ASUS Fusion STRIX 500 Gaming Headset
The all new Republic of Gamers Headset
Asus is no stranger to the gaming peripherals market, or - for that matter - the PC market in general. They are perhaps the best-known maker of motherboards, graphics cards, and high-end gaming displays. To say that the pedigree is there to create a truly awesome gaming headset is, therefore, an understatement. The Fusion 500 is - predictably - a 'grade up' from the Fusion 300 headset, and current MSRP for the 500's sits at 150 GBP, or 169.98 EUR. Asus does have a product page all ready for the Fusion 500, and you can find it linked here. There, you will find extensive information regarding the product and its feature set, though we hope you'll come back to look at our review of this unit, as well.
The Fusion 500 isn't, however, wireless, so it cannot be directly compared to perhaps its closest rival, the Corsair Void Pro RGB. However, both are similar in that they are high end targeted headsets aimed at providing a premium audio experience for those who buy them. Asus' new unit connects to devices via USB 2.0 only, with no option for connection via your standard 3.5mm headphone jack, unless you want to convert.
The 500 features 50mm Neodymium drivers, aimed at providing a high-quality experience out of the box. Now, why the use of 'Out of the box,' there? Well, for me, part of what sets this unit apart is the total lack of software needed to - initially - configure, run, or control this unit (save for the lighting). Whilst the Fusion 500 does feature full Dolby 7.1 integration, enabling of capability is done by a small button located behind the left ear cup. Asus says that the implementation of Dolby 7.1 for this unit was done in conjunction with Bongiovi acoustics (insert any quips about 'Living on a Prayer' here). Asus claims that the algorithm used in the Fusion 500 is custom, developed with FPS titles specifically in mind. If you're interested in learning more about Bongiovi, then I have linked their website here.
To me, perhaps the most intriguing bit of hardware inside the Fusion 500 isn't aren't the 50mm drivers, but the introduction of an ESS 9018 DAC and Sabre 9601K Amplifier. For those not in the know, DACs are essentially audio solutions that use algorithms to alter the produced sound of a particular product. Think of it as FXAA (a type of visual post-processing effect) for audio. Using a DAC in a before and after scenario can be really quite enlightening as to what a difference they can make. What is perhaps fairly telling is - to my knowledge and research - that the Fusion 500 is the only 'gaming ' headset on the market that features an inbuilt audio amplifier/enhancement solution. We shall see later, of course, just how well this unit performs.
Like the Void Pro's, the RGB integration on the 500's comes in the form of two (per cup) angular light bars located behind said cups, and they are controlled - predictably - through the use of Asus' 'Aura' software. This utility is essentially aimed at providing unity between any Aura capable products that you may own, e.g. plenty of Asus motherboards have in-built Aura lighting, and even certain components like GSkill's Trident Z RGB memory (the review of which you can find here are Aura capable. In fact, Aura capability is available on a relatively wide range of products, in 2018. So if you're looking for a true RGB ecosystem, this isn't a bad route to take. I happen to have an Asus X370-F motherboard, I will be testing this synchronization later on in the review. Aura also has a mobile phone application, available for iOS and Android.
Some finishing points for this somewhat lengthy intro, though one of which is entirely relevant to this unit's 'game'. The headset claims a frequency response of 20Hz to 20Khz, which matches the Void Pro RGB and is what we have come to expect from higher-end gaming headsets. Finally, in a very neat yet understated touch, the Fusion 500 features touch controls on the left ear cup. Whilst it provides only basic functionality (start/stop track, skip/rewind track, and volume up/down), it is also the means by which the device enters both Aura Sync mode and pairing mode. I have to say that even basic functionality is appreciated, and should be music to the ears of anyone lacking a keyboard with dedicated media keys.