Creative Sound Blaster Tactic 3D Sigma USB Gaming Headset

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  1. imagic
    "Hidden deep inside these goofy gaming headphones is a good pair of cans for music listening. Read on..."
    Pros - USB, detachable cord, sound quality, comfort, durability
    Cons - Braided USB cable transmits sound to the headset. USB DAC is of modest quality. Requires some modification to get the most out of them.
    No other headphone has surprised me in the manner that the Tactic 3D managed to. 
    I originally purchased them because I needed headphones to do a Skype interview, and I wanted something kind of ridiculous and flashy, because I was going to be on video. The Tactic 3D seem like a perfect choice, with flashing LEDs on each ear cup.
    When I first hooked it up, I installed the software and plugged in the USB cable. I was immediately annoyed by how easily any contact with the cable transmitted noise directly into the headset. My first modification was to replace the USB cable with a plastic one. That solved the issue of the transmitted noise, but overall the headphones sounded a little bit harsh and little bit bass shy.
    The Tactic has the option of using a standard analog headphone cable, with a 3.5 mm jack. The cord that comes with the headphones is designed for use with a microphone. My second act was to remove the microphone and replace the provided analog cable with a standard stereo 3.5 mm cable, one that has a quarter-inch plug on the other side. So, suddenly I had a proper headphone cable — free of adapters — connected to a pair of headphones that happen to sound quite good when plugged into a decent source. In my case that's a Pioneer Elite SC–55 receiver—and for laptop use, a Motu MicroBook 2. 
    That's when I started doing a little bit of research on exactly how good they could sound. I started comparing the modified Tactic 3D to a pair of Sennheiser HD 380, AKG 701, and — importantly — a pair of Creative Aurvana Live headphones. Creative makes both the Sound Blaster and the CALs, which may be the reason the two headphones sound alike. A series of rapid headphones swaps had me convinced, the sonic signature was nearly identical — so similar, it's hard to believe that they're using different drivers.
    If this is the case, and I believe it is, then the Tactic 3-D represents a unique option. It can serve dual roles. For well under $100, they are a very tough, very good sounding, very flexible pair of headphones. The cable is replaceable, and they can be used as a USB headset. They can be used as a gaming headset with a microphone installed, but the microphone is removable so they can be used as a standard headset. Even though they feel stiff, and the earpads are firm, they are very comfortable.
    About the only problem with them is that when using USB, they have those silly LED lights that flash along with the music. Thankfully there is a control panel that allows one to turn them off. It's a completely gratuitous feature, but it's sort of amusing. Even though sound quality through USB is not stellar, it's still a better option than the built-in audio on many computers.
    The main thing about these headphones is that they sound great when used as stereo cans, with a proper cable. After all, they have an acoustic signature that is almost identical to the CALs, and they cost even less. I don;t know if they actually share the same driver, but they clearly have a similar sound. Overall, they are a very intriguing headphone option that you will not regret purchasing. Just stay away from the gimmicky software surround sound, and make sure it not to use the USB mode; and please, do not use the provided USB cable.