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Hardware Review: Roccat Renga Gaming Headset

Hardware Reviews By Christopher Coke on March 20, 2016

Hardware Review: Roccat Renga Gaming Headset

Emblazoned, white on black, on the left monitor of Roccat’s new Renga headset are these words: “studio grade sound.” It also appears on the box, but words in a feature list pack less of a punch than bold stenciling on the product itself. A feature list might be forgotten, but you’ll never forget a promise so bold as one you’re reminded of every single day. It takes confidence to make a move like that, and with a $50 price point, more than a little daring.

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When I unboxed the Renga for the first time,  I admit that Roccat’s enthusiasm was a bit infectious. If they were so bold as to promise studio quality, even if it wasn’t, it would still have to be a cut above the pack. The thing about promises like that, though, is that they’re hard to pin down. What is studio quality sound? Would the average gamer know if they heard it? If it did have studio grade sound, how would they pull that off while charging a fraction of the Sennheisers and Shure’s of the world?

The Renga features a pair of 50mm neodymium drivers, with a frequency range of 20-20khz Hz, an impedance of 32 ohms, and a SPL (sound pressure before distortion) of 110db. We can look to other “studio grade” headsets, and see that, while the Renga is certainly more limited in terms of frequency response and impedance, it’s by-the-numbers close. The popular Audio Technica M40X has 40mm neodymium drivers with a response range of 15-24khz, 35 ohms of impedance, and 96db of sensitivity. Shure’s SRH440 also has 40mm neodymiums, responsiveness of 10-22k, and 105db SPL. The Sennheiser HD 280 Pro clocks in with 8-25khz response, 64 ohms of impedance, and 102db SPL.

All told, the Renga tends to fall short of many studio quality headphones in terms of specs. That said, these comparisons all feel a little unfair since each of those headsets easily close in on double the price of the Renga. They’re warranted since the Renga proclaims itself “studio grade,” but the question really comes down to how they sound in actual use. And, of course, the build quality.

The headset is composed almost entirely of plastic. They don’t feel feel chintzy and flex nicely without feeling like they’re going to break. This also allows the monitors to be very lightweight. Below the frame of the headset is a faux leather headband with the company branding. It looks nice, and gives the illusion of a higher caliber of headset than the Renga actually is.

The cans are a stylish composition of curves and sharp angles with nice plush cushions that encapsulate the ear and the inner driver pads. The Renga adopts an open-ear design, which means that the ear isn’t sealed off. This is a great for allowing your ears to breathe but absolutely terrible for noise isolation. Your partner won’t need to tap your shoulder to get your attention and she won’t have to wonder what you’re listening to because she’ll be hearing every beat of it at even moderate volume levels. It’s a trait of this type of design but not one well suited to shared small spaces.

Since this is a headset, the left housing also features an adjustable boom mic for all of your voice chat needs. Since the Renga also comes with a 1/8th adapter, you could theoretically also use this for calls on your phone, but it’s hard to imagine anyone wearing this headset out of the house. Instead, it makes for a better solution for console voice chat.

The mic, unfortunately, is terrible. Testing it on my computer, the non-boosted volume is painfully quiet. Applying any kind of boost (up to 30db) fixes this but brings out another problem: electrical interference and white noise. While hiss is normal for nearly any mic, the Renga’s high pitched whine is not. Despite trying it in both the front and rear inputs, and through the Ryos MK FX keyboard, the whine is irritatingly present. This was not reproduceable on either of two comparative headsets I tested. It will work, in the utilitarian sense, but is no solution a streamer, podcaster, or YouTuber would want to consider.

But Roccat isn’t selling this headset on the quality of the mic, they’re selling it on the quality of its audio, and I’m pleased to say the Renga sounds great. It is definitely a cut above the pack in this price range. Compared against my usual Rosewill 5.1 true surround sound headset, the Roccat definitely has the edge. I also tried it out against my Skullcandy in-ears as well as true stage-quality Shure in-ear monitors. While the Renga doesn’t “beat” the Shures, it does compete and certainly tops out the Skullcandys. Tonally, the Renga leans more toward mids and highs, forgetting somewhat about the lows. But at half the price of the Shures, I was still quite impressed at how they held up.

So does the Renga actually have studio quality sound? Some might say so, but I would say not quite. It’s subjective and feels a bit markety. Instead, it’s better to say that in this price range, they’re a good bet for sheer audio quality. That bonus comes at a cost however. Noise bleed is a major problem and the mic is undercooked. The lightweight plastic build also leaves something to be desired.

All of that makes the Renga firmly a middle of the road headset.

Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.