In the world of audiophile-grade headphones, one of the first buying decisions you’ll need to make is between closed back and open back designs. Closed back headphones provide better isolation from the world around you thanks to sealed ear cups, while open back headphones provide a wider sound-stage but don’t prevent sound leakage. Today we’re evaluating one of the few open back gaming headphones on the market, the surprisingly inexpensive Roccat Renga Boost.
While some open back headphones use a mesh design to allow sound to filter through, each of the Renga’s ear cups is like a wheel with four spokes, with the empty spaces between each spoke allowing sounds (or fingers!) to travel through unimpeded. The overall aesthetic is quite sober, with matte black colouring, no RGB lighting and little ornamentation of any kind. The professional feel also applies to the headset’s durability, which seems substantial given its mid-range price point.
The Renga uses a suspension headband, with the band automatically adjusting itself to fit your dome as you place the headphones over your ears. The overall fit is comfortable, and the lightweight design makes it possible to use the headphones for a couple of hours without complaint. However, the ear cushions could be improved by switching to a different material; I found myself needing to take off the headphones to rub my ears after entering the three hour mark at a LAN party.
The Renga Boost is powered by 50mm neodymium drivers that produce a relatively balanced sound, with just the right amount of bass and treble. Combined with the wide sound stage provided by the open back design, I found it easy to pick out individual elements from music or gameplay, like a bass line in a rock song or an enemy’s distant footsteps. However, this only works in a quiet environment – if you’re trying to game with people chatting in the background or with street noise, you’ll find it easier to pick up these details on a standard closed-back headset that provides better isolation.
The Renga Boost is a wired headset, with a smooth two metre cable that terminates in one 3.5mm lead for the headphones and one 3.5mm lead for the microphone. I tested it on PC, but you can use it on most games consoles as well with the proper adapter. An in-line remote control is included about a quarter of the way down with a volume wheel and a microphone mute switch. The plastic microphone arm flips down easily and can be bent slightly to adjust its position. I found the microphone passable for voice communication, but not really suitable for streaming or other more professional uses.
While the Renga Boost doesn’t offer the most amazing features or the best sound, it is still a great entry-level open back gaming headset epitomised by the phrase ‘sensible choices’. The Renga Boost’s neutral audio characteristics and wide sound stage work well for games and music, even if some tracks feel less exciting than usual thanks to the headset’s relatively tame bass. Its design skews more professional than gamer, with impressive durability, a pared-down feature set and a sober aesthetic that will appeal to anyone that bemoans the rainbow wave of RGB lighting. Altogether, it feels like a carefully considered headset that leaves out unnecessary features to deliver a surprisingly high level of quality given its £35 price point.