At E3 2016 I had a chance to check out LucidSound's line-up of headphones. Being somewhat of an audiophile myself, I was intrigued when I heard about the headphones and the company's claims of trying to create a new, better audio experience for their consumers.
"We are here to build a better headset," Alex Verrey, Global PR Director for Lucid Sound told me at E3 last week. LucidSound is serious with their aim as well, hiring some of the best talent from the world's foremost gaming headset manufacturers to achieve their goal, made up of Tritton, Turtle Beach, and MadCatz alumni.
Right before E3 2016, LucidSound announced two new headsets aimed at gamers and audio fans alike: the LS20 and the LS40. Their premier model, the LS30, released earlier this year and is a great introduction into LucidSound's philosophy: clear, uncompressed and unrivaled sound quality over the "bells and whistles" typically seen with other headsets on the market.
"We've come together to try [to] do something new, in what is actually a very saturated market," Verrey continued. "There are a lot of gaming headsets out there, but we believe there is definitely space to do things better."
Enter the LS20 Amplified Stereo Headset. The LucidSound headset is an on-ear stereo headset that works with all consoles and PC. I personally prefer over-the-ear headsets, but the slimmer profile of the LS20 compared to the LS30 was light and felt incredibly comfortable.
With the LS20, LucidSound is trying to bridge the gap between "entry-level" and "audiophile." As great as a high-end headset is, the sub-$100 market is the strongest in terms of sales. The LS20 doesn't use plastic, like many sub-$100 headsets. It's made with zinc and aluminum, and definitely doesn't feel cheaply made. For LucidSound, it's all about the sound, they have their own audio engineer who tune the drivers themselves. Doing it that way, they can ensure they are providing the best tuned audio experience possible.
The controls are built right into the headset so there is no need to fumble with an inline remote. The ear cup is your volume control, you press the ear cup to mute the audio and again to bring it back. LucidSound's LS20 doesn't feature separate chat and audio dials like their other headsets do, but you can still control the volume and mute functions right on the headset itself. Cell phone controls are integrated into the ear cup as well. The LS20 does also include a passive and active mode, so you don't need to use the battery on the headset to listen to your calls and music while integrated with your smart phone.
The design is sleek, but I was more interested in how it sounded. I was able to test out the headset on Star Wars: Battlefront. The sound design on the game is outrageous and it was brought to life even more by the impeccable quality provided by the LS20 headset. Each percussive blast by the trumpets could clearly be heard as if you sitting in the room with the orchestra themselves. The lows stood out, but didn't dominate in a way that plagues many gaming headsets where the need of strong bass overrides the need for musical balance. Each section of the orchestra was clearly heard in a way that I hadn't experienced with a headset before. I was loath to take them off in the end.
"You can go out and buy a $1,000 bottle of wine and serve it to your guests in a plastic cup," Alex said, referring to really maximizing the experience of the DTS technology. "You're still getting great wine, but it's a lousy experience."
To be sure that their consumers aren't getting a lousy experience, LucidSound takes that DTS technology and, working closely with their audio engineers, the LucidSound team have their own in-house audio guys that re-tune the drivers for the best possible experience in the end.
The LS40 also features the smartphone integration, as well as the other core features found in the LS30, such as on-ear controls, removable boom mic, mute button and so on. The Ls40 includes mutliple modes: two surround sound modes and three stereo modes for your listening pleasure.
I was able to test out the LS40 on a PlayStation 4 version of Call of Duty: Black Ops III. The sound quality was crisp, not sloppy or muddied as you typically hear with other surround sound headsets at this price range. Every gunshot was clear as if you were on the range yourself. The uncompressed 2.4Ghz signal didn't give any lag either, something that I've been plagued with by using wireless headsets in the past. Simply put, the LS40 surround sound was one of the best I've ever heard, even compared to headsets that cost much more money than the LucidSound offering. Additionally, the stereo mode sounded vivid and full-bodied, each individual sound clearly being heard, but not overpowering the rest.
Amazingly the stereo sounded like surround sound, even though I knew it wasn't. It didn't sound flat, but rather the sound was given room to breathe and take up space. The spacial effects were present and gave the illusion that the sound was happening all around me, even though it was simply a stereo signal being pumped. I was surprised then to find out the tuning on those drivers was only about 65 percent done, and there was still room for them to improve.
I honestly left the LucidSound meeting reluctant to put on my normal headset, which is a testament to the quality of the headset that their team is crafting.
LucidSound is aiming to "build a better headset." Honestly, the LucidSound team has done something great in terms of their overall quality. They are well on their way to bridging that gap between great entry price point and true, audiophile-level quality. By focusing on audio first, the LucidSound line of headset emphasize what is most important with a headset: what you hear and the experience it gives. Once you put them on, it's incredibly evident the focus is in the right place.
The two new models will be out this holiday, with the LS20 retailing for $99, while the LS40 will be priced at $199. The LS30 is currently $149 and is out at select retailers today.
[Image via LucidSound]