If you have ever purchased and used a Freezer Pro CPU cooler or an Accelero Pro GPU cooler, then you already know ARCTIC COOLING and some of its many products.
ARCTIC COOLING’s previous offerings are well-known and respected not only for keeping PCs and their components cool, but also quiet.
Throughout its ten year history, this global company has continued to improve and expand its product line in order to broaden its brand appeal to PC enthusiasts everywhere. The company is now simply “ARCTIC,” and its product lineup has expanded to include audio products as well. Here is what ARCTIC says about itself.
As an internationally active company, ARCTIC’s expertise ranges from noise suppression for PCs, audio, peripheral equipment and power supplies, right through to entertainment products. ARCTIC is the umbrella brand for the COOLING, SOUND, EQUIPMENT, POWER and HOBBY product ranges.
Arctic currently offers twenty separate audio products, and it has sent three of those for us to review. We will do so in the scope of desktop PC gaming, music listening, and movie watching.
We received a Bluetooth-capable wireless headset, a 5.1 USB gaming headset, and a set of “professional” DJ headphones. Only one of the three products that Arctic sent us is marketed specifically for PC gaming.
Arctic offers the P281 DJ Headphones at its own website for $26.46 and $14.70 for ground shipping. We found these at Amazon.com for $22.99 with $6.44 for ground shipping.
Arctic sells the P311 Bluetooth headset for $39.75 with $13.56 for ground shipping. Amazon’s price for the product is substantially less at $26.99 with $6.58 for standard shipping.
Lastly, we found Arctic’s P531 5.1 gaming headset at Amazon for $52.99 and free shipping. Not surprisingly Arctic sells its own headset for $79.99 and $14.84 for ground shipping. All shipping costs were calculated with our offices in Texas in mind.
(In the past, with our Audio-Technica ATH-AD700 and ATH-A700 headphone reviews, we learned that those products’ design and function translated very well for PC usage. We will let you know how each of Arctic’s sound products performed during our testing.)
Arctic sells and ships its products in the U.S. from City of Industry, California. Coincidentally, this is the same city where Mwave.com sells and ships from. The 30% difference in price plus shipping, between the product manufacturer and one of its resellers, should definitely show you that it is obviously best to shop around for third party resellers if you are interested in purchasing these or any other products.
Each of Arctic’s sound products is packaged very similarly to the others in a square silver box with black and white text. The products and all of their accessories can be viewed through plastic windows on the boxes’ front panels. The backs and side panels contain product photos, specifications, and features in six languages. Manuals and documentation in several other languages are available on the company’s website.
Each of the respective products is protected in its packaging behind a molded plastic front cover. There are numerous long twist ties keeping portions of the products tightly bound to securing cardboard inside.
The 5.1 USB gaming headset has a driver CD and printed quick start guide included. The Bluetooth headset has a booklet with setup instructions for use with many popular cell phone models and Bluetooth capable devices in general.
All of the above products have a two year limited warranty. Many headsets and headphones only have a one year warranty, so we are very glad to see that Arctic gives its customers another year of service and replacement protection.
Each of the three products we received is not simply a less or superior model of the other. They are very different in performance and features.
P281 DJ Headset
Frequency Response – 20 Hz-22kHz
Sensitivity – 109 dB/mW
Impedance – 32 ohms
Driver Unit – 50 mm
Output Power – 50 mW
Plug – Gold-plated 3.5 / 6.3mm adapter
Cable – 2.5 m/6.56 feet
Weight – 0.57 kg/1.26 lb
The relatively low 32 ohm impedance requirement means we can use these with nearly any modern laptop, PC, MP3 player, or stereo receiver. The large 50 mm drivers should theoretically give us a wide soundstage in comparison to more common 30 or 40 mm driver sizes.
Although, we do wish the cable were a few feet longer so we that could sit farther away from our PC, it is coiled so it should not fall under our feet or the wheels of a desk chair. Both ear pads have a leather and fabric lining.
P311 Bluetooth Headset
Wearing Style – Supra-Aural, Neckband
Bluetooth Version – V2.1+EDR Class 2
Frequency Response – 18-22 Hz-kHz
Total Harmonic Distortion – 0.1%
Driver size – 28 mm
Battery – Rechargeable 400mAH; Li-Polymer Battery
Talk Time – Up to 20 hours
Weight – 0.32 kg/.7 lb
Bluetooth Range – up to 30 meters/98 feet
This is a supra-aural headset, which means the ear pads rest on top of, not around, the wearer’s ears.
The battery for this headset is rechargeable via the USB ports on the user’s PC or Mac, so there are no nine volt or double or triple A batteries to buy constantly. If a headset this small stays charged for anywhere near its 20 hour specification, we should be able to finish an all night listening session without running out of power.
The drivers are only 28 millimeters in size so we are curious to see how wide our listening sound stage will be.
This headset weighs approximately two-thirds of a pound, so we do not foresee any unusual head or neck fatigue when wearing it for hours at a time.
The P311 headset can of course be used with I-Phones, cell phones, laptops and desktop PCs that have Bluetooth connectivity.
P531 USB Gaming Headset
Frequency Response – Fr:18 – 20K Hz, Ctr:20 – 20K Hz, Sr:20 – 20K Hz, Sub:10 – 400K Hz
Sensitivity – Ctr:108dB, Fr:100dB, Sr: 108dB, Mic: 39dB +/- 3dB
Impedance – Ctr, Fr, Sr: 32 ohm Sub: 8 ohm Mic: 2.2KΩ
Driver Unit – Ctr&Sr: 30 mm, Fr: 40 mm, Sub: 27 mm, Mic: 9.7 mm X 5 mm
Output Power – Fr&Sr: 200 mW, Fr: 400 mW, Sub: 600 mW
Plug – USB
Cable – 3m/9.84 ft
Weight – 462g/1.02 lb
The drivers in the ear cups are not as large as some of the 5.1 headsets we have reviewed in the last year, so, as above, we may or may not get the spacious sound we are hoping for. There are special vibration units in each ear cup and we are curious to see what kind of sensation we get during heavy explosions in movies and games.
The USB cable used to connect this headset to a PC is almost ten feet long, so if we plug these in front of or in back of our test system, we should have plenty of room to move. The weight of this headset is only one pound so we do not foresee any wearing fatigue here either.
There is an inline volume control that does not simply have one master volume slider; each channel can be raised or lowered individually.
Design and Appearance
When we looked at each of Arctic’s headphone and headset models on the company’s web page, we noticed that they all share a grey, black, and white color scheme. These colors are flat and simple. We believe in the “less is more” approach when choosing a headphone or headset based on its appearance.
We will comment on our three products’ performance and comfort in a later section of the review.
We will first examine the styling of the P281 DJ headphones. The “DJ” title on the package tells us that these headphones are meant to be worn while working busily in public, but they should remain functional and perform well at the same time.
The headband for the P281 headphones is exactly nine inches long. The top of the band carries an imprint of the Arctic logo while the bottom has a strip of thin mash fabric that covers the slight padding beneath. Each ear cup has a foam ear pad with a very thin leather and fabric covering. Both ear cups swivel inward and outward as well as side to side, which allows the headphones to be folded compactly for storage. The audio cable is coiled and has a gold plated mini-jack stereo connector. A full size gold plated adapter is included as well.
Although the color scheme is modest, the faux industrial metallic theme makes them resemble a toy for children. The coiled cord is encased in a very stiff, shiny plastic. It reminds us of an old telephone cord from the 80s. These are not something that we feel that a reputable DJ would wear proudly.
Arctic’s Bluetooth headset has a U-shaped headband that can be folded and collapsed above each ear cup when it is time to store them. The ear cups that house the two 28mm drivers have leather and fabric ear pads for user comfort. The steel-grey and black colors of the headset are attractive and understated.
Arctic includes a hard-shelled mesh case branded with its logo for storage and transport. The headset and its included USB charging cable fit inside nicely. The P311 is a good example of how manufacturers should add relevant extra touches to its products to entice buyers.
Arctic’s P531 headset is absolutely huge in comparison to the other two products. This is the product that is most relevant to gaming on the PC, so its capabilities seem to necessitate its larger size.
The headband for this headset is nine inches long and has the Arctic logo imprinted on the outside. The inside has similar fabric covered padding to the DJ model above.
Each ear cup connects to the headband on a collapsible rail that allows for eight size adjustments. The right cup has the Arctic logo and the product’s model number. The left cup has a flexible microphone that swivels up or down 160 degrees. Both cups look like large “Mickey Mouse” heads. The ears of those heads contain the vibration units that make the headset’s ear cups quickly shake with force for deep, low frequency sounds. The entire headset can be folded inward very easily for storage.
The cloth ear pads have a very soft feel to them. They remind of us of the material used in a thick bath towel, and we feel they might absorb sweat and odors after extended periods of use.
For a headset of its size, portions of the P531 feel very light. We decided to examine its construction to see why. We slipped off one of the ear pads, and it looks like Jigsaw left us a present. The ear cups’ frames have dozens of small knobs around them, like blunted saw blades. We can only guess that these are to help the wearer grip the ear cups more easily during comfort adjustments.
The inline volume control has five separate dials for controlling each of the headset’s sound channels. There is also a microphone mute switch as well. In the middle of the control is a blue light that flashes constantly while the headset is in use. We are not certain of the flashing blue light’s purpose, when a small, unobtrusive light indicating “on” or “off” would be fine. The volume control is made of lightweight plastic and sounds hollow when tapped with a fingernail. It seems as if something this vital to the headset’s operation would be made of something more solid and durable.
We hope that Arctic’s headsets and headphones sound better than they look and feel.
Installation of the three headsets and headphones we received should be very easy for any of our readers.
P281 DJ headphones
We began with the P281 DJ headphones, and this installation was a no-brainer. We simply decided if we wished to place the headphones’ audio jack in the front “headphone out” jack of our PC case, or use the rear audio ports of our test sound card.
We sometimes hear electrical noise from inside of our case when using the front panel jacks, so we decided to use the X-Fi Titanium HD’s dedicated headphone out. For the X-Meridian 2G sound card, we used the front channel out jack on the backplane of the sound card itself. After turning off our speakers and placing the headphones on our heads, we would be ready to test the product.
P311 Bluetooth headset
Installing the P311 Bluetooth headset requires more steps than installing simple headphones or analog gaming headsets. This headset is Bluetooth capable. Since very few full size PC motherboards have Bluetooth capability, we first purchased and installed a Rocketfish Bluetooth USB adapter. Arctic Cooling offers two different Bluetooth dongles on its website, but we did not receive either one for testing.
According to the included product leaflet, the headset must be charged for four hours prior to use. We simply connected the USB charging cable to a front panel USB port and we connected the other end of the cable to a small port on the right ear cup.
When the headset is charging, a small red light remains solid. When the headset is fully charged, the red light turns off.
When we were ready to connect or “pair” the headset, we pushed and held the “Call” button on the right ear cup. The red light began to alternate with a blue one, and a tray icon signaled that the headset was detected. The ear cup indicator light remains blue after pairing.
In Windows’ control panel, we could see the headset’s current connection status.
In order to use the headset as our primary sound device on either a laptop or desktop PC, we had to select the headset as the default sound and recording device in Windows 7’s control panel sound applet.
This is a supra-aural headset, so the ear cups rest on the outside of the ears and the headband fits around the top of the ear and the back of the head. Installation of this product should be very easy on either a laptop or a PC for just about anyone.
P531 5.1 Gaming Headset
This installation took a few more steps than the Bluetooth headset, but again, it was very easy. We used the included driver CD, and installing the software took less than one minute and then a reboot of our test system. After we rebooted, we had a small Arctic Cooling “AC” icon in the System Tray. Clicking the AC icon gives us these software settings:
The first tab in the Arctic P531 control panel allows the user to choose the number of sound channels present in the source, setup Dolby 7.1 virtual speaker, and also to choose the level of bass present in movies and music. The second tab is for selecting playback and recording levels. The third tab is for selecting, creating and saving EQ presets and environment size. The fourth allows for microphone playback, magic voice (a sound morphing feature), key shifting, and vocal cancellation. The last tab shows driver and DirectX version.
If you have used any C-Media based sound product in the last few years, the software interface will be very easy to use. If you have not, it will only take a few tries to navigate through the various tabs and features comfortably.
Recording Capability and Quality
P311 Bluetooth Headset
The Bluetooth headset has a hidden microphone at the bottom of the left ear cup. There is only a small hole on the underside of the right ear cup that indicates a microphone is present; it is not labeled.
When used with a PC, the P311 headset is only capable of making 1 channel, 48 kHz recordings. We made a few test clips using Windows’ sound recorder, and they were very poor. The clips sounded as if they were recordings of recordings.
We used these with an AT&T cell phone with Bluetooth capability and the voice quality was much better. The person we called said our voice was low at times, but very clear.
We alternated between PC and cell phone usage with this headset many times. The 20 hours of battery usage given in the product specifications was generous. We received 17-18 hours of playback for each use before we had to recharge the headset. The volume does not gradually lower itself as the headsets run out of power; it merely emits a single long tone every few minutes to let you know it will have to be charged soon.
P531 5.1 Headset
The P531 5.1 headset has a swiveling boom microphone that is capable of 16 bit, 44.1 and 48 kHz recording. We made many test clips in various tones of voice and they were all clear and distortion free. We had a Skype conversation and it was very easy to position the microphone at the beginning of our call and we never had to adjust it again nor shout to be heard clearly. Our in-game comms in Left 4 Dead 2 were very good as well. We spoke in a normal tone of voice and were heard clearly by our teammates.
The “Magic Voice,” Karaoke, pitch shift, and vocal cancellation in the recording options are fun to play with, but they are not something we would use as anything more than a novelty.
For our music choices, we used Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots’ Greatest Hits, Queen’s Greatest Hits, Jamie Foxx-Greatest Night of My Life, The Best of Sting and the Police, The Preacher’s Wife-Original Soundtrack, Robert Plant and Allison Krause-Raising Sand, Oasis-Wonderwall, U2-Joshua Tree Remastered Edition, Ray Charles-Genius Loves Company, Brian Setzer-Best of the Big Band, Nirvana-Nevermind, The Black Eyed Peas-The End, The Fray-How to Save a Life, Open Your Eyes, and Adele-21.
We decided to test the P281 DJ headphones first to give us a baseline for the three products. We made sure to set a flat EQ before starting our listening tests.
When we began our music test, we immediately noticed that music sounded very compressed. Vocals had some sibilance or hiss. When we played the tracks by the Fray, the ever-present piano sounded more like an electric organ. Kick drum sounds good and punchy, but mids and highs in the songs seem to run together. The vocalist sounded more nasal than what we are accustomed to.
Queen’s Greatest Hits is always a great headphone test. With the DJ 281 headphones, Freddie Mercury’s vocals simply did not reach their usual highs in our heads. Again, drums and bass guitar in the background were perceived very well, but lead vocals had a hiss. We thought Jamie Foxx and his hip hop album might save these headphones, but we were wrong. The ever present bass of the genre was clean and punchy, but vocals simply sounded off key for our tastes. We tried Robert Plant and Allison Krause last and it only confirmed everything we previously said. Plant sounded horse and sometimes nasally while singing.
We felt the sound signature of these headphones was very poor during music testing. It seems to us that the ear cups that house the large 50 mm drivers are simply too shallow and the resulting sounds played back are compressed and unpleasant.
We used the P531 5.1 headset next and we were prepared for its unusual playback qualities. When we used the Corsair HS1 USB headset in October, we had to set our input and output sources to 6 channels. Without the up-mix, that headset sounded as if only half the ear cup were reproducing sound. The P531 was designed with a similar C-Media chipset. We made the channel change from two to six and began our testing.
We started with the Black Eyed Peas. We played “Boom, Boom, Pow!” and the 5.1 headset would vibrate with the song’s bass beats. Vocals were almost under the music rather than on top. “Meet Me Halfway” usually shows off Fergie’s actual singing ability, but there were absolutely no highs present. It sounded as if she were singing in a room with a low ceiling. We moved on to Robert Plant and Allison Krauss’ album, and again we heard the vocals almost in the background. We could not discern one singer from the other at times. Queen’s Greatest Hits was a sheer waste of time as well. We could occasionally hear bass and a few cymbals, but we were simply losing a lot of guitar riffs in the background. We tried the following EQ setting in the C-Media software and our experience with the P531 headset became much better.
We played through U2’s Joshua Tree and our experience improved immediately. We heard vocals much more clearly and “upfront” with our new EQ. We still heard and felt the bass guitar but our sound stage was now slightly bigger. “Red Hill Mining Town” is an epic song and we like the guitar intro we heard along with the snare and cymbals that accompanied the vocals. When we played the Queen album again, the vocal highs could be heard much better as well. Harmonies were no longer muddy.
Although we do not like to up-mix stereo music, we have found it necessary to do when using 5.1 gaming headsets. With this headset, we feel that the driver, ear cup, and ear pad design are too shallow and narrow for enjoyable music listening.
Our last headset to be tested was the P311 Bluetooth model. Initially, the two small drivers in the headset did not give us much hope for a good music listening experience. We were wrong. Our entire playlist sounded very good. We could hear and feel the organ and bass guitar throughout Ray Charles’ Genius Loves Company. The vocals during each duet would come accordingly from the left or the right; they were not mashed together. Oasis’ Wonderwall and Sting and the Police Greatest Hits were excellent from start to finish. The P311 surprising has quick, punchy bass, and vocals are very clearly in front of the music. We really enjoyed our big band and gospel selections because we could pick out horns, upright bass, piano and drums very easily past the vocals.
This headset did not have the wide sound stage and high frequency reproduction of full size headphones, but its playback in general was very good for a few hours of our favorite music playlist. We also liked that we could get up from our chairs at any time and walk around using the wireless capability.
Since this headset is meant to be used with newer cell phones and IPhones, we were able to use its forward and back buttons to switch songs in our playlist with both Windows Media Player and VLC. The headset’s buttons did not work with Foobar2000 player. We were also able to walk through two full sized rooms and into a third before the headset began to intermittently lose its signal. The 30 meter range in the specs were very accurate. We are very surprised that, of the three headsets and headphones we received for this review, the small Bluetooth pair gave the best music listening experience.
For our first movie choice we used the animated film, Tangled. We feel animated films are good for headphone testing because sound cues are placed manually by the movies’ sound engineers.
At the movie’s 16 minute mark, we see Flynn, running through a forest and swinging through trees. We could hear horses stomping from all directions, arrows flying through the air in all directions, and trumpets coming through in the movie’s musical score.
The P531 headset gave us the best and most convincing surround effect of the three headphones and headsets. We could feel the horse hooves hitting the ground and we could hear arrows traveling left to right through the air. Character and voices panned off and onscreen very well. What we did not like was that the 5.1 headset gives an echo to the center channel it produces for dialogue. It sounded as if we had a large bowl over our heads as we watched the scene.
The DJ headphones made voices of different pitch and timbre blend together slightly. There was no separation of mids and high frequency sounds which gave us a lot of shrieking voices mixed in with sound effects. The P311 Bluetooth headset sound very good throughout the scene. It had a good amount of bass when we heard horses running and very good imaging as characters and actions took place off and onscreen.
At the 37 minute mark, Rapunzel and Flynn are inside of the “Snuggly Duckling” surrounded on every side. We could hear them walking toward and then past a crackling fire place to a door leading outside. Again, the P531 headset gave us the best surround experience. We could hear an axe flying right to left before striking a wall. The imaging was very good. We could still hear the hollow characteristic that the 5.1 headset reproduces in voices in the center channel of the sound track. The DJ headphones made voices sound shrill again, but we did like the imaging of objects being thrown and grunts coming from every direction.
The Bluetooth headset gave the most consistent playback of the three headsets and headphones. While it did not give as good of a surround effect, its stereo imaging and balanced sound made both scenes very pleasant to watch.
Next, we chose Batman Begins. At the 8:00 minute mark, we see Bruce Wayne enter Ra’s Al Ghul’s temple. We had a sense of being indoors as we could hear the character’s voices echoing around the room. Ducard hits Bruce Wayne from every direction. Here, the P531 headset does the best job of giving us multiple points of action, footsteps scratching the floor, and the room’s size. The voices in the center channel still had a distracting echo. As the scene flashes back to Bruce Wayne’s childhood, we hear Alfred the butler caring for him. The DJ headphones did a good job of separating the birds outside of Bruce Wayne’s window from the character’s onscreen dialogue. We hear a piano being played in the soundtrack very gently. The Bluetooth headset sounded very good as the characters rode a train. It accurately reproduced the sounds of the character’s voices as they spoke near the train’s glass windows. We could hear the trains wheels rolling on the tracks beneath.
Of all three headsets and headphones, we preferred the Bluetooth headset for its even bass reproduction and good stereo imaging. The P351 headset gave the best surround in both movies, but its center channel dialogue sounded terribly hollow. We simply did not like the DJ headset at all because its occasional shrillness, or treble spikes, was distracting and unpleasant.
For our first game test, we used Bulletstorm. The single player game may not last long, but it is fun to play.
We run through Act 3, Scene 2, “A Dam Fine Mess.” Using the Bluetooth headset, we tried to place enemies but we could only hear them to our left or right. We could not gauge their distance or if they were below or above us. If we slid across the floor near vats of steel we could hear the floor rumbling beneath us. When we fired at enemies or they shot at us, the sound simply overwhelmed the headset, and it could not separate these at all. We had no soundstage whatsoever. Gaming with this headset gave us the feeling of being a few feet behind our main character and watching things happen to him, rather than us.
The P531 headset did a good job of giving us enemy direction as we were able to hear them behind us and to our left, but we had no sense of distance or up and down. We heard and felt a cool rumble as we slid across the floor to our enemies. The ear cups literally vibrate to the pace of the action at times.
We had our best experience in this scene when we used the DJ headset. We had very good imaging and we could pinpoint enemies past steel vats or up on the catwalk above us. When we fired our own shotgun though, this headset gave the blast’s sound a shrill, harshness that was simply unpleasant to hear.
For our next game, we decided to revisit Unreal Tournament III after the great experience we had with the Corsair HS1A headset.
We entered a multiplayer match in the “Defiance” level. First, we used the 5.1 headset, and we had very good enemy “positionality” above ground in the burned out town or down below in the sewers. When we heard an enemy shooting at us from behind, we could not tell if he was located above us or a few yards behind us. When we used our rocket launcher, we could truly feel the faux explosion as the headset would vibrate against our heads on impact.
When we tried the Bluetooth headset, it simply had a static filled mono quality and the sound was terrible. The Unreal engine used in the game is older so this headset and its software processing simply are not up to the task.
The P351 DJ headphones were the most precise of the three products we used. As we came from below ground from a tunnel, we knew two enemies were shooting each other to our left because of their weapons’ fire. We heard another enemy sniping at us from the second story and to our right. Explosions and gunshots were shrill but easy to pinpoint.
Next, we tried F1 2010. We used the Sakhir track in rainy weather. In this game, the P531 headset was decent because we only needed to hear sounds to the sides and in front of us, not above or below. Racing was immersive because we could hear sounds from the left, right, front, and back. We could hear cars quickly coming from behind and to the side of us. We heard our engine revving underneath us and the ear cups would vibrate as we ran off the track into gravel. The pit crew’s dialogue came through the headset’s center channel very well. Music filled the entire headset when we finished a race.
When we used the P281 DJ headphones, we had an enjoyable experience again, as they had good imaging that helped us hear cars behind and to the sides of us. We did not have the vibrating ear cups, but we had good low frequency reproduction with road sounds and other cars spinning off of us. Even though this is only a set of 2.0 headphones, not 5.1, it was more than suitable for our racing game test.
For our last game, we played Left 4 Dead 2 in the “The Sacrifice,” “Docks” and “Barge” levels. The Bluetooth headset simply could not be used for this game. It produced a flat, mono sound when we entered the match. The DJ headset was very effective here though.
As we walked down an alley and started to cross the rocks along the waterfront, we could literally feel a charger slam into Zoey. When we shot two approaching zombies, we heard our bullets hit them and the walls beside them. We really liked how we heard everything our teammates were doing nearby. As we spun around in place we could hear the water from our left and a boomer stomping from our right. as we left the rocks and walked back up towards land, we could hear the sounds of the more open area as zombies started to swarm.
We replayed the levels with the 5.1 headset and we perceived very good surround, but we just did not hear the almost shrill precision placement of enemies that the DJ headphones provide. We did like that when a boomer was stomping around and eventually exploding, we could feel the impact as the headset shook slightly against our heads.
While we enjoyed the 5.1 surround that we had with the P531 headset, we have to say that the DJ headphones gave us the more precise placement of enemies and allies and a more wide open feel in each game’s physical environment. Although at times, the DJ headphones produced sound too shrill for our tastes, some PC game players like more blatant sound reproduction for enemy placement and effect.
Arctic Cooling accepts requests for tech support through its support web page. Consumers fill out the contact page with their system and personal information and problem description. We completed two support requests concerning software compatibility with other sound cards and Bluetooth connectivity. Neither request has been answered.
Arctic sells CD copies of driver software that needs replacement. Drivers and software are not available for download.
So it would seem that you would never expect service or support for this product.
Third Party Product Compatibility
When we began our initial testing of the P531 5.1 gaming headset, we had an X-Meridian 2G sound card installed in our test system. When we installed the P531 headset software and rebooted, we began to have errors with “HsMgr.exe.” This module is a part of both sound chipsets’ software suite. Neither the X-Meridian nor the P531 headset’s software would open consistently without hanging, and we had a few blue screen errors when switching tabs in the software.
We removed the X-Meridian 2G sound card from our test machine, created a clean Windows 7 partition and installation, and used the Creative Titanium HD as our sole dedicated sound card. We had no further software problems during the testing of the P531 USB headset. Those of you that already have C-Media based sound cards from Asus, Auzentech, and HTOmega will want to be cautious when adding a USB headsets based on the same software. Corsair’s HS1 USB headset has a C-Media sound chip and software as well.
Long Term Wear and Comfort
We used all three of the headsets and headphones for over a month. All three products have proven very comfortable and we never experienced any fatigue or neck pain whatsoever.
When we initially saw the Bluetooth headset, we thought that its small size may be indicative of its durability. It shows no signs of wear and tear whatsoever. Some of us have large heads and we thought the headset might be uncomfortable or fall off of our heads if we turned too quickly, but the headset is very comfortable and we can listen to music or watch movies for hours without issue. We can even sit with our heads back in our desk chairs and the headband does not press against our scalps or the backs of our heads uncomfortably.
One cosmetic issue we had with the P531 USB headset was that the grey cloth used throughout tended to become stained after days of use. Smudges of dirt showed up initially and the fabric became slightly stained over time. We cleaned the product’s headbands and the ear pads with a lightly damp, soapy cloth. We wished there were a way to temporarily remove the headband material for further cleaning.
While wearing any of the three products, most outsides sounds were blocked out for us, but those around us could easily hear what we were listening to. We had decent isolation, but those around us did not.
The P531 headset is very similar to Corsair’s HS1 USB Gaming headset. Corsair clearly designed the better headset, because its product gives a much wider sound stage in music and movies, a greater perception of height and distance in games, and it has better construction and appearance. The volume control on the P531 feels very cheap and we do not believe that it will hold up to hundreds of hours of hardcore gaming, although we have no evidence of that.
The Corsair headset is $89.00 at Newegg.com after $10.00 with FREE SHIPPING. (As of typing this, there is a $15 promo code as well bringing the price down to ~$75.) Arctic’s P531 5.1 USB headset can be purchased from Amazon for $52.99. While there is a net $22.00 price difference, we would say this is one purchase where it really would benefit you to spend the extra money on the Corsair product in order to receive a vastly superior product on all fronts.
While the DJ headset is very affordable for just about anyone’s budget, we do not feel it’s performance makes it the best choice for the money. We have had a pair of JVC HARX-700 closed headphones for over a year, and those headphones have a better balance and separation of high and mid-range frequency reproduction in movies, music and games. The JVC headphones simply look better, feel more sturdy, and have a superior sound signature.
The JVC HARX-700 headphones are available at Amazon.com for $34.18 with free shipping.
The Bottom Line
If you are looking for a small, portable wireless headset for movies and music, we think you would really enjoy Arctic’s P311 Bluetooth headset for $35.00. It works with either a laptop or PC for music and movies or a Bluetooth-capable cell phone for music and phone calls. You would keep the same sound playback signature regardless of which device it was used with. It is unfortunate that this headset is simply not suitable for gaming.
If you are looking for a 5.1 gaming headset, we would recommend you buy the Corsair’s HS1 USB gaming headset which is a great deal right now at Newegg. The P531 has very similar features and costs less, but it sounds and looks terrible in comparison.
We do not recommend the P281 DJ headphones. Although they are comfortable to wear, they look and feel cheap. They perform decently in games and movies, but music playback, for our tastes, is terrible. If you wanted an economical set of headphones that perform better than the P281, we would recommend the JVC HARX-700 closed-back headphones instead.