At AWE, I have finally been able to try the upcoming Conquest VR audio accessory. It’s a while since I know about this project, because the CEO of the company, Raghu Bathina, is one of my patrons, and so I was very happy to finally be able to try this interesting device. Discover it with me!
(Ok, before we go, actually, it’s fair if I make a disclaimer: Raghu is a donor on my Patreon page, so in this review, I will just say that his product is amaz… ok, I was kidding… no matter the fact he’s a donor, I will express my objective opinion about his hardware, don’t worry!)
The idea behind Conquest VR is to improve the audio quality of the Oculus Quest 2 (or the Meta Quest 2, if you prefer the new soul-less name) without sacrificing the comfort of the user. We all know that the speakers of the Quest 2 are of mediocre quality, and while for most of the usages they are ok-ish, in some contexts, like when you play Beat Saber, you may notice that the quality of the sound is not great. Of course, audiophiles can still use external headphones connecting them with the 3.5mm port, but external headphones impact a lot on the comfort of the experience: they enclose the ear, so on the long run they are uncomfortable, and then they make the operation of removing and putting on the headset more clunky. Conquest VR wants to solve all of this with an add-on that is simple to use, comfortable, and offers very high-quality audio.
Conquest VR – Analysis
On the AWE showfloor, Raghu showed me his creation: it is a set of two headphones that can be attached with a clip mechanism to the headset headband. If you remember the Mantis headphones for PSVR… well, it is something similar. To get the audio of the headset, they attach to the 3.5mm jack of the Quest 2 thanks to two little cables.
These headphones have a series of fitting mechanisms that let you put the speaker exactly on your ear. As you can see from the below footage, you can:
- Rotate it so that the headphone “arm” goes above your ear
- Slide it so that the speaker goes exactly where your ear is
- Rotate it on another axis so that to put it closer or more distant from your ear. The ideal position is when it “rest” on the ear
As you can see, there are a lot of customizations, and this goes for every one of the two speakers. The rationale is that with all these joints, it is possible to put the headphone exactly over your ear, no matter what is the shape of your head, your asymmetries, or the type and position of your ears. These configurations make all the ergonomics experts (like my friend Rob Cole) happy because they can guarantee the best audio experience to everyone. On the cons side, I’ve found it also a bit complicated: if you have 3 sliders to check for every ear, you need a bit of time to configure your headphones before the use. In case you are the only one using the headset, this is ok, because you can do it only the first time you install the accessory, but in the case of a shared headset, this can be a bit more of an issue.
Keeping talking about comfort, the idea of Conquest VR is that you make the headphone to just “touch” your ear. Standard headphones must sustain themselves, so they must a bit clinch your head and your ears to stay in the correct position, and this makes them uncomfortable in the long run. In this case, these problems are not present. The headphone is attached to the headset headband, so it is sustained by the headset itself, and so doesn’t need to push on the two sides of the head, and the speaker can just rest on the ear. This means no pressure on the ear, which has also another advantage: the air can circulate between the speaker and the ear, so you don’t feel that sensation of warmth that is uncomfortable. Let’s say that it is a bit like the over-the-ear design of Valve, but with the speakers actually touching your ears.
The speakers are actually a bit big and bulky, and this is actually what I liked the least about this accessory. Design-wise, it doesn’t look very sexy. I know that when you are in VR you don’t see what you are wearing, so you don’t care, but as an Italian, I have also to evaluate these details. It seems a gadget coming from when the tech world was more practical and less into design. It’s clearly a product designed by an engineer. But I tried a pre-production unit, so maybe it will be a bit refined down the line.
The size of the speakers is reflected into the weight of the Conquest VR accessory. With the two speakers installed, the Quest weighs 285g more, which Raghu claims is less than what some competitors offer, but considering that the Quest 2 weighs 503g, it still means adding more than 50% of the total weight. The speakers’ weight has anyway also the positive effect of counter-balancing the front weight of the device.
As a final detail about customization, I can report that you have two circular spaces on the two sides that you can customize by adding two circular-shaped images that you like.
From all this preliminary analysis, my first impression has been of a device clearly targeted at audiophiles, that is people that don’t care about the design, the price, or the difficulty in using something if this product can provide high audio quality as an output. And Conquest VR clearly aims at doing that, because the company spent a lot of time to offer an audio driver that is loud and that can provide a good audio response for all frequencies. Raghu told me that they worked hard to make sure that it was optimal to offer specialized audio, so even the sense of specialization of the sound was better than with the standard Quest 2 speakers.
Conquest VR – Hands On
After having had this first chat about the device, I’ve finally got to try it. I wore the modified Quest 2 with Conquest VR installed, and then Raghu configured it so that to fit my ears, putting the speakers exactly over them. I could configure it myself, but I’m lazy and he had more experience in that, so I let him do the dirty job.
The first impression I had while wearing it is that the Quest 2 was surely heavier than the usual. This is probably my worse remark from all the hands-on experience: while the headset remained balanced, so it was still comfortable, I could totally perceive its new weight. This didn’t ruin my experience at AWE, but I don’t know what could be the effect of wearing it for hours. That said, comfort-wise, all the rest was ok. I could perceive that the comfort of these speakers was superior to my enclosing headphones, because nothing was pushing on my ears, and that was good.
Raghu let me launch the Conquest VR demo, which showcased different environments with sounds playing: there was a piano playing in what looked like a shopping center, rain falling down in a city, a bee hive, and a metro station with an announcement and then the metro passing by. I’m not an audio expert, you all know it, but anyway, from this demo, I could feel the audio quality was good and that the sounds felt spatialized and loud. My only problem was that… not being an audio expert, I couldn’t understand how that was much better than the standard Quest speakers. Honestly speaking, the demo application feels a lot like a tech demo made in Unity with some stuff from the Asset Store, so it wasn’t providing such an amazing experience to put me in awe. I needed more tests. I so asked Raghu if I could try something else, and he suggested going for Beat Saber.
I so launched Beat Saber demo, because I know very well its song “Escape” which I have heard a bazillion times because I’ve played that application myself a lot of times and it is also the first demo I use when I make people try my Quest. I started it, and… wow. I could totally feel the difference in that song between the standard Quest 2 speakers and these new speakers. The song audio felt much richer in details and I could also hear better all the bass frequencies: the result was that the song felt fuller, more complete, and better. I was loving it. I played the level two times to evaluate more the audio and the comfort. The audio quality, from my understanding, was absolutely good. The comfort was good too, and even if I was doing the cardio activity of Beat Saber, I didn’t feel that much warmth on my ears because of the speakers. The only drawback was that since the speakers rest on the ears, while I moved my head to play the game, I could feel the speakers that with the various movements sometimes detached from my ears, and sometimes touched them again, and so I felt many times something caressing my ears. This was not an annoying sensation, but anyway was a constant reminder that I was wearing something on my head.
When the demo ended, I removed the headset: I have been able remove it smoothly, so it was not annoying like external headphones that you have to remove before the headset. At that point, Raghu showed me something. He asked me how was my audio inside the headset when I was playing Beat Saber, and I said that it was loud and clear. He took out his phone and showed me a video that he recorded staying close to my head while I was playing the game: in the video, I could hear no audio. It turns out that since the audio driver is loud, the speakers are close to your ears, and the speaker is big like your ear, there is very little audio leak outside. I was totally impressed by this: the audio leak was much inferior to the one of Valve Index over-the-ear speakers. This is a good thing for the privacy of those who wear the headset. You can watch (and hear) the video here below: the music that you hear comes from the AWE showfloor but you have no leak from the headset, notwithstanding the fact I was hearing the song loud (of course the noise of the showfloor may mask a slight audio leak, but anyway, this means that if there was a leak, it was low).
Conquest VR – Final Impressions
I think that Conquest VR is up to something. I don’t think this is an accessory that can become mainstream because it adds cost to the cheap Quest 2 experience, and also it is not super-sexy to see, and can add some friction to use. It doesn’t look to be a device for the masses… also because most people are ok with good-enough audio: you don’t need great speakers to hear “you know de wei” in VRChat.
But people who value audio quality may love it for its detailed customization that guarantees an optimal comfort of the experience and the performances of its audio driver, which is able to provide sounds that are loud and spatialized. I think there is a niche that may feel the need for this kind of product. And I’m also personally happy that there are some companies in the industry that are caring about audio and comfort, instead of just talking about the usual visuals.
I hope that Conquest VR can finalize its product soon and start selling it. Good luck, Raghu!
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