It’s not hard to be impressed with the Vulcan ANC (Active-Noise-Canceling) once it’s out of the box, but this isn’t a surprise since products from ASUS’ Republic of Gamers (RoG) line always have that swagger. These gaming headphones fit the bill—it has the distinct design of stealth and suave that grabs your attention.
The first thing you’ll notice when unpacking the Vulcan is the uniquely shaped travel case. Although you may associate it with an oversized guitar pick, make no mistake—the case is well designed and will protect the headset. Once you unzip it open, you will see that it snugly holds the headphones in its folded fetal-like position, ready to be uncoupled for your pleasure.
Once it was out of its travel case, I was pretty amazed at the Vulcan’s light weight. Floating in at only 325g, this is by far one of the lightest headphones (of similar size) that I’ve ever picked up. Once I unfolded the headphones, I was initially alarmed at how the collapsible hinges snapped in, which caused a fleeting doubt in its durability. After several times of locking and unlocking the hinges in place, I was thoroughly assured that they were strong and firm, despite the loud click it makes.
Taking a look at the Vulcan’s aesthetic quality, the black headband is excellently complemented by the “carbon fiber” ear cups, which is partnered with a crimson trim. The design gives the headphones an imbued sense of authority and strength, which is perfect for raising your confidence before an intense clash on the virtual battlefield.
Once I finally adorned the Vulcan, I was completely captivated by how comfortable it was. The cushioned pads felt like pillows on my ears, so rest assured that you will be able to wear these headphones for an extremely long time. I had the Vulcan ANC on for eight hours straight and did not experience the slightest hint of listener’s fatigue. ASUS definitely did their homework on this area, ensuring that you can allow yourself to be completely immersed in your experience. As a matter of fact, the only reason I took off the Vulcan was to replace the battery, which is cleverly located behind a concealed slot in the right ear cup.
The battery is required for activating the ANC mode, which as the name implies, reduces ambient noise. This is done by identifying the noise’s frequency, and then replicating it with an out of phase sound wave, thereby cancelling it. ANC was originally conceived to block out the rumble of jet engines on planes while traveling, but it’s also invaluable for gamers with tricked out desktops that emit quite a bit of electric hum. It’s also useful for blocking out ambient noise such as crowd murmurs and cooling fans.
Since ANC affects the muddy end of the lower frequencies, switching it on produces a noticeable result. The lessened bass will result in increased perception of high frequencies, which will slightly affect vocal tracks. This however, is a fair tradeoff to subscribe for a reduction in background noise. In the end, ANC is an indispensable tool once you have access to it, and it will prove its value down the road. One useful application would be to enjoy silence in a chaotic atmosphere, since just putting the Vulcan’s on without listening to anything proves its capability to filter out higher ambient frequencies.
For multiplayer games or simple video chat, the Vulcan’s microphone performed quite well. The resulting vocals are clear and crisp, even when used in an environment with background noise. Making the microphone detachable was one of ASUS’ best choices regarding the design of this headset, allowing you to use the Vulcan strictly as a pair of headphones. I personally did find the main detachable cord to be quite long, which might be cumbersome if you’re out and about with your MP3 player. However, the cord’s length is extremely useful when the Vulcan is used with a desktop computer.
One slight issue I had with the Vulcan is that when not fastened securely, the earc ups tend to squeak whenever you move your head. Moreover, the main cable that connects to the computer also picks up vibrations whenever it is touched or tapped, resulting in a hollow echoed sound emanating in the left earcup. These are simply my personal preferences though, and it does not degrade the Vulcan’s performance in any way.
Under normal listening conditions (ANC off), I was extremely impressed at the sonic quality of the Vulcan. All frequencies sound clean and clear, stereo imaging is very distinct, and the illusionary depth of field is achieved quite well. The Vulcan will have no problem standing up to the critiques of any audiophile, and should satisfy the sound demands of just about everybody.
In short, for an early entry in this genre, ASUS comes close to achieving pristine sound, considering the Vulcan is marketed as a gaming headset and not as headphones. As its first Active-Noise-Canceling unit, it did an impressive job and offered it at a rather fair price. It is a solid product, and should find a good response among ASUS’ loyal and strong following.
Dimensions: 8.1” x 7.7” (HxW)
Drivers Diameter: 40mm
Impedance: 48 Ohms
Frequency Response: 10 – 20 kHz
ANC (noise cancelling) Performance: Maximum > 15 dB, Effective Bandwidth > 600 Hz
PNC (noise isolation) Performance: Maximum > 15 dB
Battery Life: Up to 40 hours (with one AAA battery)
• Stealthy design
• Extremely comfortable
• Great sound
• Detachable cord and mic
• Loud sound when snapped into place
• Long cord
The ASUS RoG Vulcan ANC looks remarkable and sounds even better. Whether you’re a gamer or just looking for a great pair of cans, you should definitely put these headphones on your list.
Buy Meter: 9.0
[This review originally appeared in the October 2011 issue of Gadgets Magazine]