The Commander Series Ensense 7.1 headset is another innovative product from the Hong Kong-based Shogun Bros—the same folks that smashed together a wireless mouse and a gamepad to create the Chameleon X-1, a 2-in-1 gaming mouse/gamepad. (And as crazy as it sounds, it works better than you might think.)
Shogun Bros. also make a respectable, no-frills, small-form-factor mechanical gaming keyboard called the Crossblade.
The only other headset I’ve ever reviewed with a similar cheek-quaking feature was made by Rude Gameware, but their headset fared poorly. Shogun Bros, at the very least, executed the rumble-face-bass technology gimmick well in a comfortable and eminently capable headset.
Features and Design
The basic specifications for the Shogun Bros Ensense 7.1 headset are as follows:
- 50mm drivers
- Neodymium magnet
- Driver sensitivity @ 1KHz 113dB +,- 3dB
- Driver frequency response: 20Hz -20KHz
- Mic sensitivity: -38dB +/- 3 dB
- Mic frequency: 50 -10KHz
- Thick leather ear/head cushion
- Backlit inline remote and ear cups
- Fabric cable with management band
- Voice-changing options with the Ensense software
The Ensense 7.1 ear cups and headband are generously cushioned with orange memory foam, although the ear cups don’t swivel (at all). And despite the thick foam the Commander offers very little in the way of noise isolation (which can be both good and bad).
The microphone folds vertically and neatly into the left ear cup. It isn’t flexible, so you can’t adjust it horizontally, but it did its job well enough in Skype and Curse that I never needed to adjust it.
The Ensense 7.1 inline remote is definitely a step up from most inline remotes. Most importantly, it is backlit—so it’s easy to see in the dark. It’s also quite a bit larger than most inline remotes and has large buttons, so you are less prone to fumbling around with it mid-game.
In addition to volume controls (+/-) and microphone/speaker mute buttons, the remote also has a button to turn off the ‘Face rumbler’ if you have a moment where you aren’t in fact all about the bass. The inline remote also an ‘off’ button for the LED on the inline remote. (I’m not really sure why it has that to be honest. It’s like having an off button for the brakes in your car.)
The Ensense 7.1 delivers good quality sound for music, and pretty thumpy bass courtesy of the face-smacking Ensense vibrating ear phones. At the very least, if the rumbling bass is a gimmick, it’s a well-executed gimmick that works.
By way of comparison, the previously mentioned Rude Gameware headset with a similar ‘rumble-bass’ feature “worked” but produced terrible, muddy sound—and the headset was woefully uncomfortable and poorly designed overall. The Ensense 7.1 audio and bass quality remained clear even at maximum volume levels—although the rumbling (as entertaining as it is) made my ears itch.
The 7.1 surround sound performance is at best ‘adequate’ – at least relative to other headsets that rely on virtual ‘fake’ surround sound. Front, Center, and Left channels are fairly distinct, but the remaining surround channels were barely distinguishable.
This is not uncommon for 7.1 virtual surround sound headsets, although there are better (and worse) surround experiences to be had in some PC gaming headsets. The Ensense seemed to do well enough in Left 4 Dead 2 (one of the few games that does support 7.1) in terms of helping me discern enemy and team mate location.
The Ensense software is pretty limited and doesn’t really offer anything beyond basic volume controls. There is no equalizer, and there are no options for tweaking the surround sound or other aspects of the headset.
At roughly $80 at Amazon, the Shogun Bros Commander Ensense 7.1 headset delivers good audio, strong bass, and respectable comfort that is competitive for the price range in gaming headsets. It falls a bit short in its 7.1 surround sound quality and more software features for tweaking audio settings would have been appreciated.