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eDimensional AudioFX Force Feedback Headphones Review

Product: eDimensional AudioFX Force Feedback Headphones
Date: March 1, 2005
Reviewed By: Reed Hubbard

The AudioFX Headphones
Sound is becoming increasingly important in the MMORPG genre, particularly in the area of voice communication. Many players are choosing to use third party software products such as TeamSpeak or Ventrilo to facilitate communication between members of a group, clan or guild. While this may be accomplished using traditional speakers and a microphone, the choice of most players is a headset, combining headphones and an attached boom microphone.

eDimensional's AudioFX is one such product that includes a couple of unique features. In addition to the headphones and mic, the AudioFX boasts flash lighting and force feedback. We recently got a chance to test out eDimensional's offering and use it while playing several different game titles (both MMORPGs and non).

Installation is rather easy. In fact, no drivers or additional software is needed. The AudioFX has three connectors: one for the microphone, one for the headphones and one USB. The microphone and headphone connectors are traditional plug-type connectors and will fit any standard in/out jack. The USB connector is solely for power to the flash and force feedback options. This keeps the installation simple. Most gaming rigs, even those that are a bit older, will have all three of the necessary jacks to allow the AudioFX to be fully connected.

Once plugged in, the headset is ready to use. A control pod located on the wire allows for volume and force feedback levels. It also has an on/off switch for the force feedback. The headset itself is adjustable and will fit many different head sizes with a fabric-wrapped foam headpiece. The ear pads are likewise made from foam wrapped by a leather-like fabric and are quite comfortable. They are large enough to cover the entire ear, effectively shutting out surrounding noise.

The boom microphone extends about five inches from the left earpiece. Unlike some competing products, the headset cannot be adjusted to give the user the option to position the mic on the right-hand side. This is only a minor nuisance, however. The mic itself is covered by a foam windscreen and is on a flexible boom that does not allow for a great amount of adjustability. The microphone will almost always be positioned to the left of center, rather than directly in front of the user's mouth. This looked to be a difficulty at first, but the mic performed very well at this position.

The flash feature is kind of odd. It has absolutely no use for the player. It consists of three LED bars on the outside of either earpiece that light up as sound activity occurs inside the headset. The wearer cannot see the lights at all. They are more for others who may be in the same room. The flash feature seems to be designed for a LAN party or gamer gathering where others can be impressed by the flashing lights. It's not so much a bad feature as a superfluous one. Most players in a LAN party are there to talk to friends while playing, so the appeal of a headset is mitigated, and the solo player can't see the lights anyway.

Original Packaging
Force feedback in this instance is kind of a misnomer. Vibratory response would probably be a better name for the feature. Force feedback enjoyed a lot of hype in gaming circles around the turn of the century and was mostly implemented in controllers such as steering wheels and flight yokes, providing resistance for those trying to make a 4G loop in a virtual Tomcat. It never really caught on and is now mostly seen in such implementations as "rumble pads" on console controllers. The AudioFX's force feedback is less of a kick-back/resistance style than a vibration feature. It works more like a bass boost, implementing a rumble when loud, bass-like sounds are generated. What is surprising is how well it works and how it enhances certain gaming experiences.

Explosions are a perfect example. If a grenade explodes nearby, the vibration is significant. The further away the explosion, the lighter the feedback. Even better, it is designed to work with stereo and positional audio sounds, so that a bomb set off on the player's right side will cause the right-hand earpiece to vibrate much more heavily than the one on the left-hand side.

As cool as this is, it really doesn't add as much to the MMORPG experience as it does to FPS games. First person shooters are mostly action oriented and contain a good number of gunshots, laser blasts, etc. In this environment, the AudioFX is great. While driving the car in Half Life 2, the engine noise created a great force feedback experience. Where it's really noticeable is upon entering a quiet area. There's no activity, then a gunman suddenly jumps out and fires, causing the headset to vibrate. It's a definite attention-getter and adds to the experience tremendously.

In MMORPGs, the place it makes a difference is melee combat. Each game is different in its implementation of sound, so the experience varies from one game to the next. In World of Warcraft, some magic spells would cause a vibration, which felt a bit out of place. In the Matrix Online, the combat is more hand-to-hand and gun-based, so the force feedback worked well. It's a matter of taste, but it seems more suited to those games that people play in short segments (such as FPS deathmatches) than games where players may be online for hours (such as MMOs).

The sound quality in the AudioFX is on par with the best headsets out there. The sound effects were vivid and voice was clear when chatting on Teamspeak. The mic had an impressive gain and speech was clearly received by others through TS. The off-center placement of the microphone, which seemed awkward at first, proved to be a non-issue.

The only real complaint was that the earphones tended to get uncomfortable after about 20 minutes of continuous use. The wrapped foam tends to trap heat and the ears get warm after a while. They effectively start to function much like a pair of earmuffs, and what's good for the ski slopes is not necessarily good for the indoors. Pulling them off for a minute or so alleviates the problem, but the earpieces could use better airflow.

Overall, the AudioFX is a fine headset. The clarity of the audio is great and the microphone performs well. The force feedback is a nice feature and can really add to the game in certain circumstances. The flash feature seems to serve no real purpose other than to turn heads at a LAN party or an internet café, but it doesn't detract from the functionality of the device. For those looking for a reasonably priced headset to enhance their gaming experience, eDimensional's gaming headset is a winner.

To get more information on this product or to place an order, click here!

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