There's little doubt that the Sennheiser PC 363D Surround Sound gaming headset is meant to be the limousine of gaming headsets. Priced at around Rs 23,990, it isn't exactly affordable by any stretch of imagination. Then again, premium Sennheiser products never are. While one may argue that quality doesn't come cheap, in some cases, its products simply cannot justify their exorbitant pricing. The best example being the surprisingly mediocre PC 333D headset I had tested last year, which didn't seem worth even half of its Rs 11,490 price tag.
Another factor that worries me about the PC 363D is the fact that its pricing puts it in direct competition with true 7.1 headsets such as the Razer Tiamat. I specifically mention the term "true 7.1" because, unlike the Tiamat, the Sennheiser PC 363D doesn't possess discrete drivers for multiple surround channels. It instead uses a Dolby Pro Logic IIx-enabled USB soundcard to virtualise 7.1 channels through its plain-vanilla stereo drivers. To put it bluntly, it will take a miracle for this headset to make sense of its exorbitant sticker price.
The headset sure doesn't look as expensive as its Rs 23,990 price tag
I'll be very honest here—judging squarely by its looks, one would assume the Sennheiser PC 363D to be priced around the Rs 5,000 mark. This is largely due to its chronically plasticky look and feel. The material employed isn't exactly cheap, but it sure as hell doesn't seem remotely as luxurious or high-quality as one would expect of a headset priced at nearly quarter of a lakh. One doesn't really expect to see hard, shiny plastics with discernible seams, visible screws and large component gaps in this stratum of the product hierarchy.
The headband adjustment assembly is strangely comprised of plastic, when this is a component that's usually fashioned out of metal for durability in decent headphones. One would therefore assume that Sennheiser may have opted for a metal-free design, but that isn't true because the metal insert on the back of the ear cups happen to be "lazer cut" [sic] from aluminium. This design element seems purely cosmetic, because the largely plastic driver enclosure isn't entirely made from metal to affect the acoustic signature. It is obvious then that the designers haven't got their priorities in order when it comes to durability and aesthetics. The worst part is that this headset doesn't exactly look beautiful or expensive either.
The volume-adjustment rotary dial has been placed intuitively
The PC 363D adopts a standard design with a gimbal mount that pivots along the horizontal and vertical axes to allow the headset to conform and fit snugly around your head. Once again, this is a design that's employed by your average, mid-end gaming headsets and underscores a lack of initiative on Sennheiser's part to infuse any iota of design excellence in its flagship gaming headset. This is starkly apparent in contrast when you juxtapose that to the excellent examples of design brilliance and impeccable build quality found in the Audio Technica ATH-AD700 and ASUS ROG Vulcan ANC Pro gaming headsets—both of which go the extra mile with their design and ergonomics.
Having said that, the PC 363D is nevertheless quite comfortable. That's largely down to the acres of velour lining the headband and the large circumaural ear cups. The soft fabric, when combined with the vented enclosures, means that you'll be able to game for hours without having to worry about sweat and discomfort. While the vented ear cups help timbre accuracy, that also allows a lot of noise filter in and leak out of the headset. This isn't the ideal headset you can lug around to LAN parties then. This is especially true considering the fact that its 2 m braided cable isn't detachable either.
The circumaural ear cups have been padded with comfortable plush velour
What I like about the headset is its high-quality microphone bearing a nifty adjustable boom that mutes it with an audible click when you swivel it out of the way. The directional mic does a great job of cancelling ambient noise and sports exceptional clarity. The silk-smooth volume adjustment jog dial on the right ear cup is a rather intuitive and ergonomic alternative to inline volume control option. This way, you don't have to fumble in the dark to locate the inline controls, each time you have to adjust the volume. It's always easier and faster to just reach for your ear secret agent style and set the volume levels to your preference.
What separates the PC 363D from the cheaper PC 360 is the bundled USB sound card that leverages Dolby Pro Logic IIx DSP technology to virtualise 7.1 channels through a pair of stereo drivers on the headset. Don't get too chuffed because we aren't talking about eight discrete channels, but a sort of software-interpolation that only creates an illusion of surround sound. Sennheiser's version of 7.1 emulation is to surround sound what soya meat is to the real deal—you're left feeling cheated and with a sour taste in the mouth.
The high-quality microphone mutes itself automatically when you swivel it out of the way
All the Dolby-enhanced USB sound card does is add a bit of reverb and create the illusion of an expanded soundstage. Make no mistake; turning this feature on does not enhance the soundstage or positional accuracy in any profound manner. In fact, you could achieve the same effect with a plethora of sound virtualisation options available on any onboard sound card. If multi-channel performance is your prime deciding factor, you are better off without this headset's pseudo-7.1 nonsense.
When it comes to music, though, the PC 363D easily outperforms most gaming headsets out there. I would go as far as to say that it sounds better in this aspect than my favourite gaming headsets—the Audio Technica ATH-AD700 and ASUS ROG Vulcan ANC Pro. The audio signature is pleasing, while the timbre and tonal balance is just perfect. While the highs aren't as detailed as those in the Audio Technica AD-700, the PC 363D packs in enough resolution to resolve the cymbals and other high-frequency sounds with just the right sparkle and bite. The bass is tight and fast, if not plentiful, as it was evident from ES Posthumus' Nara and its faithful reproduction of the concert bass drum in LSO's Tomb Raider soundtrack. The soundstage is large and imaging is spot on, but again, it's nowhere nearly as impressive as that of the Audio Technica.
The Dolby-enhanced USB soundcard provides virtual 7.1 surround. Nope, don't bother.
I tested the headset with a host of games such as Tomb Raider (2013), Battlefield 3, Counter-Strike Source, Far Cry 3 and Serious Sam 3 among many others. This is where its lack of bass became quite chronically apparent. This has largely to do with the PC 363D's distinct inability to render the frequencies below 45Hz, whereas those below 80Hz too aren't exactly pronounced. While a lot of gaming headsets face the same issue, they compensate with a wider soundstage and greater high-frequency detail that further aids positional accuracy. The Sennheiser PC 363D, however, neither delivers enough bass for making movies and games exciting enough, nor does it pack in enough positional accuracy to make sense over much cheaper alternatives from Asus, Audio Technica, Razer and Corsair.
Yes, you could get away with the soundstage and imaging offered by the PC 363D, but one really expects a compelling reason to throw down Rs 23,990 on this headset over all the alternatives that offer similar or better positional performance for a fraction of its price. While it may be more musical than any of the gaming headsets in the market, it still can't hold a candle to my $110 (shipped) Alessandro-Grado MS1i. Wouldn't it then make more sense to purchase the Alessandro-Grado MS1i and pair it with either the true 7.1 Razer Tiamat, ASUS Vulcan ANC Pro or the Audio Technica ATH-AD700 instead? That way, you can have dedicated headphones for music, while still being able to enjoy the positional accuracy of your spare gaming headset—both of which will be cheaper than the Sennheiser PC 363D, even when their prices are combined.
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