Hey everyone, it’s Bo again, back with another headset review from the guys at Cougar.
Cougar have been making some good inroads with their products spanning system hardware and peripherals, featuring their black and orange colour schemes they are certainly identifiable. Impressive things have been seen from them in the past.
The Cougar Phontum Headset has landed on my doorstep inviting me to put it through it’s paces.
Before we get into the headset let’s have a rundown of the specs to see what we can expect.
Sensitivity at 1KHz 98dB/mW(1kHz)
Impedance at 1KHz 32Ω +/- 15%
Frequency Response 20Hz – 20kHz
Cable Length 1.2m+1.8m(Detachable Cable)
Connector Type Detachable Cable: Audio and Mic 3.5mm plug
Type Uni-directional noise canceling
Frequency Response 100Hz to 10kHz
Sensitivity at 1KHZ -45dB ± 3dB
Hmm a 53mm driver, that is indeed interesting an extra 3mm on the usual large drivers supplied by other headsets. Let’s take a look at the Phontum.
An excellent sturdy box meets us, plastic bubble offering minimal protection here. On the front we have a nice large picture of the headset along with some branding. Just the one tag line, no flashy RGB or promises of incredible audio feats here.
The back of the box offers us more information. Lots of focus on the drivers and the modularity of the headset, including the extra thinner pads, that are interchangeable. Again we have no flashy gimmicks the brightest part is the inside of the headband. A collection of specs in various languages finishes off the back of the box nicely.
Even with modular parts and extras, Cougar have not gone overboard on box contents, I do like it this way, no distractions usually means more work has been put into the product. We get a flier for other bits n bobs that Cougar do, a manual, the headset, a couple of thinner earpads, a separate microphone and finally an in-line controller with a decent length of cable.
Swooping in for a top view we have a padded yet not too thick leatherette headband, the stitched styling is very attractive with an embossed logo.
Viewed from the front the headset has a very nice sturdy look to it, those metal bars are quite strong. The over ear pads are pretty huge on top of those big drivers. The microphone has no pop filter but can be positioned at just about any angle.
The left hand view offers us a smooth, slightly industrial design with painted metal. The drivers can slide up and down a predetermined path, the plug in mic is separate from the main cable inlet. There are no lights on this headset so it is nice and subtle in appearance. The Cougar logo is metal and adds an image of quality.
Looking from the back it’s much as the front but without the mic, no extra clipped on bits jutting out or anything just the form and function of a headset.
Spinning it around to the right, the pleasant style continues. I do like how this headset looks.
Popping on the included thinner earpads you still get an over ear experience with a lighter hold, they are certainly not as thin as the on-ear pads supplied with other modular headsets.
OMG how huge are they? Big, big drivers looking serious. 53mm in fact which is just about the biggest I have ever seen in mainstream headphones. Looking forward to the sound these can reproduce.
Finally an inline controller for microphone mute and volume control. This sits on an extension cable that splits the quad-polar 3.5mm jack into two three-pole ones for sounds and mic when used with a PC.
Performance and Testing
As usual I put headphones and headsets through their paces using music and games, including comms software on the gaming side.
So big 53mm drivers deserves some serious range testing, luckily my current obsession with Ghetto Funk allows for just about any sound to be used, from great bass to high end brass instruments. The sound reproduction on the Phontum is quite impressive, you get a really good range from the drivers, nothing sounded too muddled it was all presented very well indeed for a headset in this price range. The bass can go very low if you like and some may want to EQ it in a little more if they are a low end fan, this leaves listeners the option to focus on crisp vocals and detailed stereo separation.
The aforementioned clarity offered by the headset is great for listening out for cues and information in games, this extends to voices in comms applications. The soundstage is broad enough for CS:GO to let the listener know where footsteps are coming from. Further EQ tuning might be desirable if the listener is a fan of special effects such as gun noise and engine sounds. For the comms side the microphone produces a bit of a quiet voice so boosting is needed, it is however clear enough and lending the headset to a lan party attendee allowed me to hear the pretty good quality setup on offer. Wearing the headset over time can get a little warm due to the quite tight clamp of the headband.
The build quality of the headset is impressive, the metal band extends all the way down to the ends of the driver mounts, this offers a very sturdy frame without the often problematic weak points where the headband is joined on. Over the metal for the head section we have faux leather padding, which is not too thick yet still comfortable. The supplied cable is braided on both sections and is nice and flexible, and the in-line control is solid enough while remaining light. The microphone has a custom plug however a normal jacked mic should also connect as long as you have a way of holding it in position. Overall a very well made headset.
At the time of writing the Phontum (mis-labelled as USB) is available for £42.95 on offer, normally going for £47.99, this is actually great value for a headset of this caliber.
Cougar Phontum Headset Review: Our Verdict
- Excellent build quality, very strong headband with no weak points.
- Phone jack and separate mic/audio jacks attached to a generous extension lead with an in-line volume and mic mute control.
- Big 53mm drivers with an excellent range for music and games.
- Great price.
- The microphone could be better.
- While optional earpads are included they are just slightly slimmer versions of over-ear design, it would be nice to see on-ear pads.
- The headband can be too tight for some and get a little warm after prolonged use.
Overall I think Cougar have created an excellent contender in the upper budget end of the headset market. The price is very competitive for some great features and build quality. Gamers that attend events will welcome the clever construction making the headset resistant to most of the knocks and other pressures of being on the road. The colour scheme might not be for everyone, but it’s definitely not overstated and doesn’t have any lights, so less distractions and more headset.
As this up against some very good competition at this price point I will grant the Phontum the Silver and Value awards because it really is worth a shot if you like the look of it.
Many thanks to Cougar and OCUK for organising the review sample.