As a respected name in the world of high-end headphones, Audeze is known for making some of the best planar magnetic cans that money can buy. The company is now dipping their toes into the lucrative gaming headset market with a new product that is very different from what we typically see. The Audeze Mobius is a wireless, closed-back gaming headset loaded with planar magnetic drivers, room-simulating DSP, and 3D head tracking. The Mobius offers a unique experience that comes with a hefty price tag to go along with its cutting-edge technology.
What is the Audeze Mobius?
Upon unboxing the headset, I was greeted with a nice presentation and reviewer’s guide to the Mobius. Audeze includes the most comprehensive manual I’ve ever seen for a product like this, which is great, because the Mobius is not exactly a plug and play product. It features a plastic construction all around, likely in an effort to keep costs under control, but the design is thoughtful enough to include some very nice headband padding and high-quality earpads. The ear pads are user-replaceable, which is incredibly handy for those who plan to use the Mobius for the long haul.
All of the action is housed on the left cup, including its buttons, dials, and inputs. The Mobius sports a 3.5mm input jack for the microphone, a USB type-C port for charging (or wired use), and a 3.5mm line input. A pair of dials are used for headphone volume and mic volume. Finally, the bottom of the cup offers a 3D toggle button, while the outer cup has a power button (with LED) and a mic mute slider. Once you get up and running, you’ll appreciate the decision to locate all functions on one side so that you don’t need to take your hands off the mouse or controller to make quick adjustments. Bluetooth is also available for use with your PC or mobile device and it supports the latest codecs if your source device is compliant.
The planar magnetic drivers in the Mobius are unique in the gaming headset world, where virtually all other options make use of conventional dynamic drivers. Unlike dynamic drivers, which use a coil of wire to push a speaker cone in and out, planar magnetics spread the wire across the entirety of their large, thin drivers. While planar magnetics are typically larger in size and require more power to operate, they are known for offering less distortion that dynamic drivers, as well as being able to move faster, resulting in smoother playback of hectic or crowded audio passages. Where conventional headphones may start to muddy up during complex, uptempo jazz tracks, planar magnetics can keep their cool and quickly push out clean bass, mids, and highs.
Because the Mobius uses planar magnetic drivers, it requires the use of a powerful amplifier, which is built into the headphones. This amp is paired with a high-quality DAC to offer a level of audio reproduction that is beyond anything I’ve ever heard in a wireless gaming headphone. After a full charge, the Mobius was able to give me about 9 hours of continuous wireless use. This is noticeably less than with typical wireless headsets, but when considering the demands of their special drivers, it is more than acceptable. The Mobius works fine in wired mode (via USB cable) if you don’t need to be moving about while using them. The headset also has an auxiliary input for use with other devices or your PC’s sound output. Due to the design of the integrated amp/DAC, there is no benefit to using the Mobius with a dedicated headphone amplifier.
What’s the hook?
Audeze markets the Mobius as the first surround sound headset with accurate 3D head tracking and they have delivered. The built-in DSP of the Mobius offers simulated surround sound akin to what you might get from Dolby Headphone, DTS Headphone: X, or other proprietary room-simulating DSP. When the headset is fed a 5.1 or 7.1 signal from your PC, it can offer audio that sounds like a room full of speakers. The Audeze software app made for the Mobius also allows fine tuning of the virtual room parameters, as well as head modeling adjustments, and a few EQ presets.
The feature that Audeze touts for the Mobius the most is the 3D head tracking. Built by Audeze in partnerships with Waves NX. In a nutshell, the Mobius can tell where your head is, it knows when you move it, and it dynamically adjusts the surround output on the fly. If you are playing Battlefield 5 in surround and a tank is in front of you, you’ll hear it in front of you. When one of the Mobius’ 3D modes is enabled, if you turned your head 90 degrees to the right, that same tank will now sound like it is to your left.
While the concept will sound gimmicky to some, the head tracking on this headset is incredibly accurate. If you listen very closely, the accuracy of the positioning will be convincing, even if you only rotate your head a few degrees. It feels as accurate (or at least incredibly close) as the head tracking on the nicest VR HMDs. The Audeze software also offers a 3D head in its main screen that shows the head tracking in real time, as well as allowing for adjustments to the tracking based on your head shape. This tracking is unlike anything else you can get in a gaming headset today.
How does it sound?
I’ve been a headphone enthusiast for more than a few years now and when I heard that Audeze was going to offer a gaming headset, I was excited to see what they would cook up. I spent some time with their older LCD 2 headphones a couple of years back and was incredibly impressed with their bass quality and incredibly detailed high-end. I knew that I couldn’t realistically expect Audeze to sell that set of headphones with a mic tacked on to the mass market, so I adjusted my expectations accordingly.
The Mobius headset is capable of really good sound quality. When you disable all the DSP functions and 3D tracking and use them as a set of stereo headphones, they offer a level of sound quality that trumps just about any gaming headset you can buy at any price. They effortlessly handle typical game audio and sound effects, but don’t begin to shine until you start throwing music at them. Every genre I tested offered a good experience, from the bass-heavy Daft Punk tracks to the smooth vocals of Diana Krall. As a closed-back headset, they fail to offer a really wide soundstage, but the imaging is strong and I never heard them break up, even when they were being pushed. The Bluetooth connection worked well with my LG V30 and Spotify. You could legitimately use the Mobius as a portable headphone after you detach the mic.
Do they sound anything like other Audeze planar magnetic headphones? Not really. Being a smaller, closed-back setup means that the Mobius was never going to have a signature similar to something like the LCD 2, and that’s fine. It is also hundreds of dollars cheaper and does not require expensive external amplification, so the trade-off is more than fair. I always lean towards using open-back headphones when I can, but the Mobius offers high quality despite the drawbacks of being a closed-back design.
Is it worth it?
While all the DSP functions and 3D tracking worked as advertised, getting things set up was far from trivial. It would not be unfair to declare the Mobius as the most complicated gaming headset to get up and running. I had to refer to the manual and online forums to figure things out more than once, and I have a fair amount of experience with these kinds of things. On the flip side, no other gaming headset is offering such a wide variety of use cases or features, so the complication is warranted. If you want to walk into the store, grab a headset, and simply sit down and game, the Mobius is probably not the product for you. Players who love to tinker or futz with the newest tech will find a lot to like here, though.
To get proper surround sound with the Mobius, your operating system or source must be properly configured to output multi-channel surround. Some games and apps make this easy, others don’t. Many game requires than you manually select 5.1 or 7.1 output, which you’ll want to do, because the surround effect just doesn’t work correctly when the games are outputting their own software-based 3D sound solution. To be honest, I never felt like the surround simulation on the Mobius offered any advantage to positional audio or immersion versus the better stereo implementations.
For example, I found Battlefield 5’s 3D headphone surround option to work better while using the Mobius in plain Stereo Mode than I did using the properly configured 7.1 output with the surround DSP enabled. To be fair to the Mobius, I find this to be true for every other gaming headset or headphone I’ve ever used. There is no substitute for sitting in a room with real speakers, but the Mobius offers a reasonable approximation of that experience, I just didn’t find it to be what was best for me. It’s certainly no worse than Dolby Headphone, but I can’t honestly say it was better to my ears. As far as positional accuracy and being able to pick out sounds in a 3D space, I’ve heard a few open-backed gaming headsets that offer a better experience. If you are looking for positional accuracy and soundstage over all other considerations for your gaming, consider an AKG K-series headphone.
As far as the 3D tracking, I found the feature to be of no value. I don’t really turn my head or look around when I’m playing a game. I never felt like the tracking offered any sort of advantage and it offered no increase in immersion. I tried it out with the Oculus Rift, because it seems like it would be perfect for that type of use, but VR games already output their audio in a way that’s already accounting for your head being tracked. Stacking these effects results in a mess. The best VR experience was when using the Mobius in Stereo Mode. If you haven’t noticed already, this tends to be a recurring theme with my time using the Mobius.
The microphone on the Mobius just kind of exists. It doesn’t sound bad, but I’ve heard much better from much cheaper headsets or products like the ModMic. The mute toggle on the left cup works fine and is fairly easy to find in the heat of the moment. I really like that the mic is detachable, which lets you turn the Mobius into a nice set of portable cans. I do not know if the Mobius will accept any other 3.5mm mic input or if its included mic preamp is capable of better performance with a different mic.
I also ran into some issues when using the headset that must be mentioned. No matter what I tried or how I had the headset connected, there is an ever-present hiss in the background. It can be drowned out by loud passages in movies or music, but I kept hearing it. I read online that some owners have heard the same thing, while others don’t. The Audeze software used with the Mobius can best be described as an early work in progress. It’s not the worst gaming peripheral software I’ve ever seen, but it wouldn't look out of place in 2001. I also noticed that when the app is open and head tracking is enabled, the app uses an unacceptable amount of system resources. I use a GTX 1080 Ti in my PC and Windows Task Manager reports up to 25% GPU use by the Audeze software constantly. The CPU usage is not quite as rough, but it was using more cycles than anything else that would be idling on the PC. Thankfully, if you close the app, the resource use goes away, so you can still game without worrying, but the fact that it got out of the Audeze labs in this state is a bit concerning.
Wrapping it up
The Audeze Mobius offers features and sound quality that you won’t find in other gaming headsets. You will pay for the exclusivity, though. The Mobius costs $399, which is a lot more money than most competitors (even if it is affordable compared to previous Audeze headphones). The feature list makes it a jack of all trades and it sometimes comes close to being a master for music playback in certain scenarios. If you don’t listen to lots of music, I find it hard to recommend this headset to you. The surround DSP works well and the head tracking is really cool, though I personally found no use for it. There were a few issues along the way, and the hiss is incredibly off putting, but the Mobius could find a spot on your headset shortlist if you want a great music headphone and the ability to take your tunes on the go. I feel like a package without the surround DSP and head tracking for a lower price would make the Mobius a very appealing headset. If you can stomach the high price, the Audeze Mobius offers a unique take on the gaming headphone that can adapt to a variety of uses.
This review is based hardware provided by the manufacturer. The Audeze Mobius is compatible with PCs and consoles. It has a MSRP of $399.99.
- Great music reproduction in 2 channel mode
- User-replaceable pads
- Premium feel
- Incredibly accurate head tracking
- Can satisfy many use cases
- Very good amp/DAC combo included
- Head tracking adds nothing to gaming experience
- Audible hiss in all modes of operation
- Software leaves much to be desired
- Surround effects of no use in VR
- Requires lots of configuration on game-by-game basis
Chris Jarrard posted a new article, Audeze Mobius review: Being the first isn't cheap
So is this THE set of cans to get to for my ASMR binges?