The Vibras Five.One from Track Scan delivers big Dolby Digital surround sound in a tiny package. It boasts that it's "the only headset to earn Microsoft's authorization as 'Licensed for Xbox 360'." Is that enough?
Manufacturer Track Scan purports that the Vibras is "unsurpassed in its superior audio quality," offering up an Xbox 360 tailored option for a more immersive audio experience.
While the Vibras does give gamers another option for late night surround sound gaming that won't piss off the neighbors, it also has a few gotchas. We lay out the pros and cons, what we loved and hated, in our hardware review.
Convincing Surround Sound: The Vibras 5.1 does a decent enough job of providing a three dimensional sound experience, thanks to a suite of 10 speakers that provide plenty of punch with great lows. They're extremely helpful in bringing out audio that you might not hear through a traditional speaker set up, unless you set the volume to 11, giving you a handy advantage in online games that use directional audio.
Comfortable, With Adjustable, Removable Mic: Relatively lightweight, the Vibras 5.1 are comfortable to wear for long gaming stretches. The detachable microphone is also flexible, letting you position it where you'd prefer. What it doesn't do, curiously, is give the user the option to wear it on either ear cup. The microphone attachment also has a tendency to come lose when quickly pulling off the headset.
No Receiver Required: If you don't already have a proper surround sound set up in your AV area, the Vibras system is self-sufficient, thanks to a Dolby Digital decoder box. That does mean you'll need a dedicated power outlet to power the thing. It's a good solution for a second gaming set up in the bedroom or wherever your second string TV may be.
Sounds Can Be Meek: While the bass delivers and sounds are generally crisp, mid-range audio can occasionally come across as tinny and hollow. It's most noticeable when watching a movie, when character dialogue is the focus. Since there are no cinematic filter options that we could see, it may take some fiddling with adjusting the volume, center channel and subwoofer feed to get something worth listening to. Explosions will blow your hair back, but that's about it.
Expensive: At $199, the Vibras isn't cheap for what is essentially a dedicated headset. Yes, you could plug the device into any output that supports optical out, but with its split headphone jacks, you probably won't find the Vibras headphones themselves useful on a wider range of devices.
A Tangled Mess: It's wired. Requires optical in to the Xbox 360, which feeds to the Dolby Digital decoder box (which also needs an AC out), which feeds into the headset which plugs into an Xbox 360 controller for voice chat. Again, not a big deal if you're playing on a smaller set up, but a wireless solution can be had for the same price if you already have a surround sound receiver.
*Batteries Required: Wait... I need AAA batteries (not included) to use this on Xbox Live too? Bummer, 'cause it sounds so much better than the out of the box Live headset.
It's hard to recommend the Vibras 5.1 to anyone with a working surround sound solution in their home. While it has its pros, the most notable being the benefit of hearing everything, the fully wired headset feels antiquated when we've become accustomed to playing untethered. As a back up surround option, it's a decent enough option, but somewhat cost prohibitive. The sound quality isn't bad, and it's especially helpful during Xbox Live chat, thanks to its battery powered amplifier, but it isn't going to make me switch from my current set up.
The Vibras Five.One Surround Sound Headset was released by Track Scan in December, retails for $199.99 USD. Tested headset with the games Left 4 Dead, Dead Space and Rez HD and DVDs Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and The Wire.
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