August 16, 2017 // 9:20 a.m.
Manufacturer: Cooler Master
UK price (as reviewed): £35 (inc. VAT)
US price (as reviewed): TBC (exc. tax)
Cooler Master is no stranger to the peripheral market. In fact, it has recently been releasing some great gear such as the Cooler Master MasterKeys L and S PBT Keyboard that I took a look at a short while ago. Cooler Master targets a wide audience, from the gaming enthusiast to the gamer on a budget. Today I am going to look at the MasterPulse MH320 which sits firmly into the latter category at just £35 for a gaming headset.
Inside the packaging, there is the headset and a small user guide. There isn't anything else, but let's face it, even if it was just the headset, I would have everything that I needed.
First impressions are not great. The MH320 does feel cheap and somewhat hollow. Although it feels cheap in terms of the materials used, it still feels strong and there are not many points of failure with the design, which is always a good thing. The headset looks nice and simple and it has no flashy lights or features, although, for the price, I wouldn't expect it to.
One thing that did almost catch me out was the join between the earcup and headband. It almost looks as though it should swivel as the earcups are at a slightly off-angle. They aren't, though, and the cups are stuck firmly in place. This might be uncomfortable for some as it means there is just no give at all around your head.
The main feature to ensure that the headset is comfortable for long periods of use is the self-adjusting headband. This comes in two parts, a metal outer frame and then a soft band that makes contact with your head. I have seen this kind of design a lot recently and it does work well.
For added comfort, the earcups and inner headband have foam cushions as well as some quite nice PU leather. Whilst wearing these, I didn't find the materials to be an issue, but the headset did feel tight. I was able to loosen this a little by pulling the earcups apart and putting some strain on the metal band which helped. The I used them for around 10 days and the more they were used, the more I got used to the way they fit.
One problem I had with the self-adjusting headband was that if you knock the headset anywhere, the noise would resonate and travel through the headband, then through the wire and then into the earcup. As the ear cup is quite hollow, it would then echo through and caused some rather loud noises. The simplest way to combat this, of course, is to not bang the metal headband, but you would be surprised at how often it gets knocked when you have an audible reminder. Even moving the microphone into an upright position can cause some unwanted extra noise.This isn't a deal breaker, at the price, but you are not going to get the same build quality as higher-end headsets. It is something worth trying before you buy, though.
Speaking of the microphone, the MH320 has a flexible folding boom mic which can be bent into a position that suits you. Whilst you are not using it, you can move it out of the way entirely as it pivots up. The microphone is actually very good quality, and I have used far worse on headsets that cost double or even triple the price. The cable is just over two metres in length and features two 3.5mm jacks, meaning that it can work straight out of the box with no need for additional drivers.
There is a nice little bonus with the Cooler Master MasterPulse MH320; an inline remote! It is nice to see inline controls even if they are basic. This one can control volume up/down and also mute the mic if needed. There is no visual indicator for when the mic is muted, but I quickly learned that when the switch was up, the microphone was live.
I have already touched on build quality, microphone quality and material quality, but how is the sound? Well, not too bad, actually. It was a pleasant surprise. I used the headset for multiple games such as the usual Overwatch, CS:GO, League of Legends and the latest craze, PUBG and found them to be adequate in all titles. In PUBG, you could pinpoint enemies well enough and in CS:GO footsteps and flash-bangs were well-pronounced. Highs did tend to sound a bit tinny due to them starting to travel through the construction of the headset, due to the cheaper materials. The MH320 has good bass, although, once more, due to the construction of the headset, it sounded a little hollow. The headset actually vibrated rather a lot whilst listening to a bass sample track, as well. Having said this, during normal gaming use, explosions gunshots and dull footsteps sounded great with the right level of bass.
It feels like I have been overly harsh with this review and I don't mean to be. The MasterPulse MH320 is a good headset for the price, but you do get what you pay for. The headset is meant to be used for gaming and the MH320 does very well here. In fact, I didn't mind using it whilst gaming at all. Music and films did lack a lot more, but this is down to the construction of the headset. With it having hollow earcups made of thin plastic and metal joining them together, it acts similar to a two cups and a bit of string; the noise can be heard throughout the whole headset. I keep mentioning the construction, but it really is the biggest issue. The actual materials feel like they will stand the test of time, there doesn't seem to be any weak points that will break easily and overall it feels like it will last. If Cooler Master sorts out the ringing noises, maybe with a little bit of foam to stop the vibrations, it would stop the major issue.
The comfort levels are not too bad but they are not excellent. I was able to use them for a good three or four hours without having to take them off but I did feel like they were tight out of the box. I managed to ease this a little and I do feel that over time this issue would resolve itself, simply by the strain you exert onto the metal over time. It would have been nice to see some movement with the earcups, but this would have added more to the price and ultimately might have been done in vain.
The microphone was exceptionally good and far exceeded my expectations, certainly in this price range. Whilst using Skype, Teamspeak and Discord, everyone was able to hear me clearly and my friends even knew I had changed microphones as they couldn't hear the click-clack of my cherry greens as much, yet they could still tell what I was saying perfectly.
I am going to actually give the Cooler Master MasterPulse MH320 a Recommended award. I know, you probably weren't expecting an award after so many negative comments, but at the price point, there is very little that could do the job better. The main issue for me is the way the noises vibrate through the headset and the way that it is constructed, but when I break it down, the MasterPulse MH320 does do a good job. It sounds fine whilst gaming, which is its intended use, has an excellent microphone and is relatively comfortable. If you have an extra £15 or £20, then there are better options, but If you are on a budget or you are looking for a headset for a young one, you can't go far wrong with the MH320. I have paid far more for worse headsets in the past.