Sadly, when using the Ear Force Sierra: Call of Duty: Black Ops II Limited Edition
, I couldn't help but feel I was tied down. Literally
. There is a cable for headphone sound and another cable that plugs into the controller for the Xbox LIVE Chat connection. Both of these cables drape back to the control box, which would either rest on the edge of the entertainment center or hang from it. I would have to be very mindful of my movements... or I'd pull cables out of things. I will say that the cables will pull out without causing damage, which is good, but it's still annoying when you're in the middle of a heated battle and things come undone.
Additionally, with there are a lot of individual pieces that may or may not be used, depending on your setup. Windows and Mac usage doesn't necessarily need the converter box, the micro-USB wire or the included optical audio cable. Additionally, the boom mic is removable, adding another thing that you have to keep track of. While you're at it, given that the labels are completely nondescript, you'll want to keep the Presets Reference handy as well. Based on all of these things to keep track of, it would make perfect sense that the headset would include a carrying case to store these items in when you're not using them. The Astro Gaming A30s have their share of pieces, and they include a storage case. However, for some unfathomable reason, the Ear Force Sierra: Call of Duty: Black Ops II Limited Edition headset doesn't include any sort of case. In fact, I removed the boom mic for a while when I was testing them as just headphones and then had to hunt them down to test the mic some more. This is especially important given that the Ear Force Sierra: Call of Duty: Black Ops II Limited Edition are targeting tournaments and competitions. Not as big a deal if all of these are online, but if you're traveling to some location to participate in a contest (or even a LAN party, for that matter), it's going to be a struggle to keep track of all of your headphones and accessories without a case to keep them in. The headset seems to be built ruggedly enough to endure being knocked around a bit (as long as you remove the mic when transporting), but you're on your own as to figuring out how to pack them and keep track of your accessories.
As I mentioned above, this headset-bondage issue was least problematic when used with the PC. In fact, there are extra cords and a converter box thingy that aren't even used when you're using the Ear Force Sierra: Call of Duty: Black Ops II Limited Edition with the PC. You don't even need an installed sound card; you simply plug in the headphones and use the on-board built-in sound card. And, generally, that works. However, I've found that occasionally there would be some strange sound drop-out that almost sounded like a radio station that wasn't tuned-in exactly right. I know that's weird, but that's the best way I can describe it. It seemed to happen when ambient sounds and music were interrupted by character sounds (in Rift, in this example). I thought it might have been a glitch in the game, itself, but if I switched to speakers, the problem didn't happen. Switch back to the Ear Force Sierra: Call of Duty: Black Ops II Limited Edition headset and there it was, again. This sort of selective muting actually makes lots of sense for some of the settings on the control - if I were on a preset that was supposed to suppress loud noises to help you hear footfalls, then I would understand, but in fact, this problem persisted when I had the first preset selected, which is supposed to be a straight pass-through without processing.
I was able to work around this issue, however, by using the (nice) sound card already in my machine. I simply connected the Ear Force Sierra: Call of Duty: Black Ops II Limited Edition as if I were using it with a PS3 or Xbox 360, utilizing the Optical Audio out from my sound card. I just deactivate the on-board sound card via device settings in Windows, ran the optical audio to the converter and selected my sound card as the sound device.
Another thing that initially annoyed me is the mixer control. There's a lot of control and a lot of buttons to adjust those controls, but it suffers from two main problems: it's not intuitive and it's too sensitive. The non-intuitive nature comes from such descriptive presets buttons as "1", "2" and the ever-popular "5" - there are eight such buttons, but you have to remember what they do, because the buttons only show a single digit to identify their purpose. There are also other buttons near the top of the controller which look like um, maybe a fan... and a radioactive ball, maybe? As I sit here and look at it, the microphone button is flashing red and the Mode button is flashing orange. No, I don't know what that means, either. And, yes, you read that correctly: the two colors are red and orange - some things are red when they're off and orange if it's on. Well, except for the presets, which are orange if they're off and brighter orange if they're on. A control device should be intuitive, easy to read and easy to set. This one is a riddle wrapped up in a cipher and then encoded. Eventually, when I discovered that you can download software and actually customize the sound profiles to be whatever you want, the lack of decent labeling became a bit more forgivable; they can't really give specific names to the buttons if you can change what the buttons do. These are, essentially, macro buttons. The overly sensitive aspect, however, is not nearly so easily forgiven.
The "sensitive" issue I mentioned refers to the touch-capacitance switches used all over the controller. There is a knob, a button and four volume-style dials, then all of the other controls are touch-capacitance based. If you don't know what that means, think of the power button on the PS3 or the eject button on the latest model of Xbox 360. Touch activation makes sense for things you're not going to have to touch often - such as lamps. Things that you're going to touch more often needn't be so sensitive - especially if you have several different touch buttons located close to each other. (I am not even sure these trigger-happy switches are appropriate for use on a console power button or eject button; my dog has opened the tray and stopped a movie when she was sniffing around next to the 360.) Add this to a setup where the control ends up hanging from its cord and you find yourself reaching to "catch" the control and inadvertently changing the preset three times and turning something on and something else on while trying to put it back up on the entertainment center. There is an audio cue when you change something, but it sounds the same regardless of what you actually change, so you merely know how many changes you accidentally made, not what they were.
I can't knock the audio quality of the headphones - they sound great - but I wasn't pleased with the built-in sound card. I don't participate in tournaments, but I wouldn't want to have to try to bring these to various locations with me. I would rather take Astro Gaming A30s with me, with their included case, or some Skullcandy SLYRs, with their fewer pieces and fold-away boom mic.
If, however, you can count on high-quality optical audio out from the PC you're going to be using and you like to tweak your sound - and chat - with some personal, customized post-processing, you might like the Ear Force Sierra: Call of Duty: Black Ops II Limited Edition headset. Personally, I would suggest trying them out first, if possible.