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DROP + Sennheiser PC38X review – Game Changer

Pros –

Lightweight and comfortable design, Mic arm with mute, Excellent tuning, Highly natural midrange voicing, Clean and separated bass, Solid soundstage dimensions

Cons –

Average technical performance, Smoother treble isn’t ideal for directional cues, Tight clamp force may bother some, No pop filter included

Verdict –

Combining all day comfort and integrated coms with a balanced and spacious sound from essentially any source, it is hard to deny the versatility and value provided by the PC38X.


Design –

Sennheiser require no introduction, the company has immense presence and a true sense of prestige in the industry. Not only are their consumer products abundantly available in your average retailer, but they have also produced some of the most timeless and renowned products for both audiophiles and audio professionals. Less known is their line of gaming headsets designed by Oticon, known for their high-end hearing aids. The two worked in tandem until recently where Oticon demerged to form their own brand, Epos. The PC38X gaming headset was spearheaded by DROP and realised by both Sennheiser and Epos, an evolution over the popular PC37X before it.

It sports new drivers from the GSP500/600 headsets, base design by Sennheiser and new mesh knit pads and headband padding according to popular community feedback. In addition, the PC38X has metal mesh rather than plastic grills, with highlights painted in a vibrant yellow. Paired with recurring luxuries of Epos’ designs such as a twist-to-mute mic arm and volume control, DROP reasons the result is a comfortable headset with a high price-performance ratio and accurate imaging ideal for gaming. Finally, this is topped with a 2-year warranty, a little more generous than most. With so many venerable brands behind the design, the PC38X aims to be far more than your regular gaming headset.

The PC38X is available on DROP for $169 USD at the time of writing. Please see their website here for all the details.

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank Michael from DROP very much for his quick communication and for providing me with the PC38X in both yellow and black for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the headphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.

Contents –

Specifications –

  • Form factor: Over ear
  • Transducer principle: Dynamic, Open-back
  • Frequency response: 10 Hz – 30 kHz
  • Impedance: 28 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 109 dB
  • Weight: 253g (w/o cable), 290.5g (w/cable)

Unboxing –

The PC38X comes in a minimalist card box with no colour print, only base text denoting the model of the product. Opening the top led reveals the headphones within padded foam and microfibre carrying pouch. Below are a 2nd pair of earpads made of velour similar to those on Sennheiser’s audio-focused headphones. In addition, DROP includes two cables, a 1.5m cable with 4-pole plug and a 2.5m cable with separate mic output and audio input plugs. This is a handy addition as it means the user can use the headphone with both portable devices and your desktop PC without the need for adaptors. Overall, a thoughtful accessory set with no superfluous inclusions. The unboxing is purely functional which enables the companies behind the product to channel more budget into the headphones themselves.

Design & Comfort –

One may expect a flimsy, creaky plastic construction from an affordable gaming headset; most of which boasting flashy designs intended to photograph well, but rarely hold up in person. The PC38X thankfully doesn’t fall into that category. While its predominately plastic build feels very lightweight, it does feel well put together with tight tolerances and zero squeaks, wobbles or creeks as you’d expect from a company like Sennheiser. The design will be familiar to Sennheiser fans, this is a slender, relatively low-profile open-back over-ear. Subjectively, they look professional and refreshingly elegant, especially in the gaming space. Of course, the yellow accents won’t be for all. Knowing this, DROP recently released an all-black variant which looks very dapper – details below.

 Otherwise, the satin black finish provides a nice tactile sensation during use and the metal mesh also provides a bit more confidence and rigidity to the frame than regular plastic. The new knit headband and earpads complement the look and feel handsomely. They are smooth and very breathable. I did notice a high level of clamp force out of the box. You can stretch the headphones over a box over night or allow them to naturally loosen over time. However, the clamp force does aid fit stability. While the pads are relatively slender, the high-density foam padding and deep earcups meant they never contacted my ears, avoiding hotspot formation. Similarly, the headband padding is wide and soft. When combined with their breathable design, I was able to wear them all day with minimal discomfort.

The sliders offer a huge range of adjustment too, 20 settings in total. This makes the headphones suitable for a wide range of head shapes and sizes. The mechanism offers defined feedback between each setting. With that said, I would have liked to see some form of marker on the rails as it can take some time to click through the wide adjustment range for an even fit on both sides. The cable interfaces via a recessed 2.5mm plug. It is held in place with tension and the recessed design means many third-party options won’t be compatible. Altogether, as far as build quality is concerned, each point of movement feels solid, and the headphones have no obvious points of weakness. The lightweight design also contributes greatly to an especially ergonomic experience over longer listening.

All-black Model

DROP was kind enough to send over their upcoming all-black model for comparison with the original. These will be going live on their webstore today and are a great choice for those wanting a cleaner aesthetic; perhaps if you manage calls on a daily basis in a professional setting or simply to match your setup. There are few difference to the overall experience here besides the new paint job. The unboxing and included accessories are unchanged and, unsurprisingly, the sound is identical too, which is a good thing. Rather than having yellow accents, the driver mesh and mic mesh are now both black, matching the headphones themselves. I was also glad to see the cable has been updated to match, it is now all black and no longer has the yellow weave. Altogether, a cleaner looking and more unassuming design that will surely be popular with many buyers.

Usability –

The PC38X has some snazzy features that makes sense from a gaming convenience point of view, and I find the features in good execution so as not to convolute usability for other applications. As they have no internal electronics, they don’t require installation of any drivers. All you need to do is ensure your device supports mic input either via a dedicated mic input or 4-pole 3.5mm. Some laptops, for instance, may not support this at all in which case you will require a USB adaptor.

Volume Control

On the right side is a low-profile volume dial. It has a rubberised surface and tactile markers in addition to a smooth action with considerate weighting that makes it easy to adjust quickly with one hand. I found that its low-profile design that lacks any protruding features meant accidental adjustments weren’t an issue during use. This is great for quick volume changes during competitive gaming to hear footsteps or voice chat, especially other players with quiet mics. For more explosive scenes, you can then easily and quickly turn down the volume without tabbing out. This is especially useful on laptops using Optimus as they can take a while to switch between GPUs when switching between full screen applications.

Headset Mic

Meanwhile, the left side is home to the headset mic arm which pivots around 140 deg from vertical and below horizontal. This is a good range of adjustment for all head shapes and enables the user to angle the mic below the mouth to reduce popping during speech. The mic arm can also audio input when flipped up and there’s a palpable click for feedback to minimise embarrassing mishaps. The mic arm itself is of sound quality, the middle third is a flexible and holds its position. The end portion reveals the bi-directional mic which has in-built noise-cancelling.

In summary, sound quality is far better than the integrated solutions you’ll find on the majority of laptops, wireless earphones and webcams. While it’s still a far cry from a dedicated condenser mic such as my Rode NT-USB Mini, quality leaves little to complain about, being about above average as far as headsets go. Ambient noise cancellation performs as described; voices and distant sounds are not overly apparent to recipients, leaving the speaker clearly discernible.

Actual voice quality is also firmly good, not great. The mic doesn’t pick up bass tones well nor is it especially clear, but isn’t remotely tinny or muffled either, even with a pop filter installed. The mic did sound better, clearer and more immediate to my ears than the Master & Dynamics boom mic but not as clear as the Antlion ModMic. Unlike the ModMic, no pop filter is provided in the box and I did find this was an issue despite its in-built noise reduction. This would have been a cheap and functional addition; however, foam covers are cheaply available online for just a few dollars.

Cables

For such an affordable headphone, I was very happy with the accessory set overall besides the exclusion of a pop filter. You get two cables, both with identical construction quality. One is suitable for all-in-one jacks as soon on smartphones and some laptops with a 4-pole TRRS 3.5mm plug. The other is suitable for desktop PCs with separate 3.5mm TRS audio plug and 3.5mm TRS mic plug. The desktop cable is longer at 2.5m while the other cable is 1.5m, leaving less bulk for more portable setups. The wires themselves are of good quality with nice strain relief on both ends and a braided fabric sheath. They are relatively thin which keeps them lightweight, and they still feel well-constructed with the fabric outer. They are quite stiff and do pick up more microphonic noise than most but I didn’t find this to be a huge issue during use.

Next Page: Sound breakdown

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