For gamers sound matters. Graphics and processing power get all the attention but precise audio is vital for those players who play at the top tier. The ability to recreate a game world isn't solely the job of the graphics card, the audio can not only immerse you in the environment, it can give you vital pieces of information which make the difference in getting the frag or waiting to respawn.
Ableplanet focus on hearing products which feature their patent-pending LINX technology. Their technology was developed after years of working with people who suffer from loss of hearing; Ableplanet specialize in hearing aids. From this they managed to identify what happens to these unfortunate soles when their hearing capabilities decrease. One pattern that Ableplanet discovered was that high frequencies are the first to disappear. LINX tries to create high frequency harmonics to enhance these and also aims to create the perception that the sound is louder than it really is. The upshot of this is that you don't have to turn the volume up to 11 quite so often. There's a lot of theory behind LINX but the ultimate test is whether they sound good, and after spending a few months with them, we can say there's no question that the PS500MM headphones are utterly brilliant.
We first came across Ableplanet at this year's CES show in Las Vegas. Although the show floor is hardly a good place to conduct a test of any quality audio product, we only had a few minutes and on they went. Our classically trained musician was impressed with the sound reproduction so we were keen to have a second listening where the background noise was more reasonable. The PS500MM is targeted at "multimedia guru". The inclusion of an attached microphone means that VOIP services are a natural candidate for use.
Ableplanet has dispensed with the patronizing packaging seen by most manufacturers when targeting gamers and instead gone for the basics. That isn't to say the package is lacking, a nice cloth pouch along with a C-Media USB sound dongle is included. The headset itself is well made and certainly feels more robust than the Steelsound 5H we reviewed some years back. However the earpads aren't all that soft and have a rather small radius. It wasn't completely uncomfortable but it you could certainly notice it on your ears more than the 5H.
The microphone on the PS500MM isn't retractable so it's always in front of you. It is bendable but when you just want to listen to music while working on your computer, being able to get rid of the microphone arm is favorable.
The sound quality of the PS500MM is nothing short of exceptional in this price range. Compared to the Steelsound 5H the extra bass gives explosions a depth we had never seen before. With the sound of bullets flying past at the speed of sound and the thud of your boots on the ground as you walk, you suddenly start to develop a greater appreciation of your surroundings. The LINX technology is probably best showcased away from the battlefield. Even low quality MP3s encoded at 128Kbps sound good, if a little on the warm side. The overall sonic reproduction is very comparable to units such as Shure's top of the line E530s which for a unit slated to retail at $99; five times less than the E530s is quite an achievement.
The microphone is distinctly average but that's fine as you aren't going to use this to record an orchestra. The supplied C-Media USB adaptor is pretty old-hat now, a duplicate of what came with the Steelsound many years ago. However it works nicely on both Windows and Mac OS X. The inline volume and microphone control simply do their job.
For gamers Ableplanet's PS500MM is a sound investment. It reproduces the finer details which aid to produce a truly immersive experience. Where the PS500MM really wins is when you use it to listen to your music. Unlike the Steelsound 5H, the PS500MM is a credible pair of headphones for music listening. However, with a microphone sticking out, you probably won't be attaching it to your iPod and walking down the street with it on your ears. The lack of retractable microphone and the slightly small speaker cushioning are the only downsides on an otherwise excellent product. Ableplanet have excellent technology underpinning the PS500MM and given it's pricing it's hard not to recommend.