It's easy to get bogged down, as a gamer, in a wave of peripherals and accessories vying for your hard earned cash, all touting themselves as must buys for any hardcore gamers (and who doesn't like to think they're one of those?), but most turning out to be an utterly pointless waste of money.
This is especially true for the headphone market, where the competition is staggering and the spending dilemmas many. Should you go cheap and risk cauliflower ear? Or should you go for the super duper surround sound bass maximiser 4000s that make gunshots sound so real that you'll duck for cover, but end up breaking the bank?
Gioteck's EX-05 headset is certainly easy on the wallet. Available on Amazon for £25 (RRP £40) they're practically a steal, especially given the fact that they're a cross-platform piece of kit that will cover your Xbox 360, PS3 and PC gaming needs.
For that price you'll get all the bells and whistles you could reasonable hope for: a mute-able microphone, seperate volume controls for 'game' and 'voice', and an adjustable headband; basically everything you need to just sit down and play.
Right out of the box, the fact that this is a budget headset is plain for all to see. It's not flimsy per se, it just feels a bit cheap: from the plastic covering the earcuffs to the minimalist, meshed headband, it's obvious where the costs were cut. It's not one to stick in a display case and show off when you have family round.
But, unless your family are strange headphone enthusiasts, you won't be doing that. In fact, how the EX-05s look shouldn't matter a jot seeing as they'll be on your head the whole time, which means that comfort and sound quality are paramount.
When it comes to comfort the Ex-05s are hit and miss. The earcuffs themselves are very good indeed: the breathable microfibre provides a lot of padding whilst not making your ears too hot, and they engulf your whole ear, leaving them feeling snug and airy. You're very unlikely to feel any discomfort after even the most extended session.
The headband, however, is less fluffy mattress and more bed of nails. Okay, it's not quite that bad, but after a while of wearing the headset the top your head will most likely ache. Readjusting the straps so that each side perfectly matched will alleviate the problem for a while, but it will keep coming back. This is probably down to the rather bizarre fact that the headband does not curve to fit your head, rather travelling almost completely horizontally so that only one spot on your head makes contact with it. It's more than a little annoying.
Audio quality from the 40 mm speakers is, on the whole, pretty good. If you're playing online you'll get a good sense of direction from the in-game noise; especially useful in online shooters. If you're perhaps used to a more expensive headset then you could be disappointed: you won't get the crispest, cleanest sounds or the strongest basses from the EX-05s, and you might get some noise leakage from the earcuffs, but nothing that's noticeably poor. The EX-05s do their job in the audio department.
The microphone – a vital tool in any online gamers belt – is impressive. The output is very clear, and you won't have complaints that you're hard to make out. Plus, the fact that the mic cancels background noise means that those pesky roadworks that have been going on for far too long outside your window won't encroach on your gaming time. The microphone arm is sturdy, but not fully adjustable, meaning that the number of positions you can achieve are limited, but this is just a minor quibble.
The fact that this headset will work on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC is one of its key selling points, and it carries this feature fairly well. As always for any cross-platform headset, PC Gamers will find the 5 metres of cable woefully long, leading to the inevitable and dreaded untangling session every once in a while, but console gamers can't really complain – even in the most extravagant set up the cable should reach from your console to the sofa.
Switching between platforms is easy, and is done through the main controller on the headset's lead, which also enables you to change voice and game volumes separately and mute your microphone. Integration isn't perfect – on the PC the 'voice' dial controls all sound, and if you have a HDMI Xbox you'll need an RCA adapter (although this is now standard procedure on Xbox headphones so it's hard to see this as a black mark.
If it seems like I've been non-commital in this review it's because Gioteck's EX-05 headset is fairly non-descript – every feature is functional without pushing the boundaries, and nothing is unbearably bad either. However, there is one thing that is pretty astounding: the price. Paying £25 for a fully cross-platform headset is an absolute bargain, especially when you get all the features that this headset provides. If you can survive without pristine audio and you're willing to suffer the imperfect comfort of the headband (which some might not be willing to) then I can only recommend this jack-of-all-trades headset, especially if you play on both PC and console.
If you fancy grabbing a Gioteck EX-05 for yourself, you can follow the Amazon link below, or head to the Gioteck website here.