With the rebranding of Sennheiser to EPOS, we reached out to them, to have a chat about the brand and their mindset when it comes to designing and creating their headset range. We were lucky enough to sit down with Andreas Jessen, Senior Director, Global Product Management and Marketing, Gaming – EPOS.
I have used many headsets in the past from Sennheiser, Razer, SteelSeries, HyperX, Plantronics, Lucid Sound and many more. I top headsets have come from SteelSeries and Sennheiser. So I questioned a few things when I heard about the name change and below here they all are.
Question 1 – One of the best mics I have used is the Sennheiser One, how have you improved on this mic with the GSP 670 Mic?
Microphone quality can be separated into two parts. The ability of the microphone to record your voice as naturally and warm as possible and the ability to filter out any noise that is not your voice.
For the GSP 670, we have chosen to set our focus on the improvement of the second part, by adding digital noise cancellation to the microphone, which is adjustable through the EPOS Software Suite. When you add noise cancellation, the tradeoff is that there will be some minor artifacts on the voice, which is a sign of the algorithm working- The noise cancellation algorithm is trying to find noise in the signal. Sometimes it mistakenly takes the voice as noise and removes part of it. This can come off as your voice sounding a bit unnatural, but without any additional noise. We, thus, made it optional, so you can remove it, if you don’t necessarily need it.
We also have integrated an EQ (equalizer), which makes it possible to bring more warmth to your voice. This equalizer allows you to choose different options in the EPOS Gaming Suite: if you want to prioritize speech intelligibility you can decide to have a clear voice EQ and if you want a warmer voice, then the warm option gives your voice that ‘radio-like’ treatment. Broadcasters typically put a lot of warmth or boost on the lower frequencies to add a sense of intimacy to the timbre of your voice.
Question 2 – The second best Microphone I have used is from the SteelSeries Arctis range, which they call the ClearCast mic, have you used this mic, and if you have, how do you feel you have upped the game with your mic range?
ClearCast is a trademark, and not a specific technology as such. We use a variety of microphone types depending on the specific use case. In some applications, an omnimic is the right choice and in others, a more unidirectional mic is the better choice. It all depends what you need it for.
To clarify those terms a little – omni-directional means all around: a microphone that takes audio from all angles. Think of a situation where you want to record the environment you are in, whereas uni/bi-directional microphones take audio from a specific direction. This is often used when you want to hear a single person’s voice instead of the environment. Many singers/performers tend to use omni-directional microphones as they don’t require as precise a positioning to pick up their sound.
Our engineers, here at EPOS, are always on a hunt for better components and cutting-edge technologies that can improve microphone quality.
Question 3 – I love Cloth type earcups, the airweave ones are just so comfy, will EPOS have these at some point as an option to purchase? or similar.
At the moment we have velour ear pads and cloth for our open back headsets. We do not offer fabric for our closed acoustics as there is a significant impact to the audio response by altering ear pads. However, we are looking into other soft materials for ear pads, as this is a major influence for comfort in a headset, but which won’t alter or decrease the audio quality of the product.
Question 4 – Will you allow Dolby Atmos for windows to flow through your headphones as of right now the option is not available?
Currently, we do not allow it, as Dolby Atmos is essentially just another implementation of HRTF (Surround Sound) compared to our own implementation. As the driver we have developed for Windows allows for some customization of the HRTF implementation, we can only do this as we are in full control of the technology behind it, and that is not possible with Dolby Atmos. We do however feel confident that our HRTF (Surround Sound) technology is one of the best available on the market today.
Question 5 – When it comes to designing your headsets, how do you start, where do you start, what’s the thought process and how do you improve on an already good formula?
Our audio philosophy in terms of what good audio is, does not change from headset to headset of course. However, different wearing styles and different headset concepts (e.g. in-ear vs. around ear) provide us with different options on how we can tune the audio. When we start to add new technologies such as wireless and low latency, that represents new challenges to creating great audio. Even if the end target is not changing, we work on getting the same high-quality audio, even when adding layers of complexity on top, such as wireless and surround sound. The following aspects are crucial when designing premium gaming headsets:
1. Audio quality
This is something that is easy to say, but hard to explain what it means. Audio quality for us is not a number like 20-20.000 Hz freq. range, but instead it is an in-depth philosophy on how much colour our headsets should add to the work the audio engineers have done on the game development. Every headset in the world will “colour” the audio in some way and if this is not tightly controlled and designed in a specific way, you can end up with headsets that are overly muddy because of an extreme and unbalanced bass response, or a midrange that is not kept flat, resulting in voices sounding different than in real life. Audio quality is definitely one of the most important factors not only in the development, but also in the manufacturing – a lot of the quality in the audio actually comes from the fact that we check every single headset before it leaves our assembly line, and if the speakers are not within our tolerances it is scrapped and not sent to customers.
2. Microphone Performance
A lot of gamers buy a gaming headset because gaming for them is a social experience. Having clear and easy communication will not only make your experience better, it will sometimes also mean the difference between a win or a loss in a 5v5 game.
Microphone quality can mean a lot of things, and for some people a good microphone is when your voice is really easy to understand, but you can accept that you don’t sound natural – this is for example key for call centers. Others want their voice to sound as natural as possible, so other people can recognize it’s you, even if your voice is very deep and can sometimes be difficult to understand. This is especially true if you mostly speak to people you know who know exactly what your voice sounds like in real life, and expect the same when speaking to you online. Others want their voice to sound warm and intimate, but not necessarily really natural. This is true for people that stream or broadcast radio. We of course try to focus our microphone performance on the specific needs our gamers have!
A couple of examples of the use cases we would consider for gamers are:
Use Case 1
Let’s say you are in a CS:GO match and you spot an enemy, and as everything is moving really, really fast, you yell “2 enemies spotted!” to alert your teammates of the danger. By having great microphone performance, your teammates can instantly recognize your voice and know how to respond, rather than being confused over who said what. This clarity is really important in this scenario – it is vital that you can be identified among other players.
Use Case 2:
You want to have a stream setup, but you don’t like how your voice sounds. You can use the EPOS Gaming Suite to alter it – within the software we give the option to add more warmness to your voice, which will give your voice a much more warm, intimate feeling and add presence for your broadcast. The quality of this effect will vary depending on your own natural voice – if you have a really deep voice normally, adding the warm effect can make it sound over the top, so we highly recommend playing around with the settings until you think you have the voice quality you prefer.
Gamers are one of the groups that wear their headsets the longest. Because the headset is a product that is worn for hours at a time, we believe that comfort is a very important factor. We do a lot of research into where we can accept pressure points, and where these pressure points would cause irritation or discomfort after extended wear. How big is an earcup? How heavy can it be? How easy is it to adjust so you don’t have sound leakage? Comfort is definitely our third pillar.
Then of course there are a ton of other aspects such as surround sound, balancing of L/R speakers, having spare parts available such as ear pads and cables, design, wireless capabilities, good digital to analogue converters and much more.
Generally speaking, at the moment there is a lot of new technology being put into gaming headsets such as new form factors (true wireless), more features as more powerful chips become available, more battery life and more intelligence, but this could be true of any consumer electronic.
What is going to be transformational for gaming audio and gaming headsets is the level of immersion that can be offered through HRTF (Head-related transfer function) algorithms, through better sound rendering in games – maybe even object-based audio objects instead of 7.1 mixing. Finally, we are going to see massive improvements in microphone performance as we will get more used to being together from afar – which seems more relevant in these last few months than ever before. When communicating remotely, it becomes very important to hear the subtle cues in the other persons voice, the warmth that you know from real life and in general a higher quality microphone. No one will accept sounding like they are talking into a cell phone from 1990, when we can do so much better!
Question 6 – Will EPOS support the upcoming PS5 and Xbox Series X, what features will come with your headsets, what headsets or will you announce all new headsets?
It is the plan for Xbox Series X and PS5 to be capable of taking full advantage of our next gen headsets. However, there are still some open points on what exactly will be possible on the next-gen consoles, for example, will they allow multiple audio sources to come from the USB interface? Will they have a Toslink port, will they allow for download of other HRTF implementations than their own?
So yes …the headsets will work, but we do not know what audio magic we can add just yet. But we are preparing parallel projects to take advantage of the new platform as much as possible as soon as we know more.
Question 7 – Sound is everything when it comes to headphones, what’s your process of making sure your headsets produce a perfect soundstage
Great audio is more closely linked to production quality than one might think. A speaker is not a piece of software that you can write once and then just copy for eternity. It consists of suspensions, magnets, voice coils, diaphragms and much more. There is a natural tolerance in all of these parts, and that is why we test every single headset leaving the manufacturing line and make sure it lives up our exact tolerance across the entire auditable spectrum (20-20k Hz). We also have a commitment to delivering products that can last for a long time, as we are asking a premium price for them. Production quality is very highly prioritized at EPOS. More concretely, we have manufacturing resources involved in our projects right from the beginning, and we do constant checks of the production, so we ensure that the first product leaving the assembly line is just as good as number 10000.
Question 8 – Have you considered adding RGB lighting, it’s a gimmick?
We have never found a reason to include RGB lights on our headsets, unless it is to provide some useful feedback to the user, for example to indicate power on or something similar.
We are not masters of LED lights, we are masters of audio, so we will let others innovate in the RGB space, and we will use all of our energy and expertise on making sure that the audio is as amazing as it should be. We believe that we can design a beautiful gaming headset, that has clear homage to gaming, without packing it full of gimmicks like LED diodes that take up space and could potentially force out other more important technology.
We are very thankful for the time Andreas Jessen from EPOS gave us, and we love the answers we were given. They provided us with an in-depth read, on how EPOS thinks about their headsets and their possible future.
Want to know more about their latest top of line headset the EPOS | Sennheiser GSP 670? Here is our review https://invisioncommunity.co.uk/epos-sennheiser-gsp-670-gaming-series-wireless-headset-review/
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