Cooler Master continues its foray into the gaming peripherals market with their CM Storm Sonuz stereo headset.
Chunky, sturdy, durable, and loud – at a recommended retail price of R999, these headphones demand quite a bit from your wallet, and compete head-to-head with many other top-notch gaming cans. The question is – are they a sound deal?
Features and Build Quality
The Sonuz is an imposing headset, without being ostentatious. It is constructed of chunky, matte-brushed plastic which gives it a solid and reliable heft, while also providing enough cushioning and flexibility so it won’t clamp skulls.
This headset feels as if it will brush off many frantic last-minute LAN pack-ups and tumbles to the floor. The flexible boom-microphone is probably the point of construction that needs a little care applied.
The Sonuz is a pure stereo headset – there are no emulated 5.1 channels, and no built-in audio decoder. The sound quality you get out of this set will also depend on sound output on your gaming system. A dedicated soundcard with the bells and whistles will obviously do a better job than a cheap white-labelled sound-chip.
The Sonuz headset boasts 53mm drivers; a size which assisted in good reproduction of low-tones. Adding to their sound reproduction capabilities is the open design of the drivers, which means greater air-flow for some satisfyingly rumbly bass notes.
The downside of the open design is that background noise isn’t blocked out particularly well, nor is sound emitting from the Sonuz well-contained. So while I was listening to my favourite drum-n-bass-speed-metal-step music, so was everyone else in the office. However, despite the open design, this loud music meant I couldn’t hear them complaining about it. In a different environment (a loud LAN such as rAge comes to mind), not even fantastic music may be enough to block out nearby nerd-rage and riotous branded T-shirt giveaways.
A nice feature is a detachable 3.5mm-jack flexible boom-microphone, which can be swapped to either side of the headset (the vacant jack-port is plugged with a rubber bung). The boom-microphone contraption is chunky, matching the overall aesthetic of the headset. It feels sturdy enough, kept in place with a plastic tab/slot mechanism (I wouldn’t go picking up the headset using the microphone boom, but then again, why would you?). The microphone swivels as one would expect.
While using the microphone in-game online, my friends immediately noticed an improvement over my previous microphone setup, reporting a clear and crisp voice on their end. They also reported not being able to hear the usual background noise, such as the large fan I usually have going, or the emphatic clacking of my keyboard while vigorously enlightening noobs on just where they went wrong and how they can improve their gameplay performance.
The Sonuz has large cushioned, fuzzy-fabric earpads (97mm claimed), and a similarly thick padding on the headband, which did a good job of keeping long session a comfortable experience. The headband is adjustable, using an internal metal strip which looks particularly robust and leaves me confident this shouldn’t be a point of failure in the design.
Jeremy was busy using my scale to measure out Quinton’s food pellets, but reports from around the Internet peg the Sonuz at around 380g weight. They most certainly did feel heavy when put on for the first time, but being used to large gaming headsets over the years, I didn’t find the Sonuz to be uncomfortable. Newcomers to large gaming headsets might be surprised though. Fortunately, the weight is evenly distributed, and the cushioning provided was ample. Many hours of gaming later, and I was none the worse for wear.
Finally, there is a 2m-long braided cable which splits into 3.5mm stereo- and microphone jacks. The cable is securely attached to the left of the headset, and features an in-line volume control and microphone on/off switch at a conveniently reachable distance.
The audio quality was tested by playing some games. In Battlefield 3 all the sounds of war were faithfully reproduced, and certainly aided with my immersion into the game. Explosions rumbled across the landscape, while nearby rocket impacts almost left me wondering if I really had temporary tinnitus. The accuracy of directional audio-cues which are part of the gameplay are as much up to the developer as the sound system used; I think it’s safe to say DICE nailed it in this area, and coupled with the Sonuz, I wasn’t left wondering just where those sniper bullets were coming from, and creeping footsteps were easily detected.
In one of my favourite games that has a very busy soundscape, Heroes of Newerth, every came through crisp and clear, with the various sound effects faithfully reproduced without any noticeable clipping or distortion. As mentioned, the large drivers certainly lent themselves to some loud bass noise; who doesn’t love some good bass?
It should be noted that my gaming sound is powered by a quality soundcard, and so the Sonuz was certainly up to the challenge of delivering a sonic smorgasbord directly to my ear-tongues.
The second way of testing was the headphone sound tests on Audiocheck.net. These tests are designed to put headphones through their paces in a scientific way. For a full breakdown of testing criteria, head over to Audiocheck.net.
|Test||Sennheiser HD415||Razer Carcharias||Sonuz|
|Frequency response (low)||20Hz+||20Hz+||20Hz+|
|Frequency response (high)||19KHz down||17KHz down||17KHz down|
|Dynamic Range||60db below full scale||42db below full scale||42db below full scale|
|Quality||Excellent, no rattles||Excellent, no rattles||Excellent, no rattles|
|Driver matching||Perfect, no variation||Excellent, slight variation||Excellent, slight variation|
|Wiring (Centre)||Well defined, accurate||Less defined, semi accurate||Well defined, accurate|
|Wiring (Twisted)||Hard to define, accurate||Less defined, semi accurate||Hard to define, accurate|
|Binaural test||Excellent, lifelike||Good, simulated||Excellent, lifelike|
The CM Storm Sonuz performed admirably, especially when measured up against the likes of the Sennheiser HD415 (a general headset designed with only build quality and audio quality in mind, and lacking some of the gaming headphone features such as a boom mic and in-line volume control).
Bear in mind that hearing ability differs from one human to the next, these tests are only comparable when done by the same reviewer. Additionally, readers may have better/worse hearing, and may not be able to reproduce the test results listed here. Thus the results are informative, but not definitive.
The CM Storm Sonuz headphones offer solid construction and solid stereo sound reproduction with some impressive bass tones. With the gaming-oriented features and design, they are certainly a contender for the attention of those looking for a new set of cans for home and LAN use. However, the only stumbling block on the Sonuz headset may be the RRP of R999 – a pricey proposition for a good, but not outstanding set of gaming headphones.