Colorado-based manufacturer Able Planet specializes in audio devices designed for people intent on preserving their hearing. To that end, their new True Fidelity PS500MM multimedia stereo headphones are geared specifically for gamers who want to be able to hear those crafty Call of Duty players sneaking up behind them, but would rather not blow out their eardrums with explosive machine gun fire the rest of the time.
Design and features
First the bad: Though not ugly, these headphones won’t win any style awards. Their miniature cups look as though they might have been designed for a baby’s ears, and the Able Planet logo—a nearly dime-sized silver circle with a few stars punched out of it—is a bit of an eyesore.
But the rest is good. We hardly noticed the surprisingly comfortable ear cups during a three-hour Crysis: Warhead session, and the cushioned headband didn’t leave a mark on our bald tester’s head. What’s more, they do a great job of blocking outside sound, despite not covering the entire ear.
The extensible mic moves easily and holds its position perfectly, which means we didn’t have to wrestle to get it into position, nor did we have to deal with it falling back in front of our faces when folded away. It’s just a pity it can’t be detached or concealed, which would have given these headphones a life away from the PC.
There’s also an in-line volume adjuster and mic toggle attached to a shirt clip, a no-software-required USB adapter for when you don’t want to reach around to the back of your PC, and a tough nylon carrying pouch to help users tote the headphones safely to LAN parties.
Able Planet’s unique Linx Audio technology is designed to deliver a complete spectrum of sound at lower volumes, and prevent distortion at higher levels. Perhaps surprisingly, it works just as advertised. We were able to clearly make out all sorts of aural details—gravel crunching underfoot, whispered words, the gentle swoosh of a blade cutting air—without having the sound set so high as to make louder effects near deafening.
Of course, this interferes with the intended sound design of the source material, and can consequently diminish audio realism. After all, a snapping tree branch ought not to be as attention grabbing as a thunderous explosion. To be fair, Linx Audio doesn’t place sounds like these on par, but it does nudge them closer together. We appreciated it, but we’re well into our thirties and looking for ways to keep our ears healthy. It will likely come down to user preference.
If you’re not the sort to listen at lower levels, you’ll appreciate the PS500MM’s full range of undistorted highs and lows at higher volumes. We experienced lobe-rattling percussion, wonderfully clear chirps and metallic pings with volume set to maximum. Just don’t listen at that level for long – these cans can spit out sound with enough oomph to leave ears ringing (a bit ironic, given Able Planet’s stated intent to preserve hearing).
The non-removable mic and wire tether on the PS500MM both limit its use for music and movies. Plus, the Linx Audio technology renders the aural components of these passive entertainments differently than other headphones—again, whether for better or worse will be a matter of individual taste. We found them ideal for a little late night, low-volume Blu-ray viewing in bed, but preferred wireless headphones for listening to music during the day.
It’s also worth mentioning that the noise-cancelling mic is fantastic. Our tests using it to record the human voice resulted in warm, earthy, hiss-free tones, making it suitable for not just online gaming and telecommunication apps like Skype, but also amateur recordings. Musicians will want something more pliable, but it’s great for spoken word.
Innovative sound technology, a great mic, and comfy design make the True Fidelity PS500MM a winner for gamers—especially those who don’t want to their hobby to destroy their hearing. However, the non-removable mic and two-meter tether limits these headphones’ utility in terms of music and movies. You’ll need to decide if you’re enough of a multimedia headphone user to warrant a $100 expenditure on a separate set of cans.
- Linx Audio technology means terrific detail at low levels, and virtually no distortion at higher volume
- Surprisingly comfy, given the miniature cup design
- Mic captures spoken word with a warm, earthy quality
- Linx Audio technology alters intended sound design
- Funny looking
- Non-removable mic