Roccat’s Kave XTD 5.1 headset offers serious performance, but at a serious size.

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Roccat has long established itself as a brand gamers go to if they are looking for high-performance accessories for PC gaming. Gamers will often associate the brand with its mice, but Roccat is also establishing a name for itself in the headphone department. In 2012 it launched the Kave 5.1 headset, which was well received by critics. Now, it’s looking to follow-up on that success with the Kave XTD 5.1.

Design, portability and connectivity

From a distance the Kave XTD 5.1 looks similar to any high-end gaming headset.  Like the Kave 5.1, it’s also a gaming-focused 5.1 headset but, as we’ll discuss later, there are a number of important technical changes.

The first thing you’ll notice about the Kave XTD 5.1 is that it’s big. This isn’t a bad thing as it’s not trying to be a sports-oriented headset. On your head the headset feels heavy, but it’s not too heavy and definitely comfortable enough for an extended gaming session.  The headset is adjustable, and the plastic band that goes atop your head has eight notches for different head sizes. However despite this adjustability, it still feels uncomfortable to wear the headset while wearing glasses. Granted, this is a problem that plagues all headsets but given the price and the target market of the Kave XTD 5.1 one might expect Roccat to have done something to try and remedy this.

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The headset’s microphone is adjustable and removable. It sits far enough away from your mouth that audio is crisp, and the in-game microphone won’t be triggered by your breathing.

Certainly the most unique feature about the Kave XTD 5.1 is that it has a discrete digital signal processor — a sound card — on board. Users can connect an analogue 5.1 speaker set to the headset’s control dock, which connects to the computer via USB. Unfortunately this integrated sound card limits the headset’s compatibility to Windows; game consoles and Mac are at this time incompatible.

One feature that we could never get working properly is the mobile phone Bluetooth pairing. Roccat advertises that the Kave XTD 5.1 can sync to your mobile phone — that part worked fine — and users can answer a mobile phone call on the headset with the click of a button. Getting the headset to answer the call was a hit-and-miss affair with the feature not working half of the time (for the record we used an Asus Zenfone 5 to test this feature).

Sound quality

Sound quality testing for the Kave XTD 5.1 involved playing through a battery of popular games and watching a number of video files with 5.1 sound. Without expensive professional audio testing equipment, it’s impossible to do anything more scientific.

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Overall the sound quality from the Kave XTD 5.1 is excellent. The audio doesn’t seem to be too compressed  (a common byproduct of cheap speakers in headphones). The frequency response range appears to be quite high, with bass deep and treble crisp. During gameplay the headset’s 5.1 speakers really shine: hearing audio from five different discrete channels adds an immersive experience to gameplay.

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Roccat has a software suite (not included with the headset, but available online) called the Roccat Kave XTD Sound Console that has a variety of features like creating virtual 5.1 audio from a stereo source, in-game voice changing and some equalizer functionality like volume normalization. It would have been nice to have this included with the headset though.

Conclusion

With the Kave XTD 5.1, Roccat has delivered a headset that’s in-line with the rest of its accessories in terms of quality. In an era of video cards requiring massive case real estate, having a discrete audio processor is a nice touch as on-board sound cards are hit-and-miss as far as quality goes

The Kave XTD 5.1 is a worthwhile buy for anyone after a 5.1 gaming headset. The fact that it doesn’t fit over most glasses, and fits a little snugly on bigger heads, is a downside but overall the headset is excellent.

8-0