Gaming headphones are a dime a dozen right now, but with so many brands and types are the Speedlink Neaks good value for money?
Ben Sellwood

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Speedlink is a German-based company, active in 35 countries, with over 42 years’ experience within their sector whose ethos is that, above all, they represent value for money by combining cutting-edge technologies with design excellence and outstanding functionality. Speedlink product development is open to innovation and monitors tomorrow’s trends – with the rapid speed at which the market develops requiring the closest attention and maximum flexibility. Constant monitoring – from development and production through to market presentation – guarantees exceptional product quality, and is the basis for the company’s continued success. The manufacturer behind the Speedlink brand is the global company Jöllenbeck GmbH. Founded in 1974, the company has a long-standing tradition and incredible expertise in the fast-paced electronics industry. It has driven forward the development of this sector with incredible energy and creativity – and has been truly pioneering in the process. Today, its employees – of which there are 250 – continue to write this success story each and every day.

Tech Specs:

  • Immersive stereo sound
  • Adapter for multi-platform connection
  • Compatible with devices with one or two jacks
  • Cable length extension adapter
  • Adjustable headband
  • Soft earcup and headband padding
  • Flexible microphone
  • Handy inline remote for volume adjustment and microphone muting
  • Braided cable
  • Headphone specs: drivers: 40mm, frequency response: 20Hz - 20kHz, impedance: 32Ω, SPL: 105dB ± 3dB, output power: 15mW
  • Microphone specs: frequency response: 50Hz - 10kHz, impedance: 2.2kΩ, sensitivity: -38dB ± 3dB, pick-up pattern: omnidirectional
  • Connection: 3.5mm jack plug
  • Connection adapter: 2 × 3.5mm jack plug
  • Headset cable length: 1.2m
  • Adapter cable length: 1m
  • Dimensions: 185 × 200 × 90mm (W × H × D)
  • Weight: 292g (incl. cable)

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You honestly get what you pay for when it comes to gaming headsets. £30 will only get you so far before you realise that the frequencies and dynamics are crushed, flattened and all but missing in most cases. Speedlink's Neak gaming headset is chunky, stylised and boasts that it will be your first choice for use in gaming or listening to music on your mobile or laptop. Having owned several gaming headsets now and with a plethora of reviews under my belt pertaining to quality audio devices, I was looking forward to putting this through its paces with my usual testing criteria and methodology.

Out of the box, it's a simple affair. You get the headset with a 3.5mm jack connector, and an adaptor to use it on PC via two 3.5mm jacks, one for sound and one for the microphone. This makes it suitable for all current-generation consoles and the majority of mobile phones without the need for any additional converters, but if you're still rocking a 360 in 2019 you are going to need a 2.5mm adaptor. The inline volume slider is audaciously over-designed to the point that it is ridiculously over-sized for what it contains; volume slider wheel and mute switch, that's it. In my mind, you would want to make this gizmo as accessible as possible, sure, but also ubiquitous, to blend in with your everyday apparel, and not stand out like an over-engineered sore thumb.

Turtle Beach seems to lead the pack when it comes to affordable, reliable audio for the mainstream gamer. Their 50 and 70 series headsets represent competitive sound quality and a reasonable £15-30 pricepoint for all those parents who don't want to shell out for the £90+ stealth series but want their kids to be able to trash talk their mates on age-inappropriate games, in comfort and with guaranteed ease of use. Speedlink have priced their Neak Stereo headset into this similar bracket, use comparatively similar parts and specification, yet somehow, they just fall short in terms of comfort, design and sound quality.

Putting the headset on I immediately noticed the scale of these things. Usually, I have to open up the headband about 30-50% of the way to get it to fit over my cranium, however, the Neaks didn't need adjusting from their completely default closed state to fit me, which is odd. The expandable headband is nicely padded and feels sturdy in build quality with no obvious points of weakness or picks or frays. The cup’s external design is burly, with an angular two-tone aesthetic that reminds me somewhat of the ‘80s. It's a decidedly average "modern/futuristic" look with a very plastic feel that is completely superfluous and doesn't add anything to the ergonomics. Other manufacturers tend to exaggerate additional features such as airflow to your ears or additional weight savings through the external aesthetic, by having a honeycomb of holes proliferating it to make it look high quality and well-designed, sometimes more so than they actually are. I would go as far to say that I don't personally like the look of these, as there is nothing sleek or edgy about them, but they hold together well, and the build quality is certainly there. I have no complaints about the QA that has gone into making sure the product is fit for sale and it looks like it will outlast its warranty. On the upside, the braided cable is a nice touch, ensuring a longer lifespan for the trusty old cables. More often than not budget manufacturers supply thin, weak sheathed cables that barely survive a light wind before garrotting the inner cable and rendering them useless.

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Internally, a 40mm speaker driver is employed here and while it is suitably loud enough and honourably yielded zero crackles or distortion, I noticed a distinct lack of vibrancy to the audio that flooded into my ears. Everything sounds flat, with no notable area of strength and no one redeeming feature that I can honestly say lifts this above an average sound overall. The bass response is particularly poor with a very absent sound profile that makes you wonder if the jack is fully inserted properly; plot twist, it was. Though this is a gaming headset primarily, users undoubtedly will use this for in-game audio and listening to their favourite tracks at some point, so I experimented with frequency test's and experienced a relatively short compressed range with very little happening above or below a very centralized band of tones. In my tests, I found that anything below 30Hz was not fantastic when measuring low-frequency response and in high-frequency testing, I noted nothing above 14k treble, though that could be a limit of my hearing. I noted no buzz or rattle when testing bass response sweeps, and honestly; binaural, polarity, and left/right all performed better than expected. In particular, the binaural demonstration actually surprised me how well it performed, recreating life-like sounds spatially. I'm not entirely sure how it performed so well with a set of pre-configured tests, but so averagely in everyday use with digital music and in-game music with chat. My only thought is that this disparity comes from how the product is tested in QA before they're dispatched, maybe some more real-world application is required to gather feedback to make it sound better overall in future iterations of the product.

As the packaging states: "One headset, various worlds of sound", "Whether games, chats, or music", so I obviously tested my typical Drum and Bass line up. This playlist consists of bass-heavy and technical tracks that scatter sounds across all spectrums and demonstrate mastery in their high-production-value field. However, I was disappointed with the overall sound of these as headphones on my mobile phone and on my laptop for comparison. Everything I threw at it from my favourite genres simply sounded dull and dreary, and without using external filters for EQ, I couldn't truly get it to a satisfactory level without really having to mess about with it and tweak it to high heaven. Microphone-wise, the build quality is nice with a re-positionable metal arm that is very easy to manoeuvre, but alas it's a similar story with it working well to pick up sound thanks to its omnidirectional pick-up pattern, but the overall sound quality being nothing to write home about. In essence; it does the job, and to the untrained ear, you will be pretty happy with it. Anyone with an ounce of experience with gaming headsets are, unfortunately, sure to be unimpressed. To the average Fortnite gamer or casual COD or Fifa player, you will have a very adequate experience but you won't be singing their praises and shouting it from the rooftops, and you probably wouldn't even think to tell your friends about them. You might use the terms "alright" and "ok" if asked about them, but put quite simply; there are better out there within a similar price range that will look and sound better. Understandably this is one of Speedlinks mid-tier range of headsets, but I had hoped for better quality all-around given that their Accordo and Thebe models are lower priced.

Verdict
What We Liked . . . Oversized look and feel Relatively comfortable for long periods Reasonable response results in pre-set tests What We Didn't Like . . . Extremely flat audio profile for music Budget plastic finish
5.5
out of 10
Overall
A disappointing headset for the price point, but given its direct competitors, it really lacks any sort of finesse in style or sound quality. In specific tests, it performed decently, but in real-world application it's decidedly average. It's tough to recommend something that has no outstanding qualities, but I would recommend giving these a miss if you have other options available.
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