not have noticed. Crysis 3 proved to be a similar tale and we can't stress this enough, the surround sound on this set was great. Do note that by great we mean great for a headset, nothing comes close to a true 5.1 speaker setup.
The audio from the designated rear drivers was a little overpowering, but with the help of the control pod, we managed to tone it down to an acceptable level. The experience in movies was also similar, great ambience and disappointing bass. Where this set really falls flat is in music playback. The audio is very disappointing and the "surround" sound didn't have any positive impact on the audio; there is a lack of clarity in the reproduction and the severe lack of bass is emphasized even more. Even in games, you won't really experience that sharp crack of a sniper's gunshot or even the meaty thump from an HMG.
On a side note, this set seems to have rumble motors in-built, so the lack of bass is compensated a bit by a very interesting gimmick that kids might love.
Surround sound from headphones is something that we've never been a fan off really. Most of the sets we tested in this category were so bad that we completely lost faith in the idea. No gimmicky surround sound system even came close to the true quality of a great stereo set. The ROCCAT Kave changed all that. This is by far the best surround sound experience that we have ever had from a headset and it has, single-handledly, restored our faith in the concept.