in Audio

Soyntec Netsound 500

Testing

Test Rig

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 @ 3.0GHz
Motherboard: XFX nforce 750 SLI
RAM: 8GB DDR2 RAM
GPU: 2x Nvidia 9800GTX+ in SLI
Audio: Soundblaster Audigy 2
OS: Windows 7 Uldimate x64

Methodology

The Sonytec requires no special software, so it was simply a case of plugging the 3.5mm stereo plugs into my PC and then firing up Skype. I also tested the headset with a few games of Bad Company 2 and StarCraft 2, some K-Pop, and the first ten minutes of The Watchmen.

Voice Communication

The Netsound 500 produces relatively clear sound, decently suited for voice communication. The cans do little to block out the outside world though, so you may find that you’ll have to have the sound turned up higher than you’d otherwise like in order to compensate.

On the microphone side of things, the microphone is of middling quality; it works, certainly, but you wouldn’t want to do anything more than talk over Skype with it. I wouldn’t recommend this for recording a podcast or narrating a YouTube video.

Games

In-game, the NetSound 500 is unspectacular. Due to the improper fitting (as described later), you might find yourself missing vital audio notifications. The game music sounds quite tinny and cheap as well, at least in comparison to more fully-featured (and expensive) headsets. Still, it’s better than no game sound at all, and the small size of the NS500s might mean it’s a decent laptop headset.

I tried playing StarCraft 2 and using Skype together, but found that it got quite muddled, and it was difficult to hear my teammate’s voices amidst the game sounds; so I couldn’t recommend this headset for that kind of use.

Music

For music, the Netsound 500 isn’t too bad. It’s certainly not an audiophile headset by any stretch of the imagination, but it does an OK job of reproducing the music. The response at higher and lower frequencies is quite poor, but for genres like Pop or K-Pop it’s okay. I would recommend buying cheaper in-ear headphones for music listening as the Sonytec doesn’t cover the range of frequencies a similarly priced unit could do. This is a headset afterall, not headphones.

Films

I did try watching the Watchmen, and found that the Netsound 500 was solely unsuited for this purpose. In action-filled scenes, the bass reponse was so poor that I couldn’t bear to continue. The sound throughout was flat and uninspiring, and I’ve heard better on pretty much every other headset I’ve tried, even those at a similar price.

Comfort

This is probably the greatest flaw of the Netsound 500. It isn’t particularly uncomfortable, due to its incredibly light weight, but the fit is such that it will quickly annoy. The earpads are too small for human size ears (for a halfling it’d be okay, I think), so they rest around the ear canal, instead of encompassing the whole ear. This means that the already weak speakers are slightly off-centre too.

If you’re using these for short conversations this likely won’t be a problem, but I wouldn’t want to use these for extended periods.

Build Quality

I don’t have much confidence in the build quality of the Netsound 500 either — it is clear that it’s constructed of the cheapest materials. Whilst it worked without problem throughout my tests, this is not a headset that I’d want to rely on for an extended period or in adverse conditions (e.g. traveling).

The whole construction feels cheap, but really that’s to be expected with a headset at this price. If you’re going to use for less than an hour a day with your desktop computer and never unplug it, it’ll probably hold up just fine.

It’s worth mentioning that in the other consumer reviews I’ve read of this product on Amazon and elsewhere, many have reported the components (headphones, microphone, or both) failing within a few months. Be careful here.

Cost

The Netsound 500 costs around £9, making it one of the cheapest headsets available. For its cost, the Netsound 500 isn’t unreasonable, but much better options are sure to exist at the sub £10 price point. If you’re looking for an interim solution, the NS500 isn’t too bad, but as a everyday headset you can (and should) do better.