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BlizzCon 2009: Hands-on with Creative's World of Warcraft headset

Mike Schramm

When they stopped by the meetup last Thursday before BlizzCon, Creative not only brought along a prototype of their upcoming World of Warcraft headset to show some readers in attendance, but they invited us by their booth at the show to hold it in our hands and see just what those lighted glyphs on the earcups were like. We happily obliged, and as a result, we're also happy to bring you the first look (along with some exclusive prototype photos) at what Creative's new headset will be.

Keep in mind that they're still in the prototype stage right now: Creative's Ryan Schlieper told me that the way it works is that they make a mold and a prototype first (which is what we held -- not a fully working version, but a 1:1 model with the exact weight and size of the final version), and then make 1000 of those in a fully working version to test. If those 1000 work and are right, then they go on to production, and if not, then they go back to the mold and start over again. Schlieper says they're in the prototype stage right now, and once testing is done (including Blizzard's approval), then they'll roll out the final headsets. So how did this prototype look and feel? Hit the galleries below to see pictures both on the floor and of Creative's 3D designs, and check after the break for our very first impressions.

Gallery: Creative World of Warcraft headset | 4 Photos

Gallery: BlizzCon 2009: Creative World of Warcraft headset hands-on | 5 Photos

The headset's pretty heavy and sturdy -- it's meant to sit pretty lightly on your head, relying on its size to keep it in place rather than clamping onto your ears. As you can see, the earcups are large and made to fit around your ears, with memory foam around the outside and a little extra space inside to keep things from suffocating. There are power and mute buttons right on the headset, as well as a port where a USB charger cable can be plugged in -- the wireless version will hold a 10-hour charge (and they're thinking about providing a software warning when the charge is about to run out, maybe even via an ingame World of Warcraft addon).

The most distinguishing feature of the headset is the glyphs on the outside of each earcup -- each one is highlighted with an RGB LED that allows you to light it up from behind, in any combination of colors. The only mode we saw working on the headset was a rainbow cycling mode, but we were told that when the headset actually releases, the software included with it will allow you to cycle any colors you like, hold them solid if you want, and set them to go brighter or dimmer as you wish. Schlieper did say they were considering using the LEDs during gameplay, but given that they're out of your normal field of view as you play with the headset on, that's not super likely. The headset itself comes with two sets of glyphs, with Horde and Alliance logos, and they're planning to sell more sets of logos later on, including possibly classes, other faction logos, or even guild tabard logos. Blizzard apparently made it a point to Creative that the glyphs couldn't be super expensive, but apparently the planned $10 price per pair was low enough to meet approval (by Blizzard, at least, if not fans).

Inside the headphones, the tech certainly sounds impressive: they provide 9.1 surround sound (which is the normal 7.1 THX surround, along with two more speakers for sounds coming above or below the player), and send along all of that sound to the wireless version on uncompressed 2.4 Ghz channels (Schlieper says the tech they're using allows for 30 to 40 different devices on the same wavelength in a room, so this shouldn't interfere with any wireless phones or other wireless devices). We're not clear on how the wireless tech itself works, but Schlieper told us it was second-gen Avirna wireless tech, which you audiophiles will have to deciper for yourselves.

Unfortunately, because the model we saw was only a prototype, we weren't able to give the headset a proper listening test, but at the cheapest estimate of $119, Creative definitely seems to be aiming for the premium gaming accessory market. That's the wired version -- the wireless version will likely run $149. And a collector's edition headset is supposed to go $199, though neither the prices or the contents of the special version are completely firmed up yet. And we were also told that Creative plans to sell a foot pedal separately that works with the headset -- a switch that will activate Vent, for instance.

Looks cool, sounds cool. We'll have to see if Creative's headset lives up to its promise (and the World of Warcraft license) when it releases in November.

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