Hardware provided by the manufacturer
First and foremost, you might believe I’m a dirty stinking liar when it comes to whatever I might say about this particular product. I’m going for full disclosure here. This is a review of the Gioteck HC4 headset, and Gioteck’s Community Manager used to write for Critical Gamer. I still keep in contact with him, he’s the one who helped provide the review unit (and competition prize – still time to enter at time of publication), and you can even hear me say things with my voice on the last few Gioteck podcasts. He trusts me to give an honest appraisal, and I can only hope that you do too; if you’ve made it this far, I invite you to read the rest and make up your own mind.
So then. The nice sturdy box of the HC4 declares that the device within is compatible with PC, PS4, and Xbox One. This is true, aye, but with two sizeable caveats. Firstly, the HC4 won’t work with the Xbox One without a Microsoft headset adapter. This is frustratingly par for the course, and is true for any third party headset (following in the proud moneygrabbing footsteps of the proprietary Xbox 360 hard drives, and Xbox DVD remote dongle). Secondly, it won’t work properly (i.e. as both headphones and mic) with a PC without an adapter; it’s plug-and-play for the PS4 only thanks to the plug which serves both the speakers and microphone. Said PC adapters aren’t too expensive – you can get one for about a fiver – but they’re not particularly easy to find; and it’s an extra expense on top of what you’ve already paid for the headset that you probably won’t expect unless you read the small print.
The unit itself is solid, and looks very swish. The band starts off fairly tight and extends to a decent length, meaning it should fit all but the most deformed of heads. I found it to be extremely comfortable to wear; it hugs the head tightly, but the band and ear cups are padded with quality material that neither presses on the head nor yields too much. One interesting side effect of this, as I quickly discovered, is that the ear cups do an excellent job of dulling sound from the outside world. Combine this with the fact that the maximum volume is extremely high (do be careful of this), and you could probably play your game of choice while being completely oblivious to your roof collapsing. Unless it fell on you, of course.
I used the HC4 to listen to music on my laptop (it should work as headphones with most things), and general game noises on my PS4. In both cases, I found that – as with other headphones and speakers that I’ve used – the default mix is a little too bass heavy for my liking. That’s down to personal preference no doubt, but it does irritate me a little. Once I’d adjusted the sound mix through Windows Media Player (after some Googling to find out where the damn options are in the first place), this headset proved to be an excellent way to listen to my ‘choons’, as the young people are wont to say. There was a noticeable improvement from the standard earphones I usually use, with the subtleties of the studios’ mixing (“good lord, there’s a guitar somewhere over to my right in this quiet section!”) pushed to the fore.
With its densely populated open world, and radio stations battling against other sound effects such as engine noise, I thought it would be worth putting some time into GTA V with this thing. As mentioned, the output is a little bass heavy for my liking (which for a game gives it a cinema-like sound, not always a bad thing) but I have to say, it really did enhance the experience to an extent I didn’t expect. It had zero effect on the gameplay of course, but the atmosphere was improved dramatically.
I didn’t really appreciate the work done by Rockstar’s sound design and mixing team until experiencing their work through the HC4. I picked up sounds I’d never noticed through my TV speakers; my spatial awareness of pedestrians through sound suddenly actually existed; radio music finally dominated properly over the dull growl of the car engine; actors’ accents and inflections had been given an extra edge.
What I did find disappointing with this headset, however, was the mic. Physically it looks lovely and, while it looks and feels just one tad cheap, it’s intentionally flexible rather than breakable. It picked up my voice well, but not quite with the pin-sharp quality that I’ve had from other mics. It’s more than good enough for game chat; but if you’re after something to record your voice and make you sound as beautiful as can be, you may want to shop around.
The HC4 is sort-of wireless, which turns up a few interesting options. It charges via USB for a claimed eight hours or so of use, and it charges surprisingly quickly. When charged, the only wire you need is the lead for the plug (it’s not a bluetooth headset, and there’s no dongle). If you’re out of juice – or you don’t see the point in charging it for PC use – you can use the USB charging lead as a power lead, and make it into a fully-fledged wired headset. You then won’t need to turn it on. The power button, along with the mute mic and volume up/down buttons, sits on the outside of the left ear cup. It looks pretty cool, but doesn’t look terribly practical – until you start using them and find that, actually, the buttons are large and clicky enough to prove surprisingly intuitive. You should be able to use them successfully while wearing the headset even if you have fingers like overfilled sausage casings, like me.
What I found out by mistake, and surprised/scared me slightly, is that the HC4 will work with the PS4 even if you don’t switch it on. Well, it won’t work if you don’t switch the PS4 on, obviously; but if the headset isn’t charged and/or you don’t hit the power button, it will still work so long as you remember to plug it into the DualShock 4. Using it in this way lessens the quality of the microphone, and none of the buttons on the headset will work (leaving you at the mercy of whatever you’ve set the headphone volume to in the settings at the main PS4 menu), but it’s an interesting – and presumably unintentional – option.
Most places seem to be selling the HC4 for £30-35, and I’d say it’s well worth that. If you’re mainly looking for a top-quality mic, then you’d be best off looking elsewhere. If you’re after a reasonably priced multiformat gaming headset, however, then this is an excellent choice.