The range of ASUS products seems to increase on a daily basis. A company that started off with motherboards and graphics cards, now has enough products to satisfy all of your entertainment needs whether you require components to build a system, an already completed system, laptops, tablets, phones, displays... the list of things with the ASUS brand upon it is almost endless. Given the importance of brand loyalty in the modern marketplace and the soft-place in their heart that any gamer has for the ROG brand in particular, it's not a great shock to see this rapid expansion in their range.
Today we have a first for OC3D in that we're reviewing a headset from ASUS. We've looked at headsets from all the major manufacturers so it's about time ASUS joined the list.
The model we're reviewing today is the Echelon Gaming Headset which comes in a blue digital camouflage pattern so popular amongst gaming clans.
The Echelon is a fairly basic headset, with a retractable microphone and two 50mm drivers. With noise cancellation only occurring from the natural sound deadening that comes with covering your ears it helps keep costs down. Hopefully the performance remains as high as we'd expect from an ASUS product.
The packaging apes the digital camouflage pattern we can see on the headset itself through the window. There is something about being able to see the product before purchase that we always enjoy. The specifications are clear and everything is neatly laid out. It shows the simplicity of the product that the reverse is dominated by a photograph rather than a monster specification table.
Comfort is a vital part of any headset. Even with the greatest sound quality in the world you wouldn't want it weighing a ton and digging into your head. With the Echelon that shouldn't be an issue as both the headband and the earpieces themselves are extremely well padded with thick foam coated in soft vinyl.
The outer shell is very sturdy plastic with no flex at all. These are as rugged as they look.
The ear pieces themselves are open-backed which gives more of an spacious feel to the sound at the expense of some bass tightness. The honeycomb covering neatly apes the colour scheme of the blue camouflage. The little touches always make a difference. The markings on the sides are very much a love or hate thing. We can understand that an expanse of plastic would be dull, but we're not sure this is the solution.
The microphone is recessed into the left ear piece and extends in a smooth fashion. It's flexible enough to sit wherever you place it and yet sturdy enough to remain there.
Unexpectedly for a mid-priced headset the height adjusters are two metal braces. The benefits to the rigidity of the Echelon that this gives are pronounced.
The inline remote has the regulation volume control as well as a microphone mute. On the reverse is a clip so you can attach it to your top if you so desire. The braided cable ends in two gold-plated jacks.
Our test setup has received an upgrade for our audio reviews with the ASUS ROG Xonar Phoebus 7.1 Soundcard. With Dolby Home Theatre v4, a seriously sturdy EMI shield and 118db SNR it has all the high-end features in place. The most important element for our testing is the inclusion of the TPA6120A2 headphone amplifier which can drive headphones up to a massive 600 ohms and will be perfect to give us the best possible audio reproduction.
With the purity of a simple stereo design the Echelon lives and dies on its ability to sound great and be comfortable during those marathon sessions.
Let's start with the design. It takes a certain type of person to desire a camouflage pattern on their headset but with the decision to go with a blue camouflage design, one not used in actual combat, at least lends a casual non-military air to something that otherwise is a bold statement. The build quality is excellent. The outer shell is very robust and made of high quality plastics. It's common at this end of the market to find shiny, cheap-feeling, plastics and yet the ASUS Echelon has a soft feel that exudes quality. The decision to use two metal rods for the height adjustment only aids in the sturdiness and aura of being indestructible.
The headband and ear pieces have lots of padding which combine with the light weight to make wearing the Echelon a joy. It's extremely comfortable and, with the open back, is able to be worn all day without either it becoming tiresome or your ears sweating.
Sound quality is, understandably, where any audio lives and dies and the Echelon is hugely impressive. With an open back design the bass notes will always be more airy than the punch you get from a closed back design, yet they remain tight on the Echelon rather than woolly. The midrange is where they really shine giving clear dialogue and music reproduction whether you're watching a film, fragging your mates or just listening to music whilst you work. High notes are glassy, the big 50mm drivers shining brightly rather than the tinnier offerings that you can get from smaller designs.
With an open backed design, 50mm drivers, recessed microphone and a £60 price tag the instant comparison that came to mind with the Echelon is the hugely popular SteelSeries Siberia 5Hv2. A headset that has found its way on to the ears of nearly every gamer at one point or another. That is some stiff competition and the ASUS Echelon meets the challenge and then some. In fact they're so good that we'd place them ahead of the SteelSeries as the best mid-price headset on the market. The camouflage is an acquired taste, but as the ASUS Orion is identical but in plain black, we could recommend those as highly. The ASUS Echelon are excellent and an unhesitating recommendation and they win our OC3D Gold Award.
Thanks to ASUS for supplying the Echelon for review. Discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.