Testing & Results
Let me start off by saying that I am no audiophile; I won’t even pretend to be. The speakers I use are the M-Audio Studiophile AV40s and the best pair of headphones I have ever owned are the Sennheiser HD 419s. My explanations during this testing will be based on the comparison of the 419 headphones with the BitFenix Flo headset. The Sennheiser’s retail for $59.95, so I feel the comparison is fair.
I tested the Flo headset with music, movies, and games. I also used the “Headphones and Earphones Benchmarking Test Files” located at www.audiocheck.net so anyone reading this review could run the same tests themselves. I chose music that I have had for a while and have listened to on varying devices. Dave Matthews Band is always one of my favorites because their songs use a wide variety of instruments and effectively use mids and highs. Lecrae’s “Gravity” album has become a go to for me when I really want to test the low end of an audio device. For movies, I picked the most action packed scenes of both Pacific Rim and Star Trek Into Darkness, to see how well the headset would fair at producing a “cinema” type experience. And for game testing, I played through a few levels of Metro: Last Light.
IMPORTANT: I will again stress that I’m no audiophile by any stretch of the imagination. The best way to determine if a headset is for you is to test them before buying (if you have that option). Please don’t base your purchasing decision solely off of my comments contained within this review.
- Motherboard: ASRock X79 Extreme4
- System Memory: 16GB (4×4 GB) Samsung MV-3V4G3D/US
- Processor: Intel Core i7-4820k @ 4.5 GHz
- Audio: Syba 24bit/96KHz DAC
- Video: EVGA GTX 780 Classified
- Disk Drive 1: Intel 530 180GB
- Disk Drive 2: Western Digital Black 1TB
- Optical Drive: Samsung Blu-Ray SH-B123L/BSBP
- Enclosure: Corsair Carbide Air 540
- PSU: Corsair AX860
- Monitor: HP ZR24w
- Operating System: Windows 7 Professional
With that being said, let me brag on this headset at how well it handled the music I threw its way. Dave Matthews sounded better than I previously have heard from headphones before. The mids and highs were reproduced so well that I really was surprised that this was a gaming headset. The Lecrae tracks I chose really tested the lower end frequencies of this headset. The bass that this headset produced was smooth for the majority of the time, but would distort somewhat if I pushed the volume too high (this can be expected with any device when pushed to far). The channel separation from right to left was great and I never had difficulty recognizing which channel the music was coming from. Overall, listening to music on this headset was extremely enjoyable and being able to switch the cable to use them as mobile headphones adds value.
Let me just say, this headset really shines with movies and games. I ended up watching far more of both Pacific Rim and Star Trek Into Darkness than I had intended. For the Flo to be just a stereo headset, it sure did a fine job of completely immersing me in cinematic ecstasy. I could not get over how well the action scenes sounded on this headset. The bass never became muddled or distorted and the actors’ voices came through very clean and crisp. The same can be said with my experience with playing Metro: Last Light. The headset helped immerse me in the game – character dialogue was easy to understand and firing guns delivered a very satisfying “punch”. The sound delivered by this headset helped capture the atmospheric effect of the game and the origination of enemy fire or environmental noises were easy to detect. With a headset like this, I see myself watching far more movies and spending far more hours playing games on my PC than my wife might appreciate.
And last but not least, I would like to go over my findings after running the tests on www.audiocheck.net (the site does a much better job at explaining what each file test, so I will give just a brief explanation here). First up we have the “Frequency Response” test. There are two files included in this test. The first file is used to test bass extension. Basically you play the file until you can hear an underlying sweeping tone as it rises. The test starts at 10 Hz and goes to 200 Hz. I started hearing the sweeping tone at the 20 Hz level which is in-line with what BitFenix rated for this headset. The second file is used to test the treble extension and instructs you to play the file until you start hearing the underlying (high pitched) sweeping tone as it descends. I heard the high pitched tone right at 18 kHz, which is below what this headset is rated for (though this could be due to my hearing more so than the headset, because the results were comparable to my findings with the Sennheiser HD 419s).
The “Dynamic Range” consists of a single test file. “Dynamic range represents the ratio between the loudest signal you can hear and the quietest.” BitFenix doesn’t list any specifications on this for the Flo, but this test can help showcase the isolation offered by the headphone or headset. This file plays a noise at full scale level, followed by a voice over played at a specified level. The volume is then lowered in steps with the voice over announcing the “decibels below full scale” level of the voice you just heard. The voice over I could still accurately hear on the Flo was 54 dBFS (decibels below full scale). This is slightly better than the Sennheiser HD 419 headphones I ran the test on as well. This test can also vary based on how well your hearing is and cannot solely be blamed on the headphones or headset.
The “bass shaker” test is designed to expose weaknesses in headphones that cause them to rattle or distort when playing back loud or deep bass. The file goes through varying bass frequencies and looks to shake the drivers of the headphones. The bass tone used should remain clean at all frequencies to pass the test. The Flo produced smooth bass that transitioned very nicely and never distorted or rattled.
The “driver matching” test is used to detect if the drivers used of the headphones are properly matched. The left and right drivers must respond equally with the sounds that are being played. If one driver plays louder than the other, then you either have a driver mismatch or the hearing between your ears is off. The Flo performed beautifully in this test, which tells me that the drivers BitFenix chose for the Flo appear to be properly matched.
The last two tests consisted of a polarity check (self explanatory) and the binaural test. The binaural test is used to identify if headphones can reproduce a realistic sound that was recorded by placing a microphone in the human ear. The sound you hear from the headphones should be as realistic as if you were hearing it in person. The Flo passed the polarity check perfectly, which shows that the headset is wired correctly.The Flo was also able to reproduce the sound from the binaural test very realistically. So much so that I found myself looking over my shoulder when I played the test for the first time because I thought someone was knocking on my door!
These tests were fun to play around with and can give a sort of “baseline” when comparing multiple devices. Overall I am impressed with how well the Flo headset performed during all my testing.