Review

 

Saitek Cyborg 5.1 Surround Sound Headphones
By Nigel C Martin
September 2008

Overview
Talking to many other simmers, world-wide, the use of headphones tends to be the preferred method of listening and communicating when taking to the skies in our wonderful virtual world of FS.

OK, not exclusively, but in the main when using Squawkbox, the use of headphones with a mic is pretty imperative.

If you do not live in a mansion, or in a dedicated room for your flight simulator, having the sound turned up to nearly max on your speaker system with the screaming of some angry jet at full power, can be a little, well anti-social.. (But nice!)

I have an external speaker system but not really used, I prefer to fly with Squawkbox active, so an in-line mic plays a vital role.

The headphones I am currently using are OK and have seen valiant service; but with technology moving on at an ever increasing pace, the thought of having a comfortable practical set of headphones that promises to vastly increase the listening experience with the introduction of 5.1 surround sound, proves too much of an allure.

Enter the Cyborg 5.1 unit form Saitek, a name most of us have heard of. indeed, I pay homage to them, every time I use the fabulous X52-PRO.throttle/joystick combination. It has provided trouble free use ( or is it abuse!) for many years.

The keen of eye will have note that in the above I used the term 5.1 surround sound.  Now I was always aware that the term 5.1 or 2.1 referred to the number of satellite speakers and a sub-woofer, hence 7.1 5.1, 2.1 or 4.1 etc., The .1 representing the sub- woofer, so my first reaction was it was a mistake.

BUT NO, it is not! Incredibly, the headphones are supplied with an integrated USB soundcard which delivers the 5.1 surround sound effects without the need to install a PC 5.1 card. There are six sonic drivers on each side of the headset which achieves true channel separation, the result, we should have crisp directional sounds. Can’t wait to plug them in!

Installation
Well, I guess this is going to be the shortest sentence covering installation. You just plug them in into a USB port…That’s it.! Oh yes, you could always recycle the packaging, which is I may add, is very sturdy.  You are provided with a ‘natty’ hard case for your new investment, I'm not sure how much I will use that, but a nice idea. After plugging in the USB into your computer pop in the supplied CD and follow the simple instructions.

 

To re-cap, all you need to do is to connect it to your PC via a supplied USB cable into a spare USB port. Also supplied is a 3,5 jack for use with MP3/CD/Handheld devices in stereo.)

The volume is adjusted and muted via a conveniently positioned in-line control.

That would take the installation time to,…. Oh say, two minutes!

I must say again, the unit arrives in a very robust transparent bubble style packaging, the product on clear view, after opening, glance the instructions, yes folks, the instructions, always worth a read, despite installing a seemly simple product.

In use
Well with installation over and complete, you will be impressed with the construction quality, always a good sign, as far as I am concerned.

The unit arrives in a very stylish black satin finish, with a distinctive Cyborg’ logo on the side of the ‘cans’ which illuminates when you select surround sound. (Green on the right and Red to the left) I am not sure you require that, but it looks nice, actually it is subtle.

For some reason I was expecting a larger unit, but it feels robust and looks business like. For the simmer and Skype users, a flexible mic is provided and it is plugged into the left ‘can’ at the base of the unit.  It is connected via a jack plug. My only concern, with this connection method, over time, is that jack plug connections are notorious for creating an audible crackling; I guess this is because it's loosing conductivity, but I have to admit the plug had a solid feel to it when I installed it. Guess time will tell.

To ensure you get the full effects on offer, you get another clue which is in printed on the headphone speaker supports, it says R and L respectively, guess which side attaches to head….???

In the hand, the headphones feel of real substance and quality, the very comprehensive adjustment and padded cushions covering the ears and padding on the top of the unit make for a very comfortable ensemble. The detachable noise-cancelling boom microphone looks very business-like and purposeful.  My advice to you would be not to keep taking the boom mic out of the headphones, reducing the risk of potential issues.

I especially love the flexibility of the boom providing you perfect positioning of the mic, to achieve perfect voice pick-up.

On Skype, I contacted a friend and explained I was using my new head adornment… Ok headphones and I got a positive result, whether a placebo effect, he said my voice was far clearer.  That's good enough for me, so off to the skys!

I loaded FS09 and opted for my latest addition to the Martin hanger, the JF Mosquito, and waited… Oh boy, the sound was MARKEDLY better, I found the treble and bass was so clear, it was excellent.

A word of caution, I found in the 5.1 mode adjusting the sound was a little tricky, simple enough there are a couple of buttons, housed on the in-line module, which say volume +- simple, that is not my point, I ended up with one click to bottom volume, that was loud enough, BE CAREFUL the sound if too loud can seriously cause some damage. You have been warned.

Whilst on the in-line module, you will see a mute option, it is a sliding button that says mute.  It really is not clear which position is live or muted.  When I had the headphones on, moving the button generated a ‘dickens’ of a loud sound, not pleasant, so again be careful. A simple MUTE ON/OFF would be far better. Or perhaps a push button, when depressed it is muted….. A relatively small point I suppose.. May be next time…

I have spent many hours in FS09 and Squawkbox active and had an overall great experience with this acquisition. When I first put them on they felt a ‘tad’ tight, but this has not resulted in any discomfort at all. No, they have been and will continue to a great addition to FS experience. And of course any other audio need created by the computer or MP3 player.

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