Earlier this year, LucidSound revealed the LS20, their wired, on-ear headset aimed at the under-$100 market of headsets – a market saturated with heaps of molded plastic and sub-par audio quality. LucidSound aims to change that with the LS20, and they bring their pedigree of former Tritton founders to the product. I looked at the LS30 unit after the Electronic Entertainment Expo earlier this year and was absolutely blown away by the quality. In fact, I tried an early version of the LS20 in LA that week and was really impressed by the headset. So how does the finished product stack up?
Well, it’s complicated.
First, some specifics about the headset: the LucidSound LS20 headset is a wired, amplified headset, sporting memory foam-laden 40mm neodymium drivers. The LS20 is an on-ear headset, and for some that might be a turn off, but for others, myself included, I kind of prefer it that way. Additionally, the headset features the sleek, elegant LucidSound look, brushed metal arms and incredibly comfortable cushion on the headband. Like the LS30, the LucidSound LS20 feature memory foam cushions on the ear cups, giving the headset amazing comfort. Finally, the headset also has an active and passive mode, with the volume and chat control handled from the ear cup, like the others in the LucidSound line. The active mode sports up to 20 hours of battery life (something I tested and found to be pretty accurate) as well as bass boosts, amplified stereo as well as a built in microphone – or you could use the detachable boom mic, which ever you prefer.
At first glance, the LucidSound offering really brings a level of elegance and style not seen in other gaming headsets. Compared directly with the Razer Krakens or the Logitech headphones, the LS20 sets a new bar for visual aesthetics. It’s in the application of the LS20 where I think the headphones fall a bit flat. Don’t misunderstand that statement, either. It’s not to say the LS20 aren’t a great pair of headphones. However, in terms of practical gaming use, I didn’t find them to be a better alternative on PC over the Krakens, and it came down purely to the chord length. The LS20s are wired, using a 3.5mm headphone jack to connect to your device. The chord it comes with it rather short, really. Yet the LS20s are marketed as a PC, Xbox One and PS4 headset. However, in practical application, plugging in the LS20s and using them on PC was nigh-on impossible. I would have preferred to use them, but my other sub-$100 headphones provided more chord for me to relax at my desk. I didn’t have to finagle with extensions with the other headsets; the LS20 almost requires them depending on your set up. Personally, though, the wireless capabilities of the LS30 have made those my go-to PC gaming headphones. The LS20s restrictions almost feel as though LucidSound have cannibalized itself in this regard, considering the wireless, larger and more robust LS30s are only fifty dollars more than the LS20s.
Where these headphones shine, however, are on console and even more so – on the move. I’ve been using the LS30s as well as my wired options on console, since I could plug directly into the controller. However, the 20s have that same capability, and in fact, I prefer them in this situation. The drivers in the LS20s are perfectly tuned for gaming audio, and the opening notes of Tower of Power’s So Very Hard to Go in the early moments of Watch Dogs 2 were balanced beautifully. The piano, the bass, horns, guitar and singer all in perfect balance, especially when you consider it was also competing with the ambient noise of the game as well. Turning on the amplified mode gives the sound that extra bit of power when you need it as well.
The LS20s have received the most use out of simply using it with my phone, however. Normally I would use the LS30s here as well, but the LS20s are more comfortable on my ears when running the treadmill at the gym, or walking the 4 miles a day it takes to drop off and pick my daughter up from school. In the Las Vegas heat especially, not having ear cups that fully encompass your ears really allow them to breathe. The design of the headset is somewhat finicky, I’ve found, though. It doesn’t completely fit my head, even when the adjustable headband is pushed all the way in. It feels as though the LS20s are ready to slip right off my head at any given moment and I have to find that “sweet spot” to keep them on there. I had a friend test this as well, someone who also uses the Ls30 as their PC headset and the same thing happened with him too. It doesn’t completely detract from the use, though, as once I get them situation it’s normally fine. But those brief few seconds of adjusting every time I use them is an annoyance.
It’s a great thing that the LS20s don’t skimp on audio quality, then. Epica’s Once Upon a Nightmare really shines, the triplet passages and background melodic lines shine through where in other branded headsets under $100 they sound muddled. Here, on the LS20s, they are perfectly clear and add to the overall atmosphere. The lows in Mozart’s Requiem are made all the more mournful in the amplified mode, and the cannon in Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture add a special bit of power when on other headsets they were simply a nameless noise in the background covering up the strings. The LS20s do what every headphone needs to do, and they do it better than their competition.
Could I recommend these, though? It really depends on your implementation. Are you going to be a prolific gamer? If so, I would honestly spring the extra money and get the LucidSound LS30s purely because of the wireless capabilities. However, if you’re looking for a quality headset for under $100 and don’t mind the wired restriction, or are looking for a new headset to use while working out, the LS20 is simply the best one I’ve used to date. Whether tethering it to your PlayStation 4 remote for those late night gaming sessions or trying to reach your step goal for the day, the LS20 really make a great companion in those instances. And it’s what will keep me using mine pretty much daily.
[Featured Image via LucidSound]