In the four years that Roccat have been producing gaming hardware they've stormed the market with some of the highest quality peripherals around. Here at OC3D we've reviewed most of the Roccat range and found them all to be worthy of a place on any shortlist.
A while ago we reviewed the 5.1 Roccat Kave and found them to be outstanding. Today we're taking a look at the second Roccat Headset to come across our review desk, the Roccat Kulo Stereo Gaming Headset.
This is available in two flavours, one with a USB virtual 7.1 soundcard and one without. We have the one without on test today as it enables us to have a regular baseline to test against.
LAN Gaming has always been a big audience for gaming peripherals and with more and more events being held around the globe it's to this market that the Kulo has been targeted.
A look at the specifications for the Kulo show a good response from both the headset and the microphone. A decent length cable with an in-line volume control aids usability and that light weight should ensure comfort and ease of portability.
|Frequency range:||20~20.000 Hz|
|Impedance:||50 Ω ± 15 %|
|Sensitivity at 1kHz:||102 dB ± 3 dB|
|Sensitivity:||-47 dB ± 3 dB|
|Weight:||178g (excl. cable)|
|Connection:||2 x 3.5mm|
|Cable length: ||2.5m|
Roccat packaging is one of the more readily identifiable types out there. The logo for each product is identically designed which helps keep a holistic theme running through all their products. The front is dominated by a clear panel which enables you to see the headset clearly, and the rear has the features of the Kulo nicely laid out. Everything is set-off by the company blue which appears whenever a colour is need. Very attractive.
The Kulo headset itself is an on-ear design which makes a huge change from most of the headsets we test which are over-ear type. If you're someone with a preference for on-ear designs then you have something fresh to look at. This on-ear design means that the Kulo is much very compact and light. The headband is lightly padded to aid comfort.
The ear pieces have passive noise reduction and the right hand one comes replete with the Kulo logo. The ear cushions are partially covered with the foam mainly used for padding rather than direct contact.
Up Close cont
The build quality is up to Roccats usual very high standards with everything constructed either of metal or exceptionally robust plastics.
The microphone is one of the key selling points of the Kulo. We're sure we're not the only people who've been screaming orders at our team-mates only to discover that our microphone was on mute and we hadn't noticed. The Kulo completely side-steps this issue by having an automatic cut-off built in. If the microphone is down then it's active, and if it's retracted into the up position then it's muted.
The microphone is mounted to an inflexible bar rather than the adjustable type we're more used to seeing. However the ergonomics are very good with it always being where it should be and because it can't be bent in front of your mouth anyone listening in wont have to deal with the "people eating the microphone" sound that I'm sure we all know well.
The in-line volume control only has to handle the volume thanks to the microphone mute being handled by the headset itself.
The earcups are removable for easy cleaning so you don't have to either give the lurgy to or get it from anyone who borrows your Kulo.
Documentation is handled with the normal Roccat flair. A matte black wallet containing everything you need including the Roccat code to enable you to access the parts of their site restricted to those who've actually purchased a product.
Testing and Conclusion
For testing we plugged the Kulo into our main gaming rig which runs with the Realtek sound that is ubiquitous on nearly every motherboard.
With this being a gaming headset we naturally dived straight into some of our favourites such as Battlefield Bad Company 2, Need For Speed Shift and Company of Heroes.
The Kulo had good performance in all these situations with everything being reproduced clearly. The sound did appear to be slightly tighter than we're used to. You still get the bass and treble you'd expect but it's as if it's been compressed into a smaller area. Some of this will be down to the on-ear design leading to smaller speakers inside the ear pieces and the closed back nature of the Kulo. Once the heat of battle got going we didn't really notice as much as we did in the quiet moments, and this tightness really helped the audio recreate the percussive effects of heavy shelling or the bottom end rumble of a V8 engine.
One problem with this tightness of sound is using the headset for non-gaming applications such as movie watching or music. Games generally have most of their sounds in the middle part of the audio spectrum to give the best possible reproduction on a wide range of speakers and headphones, whereas films and music use the full range available. It was here that the Kulo seemed to clip either end of the waveform and the sound ended up being a little muddier than we like.
The volume slider is a little agricultural and has more resistance than we'd like. Fine adjustments are nowhere near as easy as they should be especially if things are busy in your game. A few times we wanted to just turn it down a tiny bit to save ourselves from going deaf and you kept applying more and more pressure to get the slider to start to move, then as soon as it overcame its initial inertia it happily moved, but of course you were giving it plenty and ended up muting the damn thing. At first we just thought it was due to the newness of the headset but by the end of our testing period it never seemed any better. It either needs a wheel type control or a bit of a rethink.
The microphone was a joy to use. The obviousness of "if it's down you can talk" is a stage above having to look away to see a tiny LED or other indicator of whether the mic is live or not. Sound quality is excellent too with speech coming across to my team-mates clearly and without any of the problems with plosives and s' that can occur with some microphones we've tested. Roccat have wisely put the automatic cut-off point quite high up so you wont accidentally mute yourself just by moving the mic up an inch.
Build quality is outstanding. As always with Roccat stuff you feel you could drop a bomb on it without it noticing, but for a headset so specifically tailored to a gaming environment and so likely to find its way into many a holdall, this is a particular highlight. One thing we did find is that the foam earcups were too happy to come off at the slightest provocation. Once on your head they're perfect but the vinyl covering does tend to stick to your ears after prolonged use so you have to learn to take them off without a twisting motion, unless you fancy reattaching the cups every time.
Comfort did seem to be the one area the Kulo fell down. As someone who wears glasses the on-ear types can press your glasses arms into your ear too much, and the Roccat Kulo is a very snug fit. Within about an hour they were becoming uncomfortable just for this reason alone. Without glasses on it was obviously vastly improved but still there wasn't quite enough softness to the cups to be able to use them for long periods without a break.
In conclusion the Roccat Kulo 2.1 Gaming Headset is a very focussed pair indeed. It hasn't got the sonic breadth to be a great choice as an all-rounder and the on-ear design is just slightly too irritating to want to live with on a daily basis. For the same money (about £50) we'd plump for the Mionix Keid or SteelSeries Siberia's if we wanted a stereo pair that did most things, or put down the extra £15 and grab the class-leading Roccat Kave.
But if you want a robust headset for gaming that has a very handy microphone feature, wont break when taken to and from LAN conventions, and you're likely to use them in short bursts than leave them on all day, then the Kulo are a good choice. There are just a few too many niggles to give a hearty recommendation to though.
Thanks to Roccat for providing the Kulo for today's review. Discuss in our forums.