ASUS ROG Strix Fusion 500 Gaming Headset Review
Author:Soomal
Source:eng.soomal.com

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The game PLAYER UNKNOWN'S BATTLE GROUND (named “绝地求生大逃杀”in Chinese and commonly known as “吃鸡” which means chicken dinner), surpassing MY WORLD from this Jan., has become the biggest winner in sales. So far, it has been copied for more than 36 million times. Its rather high requirements for hardware performance drives a worldwide-ranged upgrading of personal computers in large extent. The market growth rate of personal computers, which has been being depressed for years, was finally pushed to be a positive number in 2017's fourth season. In Chinese E-commerce sites, the product introductions for both displays and mouses all involve with this game's name.

For players, a headset is also one of the most necessary equipment for ganging up. Despite of the large market scale, choices for headsets are actually far from abundance, nothing more than those game peripheral brands like Razer and Logitech. There are also some players using AKG or Sennheiser's headsets. However, is there any model that can embody e-sports trend and sound quality at the same time? After all, most products of Hifi earphones, sound cards and decoders focusing on sound quality are not supportive for talking. If the CODEC inside mainboard or notebook is not good enough, with noises and thread residues, there may be crackling, which will make bad effects on team members. And ASUS, under this game's trend, also launched a Strix Fusion series product of Republic of Gamers in this January. This product Fusion 500 is positioned in mid-to-high end, pricing a bit lower than the top-level wireless ROG 7.1 Centurion.

Hardware

This set of headphone, which is positioned as an e-sports entertaining product, looks rather young and hale in design style. The dark-olive oval shell coordinates with the embellishments of straight lines, corner angles and beehives. The translucent white plastics, shaped as wings on the rear side, are customizable RGB lighting with over 16.8 million color combinations. Except for the headphone's leather cushion, the package also includes fabric mesh which has a better air permeability. However, its landmark logo for ASUS ROG series, which is really popular by PC players, doesn't seem to be eye-catching.

Fusion 500 adopts Micro USB cable which supports up to 24 bit 96 kHz sampling input and output. The analog output is carried out by the operational amplifier, a combination of ES908K2M DAC and ES9601. It is unsure that the connecting method is SPDIF or I2S between the USB controller and DAC. To drive two 50mm closed units, Fusion 500's core system, although not so good as DSD's HD audio playback standard, appears to be more competitive than most similar products. Its USB main controller also has specific DSP functions, supporting 7.1 virtual surround sound which is developed together with Bongiovi Acoustics, a company focusing on both sound effect through hardware and DPC technology. The 7.1 virtual surround effect can be activated by the button on the left unit. Fusion 500 also uses dual track MEMS digital mic, ensuring the recording quality. The mic can be off automatically when packed up, which is really a considerate design. The ASUS official indicated that besides of PC, Fusion 500 could support the computers with USB ports such as Sony Play Station 4 and Nintendo Switch.

The two models of ROG Strix and Centurion from ASUS are designed with independent USB sound cards and offered with an extra HDMI to 3.5mm audio cable. Relatively, Fusion 500 has a great integration level, so the accessories has been apparently decreased. Of course, there are some people owning a PCDIY aesthetic idea and believing that more accessories, more beautiful. But it is undeniable that it would be much more troublesome.

Setup and Using Experience

With its independent USB audio interface, Fusion 500 can be directly used on Windows 7/10, Mac and PlayStation without driving. In the important part of the "performance" upgrade, you can find and install AURA Peripheral, on Fusion 500's download page in the ASUS official website, to control the RGB lights of the headphone, making it supportive of effects such as specific colors, color cycling and synchronization of video and audio, etc., and it can also displays synchronously with the ROG main board and the RGB light bar on the graphics card.

Although it is basically a driverless plug-and-play headset, the Fusion 500's digital microphone is plain sensitive. If the player is a live streamer or someone into recording videos, it will be easy to record some extra noises in the video and as a result, the sound quality of the main content will be affected. With software such as OBS, it can be solved by adding an audio filter with a noise threshold value. However, in some live platforms such as Twitch and Bilibili, the noise reduction function is relatively simple, and there are inevitably some continuous rustling noises in the background.

When wearing the headphone, the users with bigger heads may feel a little bit tight. The pressure mainly comes from the contact area between the ear pads on both sides and skin. Although it is an enclosed earphone, at a volume of more than 50%, it is still easy to be heard by the people within 2 meters. In the environment with other people such as a dormitory and a living room, the player should avoid to play something too noisy. Soomal has been posting gaming headset audio reviews for 4 years. As a matter of fact, the best sound quality is rare to see in such kind of products. The winner of our recommendation is still Rage Wireless, which was recommended five years ago, and it is still on sale in Jingdong. Certainly, Rage Wireless has always been my personal favorite gaming headset. Compared with headphones of Logitech and Razer at the same price, it still has very significant sound quality advantage. Can Fusion 500 defeat the opponents 5 years ago in terms of sound quality? Actually when I use it at the first time, there was absolutely something wrong with the sound. The reverberation obviously delayed and the digital signal overflowed and distorted, making me nearly think it was broken... In fact I accidentally opened the 7.1 sound effect button. Many gaming headset drivers provide a "sniper" mode. Actually this mode amplifies some small and long-distance footsteps by operation. The virtual 7.1 sound effect of Fusion 500 achieves a similar effect. The sound recognition of footsteps from 5 to 10 meters will be deliberately strengthened by changing the frequency response and resounding time, but it is not easy to know the distance exactly.

The operational amp configuration of Fusion 500's independent DAC does provide a better driving force, making the details and stretch of the sound much better than Rage Wireless. Nevertheless, when used to listen to music and watch movies, it appears to be relatively slow in sound transient, and there is even a feeling that the reverb sound is not completely turned off. Its bass is better in dynamic and the speed is slower. When the sound is mixed with drum and explosion sounds, its bass shows some trailing reverberation, and the details in treble are also sluggish.

Hearing Experience

The ASUS ROG has always been focusing on high-end PCDIY, high-performance experience and high price, in order to create a series of high-end products. Although Strix Fusion is a new series of independent gaming headsets, it still indicates that ASUS is trying hard on sound quality.

However, despite that Fusion 500 can achieve a relatively looser sense of hearing experience through a higher output level and a better driving force, those experienced users can also easily find out that the sound details are not clean. At least, in terms of sound SNR, dynamics and transient, Fushion 500 does not show itself with the normal level of the ESS system. Abnormal reverberation and noises are essentially caused by obvious distortion in sound processing. But what is exactly the problem? Is it in the part of USB to DAC, DSP sound effect or analog and USB circuit?

The headset's built-in digital mic is of good quality, and the vocal recording effect is full and delicate. This is a good advantage for professional game players or game live-streamers (the players in cloud strategy groups are unable to recognize the sound quality of headphones). ASUS is still worth encouragement considering the propaganda and classic of the brand ROG, and its hard-working for years on making good sound quality with both techniques and hardware, including the acquisition of C-Media, the sound cards of Essence series, and even the high-end DAC decoder.

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