You wouldn’t want your entire household to know that you’re busy playing games on your Xbox 360 or PS3, would you? Sure, it might be fun, but if your games require you to keep an ear out for enemies approaching from a certain direction, your speakers aren’t going to cut it. That’s why most gamers would invest in a decent pair of headphones.
This is Gaming Month, and we’ll be reviewing 2 headphones, starting with the $199.99 Creative Sound Blaster Tactic3D Omega Wireless Headphones. And oh, we’re giving it away!
Check out the other giveaways we’ve organised this Gaming Month!
Creative’s Sound Blaster Tactic3D Omega (long name, indeed!) is a $200 pair of wireless, gaming headphones. It’s also cross-platform, which means to say that it works for PC/Mac as well as Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles. In fact, since it accepts the traditional 3.5mm audio port, it’s capable of connecting with almost any audio device.
The Tactic3D Omega is a high-end specialist headphone designed specifically for gaming. Therefore, it comes with a noise-cancelling boom microphone and supports in-game voice chat functions on every platform — Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. The microphone is removable and the Tactic3D Omega can also be used to enjoy music and movies with on your computer or TV like any other regular pair of headphones, which is perfect because after forking out $200 for it, it had better be useful even if you’re not gaming with it!
To sum up, the main features of the Tactic3D Omega are its wireless capability, cross-platform support and a removable microphone. So what are its competitors? First up is the Sennheiser U 320 which goes for $169.95 — it’s also cross-platform but it’s neither wireless nor features a removable microphone. Also in the same price range is Razer’s $199.99 Chimaera 5.1 which looks quite promising and super sexy. It’s cross-platform and wireless but might not have a removable microphone.
A few competitors come into the picture when the budget is raised slightly. A pair of headphones from Turtle Beach stands out, and that’s the wireless, cross-platform Ear Force XP500, which is available for $269.95. We’ll be testing it out and reporting back to you via a review in the near future, so stick around for that.
Next is the Astro A50 and at $299.99, it’s the most expensive pair of gaming headphones which rivals the Tactic3D Omega. It does everything the Tactic3D Omega is capable of — it’s wireless and supports PC, Mac, Xbox 360 and PS3. I’m not too sure if the boom microphone is removable though. And there’s a possibility that it requires an optional $7.99 cable in order to play and charge at the same time.
So for $200, I wouldn’t say that the Creative Sound Blaster Tactic3D Omega is value for money, but it does look like the most promising pair of gaming headphones here, which can also be used to enjoy movies and music with.
If you’re on a restricted budget, we do have some headphone recommendations for you: 5 Quality Headphones That Cost Less Than $50.
What’s in the box?
The packaging for the Tactic3D Omega is quite impressive in the sense that Creative managed to fit a pair of full-sized headphones, a transceiver, a boom microphone, some cables, documentation, as well as a headphone stand all in a single, recyclable box!
The Tactic3D Omega is undoubtedly good looking. It’s quite easily mistaken for a pair of regular headphones without its boom microphone attached, and that’s what I like most about it — the fact that you can use it sans microphone without drawing too much attention.
The case is completely plastic, but with a nice, matte finish. I have to say that I did initially have some concerns about scratches because the surface looks quite prone to getting a scuff or two. As it turns out, it held up rather well. The earcups pivot so that they rest flat on any surface. Plus, it comes with a stand to mount on when not in use.
The headphones is quite light and the closed circumaural earcups rest on the ears quite comfortably. The earcups and headband paddings are lined with soft faux-leather, which I prefer to velour. The adjustable headband has a solid steel core that helps the headphones stay on without exerting too much pressure.
The left earcup is the business-end of the Tactic3D Omega and plays host to a bunch of integrated controls for volume adjustment and muting the microphone, as well as the power button; not to mention the microphone, Xbox controller and microUSB ports. Even so, unbelievably, its weight distribution between the left and right earcups is perfectly even.
Inside the closed circumaural enclosures, Creative implanted 50mm Neodymium magnet drivers with full-range frequency response of 20Hz – 20KHz (everything that the human ear is capable of perceiving). I’ll reveal how these headphones perform in terms of audio quality slightly later in this review. I’d also like to point out the blue ambient lighting fixture enclosed in clear plastic on the outer aspect of both earcups. It glows blue and pulsates when the headphones are in use — a gimmick, for sure, but a very cool one.
The Tactic3D Omega is charged simply by connecting a microUSB cable to the left earcup and the other end to your PC, a powered USB hub, or the transceiver. It can still function while charging, so there’s minimal downtime even when its batteries are running low. When charging, the power button illuminates but it’s missing an essential component here — a battery indicator. So it’s difficult to tell if it’s fully charged or close to empty.
The complete Tactic3D Omega ensemble features the wireless headphones, a stand, and a transceiver which sits snugly at the base of the stand (but is portable). The headphones operate on 2.4GHz uncompressed wireless technology, which has a longer range compared to Bluetooth and is generally more dependable. The headphones and transceiver is factory-paired and works right out of the box so there’s absolutely nothing to configure. However, the connection between the transceiver and audio source is not as simple.
In order to properly understand how this setup works, we must first take a look at the transceiver. At the front, you’ll find a switch to toggle between console and PC gaming. This is important because when in PC gaming mode, the transceiver relays audio signals via the microUSB port. In console gaming mode, it relays audio received via the 3.5mm audio port. After you understand this, it’s easy to decide which position the toggle should be in order to receive audio input from, say, your media player, or iPod touch.
At the rear, you’ll find a few ports and if it looks daunting, don’t worry, I’ll explain them to you. Starting from the left, you’ll find a USB port for charging the headset. Next is the microUSB port which transmit audio from your PC or Mac to the transceiver in PC gaming mode, and is also required to power the device. Finally, you have the 3.5mm audio port which you can use to hook up any audio input. So, cross-platform support. Check.
The eagle-eyed reader would have also noticed an additional button, which is the “Sound Blaster” button at the top of the transceiver. This is used to re-establish the connection with the headphones in case it ever gets unpaired.
Using the Tactic3D Omega with a computer is rather effortless — it’s simply plug and play. My iMac recognised the Tactic3D Omega as an audio output/input source and switched it to it automatically. Of course, the transceiver must be set to PC gaming mode in order for it to work. The headphones does come bundled with dedicated software called Sound Blaster Tactic3D Control Panel. Installing it is completely optional but it does provide some pretty cool features, such as TacticProfiles (basically profile settings), voice mask functions and the audio-enhancing THX TruStudio Pro Settings control panel.
Without having the opportunity to burn in the Tactic3D Omega, I was pleasantly surprised with the sound quality. Treble is not harsh, bass is adequate, and the soundstage is fabulous. Volume level was satisfactory, Overall, very well balanced. I’m not an audiophile, but I consider myself a serious audio enthusiast having used a variety of headphones and in-ear monitors.
Voice transmitted by the boom microphone is quite clear indeed, with help from the noise-cancelling condenser. The boom is flexible, so you may adjust it to suit your face and the position of your mouth. It is, however, fixed to the left earcup; and is unable to swivel around.
Merely reading about what the Tactic3D Omega is capable of is only half the picture. The other half is actually using it. Therefore, without a real-world test, this review isn’t worth much. For the sake of this review, I decided to test the Tactic3D Omega and find out what it’s like to wear for more than 5 straight hours, while completely operational. In other words, I’ll be gaming with it for a long time.
After 5 hours, things weren’t too bad. My ears did pinch a little and felt slightly warm. My guess is that the faux-leather pads aren’t breathable. I’m not sure if the heat was partially contributed by the headphones’ operation but the earcups themselves didn’t feel warm, which was reassuring. Further down, my neck wasn’t tired at all thanks to the headphones’ light construction. After taking a short 10 minute break (could have been less), I was ready to go again.
Battery-wise, again, the Tactic3D Omega performed really well. If used for movies and music, it can operate for more than 10 hours on a single charge. For gaming with voice, that duration drops to 6-8 hours depending on the intensity of the game. If it ever needs more power, the Tactic3D Omega can be recharged by plugging a microUSB cable directly into the charging port on left earcup. And gaming can go on while it’s recharging.
Wireless versus Wired
Some audio enthusiasts will claim that wired headphones will always be better. Personally, my choices are often dictated by my needs. Sometimes sacrifices need to be made. Wireless headphones are definitely more convenient in some aspects. For example, it’s easier to just get up and go to the kitchen to make yourself a sandwich while wearing wireless headphones and not miss a beat. Of course, the fact that it will eventually run out of battery can be a real downer. Not to mention the maintenance. Wired headphones require less maintenance — it doesn’t matter if you don’t use them for months. If you need to, you can still pick them up, plug them in and enjoy. Sadly, I can’t say the same for wireless headphones. Plus, the battery might lose its capacity to store a charge after a few years.
And yet, I find myself yearning for a decent pair of wireless headphones. I like the fact that it’s cable-free. I enjoy being able to see a movie and sit or lie wherever without ever caring if anyone will trip over the headphone cable.
Should you buy the Creative Sound Blaster Tactic3D Omega?
If you’re in the market for a decent pair of wireless gaming headphones that can double as a regular pair of headphones, essentially stretching your dollar because you’re getting two devices for the price for one; then the Creative Sound Blaster Tactic3D Omega is a good choice. Considering its competitors, the quality of the product, the features that it brings to the table, and of course, its price; I would definitely recommend it. Otherwise, have a look at the Sennheiser HD 598 headphones that Danny reviewed.
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