The Creative Sound Blaster ARENA Surround USB Gaming Headset. That’s quite a title. In this article, I’ll show you the good and bad of this near-premium headset.
Every now and then I write about something that I don’t recommend as a purchase. Not every Solid Review portrayed products in the best light. I like to ensure my readers get an unbiased review.
Unfortunately, the arena surround headset is not a Solid Recommendation. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great piece of hardware. The two most important considerations for most when considering a headset would be the comfort and sound quality. Out of those two points, the arena surround headset fails on 1.5 of them. I’ll explain what I mean below.
At its core, this peripheral is a near-premium headset from the long-standing Creative brand that is a great buy under 1 condition: if you get it on sale or rebate. This unit occasionally features an excellent rebate by Creative (mine ended up being only $30 after rebate). Usually this item is around $60-$70, which I would pass on paying had I been able to test drive it first.
While this is a great deal cheaper than the premium surround sound headsets like the Logitech G35, this headset is largely uncomfortable and NOT capable of surround sound.
Both my wife and I use the headset constantly for gaming, movies, and voice chat. I have a huge head, while my wife is a petite 120 lbs. Both of us agree that this headset is not comfortable at all. Even after months of use it feels slightly like a vice grip wrapped around your head. Extending the ear cups out doesn’t lessen this.
Additionally, I found other reviewers who felt the same about the headband on top. While padded, you can feel its metal core pressing down across the top of your head. After watching a movie or playing games for a while, it leaves a sore spot on top of your head.
The sound quality is great! Frequency response is 20Hz to 20kHz coming from 2 40mm Neodymium Magnet drivers. If you recall, though, I said that the arena surround headset failed in 1.5 out of 2 important areas. Well, I gave half a point to the sound. It would have got full credit for sound if the headset had simply been called the “Sound Blaster Arena headset.”
Creative took far too many liberties with the definition of the word “surround.” This is just a plain old stereo headset with left and right audio channels. I wasn’t looking for a surround sound headset when I bought it, so that’s why I’m not too upset.
The stereo sound quality is great and external noise is kept out well, due to the tight-fitting cushioned ear cups.
The noise-canceling condenser microphone shares the same high quality sound as the headphones. Voice chat is an order of magnitude better than a standalone $5-$10 mic.
The mic itself is detachable (simple 3.5mm jack). I usually just tilt it up and leave it on, though. While you can rotate whole the mic, the flexible material of the stalk does not bend to a shape. Therefore, you can’t make minor adjustments to the distance from your mouth.
I also own a Creative X-Fi sound card, so I thought this would be a great match. The headset comes with the same Creative Console Launcher software, which I already had installed.
Having a Sound Blaster sound card with my new Sound Blaster headset didn’t quite work out at first. Upon installation, unplugging the USB headset broke all sound in Windows. It finally settled down, though, and I can disconnect and reconnect at will.
The Arena Surround headset doesn’t actually require software. It will work as plug and play in other machines (minus the features).
Additionally, the headset software adds “Sliencer” and “VoiceFX” capability. Silencer helps lower background noise going into microphone. VoiceFX is a fun feature that changes the sound of your voice to one of many different presets (I had a lot of fun with this, but apparently using it in a Call of Duty match automatically makes you a complete douche-bag… who knew?).
Creative gave the Arena Surround headset a long 8.2 foot cord, 7 feet of which is heavy-duty. The cord at the earphones is smaller and more flexible and travels down to a set of inline controls that has a belt/shirt clip.
The inline controls have a mic on/off switch and a volume up/down toggle.
One of the dumber advertised features is labeled as “Reversible Ear Cups.” This just means that the ear cups can turn 90° for “compact storage.” You can see this “feature” in my photo above. I guess saving 1 inch is compact. I used way too many sarcastic quotes right there, so I will go ahead and wrap this up.
In the end, the Sound Blaster Arena Surround USB Gaming Headset is a high quality piece of work that I really wish was more comfortable to wear and didn’t allow itself to be misrepresented with “Surround” in the name.
I do dig the white, though…