The Echelon headset we recently reviewed was a complete joy, being way better than we'd expected and competitively priced too. For a standard ASUS headset it had great performance. So when we were asked to review the Republic of Gamers Vulcan ANC headset you can imagine that the thought of a product sufficiently high-end for ASUS to apply their much vaunted ROG branding to had us salivating.
The ANC part of the name stands for Active Noise Cancellation. This is a rare feature on headsets of any description, much less gaming ones. It attempts to provide a negative hum waveform so that any positive ones nearby, such as from your case fans or similar hardware, are cancelled out and your ears are free from that annoying drone.
So armed with our trusty ASUS Phoebus sound card and a wealth of audio options to put the Vulcan ANC through its paces, let's crack on.
The specifications of any headset don't give many clues away as to what you can expect. 32 Ohm impedance is par for the course and 40mm drivers, whilst not the largest we've seen, are around the average too. Of special note is the light weight of the Vulcan ANC, which is especially good when you consider the noise cancelling hardware and battery needed to run it.
Driver Diameter: 40mm
Frequency Response Headphone: 10Hz ~ 20000 Hz
Impedance: 32 Ohm
Noise Cancelling :
Active: Maximum > 15 dB. 85 % ambient noise (fans etc)
Passive: Maximum > 30 dB
Weight: 325 g
Battery Life: Up to 40 Hours
3.5mm stereo plug (microphone)
3.5mm stereo plug (headphones)
Vulcan ANC Headset
As befits a ROG branded product the packaging is of a very high quality. It would be tempting to plaster the box with a lot of logos and shouting of the ANC technology, but ASUS have kept things restrained with a clear and concise design. Even the rear of the packaging, usually a haven for tiny fonts and complicated specifications, is bold and simple whilst still imparting a lot of information.
Within the box is the carry case for the Vulcan ANC. A very hard case guaranteed to protect it in backpacks and on the floor of LAN conventions. It's perfectly designed for the headset too, with it being a very snug fit. Given that we've seen headsets priced much higher that haven't come with a carry case it's a nice touch.
The headset itself folds neatly for storage, with the height-adjustment hinges providing the pivot points. The microphone isn't the flexible type that we often see, but rigid. It is however removable which is a boon for those times when you aren't talking. Also by removing your ability to adjust it you can be certain that there wont be any people putting it right against their mouth for a wall of unintelligible noise.
The cable is removable too and is the same as the one we saw on the Echelon. Very high quality although it's only rubber-coated rather than the fabric braid that we're more used to seeing, especially at this end of the market. The inline remote is crackle free and clips on to ensure it's always within reach.
Up Close Continued
As you would expect to find from a ROG product the Vulcan ANC is red and black. We think it's very attractive though, the wider stance to encompass the Active Noise Cancellation giving it a very different vibe to a regular headset. With the large ROG logo on each ear-piece you wont find anyone confused as to the brand that you've chosen.
The foam around the ear pieces is extremely bounteous with plenty to keep the headset comfortable and also provide passive noise reduction to assist in the active type. Speaking of which behind the right ear-piece is the space for the single AAA battery needed to power the active noise cancellation.
The noise cancellation is able to be turned off with a switch on the left hand side. It has a handy LED to ensure you don't flatten the battery by leaving it on when not in use. Just below the ANC switch is the jack to insert the removable cable, and below that the socket for the microphone.
The microphone stands much straighter than it appears in this photograph. The hinges are very high quality as we would expect considering how often you are likely to be collapsing the Vulcan ANC to take it with you.
We've spent a week with the Vulcan ANC as our primary headset, using it for every thing possible from listening to the radio, through movies, VOIP and, of course, gaming.
We can report that the sound quality is fantastic. With 40mm drivers you could expect a slightly tighter frequency response than we are used to from larger drivers, yet the Vulcan ANC was spectacular whether we were listening to soft voices or thumping bass lines. The sweet spot is undoubtedly the midrange, with gunfire, vocals and ambient sounds all being reproduced with crispness and clarity. Indeed the Vulcan ANC is so good that it is one of the rare breed of headsets that can make you hear things you haven't heard before, such is the clarity and space given to every sound. The microphone is equally good, combining excellent placement and focus to ensure that your every utterance is transmitted clearly. As a pure set of headphones it is up there with the very best and with the addition of the good microphone it becomes a very desirable headset.
Comfort is an area we're always keen on and the Vulcan ANC meets the comfort test with complete confidence. Indeed we can't recall a headset being this comfortable to use for hours upon end. It's extremely light and yet has a robustness to the build quality and careful design to allow you to wear it all day if you desire without ever becoming fatigued. We like our ear pieces to fit snuggly for both comfort and passive noise reduction reasons, and the Vulcan nailed this too. There are few things worse than being aware that the top of the ear pieces is pressing hard upon your head and yet the bottom is flapping, but thankfully the Vulcan ANC avoids this issue completely.
As befits a gaming headset designed for LAN parties the Vulcan comes with a very robust carry case and folds down into a compact size. With the microphone being removable you can use them as a pair of headphones when the need arises without having to tolerate your left ear being heavier than the right or having a large microphone sticking out unnecessarily. The removable cable is high quality too, although we'd prefer to see a cloth braid to help with some of the twisting issues we've experienced. Thankfully because it's removable you can swap it out if you wish, but it would have been nicer to not have the need.
The main event is undoubtedly the Active Noise Cancellation that gives the Vulcan ANC its name. You need to be aware that ANC wont stop you being able to hear the person next to you talking, or the television if you're at home, but rather it helps remove the hum that you hear from your system, or an air-con unit. It's not a "make the world silent" switch, but instead it's something that dulls the edges. Unfortunately there is a very steep price to pay and as soon as the ANC is activated the bottom drops out of the sound completely. It's less dubstep and more Motown. The last time we heard something this thin and tinny it was an 80s car stereo. No amount of adjustments with equalisers will remotely give you the lower frequencies back, or indeed bring warmth to the rest of the register. You'd have to be driven completely crazy by ambient humming to even consider turning the ANC on, such is the hefty reduction in sound quality that you experience.
The only other slight niggle we had with the Vulcan ANC is that the height adjustment isn't quite rigid enough. Once on your head they stayed in place perfectly, but when taking them off the ear pieces always slid downwards. A tiny niggle, but if you're taking them on and off regularly it's enough to be worthy of mention.
All in all this is very much a tale of two headsets. Without the Active Noise Cancellation the sound quality is outstanding, some of the best we've heard, and with it turned on it's so thin and tinny that it's sounds like the noise is coming from a box in the next room. In either scenario though it's extraordinarily comfortable, capable of being worn for the whole of a work day without any fatigue or 'hot ear' problems at all. Priced at £80 the Vulcan ANC is excellent enough that you can consider the Active Noise Cancellation to be a free extra, which is probably for the best as it's too detrimental to the sound quality to be used in all but the most extreme circumstances.
So whilst the unique selling point isn't as useful as we'd hope the rest of the ASUS ROG Vulcan ANC Headset is well priced with outstanding audio reproduction and incredible comfort, and thus worthy of our OC3D Gold Award.
Thanks to ASUS for supplying the ROG Vulcan ANC headset for review. Discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.