The second of our CM Storm reviews is the Pulse-R, and immediately you can see from the image at the top of the review why we're combining these into a single days worth of content. The aluminium plate with holes for an Allen Key speaks of customisation potential akin to that we saw from the Mech keyboard.
We've previously reviewed two headsets from CM Storm, the Sirus and the Sonuz. The Sirus was slightly uncomfortable but had awesome sound quality from its 5.1 drivers, and the Sonuz was very comfortable but only with average sound quality. So far then the CM Storm diversions into the audio market have met with mixed results, so we're looking forward to discovering what a return to the drawing board with the Pulse-R has brought us.
With 42mm drivers the Pulse-R is somewhere near the middle of the pack in terms of driver size. Up to a point the smaller drivers can give excellent mid-range performance and a tighter bass than you find from the larger 50mm drivers. Otherwise, as always with headsets, the specifications don't tell the whole story. The majority of gaming headphones have 32 Ohm impedance, so it's quite surprising to see the Pulse-R have a 50 Ohm impedance. This requires a beefier sound card to drive (the higher the impedance the more power is required to drive the speaker), but thankfully we have our trust ASUS Xonar Phoebus to hand which can drive up to 600 Ohm.
|Connector||3.5mm headphone jack|
|Cable Length||3m Removable Cable|
|Frequency Response||100 Hz – 10000 Hz|
|Sensitivity||-42 ± 3dB (0dB = 1V/pa.1KHz)|
|Signal to Noise Ratio||60dB or more|
|Removable Mic||Volume control and Mic mute|
There is a nice cohesion between the CM Storm products and their packaging, especially with the three models we have for review today which, whilst not being sold as a single item, are clearly designed to be harmonious.
The Pulse-R is in a box within a box, and the headset is very well packaged. It's curiously held in place with plenty of cable ties, despite being in a form fitting plastic holder within a box. It seems strange to have to pull the whole internals out just to get the headset out when it is already held tightly in place. Once out the first thing that grabs you is the square ear pieces. There is no particular reason why square ones wouldn't work, but we think most peoples ears are oval, so it's initially a strange choice. Of course we'll see how it works in practise.
With the CM Storm logo both on the headband and on the metal coverings for the ear pieces, there will be no doubt as to who manufactured this. The construction is extremely rugged, with no flex or give at all. It should survive anything you can throw at it.
Unlike a lot of headsets the ear-pieces aren't hinged at all. Given the variances in the sizes of peoples heads this is a brave decision by Cooler Master, and speaks volumes about their confidence in the design. The height adjustment is two metal bars, which only reinforce the feeling of solidity that the Pulse R gives.
Up Close continued
As with a few high-end headsets both the microphone and cable are removable. The microphone for the Pulse-R is a boom style, with some flex in the arm. We like these as they reduce the possibility, that is sadly all too common, of people 'eating' their microphone. By limiting where you can position it hopefully there will be fewer problems with plosives and sibilants to enrage the listener.
We saw on the Mech keyboard that the aluminium was removable to 'aid in easy cleaning', but realistically to allow you to customise the colour to your hearts desire. The Pulse-R continues this trend although, being a headset, without the pretense that it's for cleaning purposes. You also get a glimpse of the LED, which we'll come to in a moment.
The padding on the ear-pieces is extraordinarily plush. The foam is deep and comforting, helping to spread the weight of the Pulse-R across the head. On the underside of the left ear-piece is the connection for the cable in a proprietary format, and the regulation 3.5mm jack for the microphone.
The cable itself is good quality with two 3.5mm jacks for the audio and microphone, and a USB to power the lighting. Yes, this glows white when the USB cable is plugged in, further indicating its coherence with the Mech keyboard and Reaper mouse.
The in-line remote is a slide bar rather than a wheel for both the volume and microphone muting.
With the USB cable plugged in the section behind the metal outer covering lights up in a soft white glow, reminding us of the Mech keyboard and the Reaper mouse. The white and aluminium look is very classy.
Despite the 50 Ohm nature of the CM Storm Pulse-R, our Xonar Phoebus supports headphones up to a whopping 600 Ohm impedance, so the Pulse-R will get all the power they require.
In our introduction we mentioned how, so far, CM Storm have had mixed results with their headsets. Thankfully with the Pulse-R, whilst it's not amazing, it's at least consistent.
The first thing that strikes you are the looks. With a very high level of build quality and oozing aluminium everywhere you look, to say that the Pulse-R is robust is almost doing it a disservice. This is an extremely solid piece of kit, guaranteed to survive all the Monster-soaked desks of your local LAN convention, as well as providing years of reliable service at home. The padding on the ear-pieces is particularly good, with plenty of room for even the largest ears and that space ensuring that the sound gets an airy quality that you never get from those headsets with the speakers right up against your ears. The cable is excellent, as is the microphone, and because the microphone is removable you're not stuck with unbalanced headphones for those times when speaking isn't required. The only thing we don't like about the cable is that the inline remote is a slider rather than a wheel. In our experience it was far too easy to move it just by shifting in your seat. With the proprietary cable due to the lighting, it's not simply a case of swapping cables either.
The sound is good, without any particular element blowing our socks, or in this case our ears, off. Bass is reasonably tight without tending towards wooly, and the mid-range is very good as we would expect from 42mm drivers. Highs are a little lost in the mix for our taste, but that's because we like our audio to be fully balanced and clearly, as a gaming headset, the primary focus is on thumping gunfire and mid-range response in the chaos of battle. It's an understandable design choice, and for £60 we can't be too picky. It's definitely good, just not sparkling in every scenario.
Comfort is, as office tests have shown, dependent to a certain degree on the size of your head. Normal sized head people will be find and find the Pulse-R comfortable, but if you're the type of person who has a larger hat, then the lack of hinging on the ear-pieces means that the Pulse-R presses a little tighter than we found comfortable for a marathon session. Thankfully the large amount of foam in the ear-pieces greatly alleviates this issue, even for the giant headed members of our staff, and people with regulation sized heads will find the Pulse-R cushioning and comfortable.
Like the Mech keyboard the side panels of the Pulse-R are removable with an Allen Key, should you want to colour-coordinate to match your team colours or even your own personal preference. This customisation is emphasised by the use of white LEDs for the lighting. Speaking of which, the lighting is subtle bordering on invisible. We wouldn't want the LEDs to dazzle nearby competitors, although that could be a nice edge in heavily competitive scenarios, but you really have to look closely to see that there is any lighting at all.
The CM Storm Pulse-R is a very solid headset that is build like a tank and has some nice touches. There are a couple of slight niggles, and the quality of the audio reproduction across the whole spectrum is such that it's clearly aimed at the gaming market. It's by no means bad, rather it's exactly as good as we'd expect for the £60 asking price. The design matches beautifully that of the other two products in this mini-range so if you like your peripherals to match then you could certainly do worse than the CM Storm Pulse-R and for that reason we're awarding it our OC3D Silver Award.
Thanks to CM Storm for supplying the Pulse-R for review. Discuss your thoughts in the OC3D forums.