Indiegogo and things of the like can be really hit and miss. There is no doubt smaller companies/individuals come up with fantastic ideas, it’s just hard to to comment on how well they’ll work. Where Mighty No. 9 was nothing short of a fiasco; I bought two bags from Nomatic, after TSA decided I needed a massage going into and following E3 2017, and that was not an investment I regret. So, when I heard about Surge Club’s Surge 3D headphones, I was cautiously optimistic.
On one hand, I had my usual concerns about products that try to do it all and fail to do anything well, but on the other, I remember how some products, such as Audeze Mobius exceeded expectations. With a much easier to swallow price of $239, though you can currently obtain them for $89 to $99 through their Indiegogo campaign, it seemed like a fair risk. And, after using them for a bit, it was, for lack of a better word, an interesting experience.
The second I saw the box they shipped in I joked about it resembling the headphones you typically see at TJMaxx. With little going on the front, outside of a picture of the headphones, company logo and little more than the products name, the back does most of the talking. It mentions it can do up anything between 2.0 and 7.1, which is a fairly common range for mid-tier gaming headphones, supports Bluetooth, solid comfort and an “advanced algorithm” to “accurately sense sound from different sources.”
After lifting the lid, there was a plastic insert holding the headphones and a velvet feeling bad containing cords. One thing that immediately stood out and will likely change in the final product model, is something to prevent the headphones from rubbing on the roof of the box. It’s a small concern, though there are marks on the the lid of the box from the headphones. The plastic containing them is also rather thin. It tore around where the earpads were and I could easily break it in the area where the pouch was. Thankfully, the headphones arrived in pristine condition regardless, so this isn’t a concern as much as an observation.
When I opened the little pouch, meant to hold all the cords, I was surprised to see they were braided. Inside was a TRSS cable with a mic mute toggle and volume control, PC adapter, mic and possibly by mistake, two micro USB cords. More than enough to cover the average gamers needs, with enough to cover you if those were to change.
As for the headphones themselves, they’re the lightest ones I have, at the cost of feeling a little bit on the cheaper side. There isn’t much resistance when trying to open them and the product itself is constructed mostly of plastic. One thing that stood out is when wearing the headphones, the top part kind of dips at the top. This is likely something that will be resolved in the final version but still something to keep in mind.
In terms of actual use, I can’t say I was blown away by what Surge 3D had to offer. When connected to my PlayStation 4 via wire, it offered a flatter sound, with nowhere near the definition other headphones offered. It wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t hear details, like I could tell when someone was shooting at me, where they were coming from, large disturbances, they just required a bit more attention then should be required.
However, when I changed the input from my controller to my televisions Bluetooth, it was a substantial improvement in terms of quality. Not only was the sound stage significantly louder, it was a lot clearer. I was able to better understand what things were happening where and use this to my advantage. Even though my television is only version 4.1, where as Surge 3D supports up to version 5, it was a good enough experience to consider going this route whenever I don’t need to talk to people.
Speaking of the mic, it is somewhat hit and miss. I got some complaints about it being too quiet or not offering the clearest sound. Even internal tests showed it wasn’t the best mic out there.
Since these headphones do support other sound profiles, it performed adequately well with music and surround. When connected via wire to my Sony Walkman A45, it was a shallower sound than my LS41, with it matching the LS41 through Bluetooth. The included 3D demo showed the headphones are more than capable of providing a solid 7.1 experience and that the 3D mode expanded the sound range, you just need to find things to utilize it.
Where Surge 3D starts to really fall short are controls. Unlike the LucidSounds offerings, which have some of the best controls I’ve seen on gaming headphones, Surge 3D is rather limited.
Outside of power and 3D, the remaining controls are either external or gesture based. The aforementioned TRSS cable has the mic mute and a single volume control, so you can’t independently control game and chat volume. The touchpad leaves a lot to be desired. I don’t actually know if I ever got the volume to increase or decrease, though I was able to get the other functions to work.
Most of them make sense. Slide up or down to increase or decrease the volume; double click is play/pause and moving forward or back will perform next or previous. While this is admittedly a prototype unit, the way they respond is rather finicky.
Short and quick movements were hit and miss. Since moving a finger down activated/deactivated the LEDs, it never once worked if I started moving from the Surge logo or below. And, even when I started higher, it only responded when I went at a rather slow pace. Same can be said about every other gesture besides double tap. That performed, almost universally, as expected. After battling with it for an hour, I found it was infinitely easier to just pull out my Walkman and change things as needed.
The hard thing about reviewing a prototype is knowing what will and won’t be improved. For this reason I’m not going to score it and will classify this as more of an impression, but it makes for a hit and miss experience, with it really appealing more to a niche.
Where Surge 3D hits the hardest is anyone looking for a super lightweight and long lasting product. It was significantly lighter (around 100 grams) than any other wireless headphones I had and also managed to deliver the longest battery life. This alone is going to make some people extremely happy. It also has the ability to act as gaming or music headphones, both wired or wireless, with relative ease, giving them a fair amount of versatility. Especially since they managed to have better long term comfort than the LS41.
This certainly gives people a reason to consider Surge 3D or maybe even buy it, it just comes down to what you’re looking for. At the $89 price point it’s extremely hard to beat, which is also true for the $99 one, it’s the non-Indiegogo supporter $239 price that is a bit harder to justify. On one hand, there are better single sided options on both fronts for relatively the same price, yet very little that can match it on the combined front. So, if you want something that does it all and don’t want to pay too much of a premium, you’ll likely enjoy Surge 3D.