BitFenix Steps Into The Audio Territory With The Flo Headset

INTRODUCTION:

Back in 2011, BitFenix pretty much stormed the PC industry with the introduction of their very first cases, namely the BitFenix Colossus & Shinobi. Both cases are designed from the ground up, with refreshing design cues and unique BitFenix SofTouch treatment that awed majority of the community… Even today. Fast forward to 2013, BitFenix surprised everyone at COMPUTEX with their audio and PSU concepts that garnered mixed treatments from the community. There is a reason to think twice, since from a pro-sumer’s perspective, any introductory product to introduce a new line might be a hit or a miss.

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So it all boils down to this: The BitFenix Flo. This headset, dubbed by BitFenix with “Sounds That Moves You”, might sound a little cheesy to some, might not be true, but ultimately, might describe what the headset could really do. Technicalities are just a part of any audio solutions, as they only tell half  of the story. But since we’re all geeks here, let me tell you that the Flo features 40mm neodymuim drivers for each cup, 68 Ω of rated Impedance, and 20Hz to 20KHz Freqeuncy Response. In addition to those fancy hardware specifications, the Flo features BitFenix’s SofTouch Treatment, comes in different colors (Black, White, Red, Blue), and has detachable mic & cables. Without further ado, let us check it out and hear what’s up with BitFenix’s first foray into the audio department!

FEATURES & SPECIFICATIONS: CLICK HERE

Materials Steel, Plastic, SofTouch™ Surface Treatment, SoftFeel™ Earcups
Colors Midnight Black, Arctic White, Fire Red, Cobalt Blue
Acoustic Design Dynamic, Closed-back
Driver 16µ, Neodymium magnet, Φ40mm
Sensitivity 96db /1mW
Frequency Response 20hz-20khz
Rated Impedance 68 Ω
Earpads SoftFeel™
Headband Pressure Approximately 5N
Cables 1m Straight Cable With Remote, 1m Straight Mobile Audio Cable, 2m Straight Cable With Headphone / Microphone Plugs
Connector Gold-plated Φ3.5mm stereo mini-plug with aluminum sheath
Net Weight 200g

UNBOXING & BUNDLED ACCESSORIES:

BitFenix usually goes all eco with their packaging, but with the Flo, they decided to up the ante and thus go with a flared up Black themed packaging with a small cutout to let you peek at the headset itself.

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The back is simple yet nicely done, featuring a small introduction about the Flo, its features, and specifications. I like the fact that they included a graphical representation of the Flo here along with its accessories.

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Speaking of accessories, BitFenix did go all the way to impress the general public. That said, BitFenix had the Flo bundled with stylized 1M straight output cable, a straight 1M mobile cable with mute feature, a 2M extension splitter cable that you could use to enable audio in-out support for the PC, and a rather edgy flexible mic. Good selection of accessories I must say.

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DESIGN & COMFORT:

The BitFenix Flo is a full-sized, circumaural headset. That means they are meant to seat around your ears to provide the best comfort available. They are closed back, so isolating yourself from the crowd not a question when you are playing your tunes. If you love the design principles of the industry’s well revered and well respected SONY MDRs of the yesterdays, then it wouldn’t be hard for you to appreciate the BitFenix Flo’s subtle aesthetics. The Flo is not what a fashion fad would want to envelop their ears but sound and comfort is all that should matter anyway.

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The headband support is made up of Two metal stems, where the wires that connects both channels are in place. The headband itself is made out of Two melded materials, namely plastic and rubber, with 5 small air pockets to assist comfort. Though lacking in the amount of padding, I assure you despite the size, the band is comfy around the head. Thing just weights around 200 Grams so lush padding isn’t really needed.

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BitFenix markets the Flo’s pads as the SoftFeel™ Earcups. They’re really soft, almost memory pad “soft” kind of feel. I believe they are leatherette. Clamping force is reported to be around 5N so it’s not that hard to the head if compared to, lets say, Superlux’s HD661 ~ The Flo’s not so distant sister. The cups doesn’t feature height adjustment levers as the headband will do it automatically for you. Adjustment is limited to half and Inch though.

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The cups doesn’t articulate or swivel even for a small degree, nor features any height adjustment levers for precise fit. However, the cup rotates 180 Degrees should you wanted to, for example, use a single cup when mixing or if you just want to instantaneously listen to something. Maybe you want a friend to have a taste of what you’re cooking?

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There are Two 3.5mm jacks found on the left cup. One is for the mic input, and the other one is for the I/O. Meaning, you could plug a dual purpose mobile jack here so you could use the headset with a phone should you need to take a call – You still have to live with an obnoxious looking mic hanging though if you wish to do that. A thing that I wouldn’t use in public.

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Speaking, here’s the mic I’m talking about. Though it’s functional, swivels, bends, and actually works as intended, it somewhat look like out of place. I mean the Flo is flowing with sexy curves, but the mic itself is edgy and looks tad futuristic. Good thing is, you could use a third party mic here.

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Since the headset is not aimed for gamers alone, BitFenix decided to up the ante a little bit higher when it comes to cabling with an aluminum plug that goes well with the 3.5mm termination jacks. I just hope BitFenix added sleeves on their cables for a much better look but, what they offered are already okay with me. Cable Microphonics, or in layman’s term the sound coming from the cables when they are rubbed are unnoticeable which is a plus.

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The BitFenix Flo is a surprisingly comfortable headset. Surprisingly, in a sense that if compared to its sister, the Superlux HD661, the difference is heaven and earth. The clamping force is much better, just adequate for someone even for a guy like me with a rather huge head, and the padding is actually soft and non-irritating. Sweat for around 2+ hour of use started to bother me though, along with the slight annoyance when paired with my reading glasses.

Also do note that the Flo’s 40mm drivers has a rated impedance of 68 Ohms. That said, you really need a good source or player should you wish to go mobile. App based amplifiers (sensitivity boosting softwares) will do, but you’re better off with something from the likes of Fiio‘s offerings.

TEST SYSTEM & PROCEDURES:

Audio stuffs such as speakers, headsets, headphones, earphones, IEMs, and pretty much whatever they are as long as they produce audio output, are very subjective to be tested. That is true, in a sense that no pair of ears are the same, and there is a lot happening between you, and the headset for example. That said, your experience will most likely differ from ours.

We start the testing after we burn-in or wear-in the drivers. Usually, 48-72 Hours of continuous burn-in will do for most. This is to ensure that the audio solution is already delivering what an end user would actually experience in the long run. As for the audio setup, we are going to use the on-board solution found on our motherboard. It is a Realtek ALC898, far from the ideal solution we wish we had but rest assured, there’s no equalizing done, so everything is flat. Sampling Rate is maintained at 24-bit, 48000Hz.  Below is the test system’s specifications.

CPU Intel Core i5 4670K
MOTHERBOARD GIGABYTE Z87X-OC
CPU COOLER Cooler Master Seidon 120XL
MEMORY ADATA XPG V2 @2400MHz 16GB
GRAPHICS CARD GIGABYTE GTX 750 OC 2GB
INT. STORAGE Kingston HyperX 120GB & SSDNow V+200 120GB
PSU Cooler Master Silent PRO Hybrid 1300W
DISPLAY ASUS VX279H AH-IPS
OS Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1 (Updated)
SOUND CARD On-board (Realtek ALC898)
EXT. STORAGE 2TB Western Digital My Passport

We would like to thank GIGABYTE, and Western Digital for providing our test equipment for this review.

SOUND QUALITY: MUSIC PLAYBACK

LOWS: Good extension, mid bass, and upper bass body fullness made the BitFenix Flo an enjoyable headset to slap on my head when it comes to bass heavy tracks. Listening to Tommy Spark’s “I’m a Rope” proved that this set of cans could deliver eargasmic material without over emphasizing  the bass. Not bad!

MIDS: Vocals are clear like a bright sunny day with the Flo. Confirming this is the lovely vocal performance of Andrea Corr on their band’s MTV unplugged performance. There is a bump in the upper midranges, providing an aggressive presentation when listening to songs that emphasizes the prowess of the human’s vocal cord. Though clear, and bright, I felt like it could be smoother overall for my taste, but that’s just me being too picky I guess. The Flo excels on this part, and I could confirm that this one’s a more musical headset compared to some that tends to go sibilant all the way.

HIGHS: The Flo is surprisingly good, yet controlled when it comes to the the upper registers. That said, it is recessed, I think around 2dB if compared to its distant brother, the HD 661 from Superlux. Unnatural sibilance is nowhere to be found, yet the Flo’s higher-end feels really engaging and has a spark. That is something to praise for as a result.

Overall, I am liking the BitFenix Flo so far when it comes to music playback, as it is well balanced, albeit the presentation is aggressive for both the upper bass and upper midranges. Another thing worth noting is the imaging and soundstage of the Flo as instruments are clearly separated, and there is a significant amount of space between you and the source. Isolation is also what you need to look at when buying a pair, and I must say that with a good clamping force, plus a soft padding, the Flo is able to block noise from the outside. For those who are looking for a fun, and musical headset to tune into, the Flo will surely impress.

SOUND QUALITY: MOVIES

If you favor movies with THX and Dolby surround support, then it wouldn’t be hard for you to love the BitFenix Flo. Movies tested were of course, some of Michael Bay’s recent blockbusters, where any sounds coming from explosions, collapsing buildings, and shrapnel should be on their designated positions. My personal rule of thumb is, if a 2 channel, or stereo headset could deliver well in the music department, it should do well with movies too.

SOUND QUALITY: GAMING

Battlefield 4 is our game of choice here as sound cues are indispensable allies to those who knew how to wield them. If you’re playing the game, spotting is a matter of life and death, and this is where a good audio solution comes into play. I.E. spotting a T-UGS (motion detector) and a spawn beacon of the enemies. Without a good audio solution, finding these pesky gears in-game is a pain in the arse.

So how does it fare when it comes to gaming? Simply put, if you have a good source, maybe even a gaming sound card or a capable on-board solution, the Flo will deliver what any gamers want. Forget those 5.1, and 7.1 surround sound headsets, as this is the real deal. I can’t stress this enough: A good 2 channel/stereo set of cans is a much better option than those with “gaming” shizniz written all over the place.

SOUND QUALITY: MIC INPUT

Since the BitFenix Flo is technically a headset and not a headphone, we tested its detachable mic with Skype, our mobile phone, and Battlefield 4. No worries here when it comes to the quality of the audio input, as we found ourselves audible on the other side of the line. Decent, but I’ve heard better.

VALUE & CONCLUSION: IS THE BITFENIX FLO ANY GOOD?

The Flo is a total surprise from BitFenix, if you’re going to include the fact that they just entered the audio space. That said, they ready did well when it comes to searching for an OEM to go with which is Superlux, and tuned the drivers according to their liking to improve what an already capable set of cans could do. Build quality wise, the BitFenix Flo isn’t that BIG if compared to the semi-portable studio monitors like the SONY MDR-7506. But, I assure you that it could still take a beating. You’ll only worry about its SofTouch texture treatment, for it will be scratched during the course of time.

In my own, I enjoyed using the BitFenix Flo. It has this very fun, yet balanced signature that is well suited for most genres of music, movie formats with surround capabilities and wide variety of games. It isn’t hard to love this headset, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t love it. In addition, I also love the fact that BitFenix put a tremendous amount of time into choosing what to include with the Flo. They added a handset cable, a 2 way I/O jack, and a simple output cable. Now since BitFenix put efforts into those, I just can’t think about the reason why they ended up with a hideous looking microphone insert. A simpler one will do to be honest.

The BitFenix Flo retails for around 3, 200 Pesos and is now available here in the Philippines. For the price, I’m sure you guys are wondering what verdict we could give to it, even already knowing that it is an impressive set of cans to work with. Simply put, if you’re an aspiring audiohead on a budget, add the Flo on your list. It is fun, able to take the sub $100 crowd, and does what other gaming headsets couldn’t do considering the fact that it isn’t marketed as one.

Fun, musical, and well balanced. For those facts alone, the BitFenix Flo is a worthy headset to receive merits. Have a gold BitFenix. You deserved it.

THE VERDICT
PROS:
  • BALANCED & FUN SIGNATURE
  • GREAT FOR ALMOST ANYTHING
  • COLOR OPTIONS
  • GOOD COMFORT & ISOLATION
  • DETACHABLE CABLES
  • BUNDLED ACCESSORIES
CONS:
  • NOT REALLY PORTABLE
  • MICROPHONE AESTHETICS
 GOLD