The Pulse-R has a sound signature tuned primarily for gaming, which unfortunately weakens it in every other category. This should be far less noticeable if you’re not picky as I am. Otherwise, the headphone sound quality is certainly more than passable.
The Pulse-R isn’t a well-rounded music headphone because of the emphasis for gaming environmental sounds. The headphone sound signature has a strange pattern in the mids and highs. Bass is present though mildly sloppy. Generally, the headphone does very well with song tracks that don’t have many things going. Most if not all top 40 songs regardless of genre sound absolutely fine.
However, it’s a different story with busy songs such as those with multiple instruments. Vocal frequencies sound weak in relation to accompanying melodies and the problem is exacerbated with technically complex tracks. Heavy metal in particular took on a peculiar characteristic – vocals were harder to follow and bass guitar sounds were overemphasized. Swedish House Mafia’s Don’t You Worry Child was a surprise candidate for revealing this audio weakness – the backbeat and synthesizer is clear and detailed, but John Martin’s vocals sound incredibly muffled.
It was impossible to repair this weakness in the headphone’s sound signature despite my efforts at equalization with pink noise and sine sweeps.
While the problematic side of the Pulse-R’s sound signature manifested itself again with movies, it was far less noticeable than while listening to music. Environmental sound effects are still relatively louder than spoken dialogue, but it was rare for any movie to have both at the same time. No movie dialogue was rendered inaudible by the Pulse-R’s tuning pattern.
The headphone’s positional recreation is reasonably good and sound effects that move from one ear across to the other are very audible. Virtual 5.1 and 7.1 surround yielded positive results with films that feature spectacular scenes with surround sound engineering. However, the headphones were unaffected by home theater emulation such as Dolby Headphone, a feature found on some ASUS sound cards.
The Pulse-R is no slouch at gaming audio. Most sound effects are impactful and clear though bass heavy tones can sound unrefined. Game vocal audio presence is still mildly reduced by the headphone’s tuning though it’s not bothersome. VOIP users and multiplayer gamers will definitely be fine. Finally, the headphones benefit from virtual surround sound though it’s not noticeable if you don’t listen for it or lack the hardware or software to output virtual surround sound. The direction of positional sounds for each ear can be determined in an arc from in-front to a bit behind the ear.
Multiplayer games are a big deal these days and team communication is important. The Pulse-R’s microphone is of acceptable quality and picks up voices with plenty of detail for others to understand. However, it’s imperfect recording quality adds a robotic sounding distortion that can create difficulty in being identifiable by voice in a group chat.