There will be two phases in our testing, the bench tests and the subjective tests. The bench tests will give an overall picture of the frequency of the headset’s drivers. Subject testing will give an overall picture of how the drivers and microphone sound. Normally, the subjest would be compared to other headsets in the same price range, but no comparable units were readily available to us at the time of testing. A PC with an ASUS DGX internal sound card is used to conduct the tests.
I recorded input from the microphone using a pre-recorded vocal track. This recording was then played back and compared to the original track. The microphone sound quality was rather unnatural sounding, but output was acceptable.
We will be using a set of benchmarking tests you can find at audiocheck.net. Note that doing the audio testing at high volume ranges can cause nausea, induce vertigo, and even permanently damage your hearing; so please be cautious.
These test aims to determine frequency response of the Flow’s drivers. Typical human hearing ranges from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. Ideally, any headset should be able to reproduce this entire frequency range. The Flow was able to reproduce sound as low as 30 Hz and as high as 22 kHz.
I have chosen five albums that I have found to be problematic for common sound systems to reproduce correctly. Each album also creates its own unique set of difficulties. All music is from uncompressed media. No mp3 files were used.
- Pink Floyd – The Division Bell – Voice strained
- Metallica – …And Justice for All –
- R.E.M. – Automatic for the People –
- Steely Dan – Aja –
- Keane – Hopes and Fears –
I found the low end and high response somewhat lacking. Male vocals and acoustic instruments had a bloated sound to them. The bass drum beats in …And Justice for All were blurry and ill-defined.
Adding 4db to the 30Hz band, 2db to the 2KHz and 4KHz bands, plus 4db to the 8KHz and 16KHz bands on the graphic equalizer made the Flow wake up. Bass was noticeable better defined and highs were properly crisp. The spatial separation was acceptable.
I chose two movies based on their overall variety of sound and their dynamic content. Both are action films and there are plenty of explosions to test the driver’s transient response. The music tracks for both movies are also very dynamic as well.
- Star Trek: Into Darkness
I found both movies reasonably enjoyable while wearing the Flow. Using the equalizer settings that I mentioned in the previous section, made both movies feel more alive.
The six games I chose feature a wide range of environments, from intimate settings to open world vastness. Impact and correct sound placement is critical to gain an advantage in any game.
- Bioshock: Infinite
- Dirt 3
- Metro: Last Light
- Team Fortress 2
- Tomb Raider
All the games sounded ok with the Flow. The environments were lively and spatially natural. During large fire fight scenes, all the weapon sounds were a bit blurred together. Most nuances were noticeable and sounds were positioned correctly. The lack of low end reproduction did not seem to be as much of an issue in games as it did with movies and music. Adding the aforementioned equalization settings did have a noticeable effect in some titles and created some extra weight during explosions.