As a casual and amateur gamer I’m at least vaguely aware of the differences that different pieces of kit make — and gaming headsets are no exception as even the slightest edge can be (and I quote) ‘the difference between life and death’.
The Hammer headset from ZOWIE sits itself nicely at the top of the quality pile and practically oozes credentials including testing from pro gamer SpawN (no, I haven’t heard of him either!) and the fact that it has been specifically designed for e-sports, so when I was asked if I would like to have a look at it I jumped at the opportunity!
Firstly a little background info on ZOWIE Gear: they are a very young company (in fact they have only been around since January this year) and having originally started by producing gaming mousemats, one of which we will look at in the coming week, they have moved onto other gaming accessories including mice, bags and of course headsets.
So on with the headset, and one of the first things you’ll notice is that it looks a lot smaller than many other gaming headsets which I’ll admit concerned me slightly as it raised both quality and ‘sturdiness’ issues but fortunately I needn’t have worried on either front.
With regards to sturdiness the flexibility of the Hammer makes it even less likely to break than other headphones, and having tested this through a series of bending, stretching and jumping exercises I found that it really wasn’t going to break easily which filled me with confidence as I went on to actually using it.
As you go to plug in the headset you are given the option of either using the standard audio/microphone jacks or if you have the Hammer USB (as I do) a USB adapter, but I personally thought that the USB option was fairly redundant. Besides the fact that you are more likely to need spare USB ports than audio/headphone jacks the supposed advantage given by using the USB (i.e. the ability to mute) seemed pointless as the controls would be round the back of the PC anyway and you have an inline controller to adjust those even if you do use the standard jacks.
But this isn’t really much of an issue, and I was very impressed that although the main cord was only about 1.5m (i.e. not long enough to stretch from my head to the back of my PC) they provided an extension of about 2m which meant that it would easily reach and also give you the freedom to wander round the room whilst still enjoying the music/movie/sound of you being shot in the back.
Hammer Gaming Headset In Use
Finally I got round to using it what it was meant for — and that meant a good excuse to spend excessive amounts of time playing my favourite testing medium: Counter-Strike Source. Normally it’s quite difficult to tell how good sound quality is (excluding the extremes) without some kind of benchmark, but I could immediately see the difference that having a good headset made.
The ability to hear footsteps that split second before they come around a corner or being able to predict people’s movement makes quite a different and I found after 10 mins that I was retracting my scoffing of ZOWIE’s promotional material and was agreeing with them wholeheartedly.
The headset was also very light which meant that it was perfect for long gaming sessions, and as the hours ticked by I found the design was such that it remained comfortable for a long period of time and in fact even at the time of writing I haven’t found it uncomfortable at all.
The microphone, often overlooked, is also very impressive and after the initial configuration it sounded crisp and clear (or at least that’s what I was told, it’s not the easiest thing to test by yourself!). The only criticism that I would have of the microphone is that when in the upright position it blocks the top of the headset from moving from side-to-side which can be a little irritating as it means it’s ever so slightly lopsided on your head.
However that it easily overlooked when you consider the sound quality coming from the headphones which considering the price is pretty good — even with the volume on full you struggle to hear much distortion, so much so that I have come to wearing them around my neck and turning the volume up when listening to music so I can still hear the outside world as well as the music as clearly as normal.
Whilst we’re on the subject of outside noise it’s also worth mentioning that the headset isn’t particularly good at ‘noise cancellation’ and although it’s useful for hearing the phone ring it does mean you can be distracted by slamming doors or loud TVs — normally just as you are about to start a round.
Finally we have another nice little feature, and that’s the interchangeable headset covers which enable you to have comfort whilst listening to music (through the leather ones) as well as having optimum performance whilst gaming (with cloth).
Overall I think it would be verging on an understatement to say that the Hammer gaming headset is good: with good sound quality, a decent mic, and a solid build you would have to be a complete scrooge to overlook the poor noise cancellation especially given the price (of around £60) which really puts some of the more ‘presumptuous’ headsets (if headsets can be presumptuous!) in their place. Personally it surpasses anything else under £100 that I have used in recent years, and hopefully it will have its place around my head for years to come!
All in all, the ZOWIE Hammer computer gaming headset gets an impressive 4.5 out of 5 rating from us!