Headsets for your PC generally come in two flavors: gaming-specific designs and those that focus on audio quality. Audeze is trying to have its cake and eat it too with the Mobius, which packs in pretty much every possible feature that both gamers and audiophiles could want. Unfortunately, the whole is less than the sum of its parts.
The Mobius brings planar magnetic drivers, the tip-top of audiophile quality, to a gaming-focused wireless headset. It also has just so, so many other features you’d expect from a high-end gaming headset: Bluetooth wireless, a detachable mic boom, and 7.1 surround sound, virtualized through software. It also has something I haven’t seen before, at least in a review unit: positional head tracking, a la a dedicated VR headset. Audeze says that its unique system allows for more accurate sound localization.
But I think this headset is a victim of a kitchen sink approach. While independently ranging from excellent to merely passable, everything combined makes the Mobius a cumbersome beast of a headset, difficult to effectively use for either intense gaming sessions or casual audio. At $400 retail, the Mobius is difficult to recommend unless you absolutely must have the most high-quality drivers available in a gaming headset. If you do, you’re going to have to overlook its shortcomings for more general use.
The Mobius is a massive around-the-ear headset, sitting large and heavy on even my sizable melon. Though most of the surfaces on the outside are plastic, its matte finish and understated looks indicate a premium construction and attention to detail. Those huge earcups and the attached memory foam pads are slightly tapered at the bottom, allowing the headset to rest in a very specific position on your head.
The Mobius is heavy. At 12.4 ounces, it makes even my Sony WH-atev3rs feel light—and they’re already on the bulky side. It makes sense: Inside that frame is crammed absolutely massive 100mm planar magnetic drivers, circuit boards and batteries for Bluetooth operation, plus some extra hardware for 3D head tracking. But there’s no getting around the fact that this thing is enormous—you might even feel a little neck strain after a few hours if you’re not used to a heavy headset. A stiff “clamp” feeling on the head doesn’t help.
The design crams all of the ports and interactions onto the left earcup, which is appreciated, as I never had to wonder which side I should reach for when adjusting on the fly. But that does mean that there’s quite a lot sitting on the left side of your head: In addition to the flexible metal mic boom and its notched slot, you’ve got USB-C for charging and a direct data connection, a standard headphone jack, dedicated dials for headset and mic volume, and a 3D toggle button. On the large flat side is the power button and an on-off switch for mic control—thankfully, no touchpads or swipe buttons to be found.
The headset comes in a super-sized box, with (almost) everything you could want inside. In addition to the headset and mic boom, you get USB-C-to-C and C-to-A cables, a headphone cable for analog operation, and a soft travel bag. There’s a sizable user guide (understandable, because it’s covering a lot of features), a warranty booklet that’s almost as big, and a card insert covering the myriad controls.
There are a couple of things you won’t find in the box: a dedicated wireless dongle (pretty standard for gaming headsets, to avoid the lag of Bluetooth) and a hard case. It’s a disappointing exclusion on such an expensive headset, but then, it isn’t really designed to travel anyway. And if you look at the packaging and the manual, you’ll notice a conspicuous lack of mentions for “ANC” or “noise canceling.” It’s an odd choice, given the rest of the features.
Let’s get this out of the way first: The Mobius is the best-sounding gaming headset I’ve ever heard. It’s also among the best straight-up headsets I’ve ever used with a computer, edging out Sennheiser’s open-back designs for pure listening bliss.
It performs best in the mid-range, giving crystal-clear notes full of body. Using this headset I noticed little nuances in performance and game design that I never had before. This isn’t to say that the treble and bass are lacking: While you won’t get the teeth-rattling low notes you might want if you’re interested in those genres of music or pulse-pounding movie sequences, the clarity of the drivers is still amazing.
That’s when using the USB or headphone cable connection. Pumping music or game audio through Bluetooth, you can hear the compression clearly. That’s a limitation of the standard, not of the headset, of course. But using the Mobius in Bluetooth mode seemed like a wicked waste of quality hardware, so I quickly settled down to wired listening for most of my time with it. There’s also no support for surround sound in wireless mode.
There was just one thing that spoiled my listening experience: a persistent clicking sound coming from the right earcup. After some experimentation, I found it was physical—some internal component rubbing against another component. Audeze sent me a replacement Mobius, but the problem persisted. It’s mostly not noticeable during music or gameplay, but I have to include it here.
In contrast to the audio quality of the headset itself, the microphone is only passable. My coworkers said that using the headset made me sound flat and lifeless on our weekly video calls, much more noticeable than even my Sony headset over Bluetooth. Of course, if you’re a gamer obsessed with audio quality, you’re probably already using a dedicated USB microphone. But it’s a definite low spot in this very expensive piece of equipment.
Actually using the Mobius was a significantly less wholesome experience than merely listening to it. I’ve already mentioned how heavy it is, which might be unavoidable considering all the tech in there. But just interacting with it is something of a headache.
Controlling the Mobius with the physical controls on the left side is a hassle. It’s very difficult to tell the volume and mic volume knobs apart from one another. Once you have, you’ll find that they take forever to actually adjust: It took me 51 turns to go from 0 to 100 on Windows. There’s no way to adjust this in the software.
The small power button is hard to find with your finger. Once you do, you have to press and hold it for three seconds to turn it on … but five seconds to turn it off. It’s a tiny adjustment that your brain doesn’t really account for. One press will play or pause music. I double-tapped it, expecting this side-mounted button to double as a track forward/back button … but no. That function is actually integrated into the volume and microphone volume wheels, which click in like a mouse wheel.
This is incredibly awkward in a control you can’t physically see, never mind one attached to your head. To change the track, you have to press in on the volume wheel and scroll while you keep it down. But clicking the microphone wheel will change your equalizer setting, or long-pressing it will change the audio profile from stereo to 7.1. All this is on two wheels that feel identical and are right next to each other.
The 3D button can “center” your virtual surround sound, but double-clicking it will change the headphone’s audio input mode, between USB, Bluetooth, and headphone cable. Long-pressing it will enable or disable the 3D audio function, something that I was expecting on a short press. At least the microphone mute is just an on-off switch, and thus impossible to get wrong.
In short: The controls for this thing are a mess. Combined with a very heavy headset and shorter-than-advertised Bluetooth battery life (I got about 6-7 hours, when the packaging says 10), the Mobius was a chore to actually use for anything except sitting still and listening to music.
The Mobius is best used with Audeze HQ, the company’s software suite. This lets you set equalizer modes, updater firmware, see battery life, etc. But the software seems mostly interested in getting you to check out the 3D audio feature. Note that this is different from 5.1 and 7.1 audio: We’re talking about spatial audio that fools your brain into thinking a stereo signal is coming from a specific spot.
This is neat. It tracks your head movement and adjusts the sound and volume from the drivers, as if the source of the audio was directly in front of you and you were moving around in a 3D space. Adjustments for your physical head dimensions are available and made easy with an included paper ruler that wraps around your head.
I just can’t see any reason to actually use this in my day-to-day listening. Sure, this hardware can fool my brain into thinking that there’s a singer in front of me and I’m moving around a concert venue. But I don’t want to do that: It breaks the immersion for both music and games, which are carefully produced with the expectation that your headphones or speakers are not going to move.
Even so, Audeze is all in on this tech. Not only can you carefully tune the 3D audio system, and even watch your virtual head move around as a mannequin in real time, you can actually bind keyboard actions to “gestures” you make with head motions. So, for example, you can tilt your head to the left or right (in that “confused dog” way) to activate Q or E on your keyboard. Once again, this is really cool … I just don’t see any possible situation in which I’d want to use it.
On top of that, you have the usual “gamer” aesthetic of the Windows software. While it’s not the worst that I’ve seen, it’s still unnecessarily distracting and busy. I’m not a fan.
As much as I’d love to tell you to save up all your pennies for this $400 headset, I can’t. If you’re an audiophile, you probably already have a set of planar magnetic cans that can meet or beat the Mobius for sound quality, like Audeze’s own LCD-1 or more expensive options. Sure, the Mobius is wireless, but using Bluetooth drops down the audio quality and the capabilities anyway.
And if you’re a gamer, you probably don’t care as much about stunning audio quality as you do about features like good communications (not the strong suit of the Mobius), ease of use (nope), wireless battery life (nope), comfort (nope), or low latency modes (nope). Frankly, there isn’t much reason for a gamer to consider this headset at all when there are more laser-focused products out there from HyperX and SteelSeries, and even their most expensive options are only about half the cost. The physical imperfection I encountered on two different versions of this very expensive headset doesn’t help.
The 3D audio trick so adamantly featured in the Mobius software and documentation is very cool and might have an application in VR … except that you can’t use this headset along with a VR display. In other applications, it’s a neat gimmick, but I found it more distracting than immersive.
If you absolutely must have a surround-capable headset with planar magnetic drivers and the option to go wireless, the Mobius fits the bill, and it’s a hefty bill at that. For everyone else, in every other niche that this product only lightly touches, there are better options.
This post was written by Michael Crider and was first posted to www.reviewgeek.com
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