Easy SMX VIP002S Headset
How Good Can a $35 Gaming Headset Be?
The world of headphones has exploded. It turns out that nearly anyone can release a set of decent headphones with a wide variety of features. It used to be the land of Koss, Sony, Sennheiser, Grado and others, but it has expanded rapidly in the last couple of years to include nearly every PC accessory company. A company like Logitech has certainly been in the audio game for a while, but when Corsair and Kingston HyperX get into the mix you know there must be a heck of a market out there for PC audio.
EasySMX is a relatively new company to me that I first heard about this past January. They feature a variety of inexpensive headphones and gaming accessories such as mice, gaming controllers, and now gaming chairs. I was honestly not expecting much from the company as they still were relatively unknown, their pricing was bargain basement, and they sprinkled RGB into nearly everything.
I was wrong about expectations.
- Diameter: 40mm
- Operating Current :＜70mA
- Operating Voltage: DC 5V±5%
- Sensitivity: 92dB±3dB
- Impedance: 32Ω±15%
- Diameter: 4.0*1.5mm
- Impedance: ≤2.2KΩ
- Direction : Omnidirectional
- Sensitivity: -38±3dB
$35.00 USD list (currently $43.99 on Amazon)
“Full compatible with PC/PS4/Xbox One S/Xbox One X/Nintendo/Android Mobile; Omnidirectional noise-cancelling microphone; Patented RGB lighting adjustment spin button”
The VIP002S Headphones
EasySMX offered to send me their highest end wired audio offering in the form of the VIP002S. The list price on these parts is $35 US (current price on the company’s web store), but I can often find it online for less than that. These are somewhat interesting from the beginning due to some features that are typically not present in headphones at this price range.
The drivers are 40mm units with a measured impedance of around 37 ohms, slightly above the rated 32 ohms (plus or minus 15%). That seemed like a rather loose definition, but when we look at construction and features it makes more sense. Speaker sensitivity is not terribly impressive at 92 dB +/- 3dB. This number is not necessarily bad in terms of the primary usage of these headphones, though not to the level of “audiophile” headphones by any stretch.
The microphone is usable, but it certainly is not professional grade at -38 +/- 3dB. These two major components to the headphones do not exactly paint it in a positive light right off the bat. Happily for consumers, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
In terms of connectivity the headphones are very generic. It features a plug that handles both speakers and headphones as well as a USB plug to power the RGB and microphone on/off. If the USB cable is not plugged in, the RGB will not light up and the button to mute the mic will not work (as well as the mic activity light). EasySMX includes a splitter to take the single plug and convert it to separate audio input and microphone output plugs. This is an extremely handy addition when in use with PCs as well as cell phones and gaming controllers with audio out/in.
The cable is braided but is very thin to contain all of the necessary wires to make the headset work. This is one of the reasons for the higher impedance for the headphones (and variability of typical vs. measured). The cable is over six feet long, so it should be able to handle reaching to nearly any PC or console that the user plugs these into. It is a bit long for most personal usage outside of gaming and computer audio.
The construction of the headphones themselves is actually quite impressive. These are solid pieces of kit that will not fall apart even after having been abused. These can be twisted to pretty impressive degrees without the whole set falling apart.
The headband is well padded and the extension mechanism is firm and tight. The metal band inside of the plastic and padded portion is thick and well anchored by 4 screws and a bracket on each side. The rotation of the cans is another solid part that is firmly attached and does not loosen even after several months of abuse.
The combination of a flexible, yet firm headband and reasonable rotation of the ear muffs ensures that it should fit nearly every head shape and size out there comfortably. Even with as sturdy as the unit it, the weight is not overly heavy.
The cups are reasonably wide and covered with “pleather” which is fairly comfortable at first. The pleather material does not breathe all that well, so eventually moisture starts getting trapped after longer listening intervals. The cups do not act as distinct pressure points as the load from the headphones is nicely balanced between the cups and headband.
The boom microphone only rotates up and down. It is a solid plastic part that does not bend at all, so some people may have the mic farther away than others due to facial shapes and sizes. It would be nice if there were some flexibility there, but I would imagine that it was something that was passed over to save some money to hit the aggressive price point these headphones are aimed at. At the end of the boom is the LED indicator as to whether the microphone is active or not.
The right cup features a dial that controls the RGB function of the headphones. Each cup has a ring of RGBs around it and the colors can be changed as well as turned off by rotating that control. The RGB effects are not obnoxious in the least, in fact they are pretty subtle as compared to other models on the market. It is a nice little feature that apparently does not cost very much, but makes it slightly more attractive to some users.
The left cup features the volume control. When plugging the headphones in for the first time, users should have the volume turned up to maximum if the PC has an auto sensing port and can apply amplification to the headphones. This is extremely handy for when action gets a little loud or uncomfortable as the user can just quickly reach up and turn the volume down on the set. Both controls have good tactile feel so adjustment is easy and accurate. Right underneath the volume control is a mute button for the microphone. This again is easy to find and the tactile response is very good for users to know when they have activated the mute/unmute function.
The pack in box is about as basic as one gets. A manual, a warranty card, and the audio/mic splitter cable. This is not a shock as again the price point of the headphones do not allow much in terms of extras. The performance of these headphones is what matters.
The headset has a good heft to it, without being unreasonably weighty. It fits comfortably on a variety of head sizes due to the solid adjustability of the design. The pleather cups are comfortable at first, but after extended sessions moisture begins to build up underneath them. Removing the headphones for a few minutes allows that moisture to evaporate and the headphones do not feel clammy or uncomfortable after they had the quick drying session.
The thin cable and the volume control likely contribute to the higher than expected impedance. Throw in the likely use of the splitter cable and we see another point of increased impedance. Using these headphones with a PC that has an integrated amp into the motherboard is the best overall experience that can be attained. The integrated amps can help overcome impedance to give a better overall audio experience. On PCs without this type of functionality (or a console) then the audio will not have the same kick or “come alive” as when using it with a dedicated amp. There is plenty of cable to reach nearly everywhere. If this is being used as a more portable solution, then the amount of cable is overkill. I would personally not use these away from the PC as they are simply too bulky when earbuds would do.
The RGB and volume controls are both easy to find and adjust. The RGB is not nearly as important as the user will probably pick a color and stick with it. When the significant other is yelling at you, then sometimes the user can get flustered and hit the RGB control rather than volume. Practice should allow for fewer mistakes to be made in the future.
The microphone is decent in that it is relatively clear and does a reasonable job of reproducing voices. It does have quite a bit more background noise and hiss as compared to more professional solutions. I have included two samples that cover both the EasySMX mic as well as the Monoprice condenser mic that I use for the podcast.
I was not expecting much when I plugged these headphones in for my first listening test. I was then surprised by how clean overall these headphones were in such a scenario. The bass was tight, midrange was well represented, and the highs were still present to give a better feeling of atmosphere. If a user has ever done A/B testing with poor headphones and then switch to a higher end model, the concept of “transparency” is very real. More transparent solutions will give a greater illusion of “nothing between the artist and me”. Some headphones do this better than others, but I would rate these particular models as fairly high.
This is not to say that they are perfect, because they are not. Music is probably the worst case scenario for these headphones overall. When compared to higher end models and audiophile solutions, they really come up lacking in terms of presence and soundstage. These models to not include any 7.1 speaker functionality natively, as the PC will have to perform the audio tricks to give that illusion.
In pure stereo mode the soundstage with these headphones is amazingly small. With higher end headphones a user can close their eyes while listening to a clean audio recording, and if the soundstage is expansive enough the user can pretty much point in a direction of where they hear an instrument come from. The stereo effect works with these headphones, but the soundstage is compressed to being nearly non-existent. I have no idea why this is, as the overall quality of the audio coming out of these cans is very good.
Music is certainly enjoyable, but does not offer the experience of more expensive units. I was completely surprised by how well these inexpensive headphones actually reproduced audio without annoying artifacts or limitations. The frequency range was well represented without it feeling boomy with excessive bass or with hiss at the higher frequencies. Midrange was warm and lifelike. Nothing artificial, but the lack of a soundstage or a more airy quality did detract from the overall enjoyment in a pure music environment.
Movies and Video
Sound reproduction in this area is very good. The midrange and bass are both strong, which reflects nicely in a wide variety of movies and shows. The lack of a soundstage does impact the overall enjoyment of a film that relies on more spatially aware audio cues. Dialog comes through clearly and accurately. Action sequences stay sharp and clean, even when the bass gets driven hard. Music blends in seamlessly with dialog in well recorded audio tracks. Even in more poorly mixed features the headphones do a good job of smoothing things out. This is sometimes an issue with higher end headphones in that the artifacts in recordings can sometimes be brought to the fore and can totally ruin the experience where a lesser headphone can help gloss over those issues.
While the audio was fine throughout these sit down sessions, the pleather would get uncomfortable after about an hour and needed to be dried off. Some users will likely get used to this, while others in more humid and hot climates could see the situation exacerbated.
This is the strongest suite for the VIP002S headphones. They provide good quality audio in many gaming situations. The lack of a wide soundfield is not as important in many fast moving or even atmospheric games. Users can still locate where a sound is coming from quite easily, especially if the application provides good HRTF cues in the engine (which many do). The bass is again punchy without being boomy, the midrange is well represented and warm sounding, and the highs are present without being overbearing or annoying.
It all wraps up to an enjoyable experience in audio. Once a user dives into a game, the headphones seem to disappear and they do not become a burden or impedance to enjoying the game as it is presented. The only issue that I had was again the comfort issue with longer gaming sessions. The moisture would build up and I would have to take them off for a few minutes. I had absolutely no complaints from the audio portion of performance with these headphones.
I have no idea where EasySMX came from, but all I know is that they are selling an outstanding product. It is well built, it has some interesting and useful functionality, and the overall audio quality and experience rival that of headphones twice their price. EasySMX advertises these headphones at $35 US, but currently they are listed at around $43 on Amazon (with a 10% coupon) and other outlets. Previously this year I saw them on sale for around $25. I have no idea if they will reach that low again, but considering the overall package I think $43 is more than fair for what a users gets.
These are comfortable products that have outstanding build quality and extremely durable. I had my 16yo son test these out for many months straight and they show no signs of wear. He is not known for treating things nicely or delicately. They have been thrown around, dropped, and sat upon. They look like they could have come directly out of the box instead of being under his tender ministrations for the past several months. The cable seems firmly attached to the headphones as we have no audio issues even from having the headphones suspended and hung from the wire.
The VIP002S headphones are probably the best units that I have ever worked with under the $50 mark. I highly recommend these for anyone looking for a quality product that is inexpensive. I have no doubt that these would last quite a few years even under duress. If I were looking for a product for myself, my kids, or other people who may not require audiophile type equipment while having a sturdy build and some serious longevity, then I would be hard pressed to find a product as good and as flexible as the EasySMX VIP002s headphones.