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Audeze Mobius review: PC gaming for serious audiophiles

Adam Rosenberg

Audeze has a pitch for the audiophile gamers of the world, and it's called Mobius

The high-end headset is packed with bleeding-edge sound tech from one of the top players in the space. The listening experience is further enhanced by 3D audio plugins from Waves and head-tracking capabilities that are meant to combine for an immersive soundstage.

SEE ALSO: 10 of the best wireless headphones for watching TV

The big catch? It costs $400. That's roughly $100 more than even the most expensive gaming headsets on the market. Even if Mobius is better than any of those, is it really better enough to justify the added cost?

For me, yes. After spending a couple of weeks tooling around with the headset, I'm ready to return this loaner unit and buy one for myself. For anyone else, it really depends on what you want — and, vitally, what you need — out of your gaming cans.

Hot cans

Let's start with the hardware. The Mobius is fitted with planar magnetic drivers, an audio delivery system that conducts sound through a flat diaphragm rather than the coil found in more common dynamic driver headphones. 

If you're not a sound geek, all you really need to know is you're generally going to notice better separation between the distinct audio sources in whatever you're listening to. It's a question of clarity; 3D audio helps you pinpoint the direction a sound is coming from, but clearer audio keeps busier moments from becoming a muddy cacophony.

Planar magnetic headphones also tend to be a little heavier, though the same could be said of gaming headsets in general. The Mobius didn't feel appreciably different on my head than the Astro A50s I've been using for the past seven years. 

The comfy leather earcups form a snug fit, allowing only minimal outside noise to get through. I didn't have any discomfort during lengthy gaming sessions, even in cases where I was running three Destiny raids back to back in the space of a night, a four-hours-minimum commitment.

The build quality in general is top-notch. The headphones are made out of thick plastic with a matte finish. They're hefty and solid in a way that suggests durability, and the padded headband that extends over the top of your head can be twisted and bent without fear of it snapping in two.

Visually, the Mobius has an understated look. It's chunkier than your typical set of studio reference monitors (think Sony's venerable MDR line), and more colorful. But with either of Audeze's color options — blue-on-black or copper-on-black — you're not getting gaudy, overstylized headphones that scream "I PLAY ALL THE GAMES." Pluck out the detachable mic and you can wear a Mobius on the street with confidence.

All that said, the ideal Mobius listening experience depends on being wired into a nearby computer (USB-to-USB-C cord included). While you can ditch the USB connection and connect via either Bluetooth or (through an Aux port) analog stereo cable, you'd lose the headset's biggest benefit in the process: Simulated 7.1 surround sound.

For PC gaming, the Mobius is tremendous. I play a lot of Destiny 2, and immediately noticed the Mobius' impressive soundstage the first time I fired up the game. Playing through one of the game's public events, I could easily pinpoint the direction new threats were approaching from and I felt the impact when a badly bounced grenade blew up at my feet.

For competitive online activities like Destiny's Crucible or the new Blackout mode in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, you walk into each match with an immediate edge over the competition. You can hear the world around you, and in the process pick up intuitively on where in the virtual space a nearby enemy's footsteps are padding around.

Image: adam rosenberg-dustin drankoski / mashable

You can ostensibly shape the makeup of your game audio even more by selecting one of the included sound profiles. In my own experience, this comes down to personal taste. I barely touched the "Ballistics" profile despite the fact that I play lots of shooting games; the "Flat" and "Music" profiles both delivered a better experience.

Plenty of gaming headsets offer positional audio and multiple sound profiles, but the Mobius is just plain better at it. The bass response is impressive, conveying deep, low rumbles clearly when explosions rock the virtual landscape, even while bullets are whizzing by and other players are barking orders in voice chat.

The Mobius is also a fine option for movies/TV and music listening thanks to its spacious virtual soundstage. The 7.1-channel surround sound works just as well with Netflix or Google Play Music, though I found the latter more useful since I don't normally watch movies at my desk.

Slumming with stereo

Unfortunately, it's not quite the same experience once you untether. Switch to Bluetooth (or analog cable) and you're stuck with stereo sound. It's not terrible; the Mobius is still a high-end headset, so you benefit from its precise sound and wide frequency response. But you're losing what is arguably the most impressive feature.

Over Bluetooth or analog stereo cable, the soundstage feels flatter. That difference is very noticeable when you swap back and forth between 7.1 and stereo. You get used to it over time, but there's not nearly as much depth and detail in what you're listening to when you're not wired via USB.

This means that those who game primarily on a console, whether it's Nintendo, PlayStation, or Xbox, will want to look elsewhere for a headset. There's not currently support for USB-wired audio on any modern consoles, and while Audeze is apparently trying to change that, it hasn't happened yet.

The included USB cord is perfectly fine for a PC gaming rig or workstation where your desktop or laptop is nearby. But at 5 feet, it's not going to be long enough for most home theater setups.

The only feature I struggled to find a real use for was the head tracking. It's built right into the Mobius, and an included app even allows you to customize the accuracy of the tracking by inputting the dimensions of your head, in centimeters.

It's a neat gimmick. With tracking active, you can swivel your head around and still have a sense of where your "front" speakers are (as opposed to the "front" moving with you as you turn). I just don't see much purpose here, practically speaking. 

Head tracking has its uses with virtual reality systems, though the mainstream VR headsets have that functionality built in. Since the Mobius loses surround sound support when it's not tethered — and there's no way to wire it into an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive directly, anyway — it's not really built for VR.

Image: adam rosenberg-dustin drankoski / mashable

Fortunately, head tracking is easily ignored. I ended up leaving it on, but you can turn it off easily with a long press of the 3D Audio button (there are also manual and automatic modes that take different approaches to setting the "center" reference point).

Control freaky

The on-headset controls are actually where you'll find the steepest learning curve in the Mobius experience. It doesn't look daunting initially: There are two volume dials, one for the headphones and one for mic monitoring (i.e. how much of yourself you hear; the game/chat audio mix is handled on the PC side). There's also the aforementioned 3D Audio button, a power button, and a mute switch.

Each of the volume dials actually doubles as a button. So spinning a dial up or down changes the volume, but pressing the dial down and then spinning it has a different effect — and those effects sometimes change, depending on whether you're connected via Bluetooth or using the headset for non-gaming media.

These advanced controls are detailed in the manual. You can use the volume dials to answer calls, change tracks, and switch the currently active audio profile. There are two problems with this.

One: It's too much of a good thing. There are so many different commands and command modifiers, getting used to all of them is a confusing chore. It's inconvenient to open a manual and double-check how things work anytime you want to answer a call or switch to another song. And with the two dials positioned so close together, it's all too easy to interact with the wrong one.

What's more, the button aspect of each dial is too sensitive. I've lost count of the number of times I tried to change the volume, only to accidentally switch to a different sound profile. Granted, these are issues that are bound to improve over time and with heavy use, but it's not the most intuitive setup.

That said, the Mobius is built primarily for use with a computer. Most power users, and gamers especially, probably have keyboard shortcuts (or built-in media controls) for changing volume. During my short two-week review window, I just got used to ignoring the headset controls and relying on the keyboard shortcuts I've always used instead.

Changing the audio profile is also easy to do without touching the headset. Whether you're using the the Windows app or the mobile app, it's just a quick menu selection. 

Next level audio

I've used a lot of different gaming headsets over the years. My trusty Astro A50s served me well for a long time, and they were great. I recently switched to a Turtle Beach Atlas for wired PC gaming, and no complaints there either. The market is littered with gaming headsets that range from good to great.

The Audeze Mobius is on another level. It's a cleaner, clearer surround sound experience than I've run into before, and the wide frequency response delivers high-quality audio whether you're in 7.1 or stereo. 

That $400 price tag is going to be steep for lots of gamers. But just speaking personally, this is the first gaming headset I've found that's enhanced my play while also delivering a listening experience that tickles my nerdy inner audiophile.

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