If you’ve never heard of the Austrian Audio PG16 or even Austrian Audio themselves, don’t worry, neither had I until about a year ago.
Made up of a bunch of former AKG personnel after their offices in Vienna closed. Austrian Audio were born. After an overwhelmingly positive first couple of Audiophile grade headphones. Austrian Audio have entered the world of gaming headsets with the PG16 Pro Gaming Headset.
Does their wealth of audio expertise transfer into the gaming world? Read on to find out.
If you’re interested in high quality gaming headsets, feel free to check out some of my previous reviews here.
Experts in audio equals experts in gaming?
Design and Control
After receiving the Austrian Audio PG16, the packaging instantly looks a little different to other headsets. Coming in a slightly larger box wrapped in a bespoke Austrian Audio velcro strap, it definitely stands out.
When opening up and first picking up the PG16 the first thing that hits you is how light the headset is. Weighing in at just 265g, it’s on the lighter end of any gaming headset on the market. Normally this means a sacrifice in build quality or materials used. Not so much here, as the PG16 somehow manages to feel pretty premium even at this weight. The build is primarily a high gloss plastic, which is a bit of a fingerprint magnet. The earcup exterior is a matte black plastic. While the red metal accents look really smart and not over the top like so many gamer headsets. With metal on the headband strap and metal earcup hinges, the 2 areas that are prone to high wear. This is a clever move from Austrian Audio and certainly gives you peace of mind for the longevity of the headset.
The PG16 can also be folded up as well and even has its own neat little soft carry case. Perfect for taking with you travelling.
Being this light the PG16 is exceptionally comfortable. Easily one of the most comfortable headsets I’ve worn to date. The headband and earcups feature soft memory foam padding and there’s just the right amount of it for me too. The metal adjustable headband feels sturdy and has notches to keep it in place even during vigorous movements. The earcups have ample room too, which is great to see. So many nowadays have earcups that are far too small.
The clamping force is on the lighter side of headsets I’ve tested but it’s actually perfect for me. It doesn’t need bedding in at all or stretching. No amount of head banging to heavy metal or raging in Call of Duty will cause them to come loose. The PG16 can be easily worn for the longest gaming sessions without any excessive heat build-up. They really are ridiculously comfortable. Massive kudos to Austrian Audio here for the comfort levels.
The PG16 has a boom microphone with a pop filter included. Unfortunately, the mic isn’t removable at all which is a shame. However, the boom arm is incredibly flexible and can be put into almost any position. This flexibility also comes in handy when folding the headset and storing in the little pouch.
Muting the microphone is just a case of lifting the boom arm up to a vertical position. A minor annoyance for me, was the lack of any physical click to tell you the microphone is actually muted. Or even an audible tone. Just make sure you lift the arm all the way up, otherwise you might find yourself unintentionally broadcasting a private conversation!
That is about it for design and control, it really is a simple plug and play headset. The aim here is to provide high-quality audio at a really competitive price. So, there are unfortunately missing features. The biggest of these is the lack of any controls on the headset at all. There isn’t even a volume wheel which seems a bit odd and something that in my opinion needs to be on any gaming headset, no matter what the price point is. If you want to adjust the microphone levels or audio levels you have to use either a DAC, or Windows volume on PC. On console it’s something that can only be done in the menus which is a little frustrating, especially when in the middle of a game.
The Austrian Audio PG16 is available in just the one colour. Black with red accents which is pictured. It’s a very sleek and smart look that I feel suits Austrian Audio as a brand. There’s certainly no flashy RGB here!
When it comes to connection, the Austrian Audio PG16 is a straight forward wired headset. There is no Bluetooth, in fact no other features at all. It comes with a 3.5mm jack cable that’s 1.4m long. Plus, a 3.5mm splitter. This all worked perfectly when plugged into multiple sources on PC. The universally used 3.5mm cable included can be used on virtually any platform, including all current consoles.
The PG16 is a stereo headset with no onboard DSP. However, included in the box is a voucher for an application called Spatial Sound Card (SSC) from a third-party developer called New Audio Technology. Once installed on Windows, SSC essentially runs as its own playback device and intercepts the sound on your device and converts it to surround sound.
You can purchase this software on Steam separately for £7.19 or download the free 14-day trial, with the reviews being mostly positive.
First things first, setting the app up and getting it to even work in the first place is not an easy task whatsoever. There isn’t really a tutorial as such, only a very basic pdf guide which had nothing to say on the constant muffled audio and reverb I was experiencing. Looking at other reviews, I was definitely not alone in this.
Once actually setup the SSC app does have a good range of options to select from including Stereo, 5.1, 6.1 and 7.1.
Even though it is not the most intuitive or pleasing to look at or use, the features are pretty good. With plenty of ability to tinker with the sound and tailor it to your liking.
Worth noting and weirdly, there is no option to go full screen on the app. It’s only able to be viewed in a tiny window, which may be difficult for some to read.
Being third-party and completely separate from the hardware here. The app actually has no idea what headset you are using. Essentially, you can use SSC with any wired headphone on PC or MAC. It is not available on mobile or console.
Sound and Performance
The PG16 uses Austrian Audios very own 44mm high excursion dynamic drivers producing a pretty impressive frequency response of 12-24,000Hz. They have a sensitivity of 113dB, and a really low impedance of 25 ohms. Meaning they can be powered by absolutely anything and able to achieve really high volumes with ease.
The propriety drivers Austrian Audio use here are the same drivers featured in their much more expensive and quite brilliant HI-X55 and HI-X65 headphones. To pack this tech into the PG16 at such a low-price bracket is nothing short of impressive.
The stereo sound achieved here is incredibly clear and detailed. I happily sat for hours on end listening to music as well as gaming. All the while, I never felt like I wanted to switch to other dedicated music headphones I own, because I was maybe missing out. The Austrian Audio PG16 handles both gaming and music impeccably.
Tested across multiple genres, no matter what was thrown at the PG16, nothing felt like it was too much. From the brilliant spatial arrangement of Bob Marley & the Wailers Turn Your Lights Down Low, where every instrument practically has its own channel. To the fast-attacking funk of Rage Against The Machines Wake Up, and the hauntingly beautiful vocals and building bassline in London Grammars Hey Now. The PG16 never failed to deliver.
Whilst sometimes appearing quite a bright sound, very rarely did one range overpower the other. The only thing I occasionally found was the midrange was pushed back a little in favour of the highs. But in general, there is a wonderful balance to the soundstage. All this remember, coming from a so-called gaming headset.
Onto gaming performance, this is a gaming headset after all. Things kick off exactly where we left with music. Quite simply a joy to use. I tested the PG16 extensively across a vast array of games. From close combat in Rainbow Six: Siege enemy footsteps were clear and loud, able to easily pinpoint multiple locations through different distances and elevation changes. To the vast open worlds of The Hunter: Call of the Wild. There was a decent sense of spaciousness for a closed back headset. Tiptoeing through tall grass hunting that elusive deer I could hear every leaf crunch under my foot and every small movement my prey made with incredible accuracy.
In complete contrast on The Cycle: Frontier and Battlefield 5 the PG16 handled intense full-scale warfare with absolute ease. The proprietary high-excursion 44mm drivers really came into their own here. Every thumping explosion was super tight and delivered with a punch. Bullets whistled by with immense accuracy and when the weather changed and storm hit, the PG16 didn’t disappoint. Thunder claps were body shakingly good and the rain falling was as immersive as I’ve experienced in a stereo gaming headset.
As mentioned previously, I did try the Spatial Sound Card app on PC. But for me it just doesn’t do enough. It lacked accuracy, especially in tactical shooters like Rainbow Six: Siege and only really added that spatial sound in big open world games. This spatial sound was good and is an upgrade for those using onboard audio. In my experience is just falls short from other binaural 5.1 / 7.1 offerings. It’s a shame as the PG16 is more than capable and for me, the software from New Audio Technology doesn’t quite do the headset any justice.
When plugged into the PS5 Dualsense the stereo experience was just like it is on PC, excellent. Thankfully, the PG16 handled Sony’s 3D tempest audio technology with ease and PS5 users will be pleased to know it sounded great too.
When it comes to chatting, the PG16 uses an omnidirectional microphone. This is incredibly crisp and clear. The really flexible boom arm can be manoeuvred into almost any position. Impressively, even when positioned a long way away from your mouth the voice pickup stays superb, with almost no loss of clarity or volume. The included pop filter does a great job of eliminating any sort of plosives and distortion, even when placed right up to your mouth.
The only real negative with the microphone seems to be missing on so many headsets nowadays and it’s a bit of a pet hate of mine. That is the omission of noise cancellation. This just means the mic picks up quite loudly, every little bit of background noise, keyboard tap, mouse click and even console controller presses. Something your friends won’t thank you for.
In summary, the Austrian Audio PG16 does the audio side of things beautifully. It has a natural almost analytical accuracy to its sound. I genuinely think at this price, there aren’t any better sounding gaming headsets out there. It is very clear Austrian Audio know their stuff.
The slight downside to keeping the cost down and delivering solely on audio quality alone is the lack of features. If Austrian Audio add in those few features that are missing, they will without doubt be onto the next best thing.
If you enjoy your music as well as gaming then I highly recommend checking the PG16 out. Retailing at £129 it won’t break the bank and you get a sound that punches way above its weight. I for one can’t wait to see where Austrian Audio go next.
The Austrian Audio PG16 Pro Gaming Headset easily earns the Thumb Culture Gold Award!
Disclaimer: A product sample was received in order to write this review.