Headphones have been around for ages and the two usual upgrades year over year have been audio quality and comfort. The past little while has seen some newer innovations like haptic feedback, THX support, and even head tracking.
Drown Audio, a company you may not have heard of before is bringing what they call tactile audio to their recently released earbuds. On that note, our Drown review takes a look at a pair of pro-gaming earbuds that are meant to provide a more immersive, realistic gaming experience. Read on for our full review!
The Drown tactile audio earbuds has the following features and specifications:
- Precision. Drown is hyper-realistic audio. It’s 360° with added depth, height, and spatial awareness.
- Immersion. Drown transports us directly into the game, concert, or movie. Feel like you are actually there.
- Connection. Play and interact with people all over the world and feel like you are in the same room.
|Cable Material||Oxygen-free copper Kevlar coating|
|Connector||Gold-plated 3.5mm right-angled audio jack|
|Inline Control Bo||Volume up and down, mute button|
|Frequency Response (Driver)||10KHz – 22KHz|
|Driver Size||14.8mm Graphene Driver|
|Microphone Size (Diameter)||0mm Back Electret|
|Pick-up Pattern||Uni-Directional noise cancelling|
|Microphone Frequency Response||100Hz – 15KHz|
|Microphone Sensitivity||47dB (+/- 3dB)|
|Microphone Output Impendence||6800hms|
|Microphone Signal to Noise Ratio||65|
|Maximum Sound Pressure Level||110|
|Standard Operating Voltage||1.5|
|Operating Voltage Characteristics||1.0-10V|
|Decrease Voltage Characteristics||-3|
|Cable Length||240cm (7.92′)|
|Compatibility||Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo, PC, Mobile|
|Dimensions||45 x 30 x 18mm (1.77 x 1.18 x 0.7in)|
What’s in the box
- Drown tactile audio earbuds
- Acoustic seals (four sizes)
- 3.5mm audio cable with inline volume control
- Detachable boom mic
- Carrying case
Before I get into the review, I’m just going to quote a bit from Drown Audio about what tactile audio is:
Tactile audio is pure audio that is felt through touch and is heard through bone and cartilage conduction. Tactile audio transmissions recreate the audio as if it were real life.
Drown’s game-changing technology delivers the most realistic timbre, or “tonal colour,” allowing us to distinguish the intricate individual qualities of each sound.
Tactile audio is the delivery of acoustic vibrations through the solid material of our custom seals to three specific areas of the outer ear: the concha cyma, concha cavum, and the anti-helix.
Before we get into the design, here’s a short video from Drown Audio explaining tactile audio and the design of the earbuds.
When I read that these were tactile earbuds, I fully expected to have haptic feedback. However, as you can see in the video above, the tactile refers to the vibration transmission of the audio.
With that out of the way, on to the rest of the review!
When one thinks of earbuds, they often picture something small and fairly discrete. Drown is the opposite of that, due to the technology utilized for the audio it puts out.
At a glance, the Drown tactile audio earbuds kind of remind me of professional IEMs. When worn, the outer cover of the earbud is about an inch across and an inch-and-a-quarter in height. Silver in color, the Drown icon is printed in black towards the center. Each earbud also has an L or R printed on the back. The left earbud also has a small microphone jack on the bottom for the included detachable boom mic.
The thin twisted kevlar coated cable attaches to the top of the earbud and the initial portion is flexible and bends to go around behind your ear when worn. The twisted cable from each earbud continues down for about a foot where the two join into a USB Type-C end. This end attaches to the almost 8′ 3.5mm audio cable, plenty long for any computer setup. In addition, the inline remote is located on the left cable roughly five inches down from the earbud itself. The inline control is one-quarter inch thick and about an inch-and-a-half in length. It has a volume up, volume down, and mic mute button on it.
Without the acoustic seal, each earbud is about an inch thick. With it, they are about an inch-and-a-quarter. The inner part of each earbud is a molded black acoustic transducer seating that houses a vibration coupler and graphene driver. The end of the transducer seating is an angled acoustic waveguide with a mesh filter over it.
The other main component of the Drown tactile audio earbuds is the acoustic seals. They come in four sizes (2, 4, 6, and 8) and are moulded to the shape of the average inner ear. Once you’ve found the right size (check out the next section for more on that), the acoustic seals snap on to each respective earbud easily.
Unfortunately, at least in my case, I had a hard time with the fit. Size 4 was way to loose and size 6, while snug, became uncomfortable in my right ear after about an hour of wearing them. While Drown Audio says these earbuds fit most ears, I must be one of the ear sizes that fall in between. Perhaps size 5, if there was one, would have fit perfectly…
A gaming headset wouldn’t be complete without a microphone and the Drown earbuds include a detachable boom mic. As mentioned above, the boom mic attaches to the left earbud. Six inches in length, the boom mic is fully adjustable.
Finally, Drown Audio has included a handy carrying case with the earbuds. With a rectangular clamshell design, the case has a semi-hard outer surface to it with the Drown logo stamped into it. The zipper closes around both short and one long edge. When opened, one half of the case has two pairs of elastics — one for the audio cable and the other for the microphone. The other side has a mesh pouch that covers about 75% of the side. This is where you can store the earbuds themselves. However, it is a bit of a tight fit and it took me a bit to figure the easiest way was to shove the cable into the pouch and then rest the earbuds above it, one face up, the other face down.
Ease of Use
To start off with, you’ll have to find the right fit in order to properly experience the Drown tactile audio earbuds. Fortunately, Drown Audio has a short video showing how to find the best fit. It’s a relatively simple process and recommends that you try the different acoustic seals starting at the smallest and moving up until one fits just right. Once you find the right fit, simply push the left and right seals onto the appropriate earbuds.
Once you’ve got the right fit (or as close as you can get), insert them into your ear and twist forward then loop the cable over and behind your ear. Next, connect the 3.5mm audio cable to the earbuds via the USB Type-C extension. Plug the other end into your computer, controller, phone, or other compatible device and you’re good to go.
Hands down these are some of the best sounding earbuds I’ve ever used, especially for gaming. Everything seemed so much more enhanced and it was even easier to pinpoint the direction of footsteps and the like. Little details that you may not normally hear, like the crackling of Li-Ming’s magic missiles in Heroes of the Storm to shell casings dropping in Call of Duty: Mobile just enhance the enjoyment of your game.
I’d been awed by the sound design in Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice before so it only made sense that I test these out on those. After plugging the Drown earbuds into my Xbox One controller and setting audio to Windows Sonic for Headphones, I fired up the game. The sound in this game already makes me anxious when playing with headphones, these earbuds took that to the next level. There was more than one occasion while playing Hellblade that I felt like I could feel the hairs on my neck stand on end, not to mention that heightened sense of being immersed fully in the experience.
Drown Audio suggested trying out games like Subnautica, Alien Isolation, and Red Dead Redemption 2. In each case, I wasn’t disappointed at all. One could really feel immersed under the ocean in Subnautica, the ambient noise was even more unsettling in Alien Isolation, and you really felt like you were actually out in the Wild West in Red Dead Redemption 2 with the enhanced environmental sounds.
I also love my bass and at first, I thought the Drown earbuds were lacking. However, after using them more, the bass sounded more natural and deep enough without drowning out the highs and mids. While it would have been nice to have a bit more bass while listening to music by default, this can be set in your phone’s equalizer if you want more bass. During gaming sessions, the highs, mids, and lows were as close to perfect I’ve heard for a realistic soundstage.
Microphone quality is important for gaming headsets as well. And yes, the Drown tactile audio earbuds have a microphone as well. Unfortunately, although clear and crisp, there is a fraction of a second of a delay as well as a bit of an echo to the microphone. While bearable, it can be a bit distracting during gameplay. When asked, other players did say they noticed a slight echo but none mentioned a delay, which of course only the user would be able to notice.
With an MSRP of US$165 (£155), the Drown earbuds aren’t exactly cheap. However, the sound quality for gaming is fantastic and the microphone is decent as well. While there are headsets that sound just as good, they do cost quite a bit more.
If you’re after something other than a traditional over-ear headset for gaming, and something that is compatible with most, if not all, of your gaming devices, the Drown tactile audio earbuds are worth a look. Great sounding, they also provide that extra level of immersion, especially when playing on the Xbox One X with a 106″ screen or an immersive gaming monitor like the Samsung Odyssey G9. That is if they fit your ear which, unfortunately, wasn’t the case for me.
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- Excellent sound, especially for gaming
- Extremely long cable
- Compatible with multiple devices
- Boom mic is detachable
- No software required
- Carrying case included
- Can be tricky to fit, personally uncomfortable after an hour or so
- Cable twists easily
- Long cable can be a pain when on the go
- Pricey for earbuds