Massdrop x Sennheiser PC37X Gaming Headset
- Reviewed by:
- Brian Hoss
- Review Date:1
- August 22nd, 2017
- Massdrop x Sennheiser
-Excellent mic quality
-Scalable, openback audio performance
-Removable 10' cable
-Lightweight and precisely finished
-Blacked out look
-Removable velour pads and angled fit
-No single (4 pole) AHJ/CTIA standard 3.5mm jack cable or adapter included
-An apparent variant of the Game ONE
-Weaker low-end sound
For anyone who spends big chunks of time gaming in front of a PC, TV, or a myriad of other devices, the need for a headset will eventually present itself. And for those with a tendency towards an audiophile lifestyle, the desire for a quality set of analog cans will eventually make itself known. But while options exist for grafting a mic onto headphones, there is something to be said for a well-crafted, purposeful headset. It's here, in this performance-savvy niche, where the Massdrop x Sennheiser PC37X Gaming Headset hopes to be the solution.
Based on the design of the Sennheiser's PC 373D, the PC37X features angled drivers in an open design. The headband is fixed, and the mic is attached, but can swivel up out of the way. Unlike the PC 373D, the PC37X is a stereo headset that hopes to be pure as the source signal. It has a detachable cable, and the one included is 10 feet long, braided and split at the end into audio and mic connections.
I was on the hunt for a new set of stereo cans when I came upon the PC37X. My hope was that along with good, appreciable audio performance, I could significantly upgrade my mic pickup as I suddenly found myself really in need of an acutely good mic for stealthy late-night gaming. At $119.99 with free shipping, the price was well within what I had planned to drop on new cans, so I pulled the trigger.
With its muted, blacked-out look, velour pads, and built-in volume wheel and mic mute, the PC37X bears more than a striking similarity to the Sennheiser Game ONE. All that is missing is the red flash and extra cable.
In the hopes of not wasting too much of the review harping on this. That other cable, the Sennheiser UNP Console cable, is a large omission for the PC37X. It's perfect for when using the PC37X with a mobile device or even if wanting to connect directly to a DualShock 4 or Xbox Elite controller. At the very least, there ought to have been a 4 pole adapter cable included.
-Form factor: Over the ear
-Transducer principle: Dynamic, open
-Frequency response 15–28,000 Hz
-Impedance: 50 Ω
-Sound pressure level: 116 dB
-3.5 mm headphone plug
-3.5 mm mic plug
-Cable length: 10 ft (3 m)
-Frequency response: 50–16,000 Hz
-Pick-up pattern: Noise-canceling
-Sensitivity: -38 dBV/PA
-2-Year Manufacturer’s Warranty
As I mentioned in the intro, when I came across the PC37X, I purchased it in the hopes of getting both a nice stereo set of headphones and a headset with a mic performance beyond the standard. I also wanted to see what the Massdrop X Sennheiser collaboration would yield in terms of finish. As it turns out, the PC37X soars in those two key areas with both audio performance and mic performance handily beating out similarly priced (and more expensive) headsets. On top of that, the fit of the PC37X is excellent. It fits my medium-to-large head like it was made for me. I could see the headband and pad being tricky for those with long hair, but I keep my hair very short. (And what cans are great for a mop of hair?) My ears will cry if pinched or even beset by many on-ear designs, but the PC37X's angled ear cups fit around my ears perfectly. When combined with the light weight, it's actually quite easy for me to be deep in thought typing, playing a game, or watching a show and actually forget that I am wearing the headset altogether. Of course, this isn't only due to the fit, the open presentation is quite conducive to getting into the zone of whatever I'm doing.
So bearing in mind how excellent the fit and performance of the headset is, it seems less important how the first inspection of the PC37X left me a little deflated. Outside of the shipping container, the headset and its lone cable come in a black, sleeveless box that would almost be brown if it wasn't black. The headset's construction is light and quite obviously plastic, and that hurts when set against its more expensive Sennheiser cousins, like the premium feeling HD598, or even the popular metal frame design of the HyperX Cloud II (and countless others including many Beyerdynamic models). But having handled and used endless all-plastic headsets, it's very noticeable to me that the PC37X is quiet in its movement. There are no little squeaks and creaks coming from the forks or the swivels. There are no groans when taking the headset on and off. The closest thing is the very audible click of the mic when it is engaged (swiveled down) or disengaged (swiveled up).
Because this is sold as a collaboration between Massdrop and Sennheiser, I was ready to jump on any anything that suggested sub optimal finish. A sharp edge, loose glue, or any other poor fit of plastic, wiring, rubber, and velour would be cause for concern, but everything in my PC37X is precise and remains so after several weeks of heavy use.
Even the volume wheel, which I typically don't use as I leave it at max and let whichever amp do its thing, feels better than a first look would suggest. The ear pads appear to be fixed on, but they actually do snap on and off. The detachable cable connects with a little snap as well. It is a breakaway style which is different from say the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, but like the earpads, the cable is a proprietary design.
The headset is plastic and does not collapse for travel nor does it come with a travel bag. I don't consider the PC37X a road warrior exactly, but it could be shoved into a bag and being able to remove the cable helps. There certainly won't be any issue with losing the microphone as it is not going anywhere away from the headset. This likely kills any street wearing credit for the PC37X, but as much as I love headsets, they are generally not the kind of thing I like to wear when walking the mean streets. (I really need to release the heat that comes off my head and ears when about town, and prefer something much smaller altogether for on the go.)
In terms of durability, I'd say that the PC37X has a promising bounce back and flex to it, but my suspicion is that Sennheiser expects the user to be considerate with their kit. I don't recommend leaving the headset out for a large dog to munch on for a number of reasons.
At its core, the PC37X has a delectable pair of drivers which use their open-backed housing to make a nice soundstage out of whatever source. This is not a power-hungery set, but the PC37X will take advantage of a decent amp. The open clarity will yield detail in even mundane sources (like Deathnote off of Hulu on a laptop), but there is sound leakage. If I were in an office and my desk neighbors weren't using headphones that might be an issue. (A small dorm room could also make for minor trouble in an impolite sense.) More importantly, the low-end can be much softer than the typical closed design. This is something that can be tweaked via EQ on more sophisticated sources.
Really though, when listening to the Atomic Blonde soundtrack CD, the openness is like catnip. Bowie's Cat People is seductive right until it erupts with gasoline. Indeed, the entire soundtrack, like Kaleida's 99 Luftballons cover, just breathes through the PC37X without the slightest hint that this is a gaming headset. It's airy without being washed out, and it sounds so good that I could easily spend the rest of the review just talking about this soundtrack.
For TV shows, I'd argue that this headset is a wonderful match as it really keeps dialog audible and in focus without losing background detail. Movies are tougher. Watching the Normandy landing in Saving Private Ryan had me digging into the headphone EQ of my Marantz SR6011. (As an aside, the 10-foot cable included with the PC37X comes in handy for using with an AVR.) Firing up the 2017 DTS Demo Disc on Ultra HD Blu-ray, and both the DTS:X and DTS Headphone:X versions of the Jason Bourne Vegas strip chase benefited from the EQ tweak. That meant that Bourne's Dodge Charger sounded throaty while there was still a wider air available for the score to come in.
On Blu-ray on my desktop, I loved hearing Batman: Mask of the Phantasm through the PC37X, and the headset matched well with the Sound Blaster X7. (So well, that I left the EQ alone, and used the Direct option.) There are several cool, but cutting exchanges between Dana Delany and Kevin Conroy, and the PC37X delivers each finisher with precision. Basically, I found that the better the source, the better the performance. The Gianna and co. sequences in Rome from John Wick: Chapter 2 on Ultra HD Blu-ray are really sumptuous in all aspects. The exfiltration shootout and subsequent battle between Cassian and Wick are not only excellent, but they demonstrate something very important to me. At times when I must crank my home theater down in deference to sleeping loved ones, I can still find an auditory expanse using a headset. (This is the Atmos track brought to the headphones by way of the Marantz SR6011.)
So if decent TV and streaming audio mixes do well with the PC37X, and excellent disc-based film soundtracks bear their excellency out in the twin-driver set-up, it shouldn't be surprising that dynamic and pre-rendered game content is also a winner. I threw the PC37X at the PC, the PS4, the Switch, and the Xbox One. (I used the Game One's UNP cable for the Switch for convenience, and of course, did not test chat on the Switch.) For the PS4 and Xbox One, I used the respective 3.5mm jacks on the controllers, as well as, and this is the clear preference, a Turtle Beach Elite Pro Tactical Audio Adapter.
I poured hours into Nioh co-op on the PS4 and PS4 Pro. (Through both Way of the Samurai and New Game+ Way of the Strong difficulties as well as the first two DLCs.) Under tough conditions, (late-night, nearby sleeping newborn) the PC37X was head and shoulders a better mic pickup than an array of other headsets. It's not just that mix of sensitivity and noise-canceling, but that long aviation style mic manages to be close to the mouth without being a bother. The mic stays right where it needs to be even after being set down and moved around during a break or a day off.
And like with movie mixes, the PC37X is comfortable with both pure stereo and headphone surround-sound mixes. (The Turtle Beach TAC DTS Headphone:X surround feels like it was meant for the PC37X). I'm still not a fan a connecting directly to a controller like the DualShock 4, but I like the idea that with the PC37X, it gets the job done (albeit with an adapter), and then is worth later picking up an amp/mixamp.
For sure, when hooked to a controller, the volume wheel and mic mute are extremely useful. Looking forward, I completely expect that the PC37X will be a good match with the upcoming Xbox One X and fare such as Star Wars Battlefront II.
As I stated in the open, the PC37X is eerily similar to the Sennheiser Game ONE. The Game One has some red trimmings and a different insert on the outside of the ears, as well as the elusive UNP Console cable. As of this writing, it can be had for $159.99. I prefer both the look of the PC37X and the cheaper price, but I do wish that other cable was easier to come by. Testing the two headsets together, and I'm not sure there's anything different besides a little more burn-in on my PC37X. If the PC37X isn't available or is more expensive due to regional differences, I'd say the Game ONE easily gets the nod.
The detachable 10' split connection braided cable that is included with the PC37X is very versatile and smartly made. The nylon braiding doesn't kink and the split connection has enough length and is well marked. With an adapter that gives it a single four pole plug, the headset works with most things. Still, the 4' UNP cable should have been included, especially as it is sold out at most places including Sennheiser. I mention this again here in the hopes that the cable becomes available again the future and is even offered with the PC37X
The Massdrop x Sennheiser PC37X is a tremendous open-backed headset. The audio performance is impressive with pedestrian offerings and scales up with source quality while the mic is a godsend. At the price point (and even without the extra cable), this a worthy addition to almost any audio arsenal, and an obvious go-to for wired gaming needs. Highly Recommended.
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