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Sound Blaster E3 Review

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I use audio amplifiers religiously. Whether I’m listening to music, gaming or editing sound, I consider a proper amp/headphone combo an absolute necessity for anyone who wants to maximize their media consumption experience. But it hasn’t always been this way. Growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s wasn’t the best period for tech enthusiasts. I’ve always struggled with tech pricing between consumer grade, enthusiast and professional-grade products.

Fortunately, those lines are blurring today and audio tech has come such a long way that pretty much anyone can afford an audiophile-grade AMP with a little bit of shopping around. There are a handful of manufacturers that have contributed to these industry shifts, but Creative Sound Blaster still remains one of the most noteworthy names in the business. They’ve been at the forefront of audio engineering for decades, and their micro-sized Sound Blaster E3 AMP serves as a great reminder of the company's longstanding excellence in pushing technological boundaries. 


"Creative's micro-sized Sound Blaster E3 AMP serves as a great reminder of the company's longstanding excellence in pushing technological boundaries."

The Sound Blaster E3 is a slightly larger and more powerful version of the Sound Blaster E1. It’s not as small as the Sound BlasterX G1, which is practically a USB-sized AMP, but it’s significantly more powerful and offers Apt-X technology for minimal compression when using Bluetooth. It’s unquestionably the most attractive offer out of Creative’s mini-AMP lineup, but it also doesn’t come very cheap at $99.99 ($129.99 was the original retail price).

The Sound Blaster E5 and Sound BlasterX G5 have been my go to desktop amps between work and gaming, but despite their small size, I’ve never been able to use them while going for a walk or taking the train. This is where the Sound Blaster E3 comes into play. If you’re looking for greater portability than the E5 and BlasterX G5 and don’t want to sacrifice much of the amplification quality, this matchbook-sized AMP has it all!


"If you’re looking for greater portability than the E5 and BlasterX G5 and don’t want to sacrifice much of the amplification quality, this matchbook-sized AMP has it all!"

The Sound Blaster E3 boasts a clean and simple aesthetic that I would describe as stealthy. This conservative, yet effective, approach makes the E3 an unassuming addition to your mobile phone. I kept the E3 clipped to my belt when on the road, and it never got in the way and stayed neatly tucked away.

The audio performance is very impressive considering the AMP’s size. Thanks to its Apt-X technology implementation, you can easily go wireless without losing much of the streaming quality. This makes the E3 very versatile and easy to accommodate with your other equipment. You can even have two headphones plugged into a single E3 device, which makes it great when traveling with a partner and want to share music.

Sound Blaster E3 Highlights:
Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR): 112dB
Audio Fidelity: Up to 24-bit / 96kHz
Headphone Out: 1 x 3.5mm jack
Line In: 1 x 3.5mm jack (4-pole)
Headphone Out / Mic In: 1 x 3.5mm jack/microUSB
Max Channel Output: Stereo
Audio Technologies: SBX Pro Studio, CrystalVoice, Scout Mode
Microphone Type: Built-in mono microphone
Platform: USB 2.0, Bluetooth, USB 1.1, USB 3.0

Much like its larger and more expensive versions, the Sound Blaster E3 comes jam packed with customization features that are accessible via Sound Blaster’s SBX Pro Studio software. Here you can change everything from surround sound and equalizer tweaks to Scout Mode and mixer options.

The E3 adds a substantial audio boost regardless of your headphones. But if you’re lucky enough to own a high-end pair, the E3 supports up to 600ohm so you don’t have to worry about running out of power. I tested the Sound Blaster E3 with a pair of V-MODA Crossfade 2 for wireless performance and the Audio Technica ATH-M70x for wired testing.

Wireless performance is outstanding. The Sound Blaster E3 does a phenomenal job of enriching the already punchy bass of V-MODA’s Crossfade 2. The heavy thud you hear when explosion are going off in COD WWII sounds eerily realistic. This tiny device is deceptively strong, and I’m blown away by how well the SBX features perform wirelessly.


"On the contrary, the separate surround mode isn’t as effective. It suffers from slight echoing and doesn’t always yield the most accurate spatial positioning."

The ATH-M70x are a pair of studio monitor headphones and I used them specifically to gauge sound accuracy when engaging the various enhancements. Scout Mode remains my favorite feature when gaming competitively as it delivers the most balanced channel frequencies when compared to similar modes from competing manufacturers. Despite greater environmental detail amplification, Creative’s Scout Mode provides enough kick to lows and mids so the sound profile never sounds unnatural.

On the contrary, the separate surround mode isn’t as effective. It suffers from slight echoing and doesn’t always yield the most accurate spatial positioning. The other settings are exactly what they sound like, so if you want even stronger bass, the SBX Pro Studio has you covered.

Personally, I always opt for the Smart Volume feature as it helps balance the extreme volumetric shifts in shooters. I love using a full, wide dynamic range when playing atmospheric titles, but shooters can be jarring at times. If you feel the shifts between quiet and loud moments are too much, the Smart Volume should definitely be taken for a spin. 

Conclusion: My experience using the Sound Blaster E3 was similar to my time with the Sound Blaster E5 and Sound BlasterX G5. This is great news, because the E3 is basically a miniature version of the two devices at half the price and with most of its features. Sure, it’s not exactly the same beast, but if you’re looking for a genuinely compact AMP, the Sound Blaster E3 is an absolute powerhouse at this size.     

Final Score: A-

V-MODA Crossfade 2 Wireless Review

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I’ve reviewed countless audiophile headphones over the last six years, but nothing compares to V-MODA’s unique visual identity. Originally founded by DJ Val Kolton in 2004, V-MODA is the first audio manufacturer to popularize fashion headphones. Much like a luxurious sports car, V-MODA headphones are for enthusiasts who want more than just great performance. The company’s product lineup is as much about making an impression as it is about delivering superb sound quality.

Over the last two weeks, I had the pleasure of testing my first V-MODA model, the Crossfade 2 Wireless. It didn't take long for the headphones to become one of my most cherished pieces of tech in 2017. Unboxing the V-MODA Crossfade 2 Wireless is an experience on its own. The Crossfade 2 ship in a stylish, cleverly designed box that houses an exoskeleton hard case with the headphones and accessories tucked inside. The carrying case has a convenient carabiner clip that can connect to a backpack or any other object with a matching loop. The top lid carries small, removable vents called V-Ports that circulate air inside when the headphones have been in use for a while. Thanks to the headphones’ foldable design, the case is compact and perfect for traveling.


"The Crossfade 2 are a stunning pair of headphones. The body is constructed with premium materials, and I’ve yet to encounter another headphone design with such head-turning curves."

The package contains a 1-Button SpeakEasy Mic cable, a ¼” Pro Adapter and a USB charging cable. We also received a V-MODA BoomPro Mic to test multiplayer gaming chat performance, but the mic is sold separately. We received the matte white unit for review, which currently retails for $330.00 with free US shipping on V-MODA’s official website, as well as Amazon.

The Crossfade 2 are a stunning pair of headphones. The body is constructed with premium materials, and I’ve yet to encounter another headphone design with such head-turning curves. Personally, I’m a sucker for unconventional tech engineering, and the V-MODA signature aesthetic is truly out of this world.

The Crossfade 2 also happen to be the sturdiest headphones I ever held in my hands. You can twist the entire body in any direction, and it elegantly reverts back to its original shape. The steel skeleton extends outside the headband down to the earcups, and the twistable joints are firmly secured to ensure resistance against repetitive folding. The headphones are covered in Vegan leather (a big plus for animal lovers), and the ear cushions feel cozy without making my ears sweat. Weighing around 292-309g, the V-MODA Crossfade 2 aren’t exactly on the light side, but in practice, I never had a problem with the weight even after using the headphones for 13+ straight hours.


"You can twist the entire body in any direction, and it elegantly reverts back to its original shape. The steel skeleton extends outside the headband down to the earcups, and the twistable joints are firmly secured to ensure resistance against repetitive folding."

Customization is one of V-MODA’s key features, and the personalized earcup plates put other headphone manufacturers to shame. The custom plates are 3D sculpted in Italy and you can select from several high-quality materials: sterling silver, 14k gold, 14k rose gold, 14k white gold, platinum. You can have custom art or writing engraved, and I appreciate the downloadable templates on V-MODA’s site that let users easily specify the layout and material details.

Setting up the Crossfade 2 is effortless and the Bluetooth pairing takes mere seconds. The wireless range is advertised as 33ft, and based on my personal testing, I only experienced slight signal loss when reaching approximately 30ft. Battery life is equally impressive, and I was able to easily reach the listed 14 hour mark while listening on relatively high volume. This is especially exciting when you hear how well the wireless audio performs. As someone who always opts for wired headphones, I am genuinely blown away by the sound richness and clarity when using Bluetooth.


"Customization is one of V-MODA’s key features, and the personalized earcup plates put other headphone manufacturers to shame. The custom plates are 3D sculpted in Italy and you can select from several high-quality materials."

Having said that, wired connection is still the way to go if you want to experience all the power the Crossfade 2 have to offer. Wired connection provides pure hi-res sound (5Hz-40kHz) and you can use the included ¼” Pro Adapter for even better quality if you’re lucky enough to have an audiophile AMP.

I didn't expect such a wide sound stage going into my review, but boy do these headphones deliver. Listening to a live concert of Florence + The Machine beautifully highlights just how much breadth the sound can reach. The orchestral score mixed with Florence’s vocals provides an excellent mix of highs and lows that retain equal clarity and depth. Mids tend to get a little muffled by the bass, but I expected this considering the audio profile was defined by a DJ. If you’re someone who enjoys the extra kick in your music, then you can count on the Crossfade 2 to throw a serious punch.

Even though the sound profile favors hip hop, pop and generally bass heavy music, the deep lows carry over to other genres better than expected. When listening to an acoustic guitar performance, for example, there is enough clarity in mids without the low frequency channels drowning out the details. This balance makes the Crossfade 2 a great choice for varied usage.


"If you’re a tech hobbyist or professional who doesn’t mind spending a few extra bucks on luxury features, the Crossfade 2 offer a unique mix of personalization options and stunning, audiophile-grade sound."

Gaming on the Crossfade 2 is just as impressive. Shooters deliver a thunderous and immersive experience, and I can easily imagine these headphones being used for eSports. When combined with the BoomPro Mic, the Crossfade 2 make for an excellent gaming headset. The added mic is crystal clear and I had no problems communicating with my teammates when playing competitively. Just don’t expect studio-grade quality performance. For a $30 add-on, however, the BoomPro Mic does a commendable job.

Conclusion: The V-MODA Crossfade 2 Wireless headphones are exceptional! It’s a product designed for a niche audience, but if you’re a tech hobbyist or professional who doesn’t mind spending a few extra bucks on luxury features, this model offers a unique mix of personalization options and stunning, audiophile-grade sound.

Final Score: A

.hack//G.U. Last Recode Review

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Mini Review: .hack//G.U. Last Recode is possibly the most unusual HD remake so far. Not many people remember the series and even fewer have ventured through all entries during the Playstation 2 generation. I was a huge JRPG fan during the PS2 era, but the .hack franchise never clicked for me and I only have vague memories of the plot and its characters. Playing the series today is even stranger because despite a content-rich offering, .hack//G.U. Last Recode doesn’t hold up well by today’s gameplay standards. It’s an odd choice considering the countless other games from the same era and genre that would’ve made for a more logical contemporary remake.

With that in mind, .hack//G.U. Last Recode remains an interesting journey from a video game history perspective and pure nostalgia. Looking back at the fake, old in-game OS and the generous amount of extra content hidden within the game world’s web pages is fun, even if the appeal is short lived. .hack//G.U. Last Recode takes place in an in-game MMO world titled The World where your avatar can leave for the real in-game world by accessing the game’s OS via a desktop. After one of your friends is killed in the game and left in a coma in real life, your avatar Haseo sets out to find the powerful player killer (PPK) Tri-Edge.


".hack//G.U. Last Recode is an unnecessarily remaster that provides some satisfying moments of nostalgia, but ultimately fails to feel relevant in 2017."

The plot has some interesting twists and turns, but it’s hard to sit through due to unlikable characters and boring combat. I’ve had more fun reading the in-game news articles and watching the anime video clips from the game’s fake browser than actually playing through the main quests. This is mostly due to the fact that .hack//G.U. is an MMO without any of the MMO appeal. Without social aspects and actual online quests, you’re left with a bland world that’s best left in the past.

Visually, .hack//G.U. Last Recode looks crisp and sharp, but the lack of improved textures and poor art direction don’t exactly result in eye candy. Most environments are vast open empty spaces with very rigid layouts and little room for genuine exploration. After playing the excellent Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age not too long ago, I find it hard to connect with .hack//G.U. Last Recode’s uninspired universe. Out of all the HD remakes this generation, this is the most unimpressive remaster.

In Short: .hack//G.U. Last Recode is an unnecessarily remaster that provides some satisfying moments of nostalgia, but ultimately fails to feel relevant in 2017. The Playstation 2 was brimming with brilliant JRPGs that were vastly superior to the .hack series, so it’s disappointing to see so much effort went into a project no one really asked for. For the few .hack fans out there, this is going to be a no-brainer since the entire trilogy and its special features are bundled together, but for everyone else, there’s literally hundreds of better adventures waiting to be played. 

Final Score: 6

Sennheiser GSP 350 Review

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Testing the Sennheiser GSP 350 served as a great reminder to never judge a product by its packaging. The unremarkable exterior hides some truly remarkable tech. The design is old-fashioned and the headset looks ugly compared to most contemporary gaming peripherals, but the audio performance completely obliterates competing headsets in this price range. Retailing at $139.95, I expected sound quality in the same ballpark as the Sound BlasterX H7 or the HyperX CloudX Pro—two headsets I genuinely enjoyed when I reviewed them a while ago. However, the Sennheiser GSP 350 is in another league of its own compared to these models, and the stark contrast between how the GSP 350 looks and sounds is almost comical.

Audio gear manufacturers have really stepped up their game when it comes to build quality over the last few years, including Sennheiser’s very own product lineup, so I was somewhat surprised to unbox the GSP 350 and find a product that looks stuck in time. Reminiscent of gaming gear from the mid 2000’s, the GSP 350 makes an unusual first impression. Completely wrapped in plastic, the headset feels cheap and unimpressive. The general construction is sturdy and the headset can handle plenty intense gaming sessions, but don’t expect premium materials just because the device carries Sennheiser’s logo. It also doesn’t help that the mic is a hideous monstrosity that can’t be detached, but more on that later.


"Ok, so looks aren’t a priority here, but don’t make the mistake and assume the interior complements the exterior. The GSP 350 is a beast!"

Thankfully, the GSP 350 is irresistibly cozy and light, and I can easily game for hours without experiencing any heat generation or discomfort. The leathery earcups are large and conveniently frame my ears. There is enough breathing room between the drivers and my ears when wearing the headset, and I appreciate the matte surface that keeps the headset looking clean.

Ok, so looks aren’t a priority here, but don’t make the mistake and assume the interior complements the exterior. The GSP 350 is a beast! It’s like a muscle car that roars with its thunderous drivers as soon as you turn up the volume. I can’t remember the last time I was so pleasantly shocked by a product!


"The spatial audio positioning is excellent here, and there is no doubt that competitive gamers will benefit greatly from using the Dolby feature."

My first match in Titanfall 2 felt exhilarating. Explosions delivered a satisfying crunch and thud that could be felt in my chest. Best of all, mids remained crisp and sharp no matter how strongly the lows fluctuated. I was especially curious to engage surround sound after testing the phenomenal GSX 1200 Pro, and I couldn’t believe how well the surround tech in the GSP 350 performed in comparison to Sennheiser’s notably pricier amp. The spatial audio positioning is excellent here, and there is no doubt that competitive gamers will benefit greatly from using the Dolby feature.

My major gripe with the sound would have to be the occasionally strong reverb effect. Voices can echo in certain games and it’s a stark contrast to the otherwise clean and accurate audio performance. Thankfully, this is only an occasional annoyance and never really interferes with the gaming experience.


"Sennheiser’s virtual surround sound tech continues to dominate the industry, and the excellent performance makes it an extremely attractive option at only $139.95."

The massive mic, while certainly an eye sore, also works exceptionally well. Chatting with my fellow gamers was crisp and clear with very little background noise. I wish there was a way to detach the mic when not in use, because it’s huge and looks ridiculous when tilted to the side.

To get the headset’s full functionality, you’ll need Sennheiser’s software that lets users personalize their setup. Equalizer, Noise Reduction and Sidetone are the only external functions, whereas the Dolby feature can be activated via the GSP 350’s dongle. The Equalizer presets aren’t very useful as they severely skew the frequencies, especially the awful Esports setting. The best results are achieved with all EQ presets set to off.   

Conclusion: If you can get past the headset’s questionable aesthetics, the Sennheiser GSP 350 is an excellent choice for competitive gaming. Sennheiser’s virtual surround sound tech continues to dominate the industry, and the excellent performance makes it an extremely attractive option at only $139.95. 

Final Score: B+

Call of Duty WWII Review

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Reviewed on: Playstation 4 Pro | Developer: Sledgehammer Games | Publisher: Activision | Retail Price: $59.99 | Final Score: 8.5

Review Note: Call of Duty WWII was reviewed using a retail PS4 copy provided by Activision, and it was played on the Playstation 4 Pro model. 

I think it’s fair to say that Call of Duty is one of the most divisive franchises among gaming communities today. While the series is responsible for shaping major FPS mechanics we see in contemporary shooters, the lack of innovation during the last generation split the fanbase right down the middle. One part of the gaming community started swarming Metacritic’s user review section with scorn, meanwhile the other half continued embracing every annual release.

It’s been fourteen years and fourteen main Call of Duty entries across more than ten different platforms, including mobile. Ensuring a franchise feels fresh for such a long time is no easy task, and Activision deserves credit for keeping the series alive and pertinent through so many generations.

Developers Treyarch, Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer have all been tasked with the impossible over the years, namely keeping old fans happy while branching out toward new players. I too have felt disappointment with COD’s stagnancy, but I am happy to report that the fourteenth installment takes a major turn away from jetpacks and robots toward more grounded infantry combat reminiscent of the early COD titles. Call of Duty WWII is undoubtedly the best COD in a long time, and while it’s far from perfect and introduces a host of new issues (loot boxes and a crappy social hub), it also brings back some of the long lost spark.


"Call of Duty WWII is undoubtedly the best COD in a long time, and while it’s far from perfect and introduces a host of new issues (loot boxes and a crappy social hub), it also brings back some of the long lost spark."

Call of Duty WWII once again boasts three major modes: Campaign, Multiplayer and Zombies. When it comes to value, COD remains jam packed with content that’s presented with pristine polish. Like last year’s entry, the single player portion is stronger than anything COD has delivered in recent memory. Brett Robbins of Dead Space and Dennis Adams have done an admirable job in creating a B-Movie style campaign that injects personality into the characters and script.

There’s an honest attempt at focused storytelling and character dynamics. The war itself isn’t the center point here, rather the friendships and personal conflicts between American soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division. Solid voice acting and impressive visuals help gravitate the narrative toward an enjoyable journey that’s worth a handful of trips. Brett Zimmerman, Jonathan Tucker and Josh Duhamel offer some of the best performances the series has seen so far.

The plot is more focused and boasts much better pacing, but the general campaign is still a giant on-rails shooting carnival. Gameplay remains heavily directed with little opportunity for venturing beyond the mission borders. Thankfully, the level designs are fantastic, and the addition of solid stealth segments helps break up the constant barrage of explosions and gunfire.


"Rank progression and rewards are handed out liberally, and I’ve never felt like I’ve hit a grind when leveling up."

The Call of Duty WWII Zombies is possibly the best iteration of this bonus mode to date. The setting is a vastly expanding city that hosts layers upon layers of hidden pathways and other unexpected surprises. I have personally never enjoyed the Zombies mode that much, but I was completely hooked this time around. The general mechanics haven’t changed, but everything has been refined and broadened resulting in an immensely satisfying distraction between main multiplayer matches.

This year’s Multiplayer mode is a throwback to the series’ classic entries. Verticality has been reduced to only a handful of carefully positioned areas around the map, and you’ll find yourself gunning on the ground most of the time. This franchise semi-refresh tosses the lazer-tag style shooting of COD’s futuristic entries and takes several steps back towards slower, more strategic PVP combat.

The Multiplayer is loaded with diversely designed maps that keep the pace exciting. The create-a-class system has been replaced with Infantry, Airborne, Armored, Mountain and Expeditionary divisions that boast unique characteristics and weapon types. Rank progression and rewards are handed out liberally, and I’ve never felt like I’ve hit a grind when leveling up.


"Call of Duty WWII is a visual powerhouse thanks to a new engine that rarely breaks a sweat under pressure. I played the game on our PS4 Pro with exceptional performance results."

The amount of modes is equally generous. There’s a combination of classic capture-the-flag and team deathmatch offerings to a more "narrative-driven" mode titled War. While the mode itself isn’t unique (it’s basically a series of different objectives), it’s the way the mode is structured and presented that makes it an absolute standout. Each match begins with a cinematic to get you pumped for the action, and depending on the map, you engage in a series of offensive and defensive tasks that include blowing up tanks, storming the Beach of Normandy, planting explosives on enemy weaponry, and so on. The best part is, the K/D ratio doesn’t really matter here. It’s all about teamwork and sticking to the objectives. Think of it as a small scale version of what Battlefield has to offer. It’s excellent!

But there are a few minor annoyances with the multiplayer. Between matches, you can walk around in a Destiny-style social hub that’s located right on the Beach of Normandy. This place is so bizarre as it feels like a giant DLC kiosk. Everywhere you turn, loot boxes drop from the sky while you're surrounded by barb wire and trenches. I’m not sure whether the developers have stepped back and analyzed the scenario from an ethical perspective, but the whole lootbox beach hub combo should be nixed for all future entries.

Call of Duty WWII is a visual powerhouse thanks to a new engine that rarely breaks a sweat under pressure. I played the game on our PS4 Pro with exceptional performance results. The dynamic resolution goes up to 2880×1660 with HDR and remains a relatively locked 60fps. Drops are rare and only happen during the most intense moments. In my 20+ hours of gaming, I only encountered two small 20fps drops, but that was it. It’s a great looking title that boasts immensely detailed environments and superb special effects.

Conclusion: Call of Duty WWII is a welcome return to classic COD. The game feels both fresh and familiar in the best way possible. I despise the new lootbox system, but to be fair, it has never interfered with my overall enjoyment of the game. The shooting mechanics are exhilarating, the visuals are top notch and there’s enough continent here to keep players busy for a long time. COD, it’s good to have you back!

Final Score: 8.5

Sennheiser GSX 1200 PRO Audio Amplifier Review

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Virtual surround sound can be a real hit or miss experience depending on the audio engineering and device, and it’s easy to get lost trying to find the right gear when the offerings are so confusing. I personally enjoy a high-quality 5.1 or 7.1 headset/amp setup when gaming competitively, but outside of multiplayer-specific scenarios, the audio frequency breakdown when using virtual surround sound doesn’t translate well across other media. Even when playing titles that specifically benefit from virtual surround sound, I’ve never been able to enjoy the sound design in its fullest because there’s always a channel or two that performs poorly as the audio drivers try to emulate depth and distance.

All of this changed when I tried the phenomenal Sennheiser GSX 1200 PRO Audio Amplifier—one of the most impressive audio devices I’ve tested in a long time. The GSX 1200 PRO is an eSports oriented amp that boasts one of the best, if not the best, virtual 7.1 surround sound implementations I’ve ever experienced. Sennheiser’s audio engineering is transformative, and the near flawless audio spatial positioning is just one of its many useful features.


"The GSX 1200 PRO is an eSports oriented amp that boasts one of the best, if not the best, virtual 7.1 surround sound implementations I’ve ever experienced."

The Sennheiser GSX 1200 PRO Audio Amplifier retails for $249.95 and it can fit in the palm of your hand. The amp is designed with portability in mind, and it takes mere seconds to set up and get going. Aesthetically, the GSX 1200 PRO looks stunning. The modern and minimalist design approach serves as a real treat when displayed on a work/gaming desk, and I absolutely adore the smartly designed touch screen that lights up the device info in one place.

The back panel is a hub for all the connectors, including a mini USB port, speaker and headphone jacks, as well as Chat-link 2.3 mm A & B connectors that allow you to cascade up to 8 GSX 1200 PRO units. There are no external drivers or firmware updates necessary as everything that’s needed comes packaged in the device itself and is ready for use.

For my review setup, I connected a pair of Audioengine HD3 speakers for regular stereo performance testing and the Audio Technica ATH-M70x monitor headphones for everything else. All sound settings are accessed via the practical Display & Touch control panel that also serves as a volume dial. There are six main features that individually offer three levels of adjustments: headphones and speakers switch, equalizer settings, surround amplification positioning, stereo vs surround toggle, sidetone level adjustment and three levels of reverb.


"The GSX 1200 PRO performance has left me speechless. Imagine seeing an OLED display with HDR capabilities for the first time in your life. It changes your experience, it changes your expectations, it changes everything. The GSX 1200 PRO has such an effect, but with audio!"

The best part about the GSX 1200 PRO is the device’s fantastic out-of-box performance. The audio is exceptional both with EQ enhancements turned on and off. There is no need for advanced frequency tweaks as the GSX 1200 PRO delivers perfectly calibrated channels. It’s also worth noting that the EQ presets work surprisingly well. Music, Story and eSports are individual presets that emphasize certain channels depending on your media. I find the Music EQ preset to work especially well across all media as it provides a very clean balance between crisp mids and deep lows.

The Reverb and Surround Amplification settings are more of a luxury than a necessity. Increasing reverb has some pleasing effects that add immersion in certain open world titles, but its shortcoming (echoey sound) are evident as soon as you find yourself in narrow environments—so it’s best when left on Neutral. Surround Amplification lets you choose between increased virtual front speakers, increased virtual back speakers or balanced. Aside from a vew experimental scenarios, I’ve found little use for directional amplification and opted for the balanced setting for the remainder of my testing.


"Every crunch of gravel, every ricocheting bullet, every sigh and every growl during an intense online match is heard with laser-sharp clarity and an equally impressive bass punch."

The GSX 1200 PRO performance has left me speechless. Imagine seeing an OLED display with HDR capabilities for the first time in your life. It changes your experience, it changes your expectations, it changes everything. The GSX 1200 PRO has such an effect, but instead of delivering an enhanced visual fidelity, it provides an evolutionary step in audio engineering!

The first game in queue is Dirty Bomb. This multiplayer shooter serves as the perfect testing ground for surround sound due to its energetic and enveloping audio design. The constant barrage of explosions and air strikes can be tough to pinpoint when using stereo, but with the GSX 1200 PRO, I am not only able to identify the precise direction of incoming attacks, I’m actually able to hear their exact distance. This is the kind of thing you see advertised across every audio product that carries the 7.1 surround label, but Sennheiser’s GSX 1200 PRO genuinely delivers on that promise. The surround sound accuracy here is nothing short of a miracle. My match performance in Dirty Bomb improved significantly over the past few weeks of playing with the amp as I felt more “present” in the game’s world.

Superb accuracy aside, the GSX 1200 PRO‘s frequency channels with surround mode turned on remain flawlessly balanced regardless of what is happening in the environment. Every crunch of gravel, every ricocheting bullet, every sigh and every growl during an intense online match is heard with laser-sharp clarity and an equally impressive bass punch. The sound is such a colossal improvement in virtual surround technology that going back to my current gear, including my favorite devices, is utterly jarring.

After being completely blown away by the immersive surround sound experience in Dirty Bomb, I moved on to something subtler, namely horror games. Amnesia and Outlast are two titles that I’ve beaten numerous times, but journeying through the same worlds with the GSX 1200 PRO is worth a dozen journeys more. The atmospheric and orchestral sound of both titles reaches new depths when 7.1 is engaged. The first time you hear the distant shrills of mental patients in Outlast is outright chilling. The improved sound has made stealth segments in both titles much more immersive. The way the character’s breath sounds like it’s coming from my own mouth as I try to remain hidden in a closet is both a terrifying and ecstatic experience.


"Amnesia and Outlast are two titles that I’ve beaten numerous times, but journeying through the same worlds with the GSX 1200 PRO is worth a dozen journeys more."

Continuing down my Steam library, I threw countless titles at the amp for further testing, but one of the most notable highlights was Project Cars 2. The Cars’ roaring engines are simply outstanding with Sennheiser’s surround engineering. You can feel the engine’s gut punch as you take corners at lightning fast speeds.

Even with all the settings at your fingerprints, there’s an added function for saving individual presets for even faster mode switching. Each corner of the device has four thin stripes that serve as memory storage slots. Settings are simply changed by touching the corresponding corner after making your changes, and the settings are registered onto the device automatically.


"The Sennheiser GSX 1200 PRO Audio Amplifier is easily one of the best AMPs currently available for gamers."

After weeks of drooling over the surround mode, I switched over to stereo testing with equally satisfying results. Switching to my external speaker system with stereo engaged is as simple as touching the corresponding menu controls on the touch pad. No need to access any menus or re-plug any chords, everything is controlled via Sennheiser’s practical audio hub. The music performance on the GSX 1200 PRO reaches audiophile levels. Again, the out-of-box performance is unmatched, and there’s no need for separate channel tweaks. The simple EQ presets are more than enough to get the kind of results you want, and I applaud the designers for adding so much emphasis on the user experience.

Conclusion: The Sennheiser GSX 1200 PRO Audio Amplifier is easily one of the best AMPs currently available for gamers. The audiophile performance across both stereo and virtual surround sound modes is outstanding. Even though two hundred fifty bucks isn’t considered cheap, the GSX 1200 PRO is a great value given the technological leap it provides to virtual surround sound in gaming.   

Final Score: A+

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing Blu-ray Collections 1 & 2 Review

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If you’re a 90’s kid, there’s a good chance that the Gundam anime was a big part of your childhood. The franchise’s cultural and commercial impact was inescapable at the time, and it continues to stretch to this day with new Gundam-related products being released every single year. 2017 is looking particularly exciting for Gundam fans. Not only is there an excellent new game on PS4, Mobile Suit Gundam Wing is getting a Blu-ray release for the first time in the US.

Today, we are looking at the quality of both upcoming collections released by Right Stuf, and how well the show holds up after all these years. As with most of our recent anime reviews, we now largely focus on the technical aspects of the release to determine overall quality. Especially when it comes to re-releases of popular franchises, going into narrative specifics is best reserved for independent discussions. Gundam Wing’s plot has been dissected in more detail than I’ll ever be able to summarize, so instead, I want to see how much the move to Blu-ray  impacts the experience.


Overview & Highlights:
Mobile Suit Gundam Wing Collection 1 and Collection 2 will release on Nov 7, and the pre-orders are now live on the RightStuf site, as well as Amazon. Prices are currently reduced and sit between $42.89 (Amazon) and $48.74 (Right Stuf). Considering that the base price is $74.99 per set outside the sale, this is a superb value! Each collection ships with 4 discs, and both collections equal to a whopping 1225 Minutes (or 20.4 hrs) of viewing time. 

Both collections display in 1080p at their native 4:3 ratio. Mobile Suit Gundam Wing Collection 1 contains episodes 1-25 and collection 2 has episodes 26-49. Set 1 features clean openings 1 & 2 and a clean ending, while set 2 has clean openings 3 & 4 and a Japanese commercial collection. Both collections have Japanese LPCM Stereo, English LPCM Stereo and English subtitles. The cover flipside has additional art and episode listings for an easier overview.

Image & Audio Quality:
Mobile Suit Gundam Wing originally aired in 1995. Twenty two years is a very long time, but the series’ timeless mecha designs and charismatic artstyle hold up wonderfully, and the Blu-ray version delivers impressive benefits for both longtime fans and anyone who’s been curious about Gundam’s 90’s era. The 4:3 ratio is an undeniable distraction for video purists, but thankfully, the near-flawless transfer quality gives the series new life.


"Noise and artifacts are reduced to a minimum here, and it’s nice to see that none of the clean up work has affected the organic nature of the hand-drawn linework."

Colors are rich and vibrant with inky blacks giving outer space scenes a great sense of depth and visual pop. The animation doesn’t hold up particularly well in 2017, but it’s important to remember how quickly these episodes were animated back in the 90’s. The necessity for shortcuts is particularly evident in action scenes that shift to outer space and are void of much environmental detail, basically the majority of the second half.

Noise and artifacts are reduced to a minimum here, and it’s nice to see that none of the clean up work has affected the organic nature of the hand-drawn linework. The move to HD is an unquestionable improvement in presentation that genuinely improves the experience.


"Twenty two years is a very long time, but the series’ timeless mecha designs and charismatic artstyle hold up wonderfully."

The audio is a little tricky here because US dubbing in the 90’s was pretty disastrous, and while the Blu-ray release of Gundam Wing introduces much cleaner-sounding voices, the poor English dialogue is still difficult to stomach. The Japanese voice acting is on another level, and it completely transforms the show into something much more engaging. The LPCM Stereo is crisp and clear, and watching the show with a modern sound system is a colossal improvement over the crappy CRT TV most of us grew up with over two decades ago.

Extras:
Both collections are slim on extras. Aside from clean openings and closings, the only other extra feature is a collection of Japanese commercials on the second set. I’m surprised there aren’t any interviews or art galleries as it would have made both collections a more complete package.

Conclusion: The two Mobile Suit Gundam Wing collections on Blu-ray are the most enjoyable way to experience the series, whether you’re a fan or newcomer. The Blu-ray quality is excellent, albeit conservative on extras, and it’s currently being sold at an unbeatable price!


"The two Mobile Suit Gundam Wing collections on Blu-ray are the most enjoyable way to experience the series, whether you’re a fan or newcomer."

I know that everyone has their favorite Gundam series entry, but I think it’s fair to say that Gundam Wing is the perfect blend between the Yoshiyuki Tomino’s original 80’s masterpiece and the newer-generation Gundam 00. The important thing here is to keep your expectations in check. The show’s age is immediately apparent, but its charisma and style remains timeless.

From a purely technical perspective, both collections are a wonderful addition to Right Stuf’s impressive anime lineup. I wish there were more extras for longtime fans like myself, but it’s still nice to have a focused and impressively remastered collection of one of the most influential anime series in the world. Just make sure you stick with the Japanese dialogue because the English voice acting is far worse than I remember it.

Final Score: A-

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