Since July, I’ve been using Cougar’s unique in-ear monitor gaming headset, the Megara. I’ve waited to write this review, wanting to really get a feel for their long-term comfort and durability, and also to get a real sense of how they compare to other earbuds and headsets in this price range. Retailing for just over $30, are they worth your time? Read on to find out.
As always, we begin with the specs:
- Driver: 13.5mm
- Max. Input Power: 10mW
- Sensitivity at 1KHz: 92dB ± 3dB
- Impedance at 1KHz: 16Ω +/- 15%
- Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20kHz
- Removable Mic Type: Omni-Directional
- Removable Mic Sensitivity at 1KHz: -44dB ± 4dB
- Removable Mic Frequency Response: 100Hz to 5kHz
- Removable Mic Impedance: 2.2kΩ
- In-Line Mic Type: Omni-Directional
- In-Line Mic Sensitivity at 1KHz: -42dB ± 4dB
- In-Line Mic Frequency Response: 100Hz to 5kHz
- In-Line Mic Impedance: 2.2kΩ
With that out of the way, I’m not going to bury the lede: the Megaras are some of the best earbuds I’ve used in the $30 range. That price point puts them in direct competition with many non-gaming headsets, the kind filling the electronics department at your local Target and that you wrap around your smart phone when you go out the door to work. I’ve used many in exactly that price range. The Megara is fighting for the very best of the bunch.
This is in large part due to the larger than average 13.5mm drivers. By contrast, my previous go-to IEMS, the Skullcandy Method Sport Earbuds, don’t sound as full or resonant. Like most gaming-centric headsets, there is an emphasis on the low end that gives explosions their depth and rumble, but unlike many, it’s not overpowering.
The Megara’s are smartly tuned to push the low end but not overwhelm the mids and highs. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the Megara’s have the best sound signature of any $30 Philips, Sony, or Skullcandy I’ve tried. This is subjective, as my preference for a slightly higher lows, crisp mids, and clear highs might not match your own. As a guitarist, however, I am always looking to hear the intricacies of those melodies picked behind the scenes in modern rock and progressive music. So often, those lines get lost in a wash of heady bass. Here, those song-making sub-notes aren’t lost in overly biased equalizing.
In games, this clarity is also important. The Megara’s aren’t surround sound enabled, but I’d take a crystal clear stereo headset over an echo-y 7.1 any day. This is that headset. Positional audio is transparent as a window. Since they’re in-ears, you won’t get quite the same rumble from the biggest booms as you would on an over-ear headset, but cues that you would expect to suffer really don’t and still manage to pack a punch.
As a reviewer, it’s pretty common to have an idea about what you’re getting into before you’ve gotten deep into the review process. Sometimes that idea turns out to be accurate, other times you’re surprised. This is one of those times. Typically, a $30 gaming headset is a disappointment. Color me surprised. The Megara’s are great for gaming and are my hands-down favorite IEMs for listening to music. There are replacement tips to achieve a good seal and the housings also feature rubber wings that hold the contours of your ear to keep it from slipping - with no discomfort even after hours of use!
The Megara comes with two separate mics depending on if you’re gaming or using them on the go. For gaming, a detachable boom mic can be inserted in the left monitor. There’s also an in-line microphone with a remote with playback control. By default, the headset uses a four-pole connector but also ships with a headphone/mic splitter. Quality wise, both mics are actually quite acceptable. Without a USB connection, they can tend toward the quiet side on PC. Since they’re omni-directional, they do pick up room noise and a fair bit of hiss, especially when boosted in Windows.
The bigger issue with the boom mic is that it translates sound right from that left driver back into the microphone. For party games, it was virtually unusable without muting myself anytime I wasn’t speaking as my friends persistently complained about an echo. Thankfully, the in-line microphone still works well, but needs to be boosted to account for the extra distance from your mouth.
I tend to be hard on my headphones as they go in my pocket everywhere I go. The usual Skullcandy is lucky to last three months before a tip falls off or the remote/mic breaks. I’m a big fan of the Megara’s flat cable style, which prevents tangles. The tips have stayed on without a problem and, so far, everything is holding up well.
Whether or not they’re to your taste, though, is the real question. They feature the Cougar bright orange and it would have been nice to see a more understated option. The larger housings and retention wings also stand out far more than your average pair of IEMs.
At the end of the day, however, none of that changes the fact that I adore my Megaras. I didn’t expect more than a standard $30 headset, but the sound quality here is just a cut above any expectation I had from my prior experience. For multiplayer gamers, the boom-mic is out, which is unfortunate. Thankfully, the in-line gets the job done for gaming and calls. The Megara is punching up and even if they were $50, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy another pair.
- Larger drivers provide a fuller, better sound
- Rich low end that doesn’t overpower the mids and highs
- A complete bargain at this MSRP
- Boom mic picks transmits game audio (echo)
- Color choice and monitor size might not be to everyone’s taste.
The product discussed in this article was provided by PR for the purposes of review.