ASUS ROG Vulcan ANC Headset Review
We've spent a week with the Vulcan ANC as our primary headset, using it for every thing possible from listening to the radio, through movies, VOIP and, of course, gaming.
We can report that the sound quality is fantastic. With 40mm drivers you could expect a slightly tighter frequency response than we are used to from larger drivers, yet the Vulcan ANC was spectacular whether we were listening to soft voices or thumping bass lines. The sweet spot is undoubtedly the midrange, with gunfire, vocals and ambient sounds all being reproduced with crispness and clarity. Indeed the Vulcan ANC is so good that it is one of the rare breed of headsets that can make you hear things you haven't heard before, such is the clarity and space given to every sound. The microphone is equally good, combining excellent placement and focus to ensure that your every utterance is transmitted clearly. As a pure set of headphones it is up there with the very best and with the addition of the good microphone it becomes a very desirable headset.
Comfort is an area we're always keen on and the Vulcan ANC meets the comfort test with complete confidence. Indeed we can't recall a headset being this comfortable to use for hours upon end. It's extremely light and yet has a robustness to the build quality and careful design to allow you to wear it all day if you desire without ever becoming fatigued. We like our ear pieces to fit snuggly for both comfort and passive noise reduction reasons, and the Vulcan nailed this too. There are few things worse than being aware that the top of the ear pieces is pressing hard upon your head and yet the bottom is flapping, but thankfully the Vulcan ANC avoids this issue completely.
As befits a gaming headset designed for LAN parties the Vulcan comes with a very robust carry case and folds down into a compact size. With the microphone being removable you can use them as a pair of headphones when the need arises without having to tolerate your left ear being heavier than the right or having a large microphone sticking out unnecessarily. The removable cable is high quality too, although we'd prefer to see a cloth braid to help with some of the twisting issues we've experienced. Thankfully because it's removable you can swap it out if you wish, but it would have been nicer to not have the need.
The main event is undoubtedly the Active Noise Cancellation that gives the Vulcan ANC its name. You need to be aware that ANC wont stop you being able to hear the person next to you talking, or the television if you're at home, but rather it helps remove the hum that you hear from your system, or an air-con unit. It's not a "make the world silent" switch, but instead it's something that dulls the edges. Unfortunately there is a very steep price to pay and as soon as the ANC is activated the bottom drops out of the sound completely. It's less dubstep and more Motown. The last time we heard something this thin and tinny it was an 80s car stereo. No amount of adjustments with equalisers will remotely give you the lower frequencies back, or indeed bring warmth to the rest of the register. You'd have to be driven completely crazy by ambient humming to even consider turning the ANC on, such is the hefty reduction in sound quality that you experience.
The only other slight niggle we had with the Vulcan ANC is that the height adjustment isn't quite rigid enough. Once on your head they stayed in place perfectly, but when taking them off the ear pieces always slid downwards. A tiny niggle, but if you're taking them on and off regularly it's enough to be worthy of mention.
All in all this is very much a tale of two headsets. Without the Active Noise Cancellation the sound quality is outstanding, some of the best we've heard, and with it turned on it's so thin and tinny that it's sounds like the noise is coming from a box in the next room. In either scenario though it's extraordinarily comfortable, capable of being worn for the whole of a work day without any fatigue or 'hot ear' problems at all. Priced at £80 the Vulcan ANC is excellent enough that you can consider the Active Noise Cancellation to be a free extra, which is probably for the best as it's too detrimental to the sound quality to be used in all but the most extreme circumstances.
So whilst the unique selling point isn't as useful as we'd hope the rest of the ASUS ROG Vulcan ANC Headset is well priced with outstanding audio reproduction and incredible comfort, and thus worthy of our OC3D Gold Award.