14 million people across the world subscribe every month to World of Warcraft - a massively-mulitplayer online role-playing-game set in the world of Azeroth. That's more than the population of Greece. As a result, there's a growing market of devices targeted at the game's subscribers. The latest is the Creative Sound Blaster World of Warcraft Wireless Headset.
As the name suggests, it's a wireless headset built by Creative. It's big and chunky with a closed-cup design that means that they sit around your ears - blocking out external noise and stopping the roars of orcs from disturbing those around you, too. Each ear cup can fold 90 degrees, so you can store them flat, and the headband is adjustable, just in case you have a freakishly massive head.
There's several World of Warcraft-inspired design features. The outside of each ear cup lights up in your choice of 16 million colours (we went for a sexy purple) and proudly displays the logo of either the Horde or the Alliance. They're swappable, so if you play characters on both sides of the divide, then you can go for one on each ear. There's also a selection of dwarven runes and a few angular bits that resemble certain in-game architecture.
We were a little disappointed by the plasticky feel to the headphones. While the headband feels sturdy and strong, the outside of the earpads is flimsy and we'd worry about it breaking if they were accidentally dropped on a hard floor. They have four buttons on the left ear - on/off, mic mute, louder and quieter - and there's a Mini-USB port for charging, as well as a jack connector for the removable microphone arm.
The headphones are comfortable during use - you'll be okay wearing them for extended periods as long as you take them off for a minute or two occasionally. While the headphones can be used when charging, you won't want to for long, as the heat generated on your left ear is a little uncomfortable. Thanks, perhaps, to the plastic construction, the headphones aren't heavy - though they are a little bulky.
But what you really want to know is how they sound. Well, thanks to their closed-cup construction, there's plenty of deep bass. That's great for explosions and other similar sound effects, but a distinct lack of top end meant music felt a little claustrophobic. The audio is provided by a pair of 40mm Neodymium drivers which deliver plenty of punch, and given the sound isolation offered by the closed-cup design, you shouldn't hit the max volume ceiling too often.
Happily, there's also a whole pile of options to tweak the audio to your liking. THX has provided an audio crystalizer which works to make music and movies sound livelier - this helps a little with the treble issue, even on high bitrates. There's a surround virtualizer which works nicely in-game, but has the unfortunate effect of making music sound a little robotic. There's also a bass booster, an 11-channel EQ, a setting to enhance voice frequencies to make dialog clearer, and a volume normalizer.
As a little added bonus for both serious roleplayers, and also those who fancy a giggle, there's also a voice FX option that can make you sound like various Warcraft characters, including male and female dwarves, blood elves, or orcs. There's even an option to make yourself sound like a village elder, or - if you prefer - like archdemon Malganis.
We found the battery life for the headphones to be adequate for a long session, as long as you charge it when you're not using it. A charging stand or cradle of some sort would have been very welcome for this purpose. Connection is through a USB dongle, the lid of which you'll lose almost immediately. Luckily the set comes with a leatherette travel bag, which you can keep the dongle in when you're not using it. Range on the wireless isn't far - only a few metres - but it's likely that won't be a massive problem.
What may be an issue for you is the price - £150 for the wireless variant we tested, or £110 for a wired USB version. That's a huge outlay for even a hardened Wacraft fan - equivalent to more than a year's subscription to the game. The added features, although fun, don't justify an ear-bleeding price-tag like that over a standard £40 headset like the fantastic-sounding Sennheiser PC 151.
The Creative Sound Blaster World of Warcraft Wireless Headset is interesting bit of kit. Playing games and watching movies on it sounds good, though you'll want to avoid music even if you're not a hardened audiophile. The customization features are fun, but ultimately they're a little gimmicky and you won't get a lot of value out of them long-term.
At a £150 price level we'd have expected considerably better sound, a charging cradle of some sort and a less plasticky, less flimsy, feel. As it is, this just seems like an attempt to cash in on an immensely popular game's fanbase. For the horde? Nah.