Creative SoundBlaster Tactic3D Alpha ReviewManufacturer: Creative
UK price (as reviewed): £45.00
US price (as reviewed: $44.99
We gave the more expensive Sigma
version of this headset an Approved award a few weeks ago, so we wanted to give the value-focused Alpha model a try too. The differences between the sets are initially subtle – both headsets have cuboid-style earcups, an in-line remote (with microphone mute switch) and use a neat ribbon-like cable.
You’ll also find a USB sound card in both boxes, as well as the same neat yet visually interesting software. Both sets are THX-certified too, and come with a detachable microphone. To detect the differences beyond the 40 per cent price reduction, you have to look closely.
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For example, while the Sigma set uses a metal headband under the plastic shroud for extra strength, the Alpha has a plastic construction. The earcups of the Alpha are also slightly smaller than those of the Sigma - they're still circumaural (they sit around your ears rather than on them), but only just. It felt as if the Alpha constantly cupped our average-sized ears, making it hard to forget that we were wearing it. The Sigma has larger earcups to make it more comfortable, although neither headset threatens the Razer Carcharias
On the plus side, the soft leatherette-covered padding of the Alpha’s earcups was held to the sides of our heads with just the right amount of pressure – they never slipped off, but we didn't feel as if we were wearing a head vice either. There might be slightly less padding in the Alpha’s headband compared with the Sigma, but the Alpha weighs less and still adequately cushions your head.
Listening to music, games and films revealed a clear difference between the two sets, though. The Alpha uses 40mm drivers rather than the 50mm drivers of the Sigma, and the effect (emphasised by the ear-hugging earcups) was a more claustrophobic sound, while the larger drivers of the Sigma produced a more expansive sound. Both headsets also allow a similar level of ambient sound to enter the mix.
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The Alpha suffers from unbalanced sound as well – while mid to high tones were sparkly and clear, the mid to lower end was muddy. You can boost the bass using the USB sound card (called the THX TruStudio Pro Dual Mode USB Adaptor) and downloading software from Creative’s website, although the Tactic still lacked punch in low-frequency sounds – explosions and drums lacked crispness. On the plus side, though, the noise-cancelling microphone didn’t pick up keystrokes and provided a clear signal in voice-comms.
High-quality headsets cost around £70, and when you pay less you need to accept compromises. The Alpha is comfortable, although the earcups hugged our ears a touch too closely – and offers reasonable sound quality. All the other features of the Sigma version are present, but you pay for the price reduction with the cramped earcups and unbalanced sound. This isn't a bad headset for the money, but if you can, we recommend scraping together the extra cash for the £69.99 Razer Carcharias.
- Sound Quality
- Cup type Circumaural
- Connection Wired, 3.5mm mini-jack, USB
- Driver(s) 40mm
- Frequency response 50Hz to 14kHz
- Impedance Under 2.2ohms