CM Storm Sirus gaming headset hands-on
CM Storm -- Cooler Master's gaming-centric spinoff -- is best known for PC cases, precision mouse-pads, and PC gaming mice with catchy names like "Inferno," and "Sentinel." There's more to PC games than computer towers and input devices however, and CM Storm is ready to try its hand at the personal audio game. Enter the CM Storm Sirus, the outfit's first foray into the world of gaming headsets, available today to the tune of $130. We strapped a pair of these 'muffs to our noggin to give you our honest impressions, ears-on.

CM Storm Sirus headset hands-on

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The first thing we noticed about CM Storm's acoustic earmuffs was their sturdy build: the plastic feels strong, hefty, and durable. Although there isn't much flexibility to speak of in the cans' headband, it didn't creak or strain at our attempts to bend it to our will. The cups themselves offer a limited range of hinged movement, and feel reasonably solid -- but not so much that we'd feel comfortable abusing them for the fun of it. All that hefty plastic does come with a tradeoff however; saddled on our oversized skull, the Sirus headset felt noticeably heavy. The over-ear cups were roomy and comfortable, to be sure, and the padded headband didn't juice our melon sized head, but extended play sessions gave us a bit of a stiff neck.

Out of the box, the Sirus ships with two attachments: a simple dongle with analog plugs and a single USB port, and a dual-USB powered "Tactical Mixing Console" designed to give the user on-the-fly control over front, rear, center, bass, and master channels. To make full use of the Sirus' discrete 5.1 surround sound, we stuck with the Tactical Mixing Console -- a round, hockey-puck like object adorned with a volume knob, backlit setting labels, and mute, microphone, and navigation buttons. After a quick driver installation, this little puck allowed us to tweak the output of all eight drivers (four per ear cup) that make up the Sirus' discrete 5.1 surround sound setup with ease. Sadly, the same can't be said for the software wrapped around the headset's PC drivers. Those expecting an in-depth control board will find a basic sound mixer crippled by a poorly labeled and unintuitive interface. Thankfully, the headset is designed to be controlled primarily from the puck, which suited us just fine.

Used as a standard stereo pair of cans, the CM Storm Sirus certainly toes the mid-range PC headset line, providing rich, full sound -- suitable for listing to music, watching TV, or playing older games. Paired with media that makes full use of the Sirus' discrete 5.1? Whoa. Suddenly, Half-Life 2's start screen is a serene, relaxing experience. When set up properly, the distance and direction of gunshots, footsteps, and harmless crickets become unmistakably clear. Coupled with the noise reducing properties of the cans' swappable leatherette ear cups, we briefly found ourselves forgetting that the massive noise assaulting our eardrums wasn't reaching the headset's microphone. Maybe we didn't need to yell over the gunfire after all.

Overall, the CM Storm Sirus sounded mighty fine, but we found its woofer a little on the weak side. Without cranking the master volume to near max, we had a hard time getting a decent bass response. Still, if you can handle a few extra decibels, the bass, like everything else, is clean, clear, and a pleasure in your ear. The CM Storm Sirus is a more than respectable mid-range entry into the gaming headset market. It may suffer from a mild woofer, poorly designed companion software, and a few extra ounces, but it's hard to argue with good sound and comfy ear cups.

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