When I walked into AceZone’s office (which actually took some time because I got lost along the way), I couldn’t help but notice the lack of bling in their office. I’m used to the big halls, big offices, press rooms and nice restaurants for presentations, but this was simple, basic and down to earth. This is also how I met the director, Christian Poulsen.
What I do like about an innovative brand like this is the fire that burns. Christian explained in detail how he was burning for making the world’s best headset for esports. How he gathered a bunch of noisy hijackers, sailed on the seas of sound to hijack the others carvings of noise cancellation and bury their treasures in the market of gamers around the world. Frederick Byskov of Astralis Fame, Søren Louis Pedersen, an innovator extraordinaire and himself, a start-up captain, destined to bring this ambition to the real world.
One thing that was clear was that these are not just young kids with a passion for sound. Yes, they have it, but their technical knowledge and understanding of how, when, what and why along with a vast experience in sound and esports has given them a bit of a competitive edge. Not only do they describe the entire setup they chose from which sound spectrum they selected, what they made special for noise cancellation and why their headsets are designated for a better listening experience as a whole, but they have also included professional gamers in the equation, creating the best conditions for gaming and performing in high-pressure situations.
All the space in the world wouldn’t give me enough to describe the technical descriptions I could get from Christian. And to be honest, I’m not even sure I could translate it properly. But two important lessons from this are definitely worth emphasizing: the ear is a muscle. It needs to be exercised, but if you overtrain, overload or exhaust it, you will get brain fatigue. Your Sensory input will deteriorate and you will not perform at your best, and maybe not even at a mediocre level. This is what Christian Poulsen and AceZone want to optimize.
With the best possible sound, focused on gaming and performing in a gaming environment, you will avoid exhausting your ears. Because just like muscles, ears get tired if not treated properly. And this goes straight to the second takeaway: AceZone strives to create the best experience, the best environment for performance and the best noise cancellation. In short, the best support for you, the gamer. Everything else that was explained was actually irrelevant. AceZone wants to be the best in their niche. The question is, leaving the presentation of the company and their ambitions: Are they managing it?
So after this presentation, I was led through probably the smallest manufacturing facility I have ever seen, where I was told how it worked. Most of the headset is assembled in Denmark, the high-end ones are assembled by hand in this facility, while the cheaper ones are mainly assembled around the world. Some trade secrets are kept internally, however, so basically they all have a touch of the AceZone magic, from entry-level to the professional.
So far so good. Morten Kjær, Senior Audio Engineer, and also the guy who presents all the videos, took me under his wing. Again, lots of technical stuff, but I was shown around their technical lab – which looked mostly like a student pad for wannabe musicians. Aside from the appearance, though, it fulfilled its purpose, and so did morten, and I do like the laid-back style. He presented everything the AceZone A-live could do, the professional-only-sold-to-tournaments-and-completely-adaptable-with-a-professional-sound-setup headset, and just like on the promotional videos, it blew me away. It’s completely surprising and extremely noise-canceling. It is EVERYTHING they promise it will be. And I also tried the Counter-Strike gimmick. Just like the Pros.
Now, the cool thing with Morten was how completely down-to-earth he was. He was burning to make the best gaming headset in the world. And he was proud of what he presented. And most of all, he wasn’t afraid to tell me to shut up and listen or that I was wrong about things. Which I like, because hey, like anyone who knows me, or any other interviewer, we say a lot of shit, because hey, we’re supposed to get honest responses. And I did get this from Morten. The most important takeaway I got from him on AceZone and the headsets? That they are pursuing their dreams. Do they have an idea? It’s not about budget or go-to-market value. It’s about their ambitions. Their motivation is to create something extraordinary. And they don’t just stop at good enough.
However, this all sounds good and dandy. Where does it place the headset in the real world?
Of course, every other publication has done reviews. Heck, so does Gamereactor.
But, as reviews go, and because not everyone actually knows how many hertz a human ear can hear (I was told 20-20,000, while mine is up to 20-14,000 because I’m old by AceZone standards. Yes, they called me old. That’s how little they care about my feelings or how many millimeters a driver should be or what the multiplier of microphone distance to mouth is, these reviews often fail to inform someone who is not technically nerdy. So I went public. I tried it out on several people. Old people. Young people. Non-gaming people. People people. Myself. My girlfriend. Because in my eyes (and ears), these are the people who should actually be considering purchasing these types of headsets.
I took it out for a little game night with a few friends, playing CS: GO, and here are their reactions while playing or trying it out:
“TURN THE SOUND DOWN, I HEAR EVERYTHING SO LOUD AND CLEAR!!! ” – Jimmi
“Why didn’t you shoot him? I heard him miles away? Can’t you hear anything?” – Anders
“Uh, that’s serious metal it got. It definitely looks expensive” – Claus (person from Jutland, with a low budget for gaming)
The general opinion was definitely that this headset was the headset to rule them all, but some of the old guys found it cumbersome … but as someone said, I’m old, my neck is sore, and I’m used to plastic crap, so of course it feels heavy when it’s the real shit.
I let my enthusiastic gaming kid play with it. And he is absolutely thrilled. No problems with the cable, no problems with the weight. Just pure gaming fun. And he had his prejudice about the cord, but since the sound in his eyes far exceeds his normal Logitech Pro Wireless not to mention the noise cancellation that drowns out EVERYTHING, even his little brother, he’s totally sold on this headset. Unfortunately, he has no money, and I won’t give him mine, so he only plays with it if I let him – which makes for a good bargaining position if I want him to clean up.
Then came one of the real tests: My girlfriend. I asked her to wear the Aspire and mow the lawn. Angry voices would suggest that I was doing this to get my lawn mowed, but no-no, it was for the sake of experimentation. After a while, when she was done (you know, I didn’t want to interrupt her while working), I asked her how it was.
“It works fine. I can hear the voices clearly and I understand everything, but I mean, I can still hear the lawnmower and it’s not like it’s completely silent outside.
… And it was this moment that I thought…. Voices!!!? I had to ask her what music she was listening to, and to my horror, she didn’t get the assignment. Well, she was cutting the grass, but she was putting on a bloody podcast. So she told me this headset wasn’t really noise canceling, because she was listening to two people sitting quietly with no background music, and she could hear them clearly….
And finally, I did the test of using the A-Rise while I had a carpenter, using a power tool right behind me. I sat and sang along, hearing nothing. And this was not like Metallica or Pantera, pushed to the limit. This was Dolly Parton – Working 9-5. and I heard nothing but her sweet soothing voice – yes, I won’t quit my job for a singing career…. but I might get fired if they hear my singing.
Game On – The Verdict
Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chosen. One of my favorite quotes. The more things change, the more they stay the same. I cannot truthfully say this about AceZone and their headsets.
They are heavy, but it’s a matter of getting used to them. Because they don’t feel uncomfortable. They don’t exhaust your muscles. They’re not awkward or in the way. They enhance how you play, when you play and support your game. It’s not like a peripheral for gaming, it’s an enhancement of your hearing. And that makes all the difference. Something you use as part of your body, rather than something you put on your body.
The A-Rise. My favorite go-to try-hard gaming headset. Yes, I can wear something else for light gaming or if I need to move and I need a wireless option, but the A-Rise is the ONLY viable option if you need to be a try-hard pro gamer. There are sentiments for other headsets, you might feel better because of the shape of your ears and so on, but the performance of the A-Rise makes it impossible to use anything else, if you go for the advantage real sound in a game can give you. And this is because AceZone are sound purists. They live and breathe and will probably also die for the original real sound that gives you the possibility of the best gaming experience.
The A-Spire. This is a funny one. It has great noise cancellation, but because of cheaper materials and smaller ear cups, it is meant for casual gaming. It won’t drown out highway noise if you’re sitting right on it. But it will do the trick for the casual gamer, and its strength lies in its versatility. It’s light. It’s comfortable. And it’s still better than any other noise-canceling headset I’ve tried, compared to how easy it is to travel around with. And I hate to admit it, but AceZone’s PR Manager said to me, “This is going to be your office headset, and this was a PR manager, of course… He DESERVES to say things like that. But he was absolutely right. And my colleagues say the same thing. The shape, size and noise cancelling is excellent.
So how come AceZone isn’t taking over the world? Why are people still stuck with Razer, SteelSeries, Logitech and HyperX? First of all, AceZone is wired. There is no wireless option for gaming. And there shouldn’t be. You cannot create zero latency in wireless gaming and no matter what, if you try, you will lose latency, if you cut the wire. It’s the law of physics. But people sacrifice latency for a wireless option. If you are a professional gamer and you want the sound to give you the best opportunities to win, then you should use these headsets.
And this brings me to the biggest showstopper of this headset: the price. The A-Spire starts at $319 and the A-Rise at $749. That makes their entry-level or versatile headset on par with competitors’ most expensive gaming headsets, while their tournament headset A-Rise is as unmatched in price as it is in performance. But I have to say it’s worth it. For their A-Spire, having a completely quiet office environment and being able to game for hours without suffering from noise exhaustion is second to none.
The only complaint I can think of that could keep me from recommending this headset to anyone who has the money and is serious about gaming, or wants the best for their gaming kids, is that it’s just too noise cancelling. Yes, the A-Rise has a transparency feature, but none of the stupid idiot teenage kids I have seem to understand how to use it, so they scream their lungs out every time they use this headset. So don’t let your kids have it. Buy for your kids as an excuse, but keep it for yourself. Because it’s worth it.