Altec Lansing AHS615 Headphones

With all the high tech toys computer gamers have these days, laser mice, wireless keyboards, 30” widescreen plasma monitors, sound is the only department left untouched. Most gamers have the standard two speaker and a sub setup that gets them by, but the ones that really want the true to life experience go for the surround headsets. It means more realistic sound for them and less annoyance for everyone else in their house. While some of these headsets can get ridiculously expensive, an entry in the mid price market seems to be stirring up some noise. Enter the Altec Lansing AHS615.

Upon initial inspection on the impossible to open plastic clamshell the headphone come in, I saw good, and I saw bad. The good was the padding around the speakers. Most of the headsets I’ve used become a serious earache after a few hours of wearing. The bad was the goofy looking stick that seems to be attached in the middle of the wire. I could tell that this was going to be bothersome. Boy was I ever right.

When I finally got the headphones out of the box, I was surprised at the setup of the actual unit. There’s no settings for adjustment. It’s on a tensioned joint, when I slid on the headphones the bottom strap stretched to fit comfortable around my head. My other surprise was the separate pivoting of the padding around the speakers. The speaker itself pivots, then the padding itself pivots again. The result is a very comfortable wear that doesn’t put a whole lot of pressure on the ears.

The microphone on the unit is one of the best I’ve seen on a combo set like this. It’s easily adjustable, having both the snaking tube that can be fine tuned around my gargantuan head, but it also pivots so it can be turned up towards the strap when not in use. It performs very well. The noise rejecting microphone meant I could turn up the sensitivity of the voice activation on TeamSpeak and actually be able to use it well, instead of having every clack of the keyboard or distant whining on an annoying sibling setting off the mic and hogging the talkspace.

The little stick on the wire serves a very useful purpose, but at a terrible price. The surround sound on these head phones is simply astonishing. The switch on the stick allowed me to tell the difference a little amped surround can bring. As I logged into World of WarCraft and spun the camera around my character, the noises and sounds of a bustling Orgimmar were more realistic than I’ve ever heard. When I shut off the surround, it returned to the lame boring sound that my regular speakers put out.

The realism of the surround makes this unit worth buying on its own. However,  not only does it require a AAA battery to operate, but it’s on a switch that has absolutely no auto turnoff. One slip up and the battery’s dead and the whole unit is worthless until a replacement battery is found. The stick is also placed at a terrible position on the wire. It’s about 2 and a half inches short. This translates into  having absolutely no place to keep this heavy stupid thing while I’m wearing the headphones. It comes with a little clip that apparently is able to clip onto something, but  even when I’m sitting down there’s not enough length to attach it to a pocket or belt loop. So I’m left with trying to keep this thing on my desk, which is impossible, or trying to clip it to a sleeve, which looks dumb and doesn’t work either. I wish it could have been built into the top strap or into the unit itself somehow.

This unit had the potential of being perfect. It fit well, it has amazing sound, the microphone works wonders, but the surround stick really draws from its attractiveness. Many gamers will become annoyed at trying to find a place for this cumbersome addition. Maybe if I clip it to the top strap somehow. It might look goofy, but at least it’ll be out of the way.

Written by Erich Becker
Thirty-something with a love of everything we cover here, and a few things we don't. Erich has run Entertainmentopia since the site's inception in 1999, countless redesigns, a few crashes, and a lot of media later, here you have it!