Sennheiser's G4ME ONE is one of two, just-announced, premium gaming headsets. A handy mix of white and black, the aesthetics are secondary to the unit's impressive specifications and bold marketing claims; if it's half as good as it Sennheiser say it is, the G4ME ONE should be something very special indeed.
To ensure it was given a fair assessment (I am, after all, a game reviewer, not a hardware jockey) I put it through a strenuous series of real-world tests and put it up against a variety of different competitor's headsets for comparison's sake.
Specifically, I directly compared the G4ME ONE with Sennheiser's budget HD201, the Logitech G430, the higher-end G4ME ZERO, and my trusty old World of Warcraft wireless headset. Tests included playing a variety of PC games (Call of Duty: Ghosts primarily, but also World of Warcraft, Hitman Absolution, and several other titles), listening to a lot of music, and playing games on the PlayStation 4.
Priced at $419.95, the G4ME ONE is very much a high-end wired headset. Its built in, noise-cancelling microphone boom also means that you're unlikely to want to use it for anything else, so you'd better play a lot of videogames because it's going to be hard to justify spending this much money if you don't.
Visually, the dominant tones are white and black, with some red highlighting around the speaker grills. The outer part of the headband is a matte black plastic, while the inner portion and the earcups are made from soft velvet-like material. The black looks serious and expensive, but the white has a high gloss and makes the headset look quite bulky (even though it's not.)
The ONE comes in a large cardboard box, with an inset plastic mould that provides very good protection while your headset is in transit or storage. There's not much to the packaging beyond that, however, and no additional accessories are included.
Designed for optimum compatibility and use on a PC out of the box, the G4ME ONE comes with the standard twin 3.5mm connectors (one for audio-out and one for the microphone.) You can also get official Sennheiser adaptors for use with a single 3.5mm jack (like a Mac or a smartphone, presumably.)
The cable is 3m long and made from a thick, very light, and incredibly flexible braided material. It feels super premium to the touch and its specifications meant it never - not even once - got in the way or affected my natural movement while using the headset. This is improved even further by the fact that there's no in-line microphone or controls - something that otherwise adds weight and makes any cable motion far more noticeable on other headsets (like the Logitech.)
I was originally ecstatic about moving to a wireless headset (in the form of my World of Warcraft cans) but in reality, I'd far rather continue to use the ONE; its cable doesn't impede me at all, whereas charging my other headset is just not something I ever really got into the habit of doing, so it spends a lot of time not being ready for me to use at a moment's notice.
Like most Sennheiser headsets, the ONE is very light. Exactly how the company achieves this must be some kind of crazy company secret; there's a lot of tech in here and - thanks to the colours chosen, perhaps - it looks like it should be heavier. In total, it weighs around 300g.
While the design of the cups and how they connect to the headband affords the unit quite a large amount of movement (ideal for fitting all sorts of head shapes), there's no hint of any obvious weakness in the design. Key stress points are well-built, including a very stiff grommet where the cord enters the headset itself.
The outer headband is solid and the inner headband (which slides into the outer headband, so you can adjust the position of the cans for different sized heads) is larger than most, so it's stiff and - there's a theme here - feels like it's built to last.
The cord is cleverly concealed within the mechanism that "floats" the cup over your ears, and held in place by small plastic clips that you can only see if you're hunting for such things because you're a fastidious reviewer. Exactly how they sneak the cord into the cup itself isn't obvious (or, if my understanding of physics can be relied on, possible), but there's certainly no sign of weakness or even potential weakness.
I'm something of a frequent headphone user, in that I work in a noisy environment and need to concentrate, so headphones are frequently atop my cranium. I'm no easy-fit, though, thanks to an enormous head which makes finding a headset I can use for an extended period a serious chore (I'm still yet to find a hat - of any sort - that fits me, for example.)
The GAME ONE has what I'd describe as a mid-weight clamping pressure, meaning that it exerts a reasonable amount of pressure on the sides of your head as it's method of staying in place. It's a little higher than I'd prefer in this regard, but I'm able to use it for up to an hour without a break, which is quite high for me - chances are those with sub-elephantine skulls will fare just fine.
The velveteen covered foam is extremely comfortable to wear - a feature that's certainly aided by the fact that the cups are so large. Sennheiser describe the ear pads as being XXL in size and I won't argue with that; they're taller than those on my WoW headsets but not as wide - the space inside them is more than large enough for my ears to sit entirely inside of, however, which means they feel great against my head and go a long way to blocking out other sound that might currently be echoing around your room.
One slightly odd aspect about the feel, and something caused by the size of the ear pads, is that the base of the cups actually rests on my jaw. It's not uncomfortable by any stretch, and it might not be the same for you, but it does feel a little (just a little) odd, especially when talking or eating.
Using the G4ME ONE is simplicity in itself. There's no software (either in the box or to download) so you - literally - just plug them in and play.
The volume control doesn't interface with Windows; adjusting it only affects the audio directly in your ears (rather than changing your computer's settings, as some headset controls do.) The control itself is very easy to locate and raised "nubs" make it easy to control, even if you're fingers are sweaty from wasting n00bs in Call of Duty. The control has a massive range, too, affording you a great deal of control over the volume in your ears. There's no noticeable stuttering or jumps between settings, and it moves very smoothly.
The microphone boom is slightly adjustable laterally, allowing you to move it in or out a small amount for fine-control over exactly where it is placed in relation to your mouth. You can move it vertically, too; once it gets to about your eyes, it "clicks" which is the sign that you're now muted. It's a good system, is easy to use, and you're never in any doubt as to whether you're "live" or "silent."
If I were to choose just one word to sum up how the G4ME ONEs sound, it would have to be a superlative. Something like "wow" or "amazing" would do the trick; they are, to be quite frank, extremely impressive.
In particular, the sound in Hitman Absolution adds another layer to the experience when played on a G4ME ONE. Already an important component, sound draws you into the world of a gun-for-hire even more when you're listening to a headset of this level of quality.
That said, you need to be very aware that not all games are created equally, and the G4ME ONEs will just as handily reveal poor sound in games as it will showcase the better stuff. World of Warcraft, for example, sounds pretty bleak to me now; disparate sound samples with volume levels all over the place are suddenly incredibly obvious when you've got some quality cans affixed to your head.
Games that are good, however, including some on PlayStation 4 that I can't discuss just yet, are a great demonstration of Sennheiser's technology. If you've ever wondered what the real difference is between a $50 set and something in the $400+ range, the G4ME ONE is a brilliant demonstration - I actually noticed my skills in multiplayer shooters increasing thanks to the crystal clarity of the audio.
Then there's music. While I'm not playing games, I'm normally cranking some Daft Punk, Module, or a random electronica radio station on Digitally Imported. It's here that the G4ME ONE's range is truly tested, and try as I might I just couldn't make them stumble. High notes are clear and crisp, midrange is well defined, and the bass notes really hit home.
Finally, the microphone. Thanks to impressive noise cancelling tech, sounds recorded with the G4ME ONE are clear and free of any background chatter. While this is all largely of benefit to people you're playing with, rather than you, if you talk a lot it's nice to know you're more likely to be heard when using the ONE than without. It's also great for recording other sorts of audio; VOIP calls, Skype, voiceovers on YouTube clips, etc.
The G4ME ONEs are expensive, sure, but it's hard to argue with their value once you've used them. They look good, feel great, and sound amazing. The inability to remove the boom mic does limit them to in-home use, so if you're looking for something you can multipurpose as a walk-around-town-and-look-like-a-boss device, they might not be suitable, but if you want an extremely high quality set of cans for hardcore computer usage (including, of course, playing lots of games with), the G4ME ONEs come highly recommended. If you can afford to fly first class, I suggest you travel with Sennheiser Air.