Lucidsound LS15P/X Review – IGNNovember 20, 2020
LucidSound LS15 – Design & Features
The LucidSound LS15 looks like a fairly basic budget gaming headset. It’s top band and frame are hard, black plastic, inside and out. The frame feels relatively durable, but starts to give a little when tested. The earcups, hanging on thick plastic forks, can rotate to allow the cups to lay flat on your chest or a table, which is always appreciated. The side of the band and ear cups are adorned with a subtle woven stripe pattern etched into the plastic. It gives the frame a little tactile texture, which feels nice, but is, frankly, a little busy for my taste. Then again, you only notice the pattern when you’re examining the headset up close: If you’re playing with friends on camera, they may just see a black headset.
The top band and ear cups feature leatherette-coated memory foam padding, which is very soft – enough that you can press your head to the plastic. (That may be a problem for players with very large domes). That said, at 270 grams, it’s light enough that the padding doesn’t get much of a workout, and it does a fine job of keeping the headset in place on your head.
Both the LS15P and LS15X connect to your console or gaming PC using a 2.4GHz wireless connection through a USB dongle. (The LS15X does not support Microsoft’s proprietary wireless pairing protocol, so the dongle is mandatory). The connection on both headsets is quite strong, even in airspace crowded with wireless signals from a wide range of devices.
There’s actually a surprisingly large amount of stuff going on with the LS15’s earcups. Inside, it sports 50mm neodymium drivers, which has become the standard size for gaming headsets, but aren’t a given at this price point. Instead of adding to the parade of ports and buttons running up and down the ear cups, the LS15’s primary media controls are built into the ear cups themselves.
The round outer edge of each earcup acts as a volume roller: The left side controls game volume, the right controls chat (but only on PC). The big “LS” logos on the earcups are buttons. The left side mutes game audio. The right side mutes your mic if you press it, and toggles mic monitoring if you hold it. These controls provide elegant solutions for prioritizing the most important, frequently used controls. Onboard controls can be hard to find quickly on the traditional onboard button stack, particularly volume. Using large rollers and buttons that are easy to find makes these controls more convenient than they usually are.
Don’t worry: There are still plenty of onboard ports and buttons to stack on the earcups. Most of them are on the left side: From the back, moving down, you have a power button with an indicator light, microUSB, charging port, 3.5mm headphone jack, and an inset audio port for the detachable wire boom mic. On the right side, you have one lonely EQ button, which allows you to toggle between three audio modes – standard, bass boost, and LucidSound’s performance mode, “signature sound,” which enhances the sound of footsteps.
On the front of the left ear cup, you’ll notice a small hole, which marks a secondary built-in microphone, similar to what you’d commonly find on a pair of wireless headphones. You may be asking yourself, “why does a gaming headset need both a wire mic and a built-in mic? LucidSound has, curiously, decided that both of these platform-specific gaming headsets are also made for mobile gaming as well. According to LucidSound, you should use the wired mic with consoles, and the internal mic for “mobile gaming and calls.” I say should because you can use either mic in any situation.
While I appreciate the thought – I, like most people, do not like having an external mic hanging front of me unless I’m sitting in front of my PC or game console – it’s a confounding feature. The LS15, which is billed as a wireless headset, can only connect to smartphones via a wired 3.5mm connection. In a world where you can get wireless mobile headphones for less than $100, and where one of the most popular iOS and Android phones in the world doesn’t have a headphone jack, a wired-only mobile headset solution seems, frankly, inadequate.
We’ll get into it in the gaming section, but the wire boom mic works perfectly well, and is the better choice on this headset. The long, slender mic is flexible and stays in place when you find a good position. When placed correctly, it picks up your voice without letting in much ambient noise. Last, but not least: when muted, the wire mic has a small red ring that glows when muted, which is more helpful than a standard indicator light.
LucidSound LS15 – Gaming
For a budget headset, the LucidSound LS15 generates pretty good sound. Across the two models, I tested the headsets on PS5, the Xbox Series X, and PC. (I also plugged it into a phone, like I’m supposed to). In general, the headset delivers solid sound across its range, though it often lacks the detail found in higher end headsets. You’ll hear the crack of a rifle firing in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War clear as day, but the little high- or low-pitched differences between one model versus another might not come through. In Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, the torch in your hand makes a “burning” noise, but doesn’t have a textured crackle. The game isn’t any less playable from not having these extra details, but the experience can feel less intimate or immersive.
Likewise, the LS15 gets decent, but not competitive battery life. According to LucidSound, the LS15 lasts up to 15 hours on a single charge. In my anecdotal testing, I found both models to last 4-5 days on a single charge, which is in line with those numbers, if not a little higher. Premium headsets, many of which cost between $100-$150, tend to last 20-25 hours. It’s decent, but not noteworthy.
The wire boom mic works well. It can be a bit finicky to set up, but positioned right it picks up your voice loud and clear, with little background noise to interfere. The built-in mic is also clear, but your voice comes in more softly, so you will need to speak up if you want to be clearly heard. You also need to avoid any and all background noise: The built-in mic doesn’t have any kind of natural noise-cancelling, so it picks up every little bit of ambient noise within a few feet of you. Sitting at my laptop, it picks up the sound of my keyboard when I type, the sound of me picking up and putting down a can of Diet Coke, and the sound of drumming my hand on the table.
The only qualitative difference between the LS15P and LS15X is in their surround sound technologies. On the PlayStation 5, the LS15P gets nuanced positional audio and noticeable boost in sound quality from the console’s Tempest Audio tech. In games like Spider-Man: Miles Morales, you can accurately place sounds coming from different directions, as well as above and below, as Miles swings across the city in and out of earshot of NPC dialogue. That audio also seems to come through clearer, thanks to a fidelity boost from Tempest. You can tell the difference between using the LS15P with the PS5 versus the PC or mobile.
By default, the LS15X relies on Windows Sonic, which remains a blunt, overbearing surround sound option. It also supports both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, if you’ve paid for a digital license to those services. Using Atmos, the LS15X delivers a clear, subtle surround sound experience, though it isn’t quite as nuanced as Tempest audio.
When paired via wired connection, on a phone or otherwise, both LS15 models lose a lot of their luster. The sound quality is passable, but isn’t quite as good without virtual surround sound. The onboard controls don’t work, so you also have to contend with limited functionality. In general, the 3.5mm audio connection is to be avoided when using a headset that connects digitally, but it feels especially restrictive here.
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