Review: Corsair Vengeance 2000 wireless 7.1 headphones

Wireless capabilities, built-in microphone, surround sound audio, ten hours of battery life and 50mm audio drivers - just by looking at the box of the Corsair Vengeance 2000 headphones and you already see a good set of features. These are a gaming set of headphones, and PC gaming is something I have recently revisited so it makes for a great little review here.

I'm also someone who hates poor quality audio, and so for my computer system I have always gone for high quality, affordable sound. For games I currently use a set of booming THX-certified Logitech surround sound speakers: the surround sound is great out of them, and the subwoofer is so powerful it vibrates my chest cavity. I am hoping for high quality out of these $150 Corsair headphones, so we'll just have to see.

Specifications

If you are an audiophile you'll surely know what all of the stuff below means. For those who don't, it's good to see the Vengeance 2000 delivering loud audio from large drivers capable of pumping audio both inside and outside of the human hearing range.

  Corsair Vengeance 2000
Headphones 50mm driver
20 Hz - 20 kHz frequency response
105 dB (± 3dB) sensitivity
32 Ω @ 1 kHz impedance
Microphone Unidirectional noise-cancelling condenser mic
100 Hz - 10 kHz frequency response
-37 dB (± 3dB) sensitivity
2.2 kΩ impedance
Wireless 10 hours battery life
12 m (40 ft) range
System Requirements USB Type A port
Windows XP or greater
Internet connection
Price $149.99 RRP

Design and Comfort

As soon as I took the headphones out of the box I noticed they were quite large. Naturally to accommodate 50mm drivers the parts that go around the ears must be large, but these really are huge. The circumaural headphones are made primarily of black and faux-metal plastic, but there are some fabric and leather parts such as the speaker and top band cushions; the microphone stalk is also made of a soft-touch rubber/plastic.

Visually the headphones look really nice, if not a bit flashy for gaming headphones that are probably going to be seen by no-one but yourself. Of the past Corsair products I have reviewed, they seem to really like the black+silver+blue combination, which is used on the Vengeance 2000 again with great effect. On my head they look a tad cumbersome, but at the same time striking and ready for some sort of shooter battle.

The speaker portions are quite movable thanks to two joins that allow horizontal swiveling and some vertical tilting. These joints are attached to a height-adjustable plastic band which gives a maximum extension of 2.7 cm, although personally I found around the set half extended to be the best fit for my head.

Other parts of the Vengeance 2000 are designed for comfort. The speakers are padded with a generous amount of foam, then encased in comforting fabric. The headband receives a similar treatment, with foam padding present on the top and bottom encased in leather-like material. Overall the use of these materials works great as the headset is extremely comfortable to wear - I managed to wear the pair through consecutive films and I basically forgot they were there; no discomfort to speak of.

The microphone is interestingly attached to a stalk that looks to be made of either plastic or rubber, but is actually malleable to the extent that you can move it from side to side and it stays perfectly in position. As well as that capability it is adjustable vertically and it seems to easily find a position that is in-line with my mouth.

Other features of the device are mainly present on the left speaker of the pair. There is a large central button that serves as an on/off switch as well as for connection, and below that is a status light that lets you know if the headphones are indeed connected to the wireless stick. Below all this is a diamond-textured volume control, and to the back of that is the microUSB charging port with a surrounding charging status light.

Wireless Capabilities

Before I head into the audio quality carried by the Corsair Vengeance 2000, I'd like to mention quickly the set-up and wireless capabilities of the headphones. Generally speaking it's as easy as charging the headphones, plugging in the wireless receiver, installing the software and then setting the headphones as the default audio device (if you have more than one).

While sitting at my desk and the USB receiver is less than a meter away I had, naturally, no problems with the wireless reception even when I was using a bunch of 2.4 GHz bandwidth such as microwaving, using my Wi-Fi network and using my Xbox controller (which makes me think it doesn't operate on this band, thankfully). Distance wise there was no problem in any position in my office, although I could only really get around four meters away which should still be plenty for any gaming setup.

The furthest I managed was around 10 meters through at least one wall, with any further losing connection into either broken-up audio or just nothing at all. Corsair claims 12 meters for the unit, and I would tend to agree with this if you can manage to get 12 meters away without any walls.

Battery life is absolutely not a problem with the Vengeance 2000, in fact across this entire review (around a week with the unit) I only had to charge the device once. It easily lasted the stated 10 hours when used at a reasonable volume, and charging isn't a problem as you can charge it via USB and still use it.

Audio Quality

Unfortunately there are no tools currently at my disposal that would allow me to quantitatively measure the audio quality of the headphones, but I'll try my best to measure the sound quality in comparison to some other speakers and headphones I have used. As I mentioned earlier in the review I have a set of high-quality Logitech 5.1 computer speakers (the aging Z-680 set), which delivers 505 watts (RMS) of fantastic, THX-certified sound and this will be my baseline of top-quality sound.

In the Vengeance 2000's software there are a few modes you can set the speakers to use. If you click Bypass it doesn't use the Xear engine to process surround sound (something that is mentioned more in the next section), which I generally found most appropriate for listening to music and other content that does not use more than two channels.

There is also a graphic equalizer that has a number of presets as well as user-adjustable sliders. At the default setting (no adjustment) I thought the headphones were a bit flat, so for the majority of the review I used the Audiophile 1 setting, which I found was the best out of the ones available. You might prefer to fiddle with the equalizer more than I did, so you could get far different results.

While set to Audiophile 1 I was impressed with the quality of the headphones in a number of situations. Anything prominently involving the human voice, such as listening to podcasts, watching TV shows or viewing conversations in video games, the Vengeance 2000 excels brilliantly in this area. Everything seems supremely crisp and very clear, and at times it can really feel as if that person is standing right in the room and you are listening to their voice face to face.

General sound effects I also found to be reproduced extremely well: whether it's the sound of a gun, the roar of a car's engine or the crackling of a fire, the Vengeance headset does a great job. These are a gaming set of headphones, so I was glad to see two main components of video game audio (voice narrating and sound effects) sound great through these large 50mm drivers.

Of course these advantages in game situations also carry through to TV shows and movies, again where I found the audio to be outstanding. I happily watched several movies using the Vengeance 2000 wireless headphones, and surprisingly I didn't feel as if I was missing the great quality of the Logitech speakers I am used to. The headphones just seem to deliver full-bodied audio with crispness where necessary, and that's great considering Corsair is not really known for making audio products.

Another area I was impressed with is the bass the sound drivers can deliver. For everyday viewing I am used to the booming, wall-shaking, earth-cracking, chest-pushing effects of a massive subwoofer, but I really wasn't expecting this here as I knew headphones cannot deliver as much punch as a dedicated 8-inch sub can. That said, when it comes to an explosion like the hospital scene in The Dark Knight, the Vengeance headset delivers impressively - not to the levels of a subwoofer, but much more so than other headsets I have used.

The area that I am not convinced about is when it comes to music playback, but unfortunately I'm having a hard time describing exactly what the problem is. It's not by any means bad, in fact compared to other pairs of headphones music playback is quite good, but it just lacks something that a pair of headphones dedicated to music - in this price range - has. I dare to use the phrase "it lacks musical color" but I'm not sure it's quite that; perhaps it lacks a mere spark that prevents it from being great in this area.

In fact if the Vengeance 2000 was superb at producing music-type audio I would say it is great in pretty much all areas, but it is let down just a tiny bit in this area. Again, I can't for the life of me describe what the issue is, but at least for me it's there and that's why I prefer to use my external speakers to enjoy music.

However in every other area I am happy to say the audio quality of the Vengeance 2000 headphones is great, and anyone that purchases this set will be extremely happy with the quality produced. These headphones are designed for gaming, not music, so I can forgive a very slight slip in that area as certainly the performance in-game is outstanding.

Also worthy of a quick mention is the microphone, which is reasonable quality and should present no problem for those people wanting to engage in voice chat while they are gaming. There is a slight bit of microphone pass-through to the speakers which allows you to hear yourself slightly better, but it's nothing to ride home about.

The Surround Sound

As is advertised on the box, the Corsair Vengeance 2000 is a "7.1 gaming headset" with claims on their website that the speakers deliver "accurate reproduction of multi-channel 5.1/7.1 surround sound gaming audio". You have probably realized at this point that the headset actually only uses two speakers, so any surround sound will need to be virtualized in software.

Already upon hearing this news I was a bit cautious of the surround sound claims of the headphones, considering I usually use an external surround sound set-up, and after using the headphones I was even more cautious. Corsair use "Xear" surround virtualization which can be activated by un-pressing the Bypass button in the Headset Control Panel, and I'm not convinced it works particularly well.

Upon enabling the Xear virtualization you get a few options for setting which type of room you would like to replicate from three options: Studio, Cinema and Hall. I found the latter two options to have way too much echo, so I normally settled for Studio in everyday usage.

The main problem I have with this virtualization technique is that the headset is not recognized by Windows as a six or eight channel audio device; instead it sits as just a Headphones device with only two channels available. This means that any software sending audio to the device cannot actually send multi-channel surround audio and instead they are restricted to just the traditional two channels.

In turn, this means the Corsair Vengeance 2000 Headset Control Panel and their Xear surround audio processing don't actually know which sounds come from different positions around the body, and instead it must guess for the virtualization. This is in contrast to something like Dolby Headphone, which takes 5.1-encoded audio and downcodes it to a stereo output with cues for the different "channels" that help the brain simulate multiple speakers sources.

Rather than the ideal situation of knowing the surround channels before simulating them, having to guess it from a stereo source gives a lesser experience. I often found that the virtualization had little effect on where my ears thought the sounds were coming from, providing only a slight effect for static sounds behind the body (eg. a gunshot normally in the rear channels). Changing the room type didn't really affect this.

Scenes where there would normally be sounds coming from all channels, like rain or crowds of people, I just felt as if these sounds were coming from the sides, rather than from all around me like I experience in the cinema or a home theater setting. I'm not entirely sure how well this could be simulated, but I wasn't blown away by the effect by any means.

The best surround sound results I got from the headset were in situations where an object whooshes from the front to the back - a perfect example being the podracing scene from Star Wars: Episode I. While the effect is not nearly as good as a true surround set-up, I did feel as though objects were moving from front to back, so in that respect the virtualization guesses well.

Out of curiosity I disabled the surround simulation in the Headset Control Panel and found the surround effect to be pretty much non-existent, which does indicate at least that the software tries to deliver surround sound. For media you know contains multiple channels, like movies and games, I would definitely recommend that you turn on the surround effects, but at least for me the effect is less than I was expecting.

Conclusion

There is no doubt in my mind that the Corsair Vengeance 2000 wireless gaming headset delivers high quality audio in nearly all situations, and most importantly in games. Sounds produced were extremely vibrant and well rounded, and vocals were crisp and measured. The comfort of the headset is also fantastic, as I was easily able to game for hours without any discomfort.

The wireless aspect also works well, as I was able to easily establish a strong connection at any point in my office, with range extending to around ten meters through walls. Battery life is also as good as expected, with the unit only requiring one charge through the entire time I was reviewing them.

Despite all the great areas of the headset, there is one area I was disappointed with: the 7.1 surround sound claims. The device is not recognized by Windows as a surround sound device, so it must guess what comes through the rear channels and the results are mediocre. I found the surround effect to be minimal in most circumstances, and not nearly as profound as actually having a physical surround speaker set-up.

Of course it all comes down to whether the $150 set of headphones is a good purchase, and I would tend to say that it is. For this price you get functional wireless capabilities with an easy set-up, great quality audio for gaming and supreme comfort - except really you can only enjoy stereo audio with mild surround effects. If you are set on purchasing a "7.1 surround" headset I would look elsewhere, but if this isn't a big deal to you, the Vengeance 2000 is a great buy.

The Corsair Vengeance 2000 official website
→ Tweet me a question about the headset

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