LucidSound LS-30 Universal Gaming Headset Review
LucidSound are a brand new company with a mission statement that includes the line ‘providing gamers with the ultimate experience in sound by creating high-end audio products.’
The ultimate experience. Sounds pretty uppity from a new company until you understand the pedigree of the people behind the name. LucidSound founders Chris Von Huben and Aaron Smith have serious audio form. Von Huben founded Tritton, and Smith was that company’s Project Manager and Developer. Tritton, if you are unaware, make some of the best high-end gaming headsets around, used by pro teams and serious streamers the world over.
With such a pedigree suddenly that promise of ‘the ultimate experience’ sounds a little less like an empty boast and more like quiet confidence.
We’re taking a look at the company’s first product, the LucidSound LS-30 Wireless Universal Gaming Headset. At Xbox One UK we are passionate about the contact points between ourselves sand our games – the things we touch, the things we see, and the things we hear. We are especially tough on gaming headsets. We have the privilege of trying out a lot of these, and if we’re going to be spending significant amounts of time with some contraption clamped to our heads, it had better be good.
The LS-30’s spec list is relatively understated: 50mm drivers, 2.4 GHz wireless tech, three EQ modes all sound pretty standard fare. But, as we found out, LucidSound have prioritised quality over quantity.
We took delivery of the LS-30 a couple of weeks ago – you can check out our unboxing video below.
The very first thing that struck us was how elegant the LS-30 is. Elegant is not a word we apply to many gaming headsets – in fact this might be a first for us. There’s no doubt, though, that this headset is a million miles from the garish colours and screaming neon LEDs that adorn many a gaming headset. And, in our considered opinion, it’s all the better for it. This is a grown up headset, for grown ups.
The glossy images that adorn the (gloriously premium) packaging show the clean lines of the LS-30, but open the box and you’ll find that the pictures just don’t do the product justice. Lightweight but reassuringly solid, every surface longs to be touched. This is a premium headset with premium materials and rock solid build quality. The word that springs to mind is sleek. If it were a sportscar, we’d be looking an Aston Martin, all smooth lines and class, rather than a Lamborghini that’s all angles and ugly vents.
From the aluminium skeleton that emerges from beneath the headband to artfully encircle each ear cup, to the memory foam and pleather ear cushions, to the quilted padding and the understated LucidSound logos, the LS-30 doesn’t so much scream quality as sidle up to you, cough politely, and wait for you to notice.
Put on the LS-30 and it continues to impress. There’s significant spring in the headband, and generous length adjustment, to accommodate a wide range of head shapes and sizes. They stay firmly in place through even the most animated session, too, without ever feeling tight; despite contorting ourselves into all manner of unnatural positions during lengthy FRU sessions (which can get rather sweaty if you’re not accustomed to such physical activity!) we never once felt the LS-30 slip. The over-ear design and pleather ear cushions eliminate unwanted background noise, and the memory foam padding moulds to the shape of your head – however weird that might be – and provides an exceedingly comfortable fit. Pleather has a tendency to inflict hot-ear syndrome but even in the unexpectedly warm summer us Brits are experiencing right now the LS-30 was never an uncomfortably warm wear.
The LS-30 boasts amplified stereo sound, but rather then the compressed sound offered as standard via the console’s link with the controller (as used in, for example, the official Xbox One Stereo Headset) the LS-30 offers uncompressed stereo audio delivered wirelessly over the 2.4 GHz wireless range. The LS-30 ships with a USB wireless dongle which draws power from a USB port (either on the console or from another source) and connects to the console’s digital optical out (S/PDIF ). Once connected – and you’ve delved into settings to make sure your console is outputting uncompressed stereo rather than Dolby Digital or DTS surround sound – you are ready to go.
Given the premium price of this headset, we were initially sceptical when we discovered the LS-30 was ‘only’ a stereo headset. But we were blown away by the sound quality on offer. The 50mm speakers in each ear cup deliver a dynamic sound across the full – and remarkably broad – frequency range. Bass is deep without booming whilst highs remain crystal clear without distortion. The EQ has three settings – Normal, Treble Boost and Bass Boost. Bass was a little too thumpy for our taste but still delivered clarity at the other end of the scale, but we happily switched between the other two modes without complaint through our thirty-plus hours of testing.
The LS-30 delivers a unified stereo sound field; stereo separation is clear without ever feeling disconnected. The sound is completely immersive. What we lost in the precise positioning of a virtual surround field was more than compensated for by range and clarity. The beautiful, subtle soundscape employed in PlayDead’s Inside was reproduced perfectly, adding a new level of intimacy to an already deeply personal gameplay experience, and the sharp, staccato barking of the attack dogs was leant new terror, causing an involuntary flinch even though we knew it was coming.
Taking to the Iron Banner in Destiny proved the LS-30 has some serious chops when it comes to delivering a more bombastic audio performance. If you’re a pro player looking for every tiny edge then – in this environment – you might prefer a virtual surround headset. But for mere mortals, lengthy PvP sessions in Destiny and Halo 5: Guardians were an absolute delight. There’s a richness to the sound that envelopes you and puts you at the heart of the action.
The PvP experience, in particular, is enhanced by the LS-30’s chat capabilities. A standard four-pole 3.5 mm audio cable (supplied) connects the headset to the controller (a second gen controller with a 3.5mm audio port, or an older controller using a chat pad or stereo headset adapter), and a highly flexible, removable boom mic extends from the left ear cup. Chat from friends is clear and well balanced, while your own dulcet tones are clear for your team mates. Friends did report that I sounded a little quieter than normal – I am relatively soft spoken anyway – but I discovered the mic can be positioned more closely to my mouth than on other headsets, without any saliva pops or heavy breathing being picked up. Built in mic monitoring is also really useful, too, preventing those exciting exchanges in late-night sessions waking the whole house
All in all, the LS-30 delivers one of the very best audio experiences of any gaming headset, and is far and away the best sounding stereo gaming headset we have ever tested.
This excellence extends to the thought behind the design, too. Adjusting audio in the heat of battle has never been easier than with the LS-30. The outer wheel on each ear cup is a volume rotary control – left ear cup for game volume and right ear cup for chat volume. Similarly, a tap of the left ear cup centre portion mutes and unmutes the game audio, while the same action on the right does the same for your chat. Each tap is accompanied by a falling or rising tone to indicate a mute or unmute, whilst a tiny LED on the tip of the boom mice is an extra visual indicator that your voice chat is muted. It is a beautifully elegant – there’s that word again – design, that works flawlessly.
The rest of the controls are more standard – the left ear cup houses the power/pairing button, the micro USB charging port, and the connector for the boom mic. The right ear cup houses the EQ button, repeated presses of which cycle through the three modes (with a helpful audio cue to indicate which mode you are in).
The LS-30 offers considerable flexibility. Just as happy with a PlayStation 3 or 4, or an Xbox 360, it’s also a great passive headset for when you’re on the move. Removing the boom mic activates the hidden internal mic so the LS-30 is perfectly happy on your morning commute, taking calls or listening to music (LucidSound even include a little rubber bung to protect the boom mic socket when you’re out and a bout, a quality touch). A tap of the left ear cup will answer or end a call if you’re plugged into your phone. Sound quality in passive mode is also hugely impressive – Lianne La Havas Unstoppable transported us straight to her recording studio, While Shed Seven’s Wired for Sound was reproduced perfectly, right down to the squelchy distortion. The understated design doesn’t make you look like a reject from a rave, either.
It’s not all perfect. The USB base station and optical cable combo isn’t quite as elegant as the rest of the package. It’s a bit of a squeeze if you choose to plug the base station directly into the rear port of the console – particularly if you have a Kinect connected. The supplied optical cable enters the side of the base station and when everything is assembled it’s a bit of a tight fit.
However, the base station does work flawlessly when connected to a USB hub – here’s our current favourite – and as it’s only drawing power from the console, you could even power it separately using any normal USB 5 Amp mains charger.
The optical cable supplied is the ‘springy wire’ type and these always feel a little fragile to us. If you are planning on swapping it out for a beefier cable, bear in mind that the end that plugs into the base station is a mini-Toslink connector, rather than standard.
There’s also no audio pass through – our test rig is normally connected to a display by HDMI for visuals only, and to a surround amp using the optical cable for audio. With no pass through, if we want to use the amp we need to disconnect the optical cable to the base station. Even if there were a pass through, though, we’d still need to delve into settings and change back to one of the surround formats.
Finally, the button on the base station to pair with the headset is the tiny recessed kind that sits behind a pinhole. Handy for preventing accidental presses, but still a bit of a pain.
These are incredibly minor niggles, though; for most people the optical audio port is available (or used for an existing headset) and separating the base station from the console using a USB hub – or powering it separately – mitigates the cable congestion at the rear of the console. And once paired the connection was stable and we didn’t have to reset it throughout testing at all.
With a full charge lasting around 15 hours and charging through the (supplied) micro USB cable (and it’s perfectly possible to play and charge at the same time, though you’ll probably need a longer cable) the LS-30 has no problems handling even the longest gaming sessions.
At an RRP of £129.99, the LS-30 commands a premium price tag for a stereo gaming headset, and in this bracket you might think about stretching your budget a little more and aiming for surround sound. But if sound quality, design, accessibility and comfort matter to you, you need to seriously consider the LucidSound LS-30 Wireless Universal Gaming Headset – it’s a clear step up in every area from any other stereo headset available today.
The LucidSound LS-30 Wireless Universal Gaming Headset retails for £129.99, and is available in the UK through Game, Amazon and Simply Games (we’re not going to recommend a particular retailer, but Simply’s offering the LS-30 for just £99.99 right now) and in the US and elsewhere from a range of retailers.
LucidSound supplied the LS-30 headset for the purposes of this review. Testing was carried out for over 30 hours over the last two weeks, on games including Inside, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Journey (PS4), Halo 5: Guardians, Destiny, FRU, Tumblestone, Forza Horizon 2 and others. We also tested the LS-30 passively with a variety of sources, including an iPhone 5S and a Lumia 950XL.
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