Great connectivity let down by average sound – News Block

Classification:
6/10
?

  • 1 – Doesn’t work
  • 2 – Barely functional
  • 3 – Very poor in most areas
  • 4 – It works, but has numerous problems
  • 5 – Good but leaves a lot to be desired
  • 6 – Good enough to buy on sale
  • 7 – Great and worth buying
  • 8 – Fantastic, approaching the best of its class
  • 9 – Top of his class
  • 10 – Borderline perfection

Price: $100

Side view of the NZXT Relay headset installed on a stand
Jason Montoya / Instruction Geek

While NZXT is known for a host of gaming components and accessories, one thing the company isn’t known for is audio products. With the launch of its new Relay line, the company is looking to change that, and in many ways, the NZXT Relay earphones lead the way.

NZXT made a first attempt at entering the gaming audio scene in 2019, but those products were never released. NZXT says they didn’t meet company standards, which means their new Relay line, consisting of an audio mixer/switcher, speakers, subwoofer, and headphones, must be in line with what the company envisioned.

The NZXT Relay ecosystem is impressive when you have the whole system in place, but how does the headset fare on its own? Ultimately, it all comes down to what you’re looking for.

This is what we like

  • comfortable fit
  • The microphone is solid
  • Good positional audio for games

And what we don’t do

  • lacks bass response
  • Builds on the rest of the Relay ecosystem for the best value

How-To Geek’s expert reviewers get right down to business with every product we review. We put each piece of hardware through hours of real-world testing and benchmark it in our lab. We never accept payments to endorse or review a product and we never add other people’s reviews. Read more >>

Decent build, uninspired design

The NZXT relay headset placed on a workbench
Jason Montoya / Instruction Geek
  • Dimensions: 6.6 x 7.7 x 3.7 inches (168.85 x 196.44 x 93.65mm)
  • Weight: 9.52 ounces (269.5g)

In general, the construction of the NZXT Relay headphones is not surprising in any way. The yoke that holds the ear cups is made of aluminum, while the rest of the earcups are largely plastic. They don’t feel cheap or flimsy, but they don’t feel especially premium either.

Thankfully, the memory foam on the ear pads is comfortable, and the leatherette covering keeps them from getting hot after multi-hour sessions. After about an hour, there was a noticeable heat buildup, but not more than I’d expect with any pair of headphones using similar materials.

If there’s anything against the NZXT Relay earphones, it lies in the look of the earphones. It’s not garish, but on the other hand, it’s not especially flashy or noticeable. That said, if you’re looking for a more subdued looking gaming headset, this could be a positive.

Barebones but flexible connectivity

NZXT Relay Headphone Accessories
Jason Montoya / Instruction Geek
  • Cable length: 6.56 ft (2m)

The NZXT Relay headset uses a 3.5mm cable to connect to your PC, which means it will work with almost any computer. In the box, you’ll also find a 3.5mm to USB-A adapter, which is what you’ll want to use in most cases, as it allows for additional options.

The 3.5mm cable plugs into the right side of the headphones, while on the other side you’ll find a smaller jack for the included microphone. The removable microphone is useful if you want to use the NZXT Relay headphones as a set of headphones without looking like you’re in the middle of an esports championship while riding the morning train.

The removable microphone is also useful if you have another microphone you’d like to use. If you’re streaming, you might prefer to use the NZXT Capsule Mic, for example, which is an easy fit with the Relay Headset.

Settings and the NZXT Cam App

NZXT Relay headphones placed next to a keyboard on a desk mat How To Geek
Jason Montoya / Instruction Geek

Setup is easy if you just use the 3.5mm jack as all you have to do is plug it in and you’re good to go. That being said, if you want to use the NZXT Cam app (available for Windows), you’ll need to use the separately sold NZXT Switchmix or USB adapter.

The app adds another dimension to headphones in many ways as it enables DTS Headphone:X profiles. These add some extra space to what would otherwise be less immersive sounds.

The NZXT Cam app also handles firmware updates and allows you to customize the sound. You can turn DTS off completely or adjust the stereo widening level as well as the equalizer sounds.

Good mic, but game audio lacks impact

Person using NZXT Relay headset while gaming
Hannah Stryker / Instructional Geek
  • Driver Size: 40mm
  • Frequency range: 20Hz – 40kHz
  • Microphone Frequency Range: 100Hz – 10kHz

The NZXT Relay headphones feature 50mm drivers, which is common for headphones in general. That’s what makes it so surprising that these headphones are so lacking in low end. There just isn’t the cinematic punch that adds that extra visceral feel to games.

Bass aside, the headphones have their strengths. Playing “Need for Speed: Unbound”, I could easily hear which way a car was coming up behind me. This allowed me to defend myself more effectively, which is definitely a good sign for the headset.

The various DTS modes available to play in the NZXT Cam app make a surprising difference. Originally, I tried “Diablo IV” on the RPG setting, and it sounded smeared and blurry. Keeping the top-down perspective in mind, I tried the MOBA preset, which worked much better.

The microphone sounds good, considering the rest of the package. You probably don’t want to record a podcast with it, but it’s fine for gaming and streaming.

microphone audio sample


The music doesn’t bring the bass

The top of the band in NZXT Relay headphones
Jason Montoya / Instruction Geek

While the relatively thin low end wasn’t much of a problem for gaming, that’s not the case for music. I’ve heard plenty of headphones with 50mm drivers that get great bass response, but the NZXT Relay headphones don’t fall into that category.

While listening to Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home”, I tried moving through the various DTS and EQ options. Many of these settings didn’t do much in an audible sense, and even choosing the Bass Boost preset didn’t do much to round out the low end. In a song like this, there’s not much bass to speak of in the first place, but it still sounded thinner than usual. I was able to use the equalizer in the NZXT Cam software to remedy this, but what if you’re using the headset somewhere else?

Listening to Fu Manchu’s “Hotdoggin'” on my iPhone (connected via Lightning to 3.5mm adapter), the open-sounding top end offers plenty of space for singer Scott Hill’s vocals and the quiet guitar that kicks off the song. . As the band gets going, the bottom drops out, as the Relay headphones just don’t provide enough bass to do the song justice. Without the available equalizer, there is no way to compensate for this lack of bass.

While the Relay Headset’s weak point is music, the good news is that its relatively shallow bass response is good for listening to voice-centric content. If you spend your non-gaming time listening to music or audiobooks, the NZXT Relay headset should do just fine.

Should I buy NZXT Relay headphones?

The NZXT Relay headphones have excellent definition in the higher frequencies, which also helps with spatial awareness. This occurs primarily when using DTS, either via the included USB adapter or the NZXT Switchmix, which is sold separately.

The main problem is that the headphones simply don’t provide enough on the low end for most people. If speech intelligibility is what you’re after, the NZXT Relay Headset does a decent job. If you’re looking for powerful bass for music or cinematic bass for movies and games, you won’t find it here.

Despite all of the above, the Switchmix and NZXT Cam software go a long way towards smoothing out the rough edges of the headphones. As part of the system, they’re a solid option, but if you’re just looking for a headset, you’ll find plenty of comparable options.

Classification: 6/10
?

  • 1 – Doesn’t work
  • 2 – Barely functional
  • 3 – Very poor in most areas
  • 4 – It works, but has numerous problems
  • 5 – Good but leaves a lot to be desired
  • 6 – Good enough to buy on sale
  • 7 – Great and worth buying
  • 8 – Fantastic, approaching the best of its class
  • 9 – Top of his class
  • 10 – Borderline perfection

Price: $100

This is what we like

  • comfortable fit
  • The microphone is solid
  • Good positional audio for games

And what we don’t do

  • lacks bass response
  • Builds on the rest of the Relay ecosystem for the best value

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