Sennheiser is a German company renowned for producing top-end microphones and headphones for the consumer, professional and avionics markets.

We were kindly loaned a set of their PC 350 "G4ME" headphones by PlayTech, so we thought it only fair to put them through their paces to see just how they compare to the similarly designed yet much cheaper Altec Lansing AHS602i headset we just happened to have in the office.

Headphone and headset technology has traditionally been part of a cutting-edge and highly competitive consumer electronics industry, but more recently has found favour with gamers worldwide. Online gamers, through the wonder of VoIP and voice chat technology, can keep a track of their team-mates, issue commands, or simply sit down for a chat. What used to be the domain of primitive headphones and rubbish microphones, often transmitting more interference than dialogue, is now largely occupied by a multitude of headset designs, keen to capitalise on the convenience of having both a microphone and headphones in one unit.

Enter the Sennheiser PC 350 - as you can see, it's a robust, stylish unit designed for use over a long period of time - ideal for those MMORPG players out there. The PC 350 is equipped with a volume control and microphone mute function, and can be folded for easy storage. The microphone is also a "boom" style unit, which during our tests worked well to minimise outside interference.

Of course, all the features and specifications in the world are meaningless if you're not personally happy with the audio quality or the design of your chosen headset. We selected several pieces of music initially to test the Altec Lansing AHS602i, including a classical piece from Wagner as well as a collection of more contemporary titles. The Altec is a very capable unit and for something roughly half the price of the Sennheiser, it's hard to imagine how to justify the extra expense. Well, it was hard until we actually used the Sennheiser, that is...

As expected, the Sennheiser PC 350 produced not only a more comfortable listening experience, but a much clearer sound through the entire range. The Altec tended to let more background noise in, which was obvious when a courier van idled outside GP HQ for several minutes, affording us the opportunity for a real-world comparison. The reason for this is twofold - not only does the Sennheiser have a larger padded circumference to each headphone, it also has a built-in active noise dampening system. What this entails has eluded us, but whatever audio voodoo they've mixed in certainly has helped.

As for the microphone - chatting away across MSN revealed that whilst the differences weren't as noticeable, we did experience more clarity with the Sennheiser, and less background noise, probably due to the boom design.

The Sennheiser PC 350 headset is a gamers dream - they're crystal clear and extremely comfortable. Unfortunately, like a dream, they may be just out of reach for the casual market - but anyone willing to open their wallet will not be disappointed, that's for sure.

Specifications

Headphones Type: Binaural
Headphones Form Factor: Ear-cup
Headphones Technology: Dynamic
Connectivity Technology: Wired
Sound Output Mode: Stereo
Response Bandwidth: 10 - 26000 Hz
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): 0.1 %
Sensitivity: 108 dB
Impedance: 150 Ohm
Diaphragm: 1.5 in
Magnet Material: Neodymium

Microphone type: Boom
Microphone Operation Mode: Mono
Sensitivity -38 dB
Response Bandwidth 50 - 16000 Hz