It’s been a while since I reviewed the surprisingly impressive Alienware AW988 Wireless Gaming headset. I was taken aback at how good those headphones became when paired with the Alienware software. The problem was that when you didn’t have the software available, the headphones sounded pretty average.
So Alienware went back to the drawing board with the new Alienware 510H gaming headset. They’ve dropped the wireless capability, changed the look using their new Legend design language and added a USB DAC to power surround sound without software. But how well does this change work and is going back to wired headphones the right move?
Alienware 510H 7.1 Surround Gaming Headset Review
Straight out the box, the new unmistakable look of Alienware’s Legend Design language is obvious. Our test unit is the Lunar Light variant which uses a lot of white contrasted by blacks. These contrasts continue with the choice of materials. The white plastic shell is contrasted by soft black hybrid leather-fabric finishes. Black braided cables finish off the aesthetic for a very unique looking headset.
Weighing 370g, the 510H is fairly light on the head. This is helped by a soft rubbery headband lining that makes wearing this comfortable for long periods with no pressure on the top of your noggin. The ear cups follow the same design with a hard plastic shell that houses the 50mm drivers. The cushions are made with a hybrid of memory foam, leatherette and sports fabric.
I honestly didn’t like the feel; it’s not very breathable and my ears quickly got uncomfortably warm and sweaty in Queensland’s summer heat. Personally though, I found the ear cups a less than perfect fit. The top and bottom of my ears sustained some extra pressure from the cups that necessitated frequent re-adjustments.
That said, because they cover your ears so completely, you get a great sound seal that cuts out a lot of ambient noise.
The ear cups are held by two swivelling arms which are emblazoned with the Alienware logo. Sadly these don’t have AlienFX lighting like other Alienware peripherals. That said, it’s a welcome addition that you can swivel the ear cups to lay flat when resting on your neck. Another hidden trick is that the ear cups slide up and down along these arms as well. This keeps everything nice and clean.
The 510H’s come with two braided audio cables; a standard 3.5mm audio jack and the other a USB with an inline digital to analogue converter or DAC. Why would you need the DAC? Well simply put, the DAC boosts the signal quality of the audio coming out of your PC or Laptop for the needed clarity and surround sound.
In my testing, this does have a noticeable improvement in loudness, bass and overall liveliness of the headset but more on that later. Having a traditional 3.5mm allows you to also use the 510H with a Nintendo Switch, smartphone or tablet.
Sounds good, real good
The Alienware 510H headsets employ custom-tuned 50mm drivers that have an audio range of 20Hz – 40,000Hz for high-resolution audio. These really do come to life when you use the USB DAC. In fact, in my time of testing, I was loathed to return to the standard 3.5mm cable because the sound was so much better with the DAC.
Everything becomes brighter, more immediate and richer bass. The same was true when you used the Alienware software with the AW988’s; literally making the headphones sound dramatically different.
I noticed this difference clearly with Killmongers theme from the Black Panther soundtrack. Without the DAC, the bass is just weak and the track lacks the power of brought by Michael B. Jordan’s character in the movie. Switching to the DAC immediately changed the audio coming through the headsets. The bass was now booming and clear, volume was louder and the highs sharp.
So yeah, the DAC works as advertised.
Watching movies, YouTube and listening to music is enjoyable with these headsets. Voices are clear and there’s plenty of boom to ambient sounds. I enjoyed watching The Mandalorian with its cowboy-themed soundtrack, tons of clear blaster fire and Mando’s almost whisper voice.
The same carried over to gaming with the sound becoming much flatter without the DAC. Plug the DAC in and games come alive with the same power and depth as other media. The dialogue was clear and audio travelled in the digital worlds with suitable range. I can’t say I was overly impressed with the surround sound but I can’t complain that the sound was bad.
Remembering the AW988’s, I turned to Alienware Command Center in the hope of adjusting the surround sound profile. After several irritating attempts to get the sound module installed in the ACC, I was able to access the audio profiles. There are several sound profiles for FPS, RPG, Movie, Music as well as user-customisable profiles.
However, for reasons I couldn’t figure out, the profiles didn’t seem to work with 510H’s – the sound output just stayed exactly the same. This was particularly disappointing given the way the AW988’s were supercharged by the ACC software.
With the 510H’s, the software might as well not be there.
All that being said, the overall sound quality of the 510H’s is very good. The same can be said for the built-in, retractable microphone. The sound output was clear and crisp. I noticed the microphone does pick up ambient noise quite easily which means if you are hacking away on your expensive mechanical keyboard, everyone on the other end will hear.
But it also means they will hear you loud and clear.
Verdict: Should you buy?
Short answer, yes. The Alienware 510H is a good gaming headset that’s very competitively priced at $179. As far as I know, it’s the only gaming headset in this price point that comes with a USB DAC and it works very well. The closest alternative is the excellent HyperX Cloud Revolver S which retails around the $220 mark.
PC gamers will get the most out of these headsets thanks again to the combination of Alienware’s software and the USB DAC. The overall sound output is pretty good and adjusting your sound profiles is easy and effective. While it’s good to have the versatility to use the 510H with other devices using the 3.5mm audio jack, the sound is noticeably poorer.
However, one thing I have to say is that the overall package is just a tad bit sterile. The headsets don’t really evoke excitement. Even their design is somewhat subdued compared to say the Alienware Aurora and new monitors that sport the Legend Design.
Make no mistake, these are good headphones by most measures. I just wish they excited me more.
The Alienware 510M 7.1 Surround Sound gaming headset was loaned to PowerUp! by Alienware Australia for the purpose of this review.
Alienware 510H 7.1 Gaming Headset Review - Big DAC Energy
Product Name: Alienware 510H 7.1 Surround Gaming Headset
Product Description: Surround sound headset with USB DAC
Offer price: 180
- USB DAC makes real and immediate improvement to sound
- Multiple ways to connect to your devices
- Software enhancements don't work as advertised
- Design is striking but headset isn't the most comfortable