When it comes to gadgetry, making a good first impression really counts for a lot. It helps to justify a purchase, builds expectation, and immediately sets the tone for the rest of your experience with that product. LucidSound’s LS40, their DTS Headphone:X 7.1 surround sound equipped top of the line model, manages to make a fantastic impression every step of the way, and due to its remarkable versatility, is likely to become a firm friend to anyone that picks one up.
Sliding the weighty black box embossed with the LucidSound logo away from the outer sleeve, the tone is immediately set; this is a luxury product, and one that wants to make sure you know that. Lifting the metallic latch and unfolding the casing out reminds more of opening a collector’s edition CD case or vinyl sleeve than a pair of headphones, and when you pull out the soft-touch carry case contained within, it’s a welcome surprise to find everything the unit needs, including cabling, tucked away tidily inside.
Removing the headphones themselves is a treat as well, and on first inspection these look nothing like the gaming headsets of the past. The black fabric padding is detailed with red stitching on both the memory foam earpieces and the headband, while the rest of the unit is made up of gunmetal grey plastics and burnished metal. They carry a degree of weight which backs up their solidity, but they’re easily light enough to be comfortable for long periods of play. They’re so attractive that you’ll absolutely want to take them on the go with you, and fortunately you can.
The LS40 boasts an outstanding number of connectivity options, covering PS4 and PS3, Xbox One, PC, Mac and mobile – or anything with a 3.5mm headphone socket – though switching back and forth and setting it up is a little more involved than some more dedicated headsets. The LS40 uses a combination of wireless and wired solutions, with the wireless connection provided by a dedicated USB dongle. To enable the surround sound function, however, you then have to run an optical cable from the console’s output into the body of the dongle.
Straight off the bat, there’s a bit of a problem with connecting to a PS4 Pro, as the dongle proves to be too wide to fit the recess in which the Pro’s front two USB ports reside. This is not mentioned in the included instructions, but it is said not to try on the LucidSound support page. On the standard and slim PS4 designs, this won’t be a problem. Luckily, popping it in the USB at the rear of the Pro works perfectly, and as with other similar dongles, the PS4 recognises it instantly. Plugging it in the rear also keeps the necessary optical connection tucked away, assuming you want to enable the surround sound.
There’s the added bonus that it’ll operate quite merrily as a wireless stereo headset with the Sony consoles, if you don’t fancy repeatedly unplugging an optical cable and are planning on moving between different devices. You do of course miss out on the unit’s full capabilities, but it does at least mean that PS4 Slim owners aren’t entirely left out in the cold due to the lack of an optical out – just beware that it could be a similarly tight fit with the recessed USB ports.
Meanwhile Xbox One owners have to cope with the now standard tethering of the headset to controller if they want to use the chat function, and while this is no different for everything from Astro to Turtle Beach, it’s still a somewhat irksome requirement. This of course lies at Microsoft’s feet, and not those of LucidSound.
However, with a little bit of simple tinkering in each console’s settings, the LS40 is ready to go and you can move onto soaking in their audio output. Thankfully, the LS40 once again delivers in spades, offering a beautifully detailed soundscape.
Using the wireless connection provides you with crisp and powerful mids and trebles which give way to exceptionally well-defined bass. Once again, the decision to opt for 50mm drivers pays dividends here. Both the stereo and surround sound EQ options are hugely enjoyable, and the EQ button on the right ear lets you easily switch between them. With the 7.1 surround sound via DTS Headphone:X a key selling point, it’s easily as convincing as that found in the rival Astro A50 or Logitech G533.
The controls are welcomingly simplistic overall, with all of the volume controls taken care of by rotating the outside wheel of each earpiece. The left takes care of the the game audio while the right handles chat, letting you mix them as you see fit. A tap of the left cup also serves to mute everything, with the right allowing you to mute the microphone or enable mic monitoring. It’s hugely intuitive, certainly beating out the even the Astro A50 for ease of use.
The ability to then hook the LS40 up to anything with a 3.5mm headphone socket is great, as something that is often overlooked near this $200/£180 price point, and while their audio performance is largely dictated to by the quality of the device you plug it into, they continue to sound fantastic, albeit with a mildly airy tone. Sadly you only have the option of using them as a passive headset in this set-up, meaning that Sony’s Pulse still wins for allowing you to use the powered EQ no matter what you’re doing, but only the most stringent of listeners will find something to dislike here.
When powered up for wireless play, they are also capable of being incredibly loud, giving you the option to push the level far beyond most other headsets. I’m sure this will suit some people, just not one particular gaming journalist who’s looking to retain his hearing past his next birthday. While having the capability is there, do try not to ruin your hearing.
The LS40 comes equipped with two microphone solutions, with both a detachable boom mic and an in-built mic available to you. For the serious gamer the boom mic should be the obvious choice, and provides clear chat audio across a spectrum of different input levels, though the inbuilt one is a fantastically easy option that makes accepting phone calls when on the go a cinch.
Unfortunately, in the course of my review I did discover that it was very easy to scratch the grey paint that adorns most of the plastic elements of the headset, which is made all the more disappointing when this is an item that wants to be taken on the go. I genuinely think if you cart this around with you for a few weeks without using the carry case, the LS40 will have picked up more than a few marks, so that’s worth bearing in mind if you’re not too hot at looking after the things you own.
Alongside their wider range, the LucidSound LS40 represents a welcome shift forward for gaming headsets, with its high quality looks, remarkable audio response and premium finish contributing to a maturity that’s often lacking in its competitors.