Roccat’s core business revolves around its premium quality mice, like its flagship Kone, which we reviewed not so long ago. Does Roccat’s Kave true 5.1 surround sound headset live up to the high build quality, stylish look, and fantastic performance that the Kone brings to the picture? I’ve had a listen to them, and have had thoughts and words, which are below.
Centre/Front/Rear driver units –
Frequency response: 20~20,000Hz
Max. SPL at 1KHz: 114±3dB
Max. input power: 100mW (30mW)
Drive diameter front: 40mm
Drive diameter rear: 40mm
Vibration driver units –
Frequency response: 20~100Hz
Max. input power: 1000mW
Drive diameter: 30mm
Frequency response: 20~18,000Hz
Sensitivity at 1KHz: -36dB
Connection: 4x 3.5mm jack plug
Impedance: 32 Ohm
Cable length: 3.4m total (2m Remote > PC)
Between ear cups and remote: 140cm
Between remote and splitter: 180cm
Between splitter and PC: 20cm
The Roccat Kave comes in a black and blue cardboard packet with a large plastic window in the front, displaying the headphones prominently. The headphones are firmly strapped onto the sturdy plastic frame. Inside the pack is a very general quick start guide and the headset itself.
Black and blue follows on to the headset, with its majority matte black accented by the blue and grey Roccat Kave branding at the rear of the outside of each cup. It looks round, it looks solid, and it looks functional. The metal and plastic construction is all business, feeling weighty and high quality. Under the headband are three square(ish) padded blocks, which look good, but you just know they will be inadequate. Not to be underestimated, there is a measure on the headband for adjusting the headband length on each side. It’s good to know that I’m a 5 ½ and that every time I can go straight to that measure.
The cups are easily folded inwards, contorting the headset into a surprisingly compact form factor. It does swing very freely, though, so picking it up and keeping it straight, if you find need, can get a little tricky. The smooth leather cup pads are a unique shape, with a canted square-oval hole that leaves a larger section of pad at the rear behind the ear, following the general shape of the ear upwards. There’s a tonne of room inside the cup, too. It’s not a deep pad – rather, the drivers are recessed deep inside the cup. The face of the membranes, too, is irregular, reflecting the three 40mm drivers in each cup. It’s like an indented triangular pyramid, with each face of the triangle covering a driver.
The outside of the left cup houses the microphone jack towards the front and bottom of the cup. The jack is recessed in to the cup, meaning no snags. I love that the mic boom is removable, giving a cleaner wear, but I do have concerns about getting a dirty connection. The mic does attach and detach solidly, so far, but I can’t personally vouch for its longevity. I suspect it will last, but only time can tell. The mic boom itself is relatively short, but extremely flexible – bordering on delicate.
Another aspect to the mic is the blue LED. There is a ring of blue light that circles the microphone plug on the cup, as well as a light on the end of the microphone itself that identifies whether the mic is muted or live. It’s a nice touch, not at all intrusive, and keeps with the blue and black colour scheme.
The headset is generally comfortable, although it is very heavy. The anaemic padding on the headband leads to fatigue on the scalp after a while. Luckily, most of the weight rests on the ears, and it’s more comfortable distributed this way. It’s still very heavy, but the cup padding makes it bearable.
The cable from the bottom of the left cup is rather long and complicated. 1.3 metres from the cup is the large inline controller. I found this an awkward distance – slightly too close to rest on the desk without slack, yet just a bit too far to access conveniently. The cable splits into 5 plugs – one for USB power, and one 3.5mm plug for each surround channel. If you want true 5.1 and microphone, you have to plug in the front, centre, rear, and mic jacks into your PC. It’s a relatively simple process, but you do have to make sure your sound settings are right to ensure correct use.
The inline controller is very good. It has a great look and feel, with a generous size and heft to it. Under a very stiff flip-up panel are various sliders to adjust the balance of each channel – centre, front, rear, and sub. There’s also a “game” and “movie” mode toggle, which changes some EQ settings, providing a bassier, more guttural experience for films. The volume dial is circular, like an iPod but mechanical, with a mute button inside it. It looks great, but I found myself accidently bumping the volume knob and skewing my sound. There is a wide but low profile microphone mute button on the side of the controller.
While the inline controller has all those options for sound control, it bizarrely lacks a microphone volume dial. A strange oversight considering the otherwise great options offered by the inline controller.
And this typifies my experience with the Kave. It’s pretty, solid, heavy, dependable. But it’s also uncomfortable and occasionally awkward. Some features go above and beyond, but it also seems to lack some of the most expected. It excels in some – many – areas, yet falls short in other, more basic ones. And this theme continues with the sound.
The sound that the Kave produces is immense and full. If you’ve ever wanted to be wrapped up tight and hugged by sound, try these puppies. The Kaves dish out the sound in spades, and it captures you by the ears and holds you. This almost tactile fullness, however, comes at a cost, and that’s sound clarity. Little details get lost in the brutal cyclone of noise. Sounds get muddled together and mixed up and hidden, but the sense of it all comes through. It’s like being in a slightly-too-loud movie theatre while trying to listen to a symphony. Despite the lack of clarity, I found myself loving the overall sense of sound that I experienced with the Kave. It may not be the best detailed or clearest, but the way the sound envelopes you is delightful. A slight buzzing noise constantly fills the cups, though – no doubt a residual effect of the USB power. It’s not loud or intrusive, but it isn’t the perfect silence that is expected of earphones not pushing noise.
5.1 directionality works surprisingly well, which is reassuring since that is the Kave’s main selling point. I could tell a little more than usual when sound was meant to be rearward of forward, and could track sound around my head as it went. It’s definitely more subtle than a full 5.1 surround setup, but the decent soundstage presented by the earcup’s roomy layout went a good way to making it noticeably effective. It’s not quite true 5.1, though, with just three separate audio drivers per cup instead of the four that would be needed for true 5.1. There is a fourth driver per cup in the Kaves, but they’re not conventional audio drivers at all.
While the 5.1 sound is full and the directionality is decent, the real joy comes from the last driver – the vibrating subwoofer driver. When heavy bass triggers the subwoofer channel with sufficient volume, the headphones will rumble. It’s like having rumble packs strapped to your head, and the feeling, for bass, is positively delightful. Fire up Blops 2, turn the woofer up, and loose a mag through the Scar and feel the joy. Or finish a game on Nuketown for a gorgeously long buzz. It doesn’t replace any of the bass sound, which lacks clarity and reach, but it is certainly fun to experience. It may not be to everyone’s tastes, though, but that’s easily fixed using the inline controls to turn off the sub.
The microphone is actually pretty decent. It has good clarity and isolation, and will convey nuance and tone well. It’s good enough for podcasting and Let’s Plays, but there are better choices out there. It does lack some volume, though, which is unfortunate, since the inline controller cannot change the microphone input volume.
The Roccat Kave is a specialist product. Everything about the Kave is focused on delivering a weighty listening experience. The heavy cups and matte black colour reflect the enveloping audio and shaking bass the Kave delivers. If you want to play games or watch fast paced movies and lose yourself in the deep barrage of sound, the Kave will not disappoint. If you want to listen to music, you can whack it on stereo and get average sound out of it, but you won’t get anywhere near the delicate fidelity as a dedicated stereo set. The Kave’s rare combination of real 5.1 surround and vibration driver will appeal to those who value an overall powerful, cinematic audio experience, rather than clear and detailed sound.
Review sample provided by Roccat. Thank you.
ONLY SINGLE PLAYER SCORE
Build Quality – 9/10
Design – 8/10
Useability – 6.5/10
Performance – 8/10
Price – 8.5/10
Overall – 8/10
(Not an average)