Massdrop x Sennheiser PC37X Review
Is there any class of audio products in the world that is less “audiophiley” than gaming headsets? Anything farther from being high-fidelity than a combination of bloated bass, cheap plastic and atrocious looks? By default, the answer to both of these questions is no.
But every once in awhile a new adventurer sets out on an epic quest to destroy the evil Bad Rep of Headsets. The name of our latest hero? Massdrop x Sennheiser PC37X.
Massdrop sent me over the headset ahead of the release date in exchange for my honest opinion on it. No other compensation was received or implied.
Inside the package you may find:
- The headset itself
- Headset cable
- Literally nothing else
I don’t know if this was intended but the box did not contain anything besides the headset and the cable. No warranty card, no instruction manual in bazillion languages, nothing. I don’t really miss all those papers I just find lack of them disturbing.
There are people in the world who do not care about how their gear looks and only care how it performs. While I can certainly understand such utilitarian approach, personally I do care about how my gear looks. Maybe not enough to pick a better looking headphone over a better sounding one but enough to like or dislike certain design styles. And if there is one particular design style that I truly detest, it is the “tween demographic style” perpetuated by gaming audio companies. Some of these products are so hideous that looking at them causes me physical pain. I’m not even kidding.
Luckily, whoever designed this headset, clearly had no intention to appeal to teenagers. And that’s why Massdrop x Sennheiser PC37X features:
- No LEDs
- No flashy colors
- No dragons
- No skulls
- No cringe
Sennheiser opted for a subtle, minimalistic design. Simple, black, matte headband, adorned only with discrete Massdrop and Sennheiser logos. The left earcup houses the microphone (more on that one later) while the right one houses a volume dial. and no damn dragons anywhere in sight. Add to that black velour earpads and headband. Do I need to add that I love it?
PC37X and PC373D differ in exactly three things, the color scheme being the first one of them. There aren’t any big changes here, insides of the earcups and microphone joints are now black instead of orange. I don’t really have a preference here, both designs are equally appealing to me.
The cable is the second differentiating factor between the PC373D and PC37X, hence an entire paragraph dedicated to it.
First of all, it’s removable. You may not think this is a big deal but trust me, removable cables are a blessing. One day the cable will break and you’ll be glad you don’t have to take the headset apart in order to solder a new wire. Removable cable is always a plus and I’m happy that Sennheiser decided to go that route (their first-gen headset, the PC360 was hardwired).
What I’m really not happy about is that the cable is terminated with a proprietary, recessed 2.5mm jack prohibiting use of third-party cables. Come on Sennheiser, that was a dick move.
To make matters worse, the PC373D ships with its own, dedicated amp/dac permanently attached to the cable, effectively making the PC373D a USB headset. I can’t comment on the sound quality of the built-in circuitry because I didn’t get a chance to listen to it but I can’t imagine this tiny little device winning against a dedicated PC sound card. The only silver lining here is that the cable can be replaced with a regular dual minijack one if the user so desires. Of course the cable would need to come from Sennheiser itself.
So, imagine my relief when I found out that Massdrop decided to drop this USB abomination altogether and ship the PC37X with an analog cable by default. It’s 3m long, Paracord-sleeved and ends with dual 3.5mm jacks, the way God intended headsets to be.
This is it. The reason you bought a headset and not a pair of headphones. You want that microphone permanently attached to your headphones and the convenience that comes with it.
So, how does the microphone sound? Surprisingly good for a gaming headset. Usually headset microphones sound tinny and echoey but PC37X captured my voice faithfully and without too much colorization. Thanks to noise-cancelling and uni-directional pattern you will no longer annoy your teammates with random dog barks, girlfriends coming into the room and fans running in the background. Keep in mind though that the quality of the recording is dependent not only on the microphone itself but on also on the quality of the preamp and ADC inside whatever device you plug this into.
This is all fine and dandy but there’s no point in buying the headset if it doesn’t sound good, right?
Well, if you’re looking for splendid sound you’ve come to the right place my dear reader. PC37X may be a gaming-oriented product but it uses the same drivers as well-regarded Sennheiser HD598, headphones famous for their large, spacious soundstage and lush mids.
Coincidentally, HD598 are also the first pair of audiophile headphones I’ve ever bought and even though I don’t own them anymore, I still think of them very fondly. And because of those shared drivers, PC37X sounded incredibly familiar from the first song and the first game I played. The same rich, full mids. The same amazing soundstage, the same sparkly treble.
Bass on the other hand was noticeably improved over the stock HD598. No longer lacking in impact the low end is now properly pronounced but not muddy or bloated by any means. Of course that doesn’t make the PC37X a bassy headphone, it only makes them more balanced across the entire spectrum.
But Yethal, I want to own n00bs, not to listen to smooth jazz! Tell me whether they’re good for gaming!
And own noobs you will my dear reader. And own n00bs you will. Combination of great soundstage and relatively balanced spectrum makes for an amazing gaming headset.
In Rainbow Six: Siege not only am I able to pinpoint my enemies location based on the sound of their gunshots, I am able to shoot them through the walls based on the sound of their footsteps alone. I can only imagine the surprise on the faces of the enemy players when they watch the killcam and see me suddenly turn around and start shooting at a wooden barricade only to score a kill.
Or maybe you’re more of an Overwatch person? Don’t worry, PC37X will tell you if a hostile McCree tries to ITSHIGHNOON you in the back. It will also tell you whether that Tracer you saw blinking a second ago has just flanked you. Information is key to victory and PC37X provides all the information you might need to outplay your opponent.
But great positioning isn’t useful just for competitive gaming, it helps with immersion as well.
Try playing GTAV in FPP mode using this headset. You don’t even need to launch any mission, just stand on the sidewalk and listen to the sound of cars passing by and pedestrians talking about whatever Rockstar programmed them to talk about. They walk past you and their voices move around your head as if they were real people on a real sidewalk of a real street.
Sound leakage can be a serious issue for gamers, especially those who have families. After all, nothing worse than waking your infant child with sound of gunshots, amirite? If this scenario seems familiar to you, do not worry. The PC37X has your back! Leak is very minimal and, while still present, is not going to bother your spouse/child/dog (as long as you're not playing video games at an irresponsible volume level). I bet I could use this headset in an open space office and not hear a word of complaint for the entire day.
So, there is not a lot of sound leakage so the isolation must also be good, right? Right?
There is literally no isolation.
To test this I played a random YouTube video on speakers and put the headset on and off to see whether the perceivable volume of the video will be lower. The difference was so negligible that it might as well have been autosuggestion. Seriously, this headset does nothing to protect your ears from the outside noise. It might not be an issue depending on your living conditions but forget about taking PC37X to a LAN event.
Gaming headsets are in a very difficult spot right now, especially the higher-end ones. Advent of devices such as ModMic or V-Moda BoomPro made it easy for gamers to convert their existing headphones into headsets without the need to drill any holes or solder any wires.
Most, if not all, audiophile headphones have detachable cables and even if they don’t use a 3.5mm jack for cable connection, a simple passive adapter is all that is needed to make them compatible with BoomPro or equivalent devices. ModMic can be attached to virtually any pair of cans in the world with a minimal impact on usability usability.
But let’s say you really want a dedicated headset and not a DIY solution. Is the PC37X worth your money?
Yes, I strongly believe it is. PC37X combines great sound with amazing gaming potential and convenience. At $120 this might be the best headset currently on the market.
Note the “at $120” bit.
My final verdict is for the PC37X and PC37X only, not for PC373D. If Massdrop were to sell PC37X for $250 I would’ve called it a great sounding piece of gear but overpriced and ultimately, not worth the money.