Roccat Kave 5.1 XTD Digital Headset Review
As any audiophile will tell you, features and audio quality come on a sliding scale, usually according to price. So at the bottom end you have almost no features and poor audio. As you move up the price bracket more features get added and the audio quality improves up to a point, after which the features rapidly drop off until you end up with a Class A amplifier which has unbelievably good audio quality and only a volume knob. The same is true, to some degree, of headsets. The more gadgets and gizmos that you include, the less of the price tag that the audio quality takes up. The Roccat Kave 5.1 XTD are most definitely a jack of all trades and a quick scan through the features helps you appreciate why the price tag is so relatively high for what is, spoiler alert, audio fidelity best described as fine. It does do a huge amount though. As always when a product covers so many bases, some of them will be extraneous to your requirements. So let's run through them with our critical eye;
Build quality is very good. The packaging is guaranteed to allow the Kave to arrive in perfect condition, even if it's so tightly packed that it's nearly impossible to remove without using more force than we were comfortable with. There is, thanks to the in-line remote-a-thon 3000, so much cable. Miles of it, seemingly. The headset itself is an odd mixture of really nice, and yet really plastic too. The outside of the ear pieces are soft-touch rubber with a matte finish that looks the absolute business. Yet the hinges are plastic, the headband feels like it's made of high-impact foam and the actual ear pieces themselves are high quality leatherette over just about the firmest insides it's ever been our displeasure to wear. This sense of unforgiving solidity is only enhanced by the restrictive hinges. Yes there is a lot of height adjustment, but we never found a spot where the Kave felt comfy to wear for long periods. Or even short ones. It's an odd mixture of build quality so good it will last forever, and yet so inflexible that you hope it doesn't. After all, concrete lasts a while but you wouldn't want to wear it.
The console/soundcard is robust indeed. With a piano black coating, soft-touch buttons, bright LEDs and a good feel to the volume knob, it's a high quality item. Everything is where you'd want it to be, and adjusting your settings is a matter of moments. We really like the inclusion of Bluetooth pairing so that you don't miss a phone call mid-gaming session. Yet, continuing the good/bad balance, if we're in the middle of an intense gaming session we don't really want to take a phone call, and the headset isn't so comfortable that we'd be loath to remove it. If anything we'd welcome the chance to take it off for a moment and give our ears a rest.
Speaking of connectivity, that's a bump in the price tag that is only justified if you have a smart phone that you want to pair to your headset. Now we know most people do these days, but we know an awful lot of people who don't too. It's a rather niche feature. Bumps in the price tag are also to be found by the inclusion of an external soundcard. Hands up if you have a PC without a soundcard or onboard audio? Exactly. We all do and, as time has passed, onboard audio has got so good you'd be foolish to not take advantage of it. If you've spent some money on a dedicated soundcard to further enhance your audio pleasure it's rendered wholly redundant by the Kave XTD which only supports USB connection. Yes you can buy the regular Kave, and at a smidge under £60 you can buy that and a soundcard too, so you'd have to really want that Bluetooth pairing to justify the Kave XTD.
The audio is, as we said earlier, fine enough. It's not thumping, it's no so amazing that you'll be ringing up your friends and extolling its virtues, but neither will you be disappointed. Unquestionably though it's the audio quality of a £50 headset that has a £100 box of tricks attached to it. It's possible that you'd want the external soundcard to allow you to go anywhere safe in the knowledge that your sound will always be the same, but the Kave XTD is hardly the most portable item. It's a big headset with a big soundcard and loads of cable. It's very much designed to go on your desk and never move again. Which also makes the removable microphone a bit of a headscratcher. It's not in the way and you can't use the Kave XTD on your MP3 player of choice.
If you're stuck with the worlds worst onboard sound, don't really mind a big remote on your desk, have no particular preference in comfort and take so many calls during your fragfests that you wish you could patch your phone into your headset, the Kave XTD is perfect. Rush out and buy one immediately. For everyone else we think the original Kave has all the surround sound quality with a price tag that's far easier to digest. For your money you're getting a 5.1 external soundcard with audio pass through, Bluetooth capability, hardware volume control and presets, and a set of headphones bristling with speakers. So perhaps it's not that shocking that for the pure audiophile there are better sounding headsets around. But if you're in that niche that requires all the Kave XTD has to offer, nothing else does quite as much and so it wins our OC3D Silver Award.