(Update: I wrote that the microphone on the LS40 works only in wired mode on the Xbox One at the expense of surround sound. LucidSound recently contacted us and confirmed that using the headset while powered on and simultaneously using the wired connection to the controller will allow for chat and surround sound.)
Audio is sometimes overlooked in games. Developers go to incredible lengths to imbue games with diverse audio cues and luscious soundtracks to immerse you into the game world.
I’ve listened to numerous incredibly orchestrated soundtracks over the years that rival the best Hollywood movies; going so far as to employ the talents of award-winning movie composers.
Modern games now take advantage of sound engineering to provide positional audio that helps you precisely determine where your enemies are.
LucidSound LS40 Review
It’s a shame then, that most gamers will never fully experience the full breadth of a game’s audio because of poor audio equipment. This is where a gaming headset comes in.
Led by the rise of esports and Twitch streaming, gaming headsets are enjoying the spotlight lately. A good headset allows you to isolate yourself within the game world as well as communicate with your teammates and friends for a pocket-friendly price. If you are on a budget, check out HotRate’s article on the best gaming headsets under $100
In a crowded field of contenders vying for your money, LucidSound hopes to win game audiophiles with their top of the range LS40 7.1 Surround sound wireless gaming headset.
Design and fit
Gaming headsets have historically been characterised by subpar sound and garish designs. Companies seem to think a huge contraption on our heads with a dangling microphone is what gamers want in a headset.
Thankfully, the LS40 is a gorgeous gaming headset that doesn’t look like one. It eschews the colours, highlights and RGB lights for a more subdued, polished gunmetal look that is sure to please even non-gamers.
The first thing that strikes you is how large the LS40’s are. Each ear cup easily fills my large palm. The headband is made of plastic with a soft foam padding covered in black fabric. A red cross stitching accent gives a premium look. The plastic has some creakiness when flexed but it does feel sturdy. Weighing 355g, the LS40’s aren’t light and there is some pressure on the top of the head but not enough to complain about.
Protruding from either end of the headband are two metal hangers that gracefully encircle the large ear cups. The brushed gunmetal finish beautifully matches the black and red accents.
Overall, a very good looking pair of headphones which will look great on your commute as well as at a LAN party.
Each ear cup has a soft, velvety black fabric and sits snugly around the largest of ears. A discrete line of red stitching accents the cups. The right ear cup has a single button to switch between sound modes. Your presses are acknowledged by voice feedback affirming what mode you’ve selected.
The top of the ear cup has a rotating dial that controls the microphone volume while also doubling as a Microphone control button. Long pressing toggles mic Monitoring while a short press mutes the Mic.
The left ear cup is the command centre if you will. Here you will find your power switch for wireless listening and an LED indicator which shows power levels and connectivity. You also have a MicroUSB port for charging, a 3.5mm port for wired use and a Microphone port.
The microphone is detachable allowing you to use these headphones outside of gaming. Similar to the right ear cup, the left also has a rotating dial to adjust game volume and mute.
Built as an Over-Ear design, I found the LS40’s lacking in ear comfort. Despite their large coverage, I had to repeatedly shift the cups ever so slightly to relieve the pressure on my ears. This would be my biggest gripe with LS40 but ear shapes vary.
I wear glasses so, best try before you buy.
The LS40 is a wireless headset albeit not via Bluetooth. Instead, the bundled USB base station handles the wireless connection to your console or PC. Set up is quite simple with clear instructions provided for each type of device.
Plug it into any USB port on your console and then connect the optical cable into the base station. This is the only way to get surround sound. The LS40 is designed to work up to 30 feet from your device.
A non–removable rechargeable battery will last up to 15 hours on a single charge. Given that most casual gamers don’t play more than 10 hours straight, this is more than adequate. A bundled Micro USB cable will let you charge the LS40 but it’s a shame the more modern USB–C wasn’t used. When it does run out of juice, the LS40 can still be used in wired mode; albeit with the loss of surround sound.
Wired audio is also great when you need to connect to a device that doesn’t have USB — such as a mobile phone or PC without an available USB port. This makes the LS40 a very versatile headset that can work in multiple scenarios.
With an Xbox, the microphone will only work in wired mode. This is because Microsoft’s proprietary wireless connection isn’t open to third-party manufacturers, so you will have to connect the LS40 to your control pad if you want in-game chat.
Again, this will come at the cost of losing the surround sound. PlayStation 3 and 4 owners will be able to use the mic even in wireless mode.
I’ve used the LS40’s for just over two weeks. In that time I’ve tested them across a multitude of games, music and video.
I compared them to my Sennheiser Momentums 2.0 which are an excellent pair of wired stereo headphones with impressive sound range. The LS40 is a DTS Headphone: X delivering a virtual 7.1 surround stage that simulates the 3D environment of the audio’s original mixing.
Basically, the headphones can recreate surround sound without needing the 7 physical speakers and a subwoofer ordinarily needed. It works really well.
Music and video
Using the LS40, I immediately noticed a lack of power in the lower range with bass being somewhat tame. I’ve read other reviewers praise the thumping base from the LS40 but this hasn’t been my experience.
The mids and highs were clear with a colder soundstage than the Sennheiser’s. I prefer a warmer, bassy sound for my music. Still, the LS40 sounds great across different musical genres and only audiophiles will complain.
Hans Zimmer’s “Why so serious” from The Dark Knight soundtrack, has some very low frequencies that easily escape lesser headsets. The LS40 does an admirable job at presenting these without losing the underlying beats.
“Killmonger” by Ludwig Goransson from the Black Panther soundtrack is similarly challenging. The LS40 struggled to deliver these lower frequencies with the same chest thumping as the Sennheiser’s.
Watching movies, YouTube and other videos were much richer when using the surround modes. It sounded like you were listening in on a conversation within the same room. Quite uncanny. The only giveaway to its virtual trickery is that the sound doesn’t shift as you turn your head.
But you don’t buy a gaming headset to listen to classic opera. You buy them for games and the LS40 seriously impresses.
In Rise of the Tomb Raider, the sound came alive in ways that often shocked me. Whether it was subtle water dripping in catacombs or thunderous explosions while running through collapsing buildings. Lara’s self-musings sound like she’s in the same room with you.
In the unnerving silence of State of Decay 2, groans and shuffles of the Undead become incredibly creepy, forcing you to stop and spin around to locate your foe. Rustling through draws, you can hear the sound of bottles, keys and papers shuffling around.
The LS40 adds vibrancy to Assassins Creed Origins. The great positional accuracy enhances conversations in the busy streets and marketplaces. The sounds of horse hooves as they trot past or the wheels of carriages against the cobblestones, the clang of the blacksmith” hammer —everything is rich and makes the game feel like a truly living world.
When operating in wireless mode via the USB connector, the LS40 gives you three sound modes which you can switch through using the EQ button on the right ear cup. Stereo is great for music, Gaming Surround is self-explanatory and Boosted Surround is more suited to movies.
In my testing, I always came back to Gaming Surround mode for a better-balanced sound overall. Stereo makes the sound feel much closer to your ears while the surround mode is wider, making you feel like you are not using headsets.
In wired mode, you don’t have access to surround sound. This is because the surround sound output is via the optical out on the Xbox. When you use a wire to connect through your controller, you get 3 Stereo modes; Stereo, Stereo Front and Stereo Wide but none of these compared to the excellent surround modes.
This makes using the bundled microphone for chat less appealing since you have only these stereo options to work with.
Speaking of the microphone, I wasn’t able to test it during in-game chat. Blame that on my anti-social gaming habits. I play mostly single player offline games. However, I was able to do some recordings and found the quality to be excellent.
Noise cancelling was good as I recorded my voice speaking in hushed tones with the TV blaring. This means in your game chat, your voice will be crystal clear without environmental distractions.
The LS40 also have mic monitoring which allows you to hear your own voice through the ear cups audio as you speak. This is handy for us late night gamers, saving us from speaking too loud because we can’t hear ourselves over the game audio.
The mic is detachable, a welcome feature for gamers who don’t use chat often or people who want to use the headphones for nongaming purposes.
For a relatively unknown brand, LucidSound has created a competent and appealing gaming headset that just falls short of the best. Their subdued and polished design stands out from garish rivals and looks great in front of and away from the screen.
I was impressed with the surround sound – it adds a new dimension to games. The microphone captures voice accurately and is detachable for when you don’t need it. The ability to use on multiple device types and a battery that lasts days is a bonus.
But, the uncomfortable ear cups, lack of wireless microphone and middling bass temper what could have been a truly amazing headset. At $299, these are not cheap and competitors like Razer also offer 7.1 surround headphones with greater comfort and lower price. The LS40 sit in the middle of a battle royale for gaming headphones.
Update: LucidSound recently announced the LS35 which uses Xbox’s wireless protocol – this allows the microphone to work wirelessly and keep the surround sound.
The nerdy specs
Retailing at $300 dollars here in Australia, you would expect the LS40 to come with an impressive spec sheet and it does.
- Speaker Size – 50mm
- Sound Space – DTS Headphone:X 7.1 Surround Sound
- 5 Modes – Stereo, Super Stereo Front, Super Stereo Wide, Gaming Surround, Boosted Surround
- Frequency Response – 20 – 20,000 Hz
- Console Game Audio – Optical
- Console Chat Audio – PS4/PS3 = USB | XBOX ONE = Wired to Controller
- Mobile – 3.5mm
- Inputs [Headset] – 3.5mm Analog, USB Charging (micro USB)
- Inputs [Base Station] – 3.5mm Optical in, USB Power/ Voice (USB)
- Wireless Range – 30ft
- Battery Life – Up to 15 hours
- Compatibility – PS4/PS3, XBOX ONE, PC/MAC, MOBILE
The LS40’s were provided to PowerUp! by LucidSound and reviewed with an Xbox One S.
Product Name: LucidSound LS40
Product Description: 7.1 Surround sound Gaming Headsets
Offer price: $300
Great design and build quality
Impressive Surround sound
Great battery life
Use it Wireless or Wired on multiple devices
Great detachable microphone.
Uncomfortable ear cups
Mic only works with wired mode on Xbox