Talk about adding insult to injury.
Not only are most headset leads about as thick as a strand of spaghetti, it's utterly impossible to fix small breaks in them. Anyone who has made the foolish mistake of running over a lead with their chair, or standing up too quickly will be painfully aware of this.
Detachable leads only go halfway to fixing this problem - instead of throwing out the entire headset you only have to throw away the lead. But which overpriced retailer is open at 2am when you need to replace it?
Wireless is the way forward, and if you're going to declare to the world that you're a dedicated MMO gamer, nothing says it more definitively than a gaunt appearance, an aversion to direct sunlight, and a Sound Blaster World of Warcraft wireless headset.
Unfortunately, wireless headphone technology still commands a premium over the wired variety, and yet it introduces additional problems. You still need a power source, which means you're going to need a battery, which in turn increases weight.
Creative have offset this issue by making the entire headset out of plastic - forgoing the typical steel band construction of most top-end units in an attempt to provide a more comfortable experience for the end user. As this headset is pitched at a demographic unlikely to think twice about wearing them for six hours at a time, any amount of weight saved is welcome, even if it does make the unit feel less sturdy as a result.
Despite the all-plastic construction, the overall build quality is of a high standard. The deep cans are able to swivel, and fully enclose the ear, muting out background sound. The pads are thick and comfortable, allowing prolonged use, and the head band is adequately padded. It's clear that you'll need to take good care of your investment however - to that end, a large vinyl pouch is supplied to store and transport the headset and wireless USB receiver.
The innate charm of Blizzard's World of Warcraft designs have made their way to the exterior of the unit, with Azeroth-inspired motifs, and glowing Horde or Alliance logos projected out from each can. These transparent logo plates can be swapped out with the use of the supplied screwdriver depending on which faction you wish to promote at any given time.
The volume controls consist of two paddle switches on the left can, next to which is a microphone mute button along with the power switch and wireless synch control. The microphone itself can be unplugged from the unit, and is flexible enough to bend into position for more accurate pick-up. The switches themselves aren't all that easy to locate in the heat of battle, and realistically a volume wheel (perhaps even a Goblin-inspired sprocket wheel) would have made much more sense.
You can plug in the USB receiver and use the headphones straight out of the box, but for real flexibility you'll need to download the custom software. Despite being somewhat unwieldy, and occasionally slow to respond, the software allows for a huge range of customisation. Of particular note is THX's Surround function, which attempts to provide you with the kind of 3D surround sound you can expect from a comprehensive home theatre system. It's unable to do this, of course, but it's an extremely worthy effort, and enabling it certainly assisted with identifying foes from their footsteps in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
In addition, the software drives the "Crystalizer" function, which is designed to increase the crispness of the output. This, along with the bass boost feature could be messed about with for hours without any consensus on improving quality; it's very much a personal preference that will hinge on what you're listening to. Of more interest was the Smart Volume and Dialog Plus features, designed to dynamically alter the volume of spoken audio and background music. Those who use audio communications in-game, or applications such as TeamSpeak, will immediately notice any background music dropping in volume when incoming chat arrives.
Unfortunately, it doesn't drop when you actually transmit to your friends, and as the cans do a good job of muting even your own voice, you're never really sure of how loud you're talking.
Happily, these functions can all be controlled through the use of hot keys, which can be specified in the software. You can even use the supplied VoiceFX modulator to alter your voice transmission to approximate any number of World of Warcraft-themed characters too; whilst providing amusement for a short while, it's hardly a feature you'll be clamouring to use frequently.
If you're more interested in lording it over your less monetarily-endowed clanmates with gimmicky displays of wealth, the software will even drive different coloured LEDs to cyclically illuminate the faction logos. Even with these lights powered up, the internal lithium ion battery lasts a good seven to eight hours on a full charge, and unlike a lot of wireless mice out there, you can still use this unit when it's charging using the mini-USB lead supplied.
Despite having the appearance of a hard-core PC gaming headset, the Sound Blaster unit is equally at home with listening to music, or watching movies. The wireless benefits here are obvious for those who are yet to make the leap to an under-desk refrigerator, and with line-of-sight range of around twenty metres and a high level of resistance to interference, the 2.4Ghz stream is more than adequate for the majority of PC & Mac gamers out there; unfortunately consoles are not supported.
There's no question that the sound quality and the overall presentation of this package is exemplary. But then, for around NZD $300, that's exactly what you would expect. There may be other units out there that can offer a comparable performance for less outlay, but for a true World of Warcraft devotee, this Sound Blaster package stands head and shoulders above the crowd.