In my younger days, cough cough.. !NURSE!!, cough cough, I would game like there was no tomorrow. There was no Microsoft Office, there was no Quickbooks, Open Office, or LANDesk. There was Unreal Tournament, NFS, Quake, Battlefield, C.O.D. (not this website). My desk was a war zone, my office was a LAN party, and my friends were my comrades fighting battles on my self hosted gaming server.
We didn’t have the luxuries of low latency flat panel LCD monitors, surround sound systems, or specialized gaming mouse and keyboard combinations. We had 20 inch CRT monitors that weighed as much as my German Shepherd, we had keyboards that clicked as loud as a gun shot when the keys were pressed (and when turned upside down would drop crumbs from last nights epic battles), mice that cost under $80.00 USD, and cheap microphones using TeamSpeak to coordinate the attack.
Even though many think console gaming is hardcore enough, nothing can compete with a PC when it comes to the ultimate skill levels. However, with the evolution of our tools in the field, sometimes blasting surround sound systems may be too much or not even an option. Most of the times, gamers don’t have the space to set these up properly. This type of elusive audio immersion has been targeted by Arctic Sound with the development and distribution of the Arctic Sound P531 Headset by Arctic Cooling.
Featuring four individual drivers in each ear-cup, the ARCTIC SOUND P531 plays true 5.1 surround sound. The 3-dimensional sound from games and movies will bring you to a whole new level of sound experience. This gives gamers a huge advantage, as they can reliably spot opponents based on the sound of their footsteps and gunshots even before seeing them.
So what does the P531 have to offer? Lets start with 5.1 surround sound (yes, there is a little tiny sub woofer in there), a microphone, integrated vibration for that extra sensation, and a closed cicumaural design to isolate outside noise (no more “take the trash out” interrupting your capture of the enemy flag). A comfortable design, and some rugged looks.
The headphones themselves are a bit bulky, but are still comfortable to wear for extended periods. The adjustable design and the padded earpieces makes a light load of the 462g. The USB cable is long enough for me to slide my chair back to the mini fridge without worrying about pulling the cord out and measures a total length of 3 meters. The adjustable microphone moves up and down as well as flexing for the perfect fit and the earcups move and swivel too for those of you with abnormally shaped heads.
The USB connection means that you are not required to have a high end sound card to use these. The P531 features its own built in sound processor over USB. The included sound processor also has controls for the user to modify the rear, front, center, sub, total volume, and a rocker switch to mute the microphone. Each of the controls are easy to modify without looking once you remember their position. The layout is simple enough but could have benefited by designing it with a belt clip.
The gaming experience of the P531 really is where the design meets the functionality. They actually function as described and provide and immersive experience when gaming. The lights are off, dual NEC MultiSync 20WMX2 monitors, a programmable mouse, a 2 liter bottle of Mountain Dew, and the P531’s. Gunshots behind me trigger fast twitch muscle fibers and my mouse and trigger finger react slaying all those against me. The spacial elements of sounds when gaming are accurate and bring about a sense of wonder as to why you would ever game again with desktop speakers.
Included software provides some customization but usually ends up getting filed under “Recycle Bin” after the drivers are installed. The software gives you all the elements you would expect as far as configuring how you want your 5.1 system set up. You can move the virtual speakers around, move them closer or farther, rotate them, configure effects like Hall or Concert, and even setup some Karaoke to remove voices in audio.
Outside of fiddling with the software a bit to match your tastes, everything is easy as pie. The headphones are recognized as their own audio device and Windows 7, Vista, even XP had no issue with the drivers.
When it comes to simple audio, gaming, or movies you will not be disappointed; the P531s deliver as expected. The 5.1 surround sound is no joke and the price point is right on target. Arctic Cooling did a fine job with the design, the implementation, and a $65.46 USD price tag directly from their website. Bottom line, would I buy them? If you have the money… go for it.