ASUSTeK, a company synonymous with various computer parts, has dived into the gaming end of things with their Republic of Gamers products. The line consists of desktops, notebooks, and computer accessories. One such accessory that was sent to me recently was a gaming headset, the Orion PRO. Generally ASUS computer components are quality, but would that hold true in the world of gaming headsets?
When I first picked up the Orion PRO, it was noticeably light. It’s constructed mostly of hard plastic, though there are a few exceptions. First off, the headband mechanisms are composed of metal, most likely aluminum, which also have a black plastic backing on the underside. More metal can be found lower down on each of the sides of the ear cups, with the Republic of Gamers logo emblazoned in silver. Internally there are 50mm neodymium magnets driving the sound. For comfort, the ear cups and headband have a sort of squishy foam padding of sorts. Outside of the ear cup on the left side is a retractable microphone with a flexible boom.
Lower down on the headset is an extremely long, bordering on absurd, 8ft+ braided cable. The cable isn’t removable and has a small clippable in-line switch for volume and microphone muting. Thankfully, ASUS decided to include a rubber cord management accessory that allows you to bind the extra cord up in a neat looking package with the ROG logo on the front. It didn’t seem to be enough to wrap the entirety of the cable, but it shortened the length considerably. At the end of the cord are two 2.5mm plugs, one for the speakers and the other for the microphone. Special to the Orion PRO, however, is a USB dongle referred to as the Spitfire. This has two ports for the plugs and converts the signal to digital. This Spitfire device also has three presets: one for amplification, another for virtual surround sound, and the last for EQ optimization for gaming.
It was time to plug in the headset and give it a spin. I plugged it into one of my front USB 2.0 ports on my Windows 7 Ultimate computer and allowed it to install the necessary driver. ASUS mentions that these headsets require no additional drivers to install, thus eliminating the need to dig out a CD from the box. Unfortunately things didn’t go so smoothly at first: Windows reported that it wasn’t installed properly. Stumped, I took a look at the Hardware Manager to see if it was listed. Indeed it was, but it simply stated the device couldn’t start. On a hunch, I unplugged the device, then plugged it back in. This worked, and soon the headset was fully functional. For those worrying, this seemed to be a rare occurrence considering the fact I had none of these issues on my laptop or other computers around the house. Plugging in the 2.5mm ends on their own also work just as well with audio playing and recording once the appropriate settings were put in place via Windows.
Although this is a gaming headset primarily, I decided to first try them out with a bit of music. Firing up Adele’s “Skyfall”, I was enjoying what I was hearing, but as soon as the main chorus hit, suddenly the sound dipped. Going back to the exact section to make sure I hadn’t misheard, I listened again with the same result. Disappointed, I tried another program expecting it to be a fluke, but once again was denied. Suspicious of the Spitfire device, I unplugged it and used a direct connection with the 2.5mm plugs and tried the song again. Amazingly, the audio dip wasn’t there this time. While I wasn’t sure what to do with that information, eventually I gave it to a representative at ASUS. After asking around, it was discovered that it’s a feature that kicks in if you have your Windows volume above 60%. Indeed, my desktop noted it was at 100% while the volume knob on my desk speaker control displayed minimal levels. Once I took the time to adjust the volume down below 60% and plugged the Spitfire back in, the song, or anything else for that matter, had no more dips. This is something to be aware of if you have a similar setup to the one used to test these headsets.
Minor issues with music aside, it was time to get to the real meat and potatoes of the headset: gaming. Firing up Battlefield 3 and toggling all three of the buttons that light up on the Spitfire, I was ready. Although I was dispatched fairly quickly spawning in, I had a huge smile on my face. These headsets made the game much more enjoyable. Bullets would whiz past my head and explosions had a decent punch behind them. With the FPS and Surround option on, it gave me an even greater feeling of immersion.
After about an hour or so, I decided to turn off all the functions. Although I lost my surround sound, amplification, and EQ setting, I found it more than acceptable. Highs were intelligible and the lows throbbed, especially after grenades. On the downside, I found the mids a bit muddy sounding, though because of the action happening, it didn’t bother me too much. After gaming for at least a few hours, I decided to take a break, and noticed the headset wasn’t bothering my head or ears at all. Quite a refreshing experience compared to previous encounters with my PC headsets.
Even with many useful features, the Orion PRO isn’t without drawbacks. First off, the Spitfire can get fairly warm to the touch. It’s not at the point of making one yelp out loud from merely brushing it, but it is noticeable. Another downside is the fact the there are no ear adjustments, so users will be relying on the band for the fit to the head. Lastly, the style may not be everyone’s cup of tea. The matte black plastic with ASUS logos stamped don’t lend well to aesthetics, however the metal mesh on the side of the ear cups along with red ring do.
If you’re looking for a budget pair of headsets, the ASUS Orion PRO isn’t it, considering its $130 (currently $109.99 on Amazon) price tag. However, if you’re looking for a decent pair that has the versatility to connect with both USB and analog plugs, this is a decent option. That, combined with the capable audio paired with a few fun settings, makes this easy to recommend. Just be aware of the 60% and above sound limiter and you’ll be good to go.
Full disclaimer: ASUS provided a copy of this headset for review purposes.