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AIMON HP Headphone Mixer/Amplifier (Review)


The AIMON HP is a gaming mixer and amplifier for the PS3 and Xbox 360 manufactured by Tuact, a small video game peripheral manufacturer. The device amplifies audio and lets you mix VOIP volume. It competes with other more high-end and expensive products such as the Astro MixAmp and Turtle Beach DSS2.

The Mixer/Amplifier gives you hi-fi sound which are output through headphones, has basic equalizer controls, and can be connected to a mic for voice chat. Take note though that headphones and a mic are not included. The package only includes the AIMON HP itself, a USB cable, an optical cable, another cable for voice on the Xbox 360, and a tiny slip of paper Tuact likes to think of as a "manual".



The AIMON HP has no Dolby surround sound processor, and instead outputs in PCM audio format. And of course, even though it is an amplifier, the AIMON HP won't magically make cheap headphones sound great, so you'd probably have to invest in a relatively good pair to get the most out of it. For testing purposes, I used the Audio Technica ATH-AD700, which seems to have a good reputation for being a decent gaming headphone with a very large dynamic range.

At the front of the HP we have a MIC input, PHONE output, and AUX, which is another input that is, as far as I know, used for connecting to an Xbox 360 controller (for VOIP audio). At the back we have left and right RCA inputs, Coaxial Out, Optical input and output, as well as a USB port used to power the device and transfer your voice audio signal to the console.



There are 6 adjustments that can be made using the single large-ish dial on the device's right side. Pushing down on the dial switches between BASS (incorrectly labeled as BASE... couldn't they simply have checked a dictionary to see if the spelling was right?!), TREBLE, GAIN, ONLINE/LINE, GAME/DIGITAL IN, and the main master volume. Turning the dial adjusts each setting. For example, if you want to adjust the treble, you push the dial until the treble LED is lit, then you turn the dial to make your adjustment.


Tuact integrated a way to visually see if a setting is high or low. The green LED light around the dial glows bright to indicate a high setting, and will grow progressively dimmer when dialled down. This allows you to see if you've hit maximum or minimum settings as the light will stop getting brighter or dimmer.

BASS and TREBLE are pretty much straight forward... they, of course, increase and decrease bass and treble. GAIN, according to the manual, should only be adjusted for hi-fi headphones. ONLINE/LINE is VOIP audio (separate from any other game audio). And finally, GAME/DIGITAL IN adjusts only the game audio itself.

The AIMON HP has a small, very light and sleek design, with matte, smooth black plastic. No fingerprints to clean here. However, it does feel pretty flimsy, and would probably break from even just a small drop. Dimensions are 12cm x 8cm x 2cm, measurements being the longest for each dimension, except for height. If we include the dial, the height increases to 3cm.

PERFORMANCE

One glaring flaw that you will notice immediately when using the HP is a relatively loud ambient noise. It's a bit of a turn off, but fortunately isn't noticeable when there is a lot of audio coming from the game. Nevertheless, it's still there and you will always hear it when there is no audio. This could be irritating depending on how sensitive you are to ambient noise.

As earlier mentioned, there is no surround sound support, but despite this the directional sound is clear. Because I have never actually used a proper surround sound headphone with matching processor, I don't know how this compares to the accuracy of such a system, but it seems relatively good as directional sound is significantly noticeable compared with simply just plugging your headphones straight to the TV. I can clearly hear, for example, gunfire coming from the left, right, up or down, and moving my game character will adjust the direction of the sound of gunfire accurately. Additionally, I can hear much more from my games -- the sound of footprints don't just sound like stomps, I seem to hear even the texture of the ground the foot is stepping on. That's how clear the sound effects have become. Mic in works well, too. Though I cannot hear how I actually sound like to a person listening to me, the people I play with on PSN say they have no problems hearing me. 

However, a major problem with the AIMON HP is listening to VOIP. There is a way to increase the volume of VOIP audio from your teammates (using the ONLINE/LINE adjustment), but it doesn't increase it loud enough to hear over other in-game audio when things get even just a bit loud (such as during a firefight in an FPS). Unless there is absolutely nothing happening on screen, even with the volume all the way up, I cannot make out what anyone is trying to say. Perhaps games with in-game VOIP audio controls, such as Modern Warfare 2 and 3, work better with the HP.

CONCLUSION

The AIMON HP is less than half the price of Astros and Turtle Beaches, but considering the build quality, the loud ambient noise, and the lacking volume of VOIP, I'm not exactly sure it's worth the money. It does get the job done in terms of getting much better sound quality, but the poor VOIP audio cancels out that value. As a "mixer/amplifier", you expect it to not just amplify sound, but also mix VOIP properly, and unfortunately it doesn't do that well. It would therefore be completely useless if you were to get this for online multiplayer teamplay purposes. As an entry level amp for single player use, the AIMON HP is probably okay. But if you need it for VOIP, it's better that you just save up for one of the more expensive amps, or just stick to your regular gaming headset.
AIMON HP Headphone Mixer/Amplifier (Review) Reviewed by JM Taylor on 8/21/2012 07:39:00 PM Rating: 5

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