PDP Afterglow Karga Xbox One Headset - Hardware Review

With all of the excellent headsets that PDP designs for home consoles, I was eagerly anticipating the release of an Xbox One headset. When I caught wind of the Karga I was overjoyed at the prospect and needed to get my hands on one as soon as possible. In truth, I think about a bazillion other Xbox One gamers felt the same since it took some time to get a hold of, given it is one of the most affordable Xbox One headsets from a brand that has been putting out high-quality console peripherals for years now. When I came in to the shiny new package, I was absolutely pumped, stoked, excited, and could barely wait to get into the box to pull the headset out and plugged in and ready to go (if you could not tell, I was a bit excited for the headset).

First, the signature PDP Afterglow aesthetic is in full force here. You have expose circuitry and neon lighting on the exterior of the cup and a futuristic, yet simple overall design that has a padded adjustable headband, leatherette cups, and massive 50mm drivers. You also get the PDP-style retractable, pose-able, noise-canceling microphone with LED lighting so you can scream and shout all you want into the ears of all those 12-year old kids that are wiping the floor with you in multiplayer Halo: Master Chief Collection. Ever since the first PDP headset I got my grimy little hands on, I loved the look and way that they sit just right on my head, and the large cups give plenty of space for ears of all sizes.

You can get the Karga with either the PDP Afterglow standard blue, or you can show off your adoration for the Xbox One by picking up the Karga with green lighting (I am partial to the green), though, to be honest in all of the PDP headsets I have used, I never paid much attention to the lighting since I was, well, playing a game. I am sure others in the room would notice it, given the blue lighting is almost bright enough to read by (the green lighting is a bit muted in comparison). Honestly the whole aesthetic works for me, though I could see some of the more appearance-focused gamers out there (read: not-into-gaudy-flashy-lights-on-headsets) may not see the appeal, but that is only because they have not had the pleasure of putting the Karga's on and gaming with it for hours on end.

Without a doubt the Karga sounds better than any other headset by PDP that I have had the pleasure of working with. Where the Kral had some small issues with the bass boost (like the amplifier was just a bit too much for the drivers), the Karga exhibits none of those issues. With crystal clear highs and the ability to accurately reproduce the wide range of midrange audio, voices and instrumentals are pure joy. The bass is excellent, though at times a little under-powered but no so much that it becomes distracting or causes flat audio reproduction; I am just relieved that the bass that is there is rich and it is easily the nicest reproduction of lows that I have heard in a console-based headset.

Playing through Dragon Age: Inquisition (I love that game!), which has a startling range to the audio, is a wonderful affair. Take dragons for example, when you fight dragons they have an attack where it is an extremely high-pitched wail that stuns the party members and the Karga does not stumble in the extremely high notes. On the flip side when you first enter into a fight with a dragon, there is a growl and snarl that is a lower mid-range sound bit and the headset easily reproduces the low without trying to turn it into a high-pitched bass note. Quite fantastic really. While cruising through various tracks in Forza Motorsports 5 in my awesomesauce Subaru BRZ, the crunches, squealing tires, and general engine noise were reproduced so well that at times I would look out the window to see who was cruising around in a wicked-cool car (no joke, more than once I stood up to head to the window to look out and my daughter was a bit confused...).

While the headset is extremely light and easily forgotten, I found that the 3 ft. wire seemed a little long though I cannot complain since I am fairly short myself; were I not half of the size of a hobbit I think that it would have been just fine, so I digress. The biggest "issue" I had with the headset is with the microphone, though it apparently sounds fine on my friends' side, I did find that it is super sensitive. While running around in Dragon Age: Inquisition just breathing would have airflow pass by the microphone while it was retracted which then gave static feedback through the cups; the resolution is to just leave it out and 'fold' it out (away from the headset and your mouth) so it is out of the path of airflow.

It took me about three seconds to determine that was the best course of action and now I do not even worry about it. I did find that once or twice in Destiny I would need to repeat myself because the headset would get quiet or muffled, though I believe it has less to do with the headset and more to do with the controller exhibiting a wonky connection to the Xbox (occasionally the controller would blink and the signal to the Xbox would be 'lost').

Overall I am extremely impressed with the Karga; it is sleek, attractive, reproduces sound reliably and in a clean and wonderful manner, and has a very nice retractable noise-canceling microphone in it. Between the new Kral (PlayStation 4 / PC) and the Karga (Xbox One/any device that has 3.5mm audio jack), the Karga is certainly the better headset given the lows are much cleaner, the highs do not stress the magnets near as much, and the mids seem far more flexible.

Given that the two headset were launched around the same time, I believe that it all comes down to amplifier power; (this is pure speculation) I feel that the Karga's built-in amplifier/power source is more suited to the drivers than they are in the Kral. Now that is not to say the Kral is a bad headset, the opposite in fact, it is just that the Kral was the base model for comparison and in this case, the Karga is far superior. If you are looking for a headset for your shiny new Xbox One, you need not look any farther than the Karga by PDP.

Review by Robert

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