There’s no question that gaming headphones are a different breed and Steelseries TUSQ brings that, well, with you in a small convenient package.
At first glance, the TUSQ looks just like any other in-ear headphones would, albeit one with a housing that’s a fair bit thicker than your typical in-ear headphone. Despite the heft, it’s fairly lightweight, and the around-the-ears IEM-style design helps in providing a very snug fit.
There’s little to say about the build quality apart from the fact that it is functional, but that’s probably sounds about right, given its budget pricing. The boom microphone is detachable, so you can use it outdoors without the requisite inquisitive stares. The TUSQ has a handsfree microphone as well, so you can still use it for calls and the like. When you attach the boom mic it will override the handsfree microphone, but removing it mid-call will end calls as well.
The boom mic holds its form as well you could expect, and it’s quite comfortable for long hours of wear as it’s practically weightless. As you would expect with a stripped-down headset, there will be some trade-offs. For example, there’s no physical volume control to speak of, so everything has to be done on the source device. It’s still OK, at least there is a handy mute switch at hand, as well as a button to answer calls when connected to your mobile phone. The upside is that few things can go wrong with a simple headphone.
That said, it also means that there isn’t any fancy tech supporting the microphone, so you have to be aware to shield it from any source of noise. If you are operating (not a Modern Warfare pun, I assure you) in a controlled environment, then there’s nothing to worry about, but the same applies for the onboard microphone. That said, and I have no complaints about the microphone quality.
In fact, you’d be glad to know that the handsfree microphone isn’t significantly worse than the boom microphone. Your voice will sound slightly more hollow and there’s less body, but clarity of speech won’t be an issue and difference in quality isn’t night and day.
Steelseries did not disclose what combination of drivers it was using for the earbuds, but the large housing seems to suggest a dual driver design with a large dynamic driver for the bass. The TUSQ has a tremendous presence in bass and trebles, and it almost achieves a pseudo-surround effect the way it’s tuned. I was pleasantly surprised and speaking as a recovering ex-audiophile who can be obnoxiously particular about gear, these headphones are pretty fun. In an obnoxiously bassy way, of course.
That said, striking a balance for gaming and music is always going to be a hard ask (especially when you can’t do fancy EQ profiles through an app), so I’m not going to even pretend that it should be the norm to strive for. While the TUSQ is excellent when trying to convey the visceral action of an action-packed video game, it suffers somewhat when it comes to music, though arguably that can also be a matter of taste. The EQ sounds somewhat scooped with the bass and trebles particularly exaggerated. They can produce a decent soundstage and acceptable levels of detail but the over-the-top bass and treble can be a bit much. I got used to it after a while, but these are not headphones for those who are picky about their music-related gear. But if you’re into stuff like the Doom Eternal theme then you’re in good hands, my friend.
But one thing that’s unequivocal is that the TUSQ sounds great for games. It stamps its authority on every event, giving even the most mundane of menu selections sounds gravitas. It’s like as though someone converted a photo sharpening tool from Photoshop into Protools. I am closer to 40 than I am to 14, so pardon me if this doesn’t excite me as much as it should – but I definitely understand the appeal.
With all that is said and done, the Steelseries TUSQ gets our stamp of approval – for the price, these are a pair of enjoyable headphones perfect for the task they were designed for – and more.
Features - 6/10
Value Proposition - 8/10
Performance - 7/10
Design & Build Quality - 6/10
Overall - 7/10
A purpose-built, hard-thumping headset that sounds massive. And it's made all the cooler by the reasonable price tag.