Occasionally, as a gaming hardware reviewer, it feels as those there’s a constant battle going on amongst the peripheral manufacturers. Sometimes it’s a quiet, Cold War-style affair, with companies quietly one-upping each other’s new advances, at others, it’s a full-on melee where they meet up at a tech show for an immense Anchorman-style brawl. In any combat situation, you’re going to need protection, and Sades, with their new Armor headset, are going to give you everything you need. It’ll do it on a budget too, which will please those higher-ups in the organisation.
The first Sades headset we tested, the Spellond Pro, showed plenty of promise from this relatively unknown Chinese manufacturer, barring a few nagging design decisions. Straight out of the box, the Armor feels like a more rounded package, and in use it’s turned out to be a reliable, and great-sounding, companion for gaming, watching movies, and listening to music.
The Armor is a wired USB headset, suitable for Windows PC. For some reason it won’t work at all with a Mac, so you’ll have to look elsewhere, but if you fancy plugging it into your PS4 it will work there, though without the range of audio options you’ll find on desktop.
Sades have gone for light and comfortable with the Armor. The thin metallic frame features a padded floating headband, similar in function to those you’ll see on recent Steelseries headsets, and large, faux-leather covered ear cushions. Each earcup is constructed from matte and gloss black plastic, and it’s amongst the lightest headsets out there, with no obvious pinch points or heavier sections to cause fatigue. I was able to wear it for hours with no discomfort.
It does feel a little cheap, but then at less than £50 this is a more wallet-friendly set. The headband and ear cushion’s vinyl padding absolutely do the job, but they’re not the most luxurious example of either. That said, they’re very much in line with other headsets in this price bracket, and the lighter build should give them much more longevity on top of your head.
Besides the comfortable build, each earcup features a glowing RGB ring, capable of spinning rainbow effects, or a batch of solid colours instead. I very often don’t like RGB stuff on headsets – they’re not for your benefit, so why have them at all? – but I found myself quite enjoying the Armor’s version. If you select blue, then everything glows very nicely in the same shade, and I quite liked that.
That does bring us to the Armor’s mild faux pas, which is that, like the Spellond before it, Sades have decided to put a light on the end of the microphone arm. Luckily, it’s a lot less bright than the Spellond’s and can quite easily be turned off, so it doesn’t run the risk of shining off your monitor’s screen, but it still remains a curious decision. Barring that, the noise-isolating mic itself is clear and comprehensively standard. Your friends will be able to hear your unadulterated wisdom (or Mountain Dew-enhanced belches) with no problem, and the flexible mic arm stays where you put it.
You can easily turn the lights off via the smart in-line controls. A small, tidy, and well-made little box houses buttons for volume, switching through the lighting, and a couple for muting both the mic and the cans. It all performs exactly as you’d hope, with a minimum of fuss.
The most surprising aspect of the Armor is just how good it sounds. Despite the light, somewhat plastic-y build, its 50mm drivers have been tuned exceptionally well, and out of the box it impresses with powerful, dynamic audio that was a real pleasure to experience.
No matter the content, games, music and movies all benefitted from the Armor’s clear and detailed response. You can pound your head with the League of Legends playlist, while playing League of Legends and watching… Legend, and enjoy every second of it. It’s the kind of audio you expect from headsets that cost twice as much, and to Sades’ credit they’ve absolutely nailed the most important element of any pair of headphones. They sound great.
Sades don’t provide a bespoke software solution for the Armor, leaving it up to a driver installation to do the heavy lifting for you, giving you access to the Realtek Effect via your regular sound properties in Windows 10. It’s a curious way of doing things, but it does allow you to tweak the audio in at least a couple of meaningful ways.
Being completely brutal, most of the options within the Realtek Effect menu are only useful in very specific settings, and having to drop into the menus to turn them on and off isn’t very intuitive. They’re designed to enhance different elements of the audio mix, and if used for the wrong thing they largely distort, disrupt and downright butcher the excellent tuning out of the box.
Omniheadphone allows you to change the angle that the output is coming from, while Voiceback EXP enhances speech when watching video or listening to spoken audio. The one setting I found to be consistently useful was the most minimal use of the Harmonic Scale slider, which just lifted the top end away from the powerful bass, fine tuning the sound even further. For a pair of sub-£50 cans, I was left impressed.
The one thing the Armor isn’t very good at is noise isolation. Thanks to the light plastic build, and the voluminous ear cushions, the Armor isn’t great at keeping noises out. Of course, in most circumstances that won’t matter all that much, but if you live or work in a noisy environment you might want to look elsewhere. This does have bring the added advantage, thanks to the light clamp, that they don’t tend to get overly warm.