German audio manufacturer Beyerdynamic is perhaps best known to audiophiles (and aviators) for its spectacular-and spectacularly expensive-headphones. The company now offers products for gamers, and the MMX 2 gaming headset is its latest effort.
Typically, I’ve found that lightweight headphones don’t sound that great, but the MMX 2 is the exception that thoroughly disproves that rule. The headset (it has a condenser microphone) weighs a scant 5.5 ounces, but sounds better than bulkier headphones.
The MMX 2’s adjustable headband fits over your head and rests comfortably. Crafted in matte black, the headband is unobtrusive and the earcups fit my ears quite well. The earcups are thickly padded with a luxurious velvet-like material.
A true gaming headset, the MMX 2 sports a condenser mic on a flexible boom arm that rotates from the left earpiece. A seven-foot cable runs from the left earpiece as well, terminating in separate 3.5mm plugs for microphone and headset input. (My colleague, Dan Frakes, is putting Beyerdynamic’s DT 235 headset through its paces. It’s based on the same design as the MMX 2 but without the mic. We’ll have those results for you in an upcoming review.)
If you have any experience with mics on the Mac, you know that Macs have line-level audio input rather than mic-level input. That means that plugging a headset as-is into a Mac will yield great headphone response but you won’t be able to use the mic. Thankfully, Beyerdynamic includes a USB adapter that lets you plug the headset into an open USB port. When plugged into USB, the Mac recognizes the MMX 2 as an “Unknown USB Audio Device” in the Sound system preference. When connected via USB, the MMX 2 operates perfectly as a plug-and-play mic and stereo headset, no software drivers required. The USB interface also has a mute button (it kills mic input and output to the headphones) and volume control.
The sound quality from the speakers is remarkable. Beyerdynamic lists the frequency response as 18 to 22,000 Hz, and I have no reason to disagree (though I’ll admit that 22,000 Hz is well beyond my hearing range). Some of my MP3s sounded a bit bright with no equalization from iTunes; somewhat shrill, regardless of whether I used the device with the USB interface or directly in the headphone jack. But in all fairness, when I retested with music that had been encoded with a lossless codec, or listened to redbook CD audio, the harshness wasn’t as intense, so I think I’ll chalk it up to the encoding. In other words, this is one of those sets of headphones that will let you know how crappy your encoded music really sounds.
For games, the dynamic performance of the headphones is near peerless for any model in its class; sound reproduction in every game I played was spectacular. It really gave me an edge in spatial orientation and discriminating sound effects that gave away enemy positions, in first person shooters and other 3D games, for example.
The condenser mic is also top-notch. I used this headset for voice over IP, recording a podcast or two and also having some in-game chat with my guild on World of Warcraft (). Both instances worked great. The mic is covered with a windscreen and it’s also noise-reducing.
The biggest problem you’re going to have with the MMX 2 is finding a pair. Beyerdynamic has distributed them in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, but I’m having trouble finding them in North America. Not even Beyerdynamic’s own U.S.A. Web site shows them for sale yet. When they get here, expect to pay about $130.
The bottom line
The old adage, “You get what you pay for” is true here. You can spend a lot less for a gaming headset, but you’re not going to get anything close to the quality that you’ll find with the MMX 2.
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