The LucidSound LS30 is that rare gaming headset that doesn't suck

Thursday, 15 June 2017, 05:01:14 PM. As a fan of both gaming and headphones, I’ve long been perplexed by the terrible products that come out when the two things are combined into one. Even great companies like Sennheiser, which builds...

As a fan of both gaming and headphones, I’ve long been perplexed by the terrible products that come out when the two things are combined into one. Even great companies like Sennheiser, which builds some of the nicest audiophile-grade cans, seem to turn out awful-sounding gear the moment it’s labeled as intended for gamers. That’s why it’s nice to see an exception to the rule in the $149.99 LucidSound LS30 wireless gaming headset. It’s compatible with the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and legacy consoles, and it can also be used wired with a PC or smartphone.

Now don’t get me wrong, these are not awesome headphones. They were creaking like a pair of arthritic knees the moment I took them out of the box, and their headband can do a very realistic recreation of the squeaky mattress in Mura Masa’s "Bae" (7 seconds into the song, which is so good that I’m embedding it below). The LS30 are made mostly out of plastic, aren’t hugely flexible, and don’t really live up to their maker’s claim of premium build quality. But are they comfortable? Yes!

Once I pop the LS30 on my head, they just sit there and make no impositions. The circular earcup is a little cramped for my non-circular ears, but that makes it feel more snug than confining. By the low standards of gaming headsets — of which I’ve used the best from Razer, Corsair, SteelSeries, and the newest Sennheiser PC 373D — the LucidSound pair is a class leader. Most gaming headphones are unnecessarily bulked up by excessive padding and supposed 7.1 surround sound tech that is rendered meaningless by their poor comfort. The LS30’s aforementioned creaks and so-so construction are non-issues when you actually use the headset, and you can continue doing so for many hours at a time because it’s comfortable and unobtrusive.

If you've been waiting for grown-up gamer gear, the LS30 is a welcome arrival

In terms of looks, the LS30 are also at the top of the gaming pack. They lack the fire-breathing LED illumination and excessive "gamer" signaling that most of their competition tends to offer, and they're better off for it. You’d still recognize them as a gaming set when the detachable boom mic is in use, but that recognition would come from their functionality rather than their garish appearance.

Intended for wireless use with consoles, the LucidSound LS30 integrate volume and mic controls on the outside of each cup. There’s an additional integrated microphone for more discreet voice communication, which I find does a satisfactory job, too.

In spite of LucidSound’s prescription and because of my lack of a console, I used the LS30 primarily for gaming on my PC with a tethered connection. In other words, I deployed it as any regular pair of headphones, and it performed admirably. This is the first gaming headset I’ve heard that is actually pleasant to listen to when just playing back music. Others have freaky frequency anomalies, either making vocals sound alien and sibilant or, more commonly, bloating out the bass for an artificially dramatic effect. The LS30’s tonal balance is well judged, delivering a smooth sound that’s easy to like and, like the headphones’ fit, easy to get along with for marathon gaming sessions.

My gaming experience with the LS30 has been overwhelmingly positive, with my Dota 2 record improving immediately once I started using them. Am I suggesting causation rather than mere correlation? No. But Dota is the sort of game that anchors you to a chair for hours, and it’s more than once that I’ve done something foolish and impatient inside the game because of some external discomfort: either a neglected nearby human yelling at me to stop playing or an ill-fitting pair of cans. The LS30 do nothing exceptional, but they also don’t spoil anything — which, come to think of it, is pretty exceptional for gaming headphones.

Game environments are recreated faithfully, and music and movies don't sound bad either

Positional awareness is a big selling point for gaming cans, which is why we keep hearing about heavily marketed surround sound tech. My view on it is that you just need good headphones with accurate spatial imaging — when the source of footsteps is slightly behind and to the left of you, that’s where you should hear it — and good headphones don’t require special tech to achieve that. The soundstage on the LS30 is nicely extended, doesn’t feel at all claustrophobic, and both in-game sounds and music are well presented in a 360-degree field around the listener’s head.

So the LucidSound LS30 is a reasonably built, comfortable gaming headset, but what makes it distinct is its sound quality. It is good. Not Beoplay H6 good, but for the vast majority of people and uses, it’s plenty good enough. The LS30 recreates game environments faithfully and accurately, and doesn’t spoil the joys of movies and music when you want some diversity. For $149.99, it’s something of a bargain in this overpopulated world of underwhelming gaming headphones. LucidSound is set to soon also launch the $99 LS20 and $199 LS40, so there’ll be a family of these headphones to choose from.

The common preconception about gamers is that they like things complicated and illuminated. Well, the LucidSound LS30 shows that gaming gear can be grown-up and restrained while still checking off the boxes of things that truly matter: comfort, performance, and enjoyment.

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