With October now arrived, Audio Autumn at MMORPG is now well under way. Today, we’re taking a look at Cooler Master’s premiere surround sound headset, the CM MasterPulse Pro with removable side panels for BassFX. The headset is features three equalization profiles built right into in-line remote and a unique microphone design, built right into one of the ear housings. But does the sound quality stand up to the $84.99 MSRP? Read on to find out.
As always, let’s have a look at the specs right out of the gate:
- Driver: 44mm
- Headphone Type: Over-ear (circumaural)
- Frequency Response: 20-20kHz
- Impedance: 50ohm
- Sensitivities @ 100Hz: 118dB ± 3dB / 109dB ± 3dB (bass off)
- Max Output Power: 100mW
- Cable Length: 2m
- Connector: USB
- Pick-up Pattern: Omni Directional
- Frequency Response: 100-10kHz
- Sensitivity: -34 ± 3dB (0db = 1V/pa.1kHz)
- Signal to Noise Ratio: 50dB or more
As you can see, the drivers powering the MasterPulse Pro are slightly larger than normal, coming in at 44mm. Paired with the 20-20kHz frequency response range, 109-118dB sensitivities, and 100mW maximum output, the potential is certainly here to deliver a great surround sound experience. Many headsets in this price range opt for the smaller 40mm drivers, so Cooler Master is pushing to deliver slightly more in that regard.
The MasterPulse Pro also delivers spectacularly in the build quality department. The first thing I noticed upon unboxing the MasterPulse Pro was just how sturdy it is. The frame is made entirely of aluminum and even dropping the headset from the top of your house shouldn’t do much damage (no, I didn’t try). The housings are plastic, however, so a direct hit could still do some damage. Where many gaming headsets hide the adjustment strap away in the headband, here there is no strap, just two flexible metal strips whose bend provides the gripping force to keep the headset in place. A cushioned strap threaded with retractable wires keeps it snug against your head.
The speaker housings are large and fit over my ears with room to spare. Even if you have Big Friendly Giant ears (flap if you’re happy!), the MasterPulse should comfortably encompass your them and isolate sound with an acceptable seal. The cushions are a good half-inch thick and very comfortable. Like most headsets in this range, however, they’re finished with that pleather material we know can flake with extended use. These do feel like a slightly higher grade of that material, but it’s still a concern over the long-term.
That rigid metal frame does lock the earcups into position, however, so you can’t swivel them to rest on your shoulders. It’s inconvenient to have to take them completely off when you need a break, but given the vastly improved durability, I suspect this is a trade-off many gamers would be willing to accept. Still, it would be nice to see a hinge in a future revision.
Moving on from the headset itself, we trace down the flat anti-tangle wire to the in-line remote. Here we find our volume rocker, microphone mute, 7.1 surround sound toggle, EQ selector, and illumination control. The layout is intuitive enough, as all the buttons are slightly different and easy to feel without looking. The microphone mute and surround sound switches are identical, but since disabling surround sound immediately changes the quality of the audio, there’s not much chance of not knowing if you’ve swiped the wrong toggle.
For gaming, the audio quality on the MasterPulse Pro is quite good when 7.1 surround sound is enabled. Without, it’s only just acceptable. When 7.1 is on, the audio soundstage explodes. Cheap virtual sound has a tendency to cake audio with reverb and call it a day, wrecking positional sound. The difference between stereo and surround sound on the MasterPulse Pros is the same as hearing music through a wall or stepping inside. There is no situation I could envision not having surround sound enabled for.
That said, using it for positional audio in those seven directional channels is a little more difficult. Left and right channels were easy enough, but sound blending made it difficult to differentiate sounds from above versus sounds from behind, for example. It’s a big improvement over stereo, but falls somewhere in the middle compared to other surround sound headsets we’ve heard. Having multiple EQ modes is a nice addition, but I found gaming mode to be the overall best even for movies and music, so those additional EQs lost some of their luster.
One of the defining features of the MasterPulse Pro is the removable side panels. At first glance, it appears as if you’re able to swap between closed and open back, but even though the mesh under the panel appears to be open, it’s actually solid plastic with four small ports drilled into the housing. Removing these panels has the effect of increasing the low frequencies for bigger booms and swells. Cooler Master calls this BassFX, with on and off positions representing different “modes.” It’s different than the usual software gimmickry we often see in audio peripherals and a rather pleasant surprise that makes a meaningful difference in sound.
If there’s one big letdown of the MasterPulse Pro, however, it’s the microphone. Rather than featuring the overstated boom mic usually found on gaming headsets, the MasterPulse embeds its mic in the left ear housing. The result is audio capture that is much quieter than normal and even when boosted in Audacity, still somewhat muffled (there is no Windows boost). For voice chat, it works but isn’t impressive. Give it a listen below and see what you think:
The MasterPulse Pro is a headset of trade-offs. For durability, it is simply one of the best we’ve seen. It’s comfortable, looks great, and has an acceptably good surround sound mode for this price point. It’s stereo audio just pales in comparison, however, and its microphone is too quiet to do more than basic VOIP. With an MSRP of $84.99, it’s in the upper echelon of budget surround sound headsets and, this considered, we think it delivers enough value to justify the price. It lacks some of the versatility of more expensive headsets, but if you’re the kind of gamer who wants to set something up once and stick with it, the MasterPulse Pro can deliver a solid gaming experience.
- Excellent build quality
- Good surround sound mode
- Comfortable, not too grippy
- Removeable side panels
- Poor mic
- Additional EQs don’t serve much purpose
- Stereo audio lacking