Cyberblade gaming headset is the pinnacle of super-engineering - TechCrunch

We review a lot of headphones and earplugs here at TechCrunch, and most of them compete for the low or mid-range of the earplug market. With price points ranging from $75 to $300 or so, they’re often an awful lot alike. The feature set is no different. They sound different, yes, but not so much that you feel like your life will be ruined if you choose one set over the other. Therefore, it is a rare time that I am supplied with equipment that violates the standards. That’s exactly what happened with Angry MiaoThe Cyberblade headset. The base station (yes, there is a base station) feels like it’s been carved out of steel and glass. The whole setup weighs a whopping 370 grams – that’s 13 ounces. It’s also rare for a company to refuse to tell me what their price is.

Like much of the Angry Miao line, this is a product that seems to be aimed at gamers, from the multi-colored LED feast for your eyes, to the absurdly fancy base station, to the device’s carrying case, which includes a rotary power button on volume, which controls the volume of your computer or phone. There was a lot of “What in the ever-loving heavens is going on here?” in the process of unboxing and setting up these headphones. They’re also cramming a stupid amount of technology into it all – and it’s a refreshing take on the “What if we didn’t have to make headphones that were as small and light as possible?” paradigm.

The company shared with me why it makes headphones in the first place. They point out that wireless headphones have been around for a hot minute, but that they’ve been hit with a delay. As such, they’re not great for gaming, and the company claims there’s only so much you can do with the audio processing chips already in the headphones.

Angry Miao decided to turn things upside down. He created a base station that includes an audio processing chip. Because it’s designed to be plugged into the computer, it matters much less how power-hungry the chip is, which in turn unlocks a lot of extra computing power in the charging base. In fact, when you pair the headphones to your phone, you’re not actually pairing the headphones themselves; you pair the charger case. This means the headphones can be controlled out of the box using a private audio stream protocol. It also unlocks a bunch of additional audio processing capabilities. The company claims this unlocks the next generation of high-resolution audio with all the bells and whistles without sacrificing the headset’s battery life.

When the headphones are plugged into a computer and with Active Audio Enhancement (ASE) enabled, the company claims to provide users with superfast audio with ultra-low latency at approximately 40ms delay (compared to AirPods Pro’s alleged 200ms delay, according to Angry Miao). The company claims this means it can deliver high-quality sound with low latency, unlike other low-latency products that sacrifice sound quality for speed. In addition, the company offers the usual battery of active noise cancellation and sound optimizations dependent on the audio source — for Zoom meetings, for games, for music, for movies, you name it.

Is it fantastically cool? Absolutely. Do the headphones have significantly better sound quality than my Sony LinkBuds S headphones? Not exactly. Was I able to notice the difference in audio latency when playing games? Not really, but then I’m not exactly a pro gamer.

I spoke with the company’s CEO, Li Nan, in a rather rambling interview, but he assured me that lag is a terrible problem for everyone, including non-gamers, without really being able to explain why.

“Old apps like movie player have higher latency and use a software trick to fix the latency issue. But in the future, the hardware has to move forward,” says Nan. “Our product is fast enough that we don’t need any additional work at the software level. We all have very good latency. It will make it much more difficult for other brands.”

I challenge Nan on why 200 milliseconds – a fifth of a second – was a big deal when watching Netflix. Yes, there is a potential software fix to sync the audio with the video, but… so what?

No clear answer followed, and it’s still not entirely clear to me why these headphones should exist, nor what they cost — the company adamantly refused to tell me other than “they’re a bit more expensive than the Apple AirPods Pro,” before Nan asked me if I would buy them at that price. I told him I didn’t know what the price was and he confirmed again that they were slightly more expensive than the AirPods Pro.

Chaos aside—and frankly, the only reason I’m writing this article at all—these are some of the most well-made in-ear headphones I’ve ever seen. I don’t care about the weight, and I don’t need RGB LEDs in the headphones, base station, or carrying case, but I’ll be damned if these aren’t some of the most over-engineered headphones I’ve ever seen. And in a world where everyone is optimizing for price, they stood out for that reason.

The company is said to be doing a round of pre-orders on Kickstarter starting today, and will then offer the product for sale from its website. The price is supposedly listed on the Kickstarter page, but to be honest, given the level of secrecy the company has had so far, I wouldn’t bet on it.

Angry Miao Cyberblade Headphones

Angry Miao Cyberblade Headphones — I’m definitely not cool enough for this stuff. Image credit; TechCrunch / Hae Kamps

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