Asus Vulcan ANC Review
The Asus Vulcan ANC headset is Asus’s first foray into the peripheral market and is currently the only headset that they produce. It’s obviously aimed at pro gamers as it sports the well known Republic of Gamers (ROG) logo and is even labelled as a ‘Pro Gaming Headset’.
The headset comes in a smart box with all relevant specifications and features detailed on the back. At the time of writing the retail price for the Vulcan headset is a somewhat lofty £80.
On opening the lid of the box it’s apparent that the headset comes in rather smart carry case. What’s even more impressive is how the headset (and cabling) fits into such a small case!
Once you get past the great packaging you can see the contents of the box, there you will find the case (and headset within, hopefully!) a Quick Start Guide and a warranty (2 years) booklet.
courtesy of Asus
Driver Diameter : 40 mm
|Frequency Response||Headphone : 10 ~ 20000 Hz|
|Noise Cancelling Performance||
Maximum > 15 dB
85 % ambient noise cancellation
Maximum > 30 dB
|Operation Time||Listen Time (per charge) : Up to 40 Hours|
21 x 18 x 7 cm
59 ~ 60 Hz
As far as first impressions go the Asus Vulcan ANC headset is very impressive, everything from the packaging and presentation just shouts quality. The case is a very smart affair made of a soft touch material adorned with a ROG logo. The ear-cups of the headset itself fold inwards to allow for easier transportation via the supplied carry case and in function it works beautifully and the mechanism seems sturdy. The microphone and the cabling are also both neatly stowed and secured inside of the case.
I’m not sure that I will ever really need to transport my headset in a case, but as you can see if I wanted to the Asus Vulcan case is more than up to the job. The headset comes equipped with a single audio cable with a jack plug at one end and x2 jack plugs (headphone & mic) at the other, yes that’s right this is just a stereo headset, there’s not even any software!
There is a small control approximately 75cm from the headset that provides volume control and a mute switch. The mic is detachable and its centre section is flexible (but not as flexible as you may like; makes nasty noises if you dare flex too far!). I must admit to not being sure what the other adaptor is for (I’m thinking separate left right channel into one), there’s no mention of it in the Quick Start Guide either!
There’s no denying the quality of the headset though, even though it’s made of various plastics the quality is extremely high and they definitely look good too. The carbon effect side panels and the chrome Asus logo really set the headset off nicely. So far so good…
As this is a stereo headset then connection is simply via the headphone and mic jacks. The headset was plugged into the Realtek ports of my MSI Z68A-GD80 G3 motherboard.
Don’t forget to install a AAA battery in the right ear-cup (via the nicely concealed button) as this allows the Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) to operate. Although at £80 you would have thought that Asus could have provided you with one, but no….
The Asus Vulcan ANC headset was tested using my rig as a platform; running Windows 7 64bit (service pack 1) with all necessary drivers installed. Again it’s worth noting here that there is no software associated with the Vulcan headset, so no additional drivers or software have been installed.
The following games were used during testing of the M60:
- Battlefield 3
- Bastion (what a beautiful game!)
- Metro 2033
Evaluating the performance (the sound from the speakers) of a headset is a very difficult thing to do and is obviously somewhat subjective. The best way to approach this is to compare the Asus Vulcans to other headsets that I have heard in the past.
My headset of choice is the Roccat Kave, this has been my preferred choice for some time and I like them as they sound great, they are true 5.1 surround sound (4 speakers per ear-cup) and the mic works perfectly. Obviously I cannot compare the positional audio of the Kave’s to the Vulcan’s as they are only stereo, but I will compare the quality of the sound.
On the sound front the Vulcan’s are good but not exceptional, they fail to convey any form of immersion and the bass is also somewhat lacking (especially with ANC on). As I’ve already stated it’s a little unfair to compare the Vulcans to the Kaves; but as the Kaves are £20 cheaper I’m not sure that it’s such an unfair comparison.
This headset reminds me of the Corsair HS1 headset that we tested back in April 2011 again a good headset but really not much more than that, at least with the HS1s you got some software thrown in for good measure should you wish to play about with the sound, they’re cheaper too.
- Active Noise Cancelling (ANC)
So we move on to one of the main features of the Asus Vulcans, the ANC. This Active Noise Cancelling is most impressive, I’m not going to go into how it works (because I don’t know!), but it sure does work! This was easily proven, as my rig emits a constant hum (that’s the cost of an Extreme Rig) although it’s not something that normally bothers me. But activating the ANC button on the base of the right ear-cup reduced that hum to a whisper, very nice, I like…
But ‘the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away’, because activating the ANC function kills the lower frequencies of the sound you’re listening to (God damn it!). Now this maybe something that you are prepared to live with, but for me I’m looking for high quality sound so activating the ANC is therefore off the menu. Although I did find that in the quieter games (Skyrim & Bastion) I was more inclined to use it as the sound of my rigs fans were more evident. Maybe it’s designed to be used by Pro-Gamers on long haul flights, or maybe for people who play Solitaire?
The real Achilles’ heel of the Asus Vulcan headset for me was the microphone. The main issue with it is that I cannot get it close enough to my mouth (no I don’t have an odd shaped head either!), this is for a variety of reasons. The mic won’t swivel, even though it plugs into a 3.5mm jack port Asus has recessed the hole and that recess is square, meaning that once the mic is plugged in it cannot be rotated. The mic although flexible is not flexible enough and if you try to flex it too much, you are greeted with an nasty (something’s gonna break) sound. Oh and it’s probably too short!
OK, so the mic is far away from my mouth, not such a big deal you may think. But the knock on effect of this is that I have to turn the mic sensitivity up high, the Windows Mic Boost also needs to be at max (+30dB) so I can be heard when using VOIP (Ventrilo in my case). This super sensitive mic now also picks up all of the ambient noise (fan noise from my rig and yes my rig is a little noisy) and transmits that to all of my friends as annoying background hiss, this results in me being more unpopular than usual!
Now it’s worth noting that my case is on the floor and not directly next to me (so it’s not that close) and I don’t get the same issue with my headset of choice the ROCCAT Kave.
Despite making countless tweaks and changes to various settings (Windows, Realtek HD Audio Manager & Ventrilo) I could not get the microphone too play nicely…
During my time with the Asus Vulcan ANC headset (including gaming sessions of 4+ hours) I found it to be as comfortable as any headset I have used to date. They are not heavy on the head, nor do they pinch or squeeze inwards. Both the headband and ear-pads remained comfortable at all times.
I must admit to being a little disappointed with the Asus Vulcan ANC headset. From the outset the packaging, the quality of the materials, the ROG brand, and even the price, promised so much! But in the end it didn’t deliver on what I think it promised or on what I expected, and that’s a shame.
That’s not to say that it’s a bad headset (far from it), but it has some flaws and it surprises me that it’s biggest flaw is the microphone (it’s a gaming headset after all from the ‘Republic of Gamers’). The sound is actually good, but whether the inclusion of the Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) is of any real benefit I think is somewhat debatable.
So a beautifully built good sounding, comfortable headset let down by poor microphone positioning and maybe needless ANC technology and all for a price tag of £80!?