Yesterday we took a close look at the first of two pieces of hardware from the new Swedish company Mionix, the NAOS 5000 gaming mouse. It was spectacular and only a slightly steep price kept it from walking away with one of the highest scores we've yet given. Today we're going to be taking a look at their headset, the KEID 20.
Headsets have gone from being a slight curio to being one of the most regular items to be found among a gamers collection. As online gaming has become a large part of peoples lives the need to communicate has grown from the early PvP desire to merely taunt, to the need to communicate via your whole platoon or army.
Away from this particular aspect another technology has come to the fore and made a headset a must have item, and that's VOIP. What was once complex and available only to the gifted few has now broken into the mainstream. Free calls anywhere in the world is something we can all appreciate and with it being so easy to do then a good headset means anyone in your family can keep in contact easily.
So what do Mionix bring to the table, and is it oozing the quality we saw from the NAOS 5000?
Just like the NAOS, the KEID is named after a section of our galaxy. Mionix again :
Keid is a triple star system located 16.5 light-years away from Earth and belongs to the constellation Eridanus, the sixth largest constellation. Keid means egg or egg shells and it resembles the central plate on the ear cups. Keid has gained popularity thanks to its proximity to Jupiter It´s easily visible from Earth and shines with a bright light due to its high temperature. Keid has two companions, one of which is a white dwarf that orbits Keid.
The KEID 20 have a couple of nifty features that seperate them out from a very crowded marketplace, and they are the auto-adjusting headband and passive noise reduction on the microphone that actually works. However we'll look at those in more detail on the next page.
Taken directly from the Mionix website :
• Type: Circumaural / Full-size stereo headset
• Driver: 50 mm
• Magnet type: NdfeB
• Frequency response: 20Hz - 20 000 Hz
• Speaker impedance: 32Ω
• Sensitivity (@1 kHz): 100dB +/- 3 dB
• Max input power: 400 mW
• Connection type: 3.5 mm gold-plated plugs
• Cable length: 3 m braided cable
• Cable diameter: 3 mm
• Volume control: On cable, from mute to full volume
• Frequency range: 300Hz- 3 300 Hz
• Mute Microphone: Yes
• Directivity type: Omni-directional
• Sensitivity (@1 kHz): -36dB +/- 5dB
• Max. Operation Voltage: 10 V
The specifications are everything we'd expect from a headset of this kind of money. Of course it's impossible to compare the speaker specifications to a high-end dedicated audiophile pair, but relative to the majority the KEID look good. We hope the decision to go down to 20Hz doesn't hurt the mid and highs.
Time to see what we're looking at today.
Up Close and Personal
The KEID 20 is available in both black and white. Today we have the white variant to hand. Whilst it make look all sleek and reminiscent of the Apple stuff that every seems to love, it does make photographing them clearly a royal pain.
Externally the KEID 20 packaging is very much like the glorious effort we saw on the NAOS 5000 with a wonderfully clean design and very sleek presentation on both sides of the box. Naturally headsets always seem to have the window on the front which does spoil the looks somewhat as the plastic is much easier to flex and obviously doesn't retain that smooth matt black look throughout.
Once the box is opened and the headset removed it's actually a bit disappointing to find them housed in the standard clear plastic vacu-form item we're used to. Headsets are very difficult to package in an exciting way, but even black plastic would have been better. It's a compliment to Mionix that after the NAOS and the externals of the KEID, a standard inside comes as a disappointment.
Once the headset has been removed we can see it comes with a sheet of A4 for the manual, which is well printed and contains all you need to know, and a very cool bag to carry them with. They don't break down for transportation and so to have a thick drawstring bag to keep them in is a nice touch. The Mionix logo is subtly applied too.
Initially the design appeared to be strange as it's mainly two hoops with everything bolted to that. However once you get them on your head it all becomes clear. The first thing you notice is the weight. We've tried many headphones but these are about the lightest full-size cans we've come across. Anyone who's had to give their ears a rest after an hours gaming will understand that comfort is very important in headsets and the small weight should ensure these remain wearable for a good session.
Secondly the hoops are robust, but flexible. For normal home use unless you are clumsy this shouldn't be an issue, but the moment you take your headset into the outside world, and especially the frantic nature of a LAN event, then anything that helps protect them from bumps and scrapes has to be good.
The headband is very nicely padded and, unlike most headphones/headsets, hasn't got slide bars to adjust the height. Rather the KEID 20 has an ingenious auto-adjusting feature. You put them on your head, pull the cups over your ears and that's that. Without actually trying this for yourself you could be forgiving for thinking that the auto-retract part of this arrangement would mean they are always pressing against your earlobes. They absolutely don't.
The microphone is a standard boom arrangement that swings down from the left can and is unadjustable.
Phew. Thankfully there isn't much to say about these two pictures other than they highlight the aesthetically pleasing design.
The ear cushions come in a smooth soft covering that's very light and comfortable. Mionix state it's memory foam and whilst I can't vouch for exactly how that works because my ears fit within the casing, they nonetheless are very comfortable to wear.
The remote volume control is a little too small and fiddly for my tastes. Although the volume is easy to control the fact it's only about AAA battery size means the mic mute is very difficult to nail in a hurry. These large hands that so adored the NAOS 5000 are brought into sharp focus by the size of the remote.
Finally the cabling. As you can see from the remote and this shot the braiding is high quality with a good weave and nice and soft. Unlike many of the headsets that have recently been through the OC3D bunker it's nice to see the return of the good old jacks rather than a USB connection. The simplicity of a USB is nice, but the reality is that most of us don't go LAN gaming and just sit with our headphones at home. So to be able to take advantage of our soundcard again is a nice touch.
Let's do some testing and wrap our first Thursday review up.
Testing and Conclusion
In a similar way to yesterdays NAOS 5000 Gaming Mouse review, testing a headset is easy, but getting those results across to you without the benefit of the graphs and charts we're all so used to takes a little more work. Thankfully we take pride in our impartiality and our willingness to give you the straight deal on Hardware, so you know to trust us.
For our review today we wanted to use a system you're all likely to have, and for that reason we're using the onboard sound on our X58 motherboard. In this case it's the almost universal Realtek ALC889 HD using the latest drivers on a Windows 7 64 system.
The first thing that struck us was the passive noise reduction on the microphone and so it was to this that we headed first. I'm sure we've all had experiences of people talking as if they are in a wind tunnel or an echo chamber, and with fewer and fewer microphones thankfully needing a press-to-talk feature it does mean that a team experience can quickly degenerate into the sound of background televisions and sundry noises.
Utilising both Skype and Windows Live for a conversation we're pleased to report that not only does the microphone render speech crisply and clearly, but the passive noise reductions works brilliantly. It works so well that we felt like it had voice-activated technology such was its ability to remain silent when you weren't speaking.
Before we head to the gaming tests, a pair of headphones have to be capable of reproducing pretty much anything you throw at them. Whilst we understand we're not trying to obtain the fidelity of some beyerdynamic's nonetheless we also don't want to have to do the old switcheroo every time we want music or gaming respectively.
Two things sprang to mind throughout the music testing. Firstly the 20Hz capabilities of the headphones haven't diminished the ability to produce good mids and highs and even bass heavy songs didn't cause many issues. Secondly the bass itself is quite tight with a good feel to it but does require some volume to really get it driving. The KEID 20s definitely seemed to excel when the music was of a broader sonic spectrum rather than confined to a certain register. Pink Floyd's Pulse double CD was a particular treat.
The preference for the KEID 20s towards broad music became clear once we moved on to testing films. The dialogue definitely was the clearest part, which is good for a movie, but it did tend to leave action sequences a little lacking. The main issue appeared to be the combination between big explosions and pumping music. Otherwise in more gentle films or the sequences that weren't big car chases they performed admirably.
Our music and movie tests made us feel that actually they could be very good in games. After all it's rare you find a game that has got bombastic music and a relentless action sequence. Even first-person shooters have breaks in the action, and driving games don't have such a demand upon the headset. Also thanks to the couple of weaknesses we found we can then tailor our game choices to see if these are replicated in the main use the KEIDs will undergo.
So how did they fair? Modern Warfare 2 was first up because it's combination of quiet passages followed by enormous firefights should test the action sequence issue we found with films. Sure enough the quiet sequences were just a little too quiet and the noisy sections, although designed to replicate the hell of a guerilla war, were just a little too muddy. They aren't bad by any means, just quite average.
Driving games faired much better with both GRiD and Need For Speed Shift giving excellent aural performance. The whines and pops of an upgraded car in Shift were particularly excellent through the KEID 20s.
Away from specific testing the KEID 20s have also been used throughout the testing period as our main headset with such a diverse selection as Dragon Age, Silent Hunter 5 and MAME all being played at various points and they performed well.
Starting with the two things we were very impressed with, the comfort and the microphone.
In keeping with the wonderful comfort we experienced with the NAOS 5000 yesterday, the Mionix KEID 20 Headset is fabulously comfortable. It's light on your head, easy on your ears, and even after a full days aural pleasure we hardly noticed they were there. High praise indeed.
Secondly the thing that differentiates a pair of headphones from a headset is, obviously, the addition of a microphone. Sometimes this is an excuse by a manufacturer to stick something cheap on and charge extra, but in the case of Mionix they've manage to give us one of the finest microphones we've used. Initially we feared the inability to adjust it would be costly, but actually it is perfectly placed. If you want a headset mainly for the ability to converse then the KEID 20s should be high on the list.
If ever the headphone part of a headset deserved the moniker of Jack of All Trades, Master of None, it's the KEID 20s. They do nothing particularly well, and nor do they do anything particularly badly. They handled everything we threw at them fine enough. It's difficult to find a lot to say about them really. They are very comfortable. Nicely designed and priced at exactly what we'd pay for them. In all respects they are perfectly alright. Good bass, good mids, good highs.
They are the definition of an all rounder. There are no nasty surprises. But equally nothing that will put a grin on your face. Apart from the comfort and that superb microphone.
With a bit more responsiveness at low volumes they could be good. At around £40 they're fine. For £30 they'd be a very wise purchase. You could easily do much worse than to take a good look at the Mionix KEID 20.
Thanks to Mionix for providing todays review sample. Discuss this in our forums.