PerformanceWe tested the ASUS ROG Vulcan Pro in respect to three different things: its core gaming, music, and noise-attenuation performance.
This headset does include a USB sound card dubbed Spitfire. It sounds a bit better than the usual kind, but is nothing fancy. It, like many USB sound cards, has a virtual surround feature that adds an odd effect to the sound. The USB sound card appeals to a very small niche of people that value the exact same sound over better sound quality. The ASUS ROG Spitfire USB sound card comes up short compared to a normal on-board sound card. It does make sense for, perhaps, a small group of hardcore FPS gamers that play tournaments without prohibitions on gaming gear you can take along.
GamingTo kick off the tests, we fired up CS:GO since it has a good sound engine when it comes to spatial cues and ambient noise. The Vulcan Pros are quite good and entertaining due to their big low-end; however, the midrange gets drowned out a bit in the process, which is a shame for FPS games with many positional sound cues in that range. The bass on this headset has a nice rumble effect, which is great for casual gaming since the primary goal is to entertain, but it is a no-go for competitive FPS gaming since it will make you miss critical information on the sound-side of the game. Even for gaming, the bass is a bit too fluffy; more definition would make it a much more pleasant headset to game with.
MusicThe headset is alright for music listening, but it cannot match the clarity of the CM Storm Sonuz, which is surprising considering that the Sonuz is roughly half the price of the Vulcan Pro. The Sonuz does lack the ANC features and doesn't come with a USB sound card, but one would still expect a more expensive headset to outperform a vastly cheaper one in every way. It is clear that ASUS has tweaked the Vulcan Pro for bass response; it is very powerful and deep. The downside of that is that it is a bit fluffy and lacks speed.
Active Noise CancellationThe noise attenuation system was tested in three different scenarios: TV, Pink/white/brown, and street noise. The different types of noises pose different challenges for the ANC system, which makes all of them interesting to look at. The normal noise you would be exposed to at a LAN party would probably consist of a combination of TV-type noise and people chatting near-by. Pink/white/brown noise is not something you would find anywhere in its purest form; that is, except in front of a noise generator. It is quite similar to normal static noise, although more regular. They should all be pretty easy to pick-up for the ANC system, and it would be logical to assume that it would be easy to filter such noises out. Street noise is very uncontrollable and is made up of all different frequencies and intensities. A test with played sinus tones was also conducted to map where the ANC system was most effective.
The test setup was composed of a UE BoomBox placed 1.5 m away from my head. The noise was produced by a noise generator, and controlled TV clips where used for the TV test. Furthermore, a controllable sweep-generator was used to map the scope at which the ANC worked best.
With an ANC enabled headset, one of the most interesting things is, of course, how much ambient noise it can save your ears from. The active noise cancellation (ANC) system on the Vulcan Pro is pretty efficient when it comes to midrange (200 Hz - 2 kHz) noise like, for instance, TV noises and people chatter. It also proved quite good at dampening low-level fan noise. Their performance is not so good when you subject them to static noise from a noise generator. While you could easily notice the difference with TV noise, the picture is radically different with static types of noise, which came as a surprise as that is usually the easiest type to filter out. The fact that it does not do well against this type of noise makes it pretty worthless on a plane or in other places with a broad spectrum of noise.
Another problem with the ANC system is that it raises the noise floor considerably, which means that you can hear some noise during quiet sections in music and in games.
This proves that passive noise attenuation is still the way to go if you want good noise attenuation as it does not add a lot of weight and is so much cheaper from a manufacturing point-of-view. If you want a semi-portable headset that has good noise attenuation properties, you should go for a set of in-ears since they would give you way more attenuation for your hard earned money.