Cooler Master Storm Sirus 5.1 Gaming Headset

Author
Logan King
Editor
Aron Schatz
Posted
July 19, 2011
Manufacturer
Cooler Master
Views
92697
Cooler Master Storm Sirus 5.1 Gaming Headset
The Cooler Master Storm Sirus is a high quality headset built to last, and the audio quality and channel separation are quite good for a 5.1 headset. With that in mind, the $129 MSRP is fairly close to the top of the market.

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Page 1
Introduction

Surround sound headsets are a controversial thing. With relatively low-priced 5.1 speaker sets available which were designed with computers in mind, some think that the 5.1 function of surround sound headsets is a gimmick at best. Others swear by the channel separation that they bring to the table for the leg up they can give you in online play. With those two viewpoints in mind, ASE Labs has the Cooler Master Storm Sirus 5.1 Gaming Headset for review, to truly determine just how much a "true 5.1" surround sound experience can bring to the table.

About Cooler Master

Quote

OUR MISSION
Cooler Master was founded with the mission of providing the industry's best thermal solutions. Since its establishment a decade ago, the company has remained faithful to this mission, emerging as a world leader in products and services for companies dealing with devices where heat issues must be resolved.

In pursuing this mission, Cooler Master is absolutely committed to delivering solutions that precisely meet customer requirements for features, performance, and quality. Moreover, we strive to be a reliable long-term partner for our customers that they can truly depend on. Cooler Master aims to be the first and foremost name that comes to mind for companies around the world seeking thermal solutions, and seeks to build such a reputation through outstanding technology, sophisticated design, and superior service.

Cooler Master's current business encompasses a comprehensive lineup of thermal solutions for a full range of applications. Our products range from heat sinks and fans to component housing, chassis, and ducting for computers, industrial machinery, telecommunications equipment, and many other devices.

A critical component of Cooler Master's ability to successfully pursue its mission is an unstinting commitment to quality, as demonstrated by the ISO 9001 certification granted to its main manufacturing plant in Taiwan. We have also enforced ISO guidelines and is in the process of applying for ISO 9002 certification at its second and third plants, located in China. Cooler Master has also implemented a number of analytical and testing protocols to ensure top quality, including at subcontractors, to further ensure thorough quality control. Moreover, Cooler Master's dedication to quality extends beyond manufacturing to every aspect of its operation, including service.

http://www.coolermaster-usa.com/contact.php?page_id=2


Packaging

Because the Storm had not been released yet at the time of review, the packaging for our test model is not the final retail packaging. However, based on a visual comparison between our test packaging and the mockup of the final retail packaging, they look identical enough for us to go over the packaging anyways. The only visual difference appears to be that our test packaging is a plain white box, whereas the final packaging has the typical Cooler Master Storm design elements.

Sirius Retail Packaging


From the front of the packaging, there is a plastic window that takes up roughly one third of the front of the box, and continues to wrap around to the right side. This gives a good view of the cans for the headset, the microphone for the headset and the "Tactical Mixing Console" control puck for the headset.

Headset Packaging
Page 2
Marketing Summary

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Built for gaming enthusiasts and audiophiles alike, the CM Storm Sirus 5.1 Surround Sound Headset creates an immersive experience with hi-fidelity soundscapes and intense bass.

Sirus produces precise and crisp sounds through its 8 discrete speaker channel pairs. These consist of Front, Rear, Center, and Sub. These deliver accurate and fully adjustable real-time 360 degree audio – made possible by its Tactical Mixing Console. In addition, Sirus is coupled with a uni-directional microphone with background noise cancellation that enables crystal clear conversations with teammates and enemy combatants. This is a premium headset focused on high-end gaming purposes.


Packaging Contents

The interior packaging for the Sirus is a simple molded plastic insert that the headset and control puck both rest in. A cardboard insert is set in the back of the mold, which holds the extra wires and second pair of ear cups in place, and the headphones and control puck are both held in place to the cardboard by a few sets of twist ties.

Internal Packaging


The packaging keeps the internals in place and safe with minimal hassle in actually getting them out, also showing them off through the window on the exterior packaging. Quite a smart design.


After you remove the headset and control puck from the packaging by undoing the twist ties, you can remove the cardboard insert from the back of the molding and retrieve the rest of the contents. The first thing to be seen is the headset itself. It is a large, full can-style headset with an imposing design.

Sirius 5.1 Headset


The control puck/amplifier for the headset (officially referred to as the Tactical Mixing Console) is the next thing to be seen. It is a heavy, circular design roughly four inches in diameter, with a large rotary dial in the center and three buttons (for muting the headset, switching between adjustment modes and muting the microphone) arrayed between the dial and the volume meter. The bottom side if covered with rubber to hold it in place on a table or stand, and combined with the weight of the puck there should be little worry of it taking a fall from wherever it is placed.

Sirius Control Puck


Also included is a second set of ear cups (with a leatherette wrap for better noise isolation) and a direct-feed conversion cable for the headset if you want to plug it directly into your computer soundcard rather than use the control puck.

Other Components
Page 3
Specifications

Cooler Master Storm Sirus
  • True 5.1 Surround Sound
  • On-The-Fly Rear, Center, & Front speaker control for maximum sound customization
  • Interchangeable ear-cups for breathable audio and noise cancelation
  • Leatherette ear pads for Noise Cancellation
  • Microfiber ear pads for Breathable Audio & Added Comfort
  • Microphone with LED mute indicator
  • Dual gold-plated USB for more power
  • Features 4 individual speaker channels per ear.
  • Tactical mixing console for on-the-fly adjustments
  • Circumaual design for best comfort


Front Speaker
  • Frequency response
    10 Hz -20k Hz
  • Sensitivity
    105 dB/mW
  • Impedance
    32 Ohm
  • Drive unit
    Ø30mm


Center Speaker
  • Frequency response
    10 Hz -20k Hz
  • Sensitivity
    105 dB/mW
  • Impedance
    32 Ohm
  • Drive unit
    Ø30mm


Surround Speaker
  • Frequency response
    10 Hz -20k Hz
  • Sensitivity
    105 dB/mW
  • Impedance
    32 Ohm
  • Drive unit
    Ø30mm


Subwoofer
  • Frequency response
    10 Hz -20k Hz
  • Impedance
    16 Ohm
  • Drive unit
    Ø40mm


Microphone
  • Frequency response
    100 Hz -10k Hz
  • Impedance
    2.2K Ohm
  • Sensitivity
    -46 dB ±3dB
Page 4
Cooler Master Storm Sirus

Perhaps the first thing to draw your attention to the Sirus is the imposing design of the headset. Everything is made of hard angles and thick high-quality plastic, and it makes the headset look larger than it actually is. The band that sits on your head, for example, is a good two inches wide and nearly half an inch thick in the center. The girth of the band is put to good use by featuring the CM Storm logo in large letters written across the middle.

Sirius Headband


Every surface has a smooth, silicon-like texture to it, and the plastic has just the right amount of flex in it to let you know that it isn't so strong that it is brittle. This headset features full can designs with a cool looking vented exterior appearance. Each can houses the CM Storm text and the CM Storm flame logo design in the center of the can. When the headset is receiving power, the flame logo (and the surrounding vents) both light up with a dull red glow, leaving quite the impression while also letting you know they are working.

Sirius Left Can


The left can contains an identical design to the right, with exception of the retractable boom microphone. The microphone is about 6 inches long with the Sirus logo emblazoned long the length of it, and it has its own separate power LED to let you know whether the microphone has been muted or not without requiring you too look at the control puck.

Microphone Boom Retracted


The microphone is extended by rotating it forward away from the headband. One nifty thing about the mic is that it also can be bent into place to better cut down on vocal distortion.

Microphone Boom Extended


All of the cords used are of a high quality, durable type wrapped in a thick nylon weave. Unfortunately, the TRS adapter cables are not, being normal rubber-wrapped cords of a considerably thinner construction, likely due to the complexity of the 5-way splitter where the four TRS cables and the USB power cable come together. That being said, the connectors themselves are still gold plated on both the normal USB connectors and the TRS adapter cable, so loss of audio quality shouldn't be worried about so long as more care is taken with the cables themselves.
Page 5
Testing Protocol

Remember that testing sound devices is a very subjective thing. Make sure you read reviews from many different sites to really gauge how something that deals with sound actually is. A sample size of one site is not enough to make an intelligent decision on which product to buy since there is no 'standard' way of testing something like audio equipment.

Our tests for music were done using Winamp v5.601, and our tests with movies were done using VLC Media Player Version 1.1.11. Most of the tests were done on Windows XP Professional SP3, but compatibility testing was done using Ubuntu 10.04, a Sony Playstation 3 CECHA01 model and various audio equipment with standard TRS connectors.

Ergonomics

The Sirus has a few tricks up its sleeve to make wearing the rather hefty headset as comfortable as possible. Both of the cans are extendable and retractable into the base of the headband, but they also have about 10-15 degrees of rotation in each direction to better allow them to fit the wearer's head snugly. The headband itself features a large, soft cushion built into it, made from the same material as the microfiber ear pads.

Sirius Headband Cushion


Finally, the Sirus also contains the dual sets of ear pads. The microfiber set promise "Breathable Audio & Added Comfort" over the leatherette set, which are focused on "Noise Cancellation." Switching out the ear pads is relatively simple. All that needs to be done is to pull on the pads lightly for the assembly to come off, and then you simply gently remove the ear pad from the assembly.

Headphone Can Bare


While there didn't seem to be that much of an appreciable difference in our testing for either initial comfort or noise cancellation between the two sets, the microfiber set did generally seem to be more comfortable over extended periods of time (30+ minutes). Furthermore, the microfiber set seemed to provide a closer, more snug fit around the ear than the leatherette set. In any case, having both sets included is a really nice touch, though it would be even better if both sets came with their own assembly to make the switching process less time consuming.
Page 6
Functionality

One of the more impressive things about the Sirus is the Tactical Mixing Console control puck. It offers complete control for the headset with just three buttons and a dial. To raise levels, you simple rotate the dial in the correct way. To mute the microphone outright (or the headset, if you are so inclined), you simply push one of the buttons to the left and right of the mode button.

The LEDs arrayed along the perimeter of the puck show how loud each individual level is currently set at, and the current mode is also highlighted by a red LED when it is selected. It is a really simple system that works really well. We are also happy to report that the Sirus worked instantly in 5.1 mode on both Windows XP and Ubuntu, as did all of the controls offered by the Tactical Mixing Console. The PS3 also recognized the headset, but its only use in that case would be for voice chat.

The functionality of the headset using the TRS cables is much less straightforward, however. When using the headset with them, the audio quality and volume relies directly on your soundcard, and the adjustments must all be made through the OS volume settings. Altogether, while it ultimately works perfectly fine using either method of connecting, using the dual-USB connections and the Tactical Mixing Console is probably the best way to go if only because of the simplicity involved.

One thing to note is that, for whatever it is worth, the headset does function perfectly fine as a normal stereo headset. That means that if you had some way to power it you could theoretically use it with any TRS-equipped audio device. We hooked it to a JVC X'Eye and a Sony PSP and played music and some games on both, and the audio worked for both systems. Similarly, the microphone on the headset works the same way with any TRS connector-equipped microphone.

Testing Procedure

So it is built well, is comfortable to wear and it is easy to use. But what about the audio itself? For surround sound headsets, there are also things to consider above and beyond the sound quality. You also need to consider how well the channels are separated from each other, and how well they position the audio in comparison to what is shown on screen. Each parameter was tested using different methods to try to weed out inconsistencies.

General audio quality tests were done with Winamp playing back CDs, making sure to include the same specific audio file from our previous tests to make the comparison easier. Audio channel separation was tested using VLC and several movies, all of which chosen for their channel separation when watched with dedicated audio equipment. Finally, channel location was tested using Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne. For both of the tests comparing the separate channels, direct comparisons were made to an Onkyo TX-SR502 6.1 surround sound receiver to determine the accuracy of both tests.
Page 7
Testing

The music tests gave good impressions regarding the quality of the sound. The bass was strong but not overwhelming. The highs have a good amount of weight to them, and mids stand out as well. Most notably, the repeated drum beat that starts up about six seconds into the song has a real, noticeable pop to it. All the individual instruments could easily be discerned from one another at any point in time in the song. All told, the Sirus performed impressively in the quality test.

In the channel separation tests, the headset stumbled a little bit. The front and center channels could be easily discerned from each other, and the bass was really impressive with any work with a dedicated LFE channel, but there were times where it was difficult to hear what was coming from the rear channels. Granted, the rears are generally the least-used of the channels in most movies, but without fiddling with the levels the try to bring them up louder than everything else they were generally drowned out, even for things like musicals and action scenes where the echo would be heard from the rear channels after the other channels died down on the test receiver. That being said, since the only thing that really needed to be done is tweaking the levels, it is hard to actually call this a failure on the part of the Sirrus so much as something to keep in mind.

The results of the channel location tests were much more impressive. Even with all of the individual volume levels equaled, you could clearly tell the direction of all of the things in the game. There were a couple of potential oddities compared to the test receiver, but they were minor. In particular, the rear channels seemed a bit more "forward" than what is typically expected (though that may be simply a difference in how the test receiver is set up by comparison), and the center channel seemed quite a bit "closer" than it did with the test receiver. Neither of these things were actually problems, though, and after a few minutes of gameplay it was hard to even notice unless you were looking for it.

Conclusion

The typical worries from a company entering a new market seem to have been unfounded for the Cooler Master Storm Sirus. Cooler Master have done their homework, and offered up a quality product at a competitive price. While it doesn't perform as good as dedicated equipment and there are a couple minor usability problems, it ultimately lives up to the high standards of the rest of the Cooler Master Storm line and is well worth a look for those in the market for a more compact solution to their surround sound needs. A $129 MSRP may seem like a dear price to pay for a set of headphone, but as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. It is far better to get a surround sound set that works and offers increased functionality than to get a set that doesn't work to your needs and be forced to put up with it.

ASE Publishing would like to thank Cooler Master for making this review possible.

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