Austrian Audio isn’t a well-known name here in the UK, having only been founded in Vienna in 2017. The company has mostly made its name in the more serious hi-fi market since then, providing high-quality headphones for audiophiles.
Like many hi-fi specialists, Austrian Audio is now dipping its toe into the too-big-to-ignore gaming market, but rather than aiming for the luxury end of the market - like rivals such as Bang & Olufsen's Portal - Austrian Audio's new PG16 headset takes a more basic approach and simply aims to provide high-quality audio at a competitive price.
The PG16 went on sale in the UK and Australia in January, priced at £129.00 / AU$238.99, and Austrian Audio confirmed that it is also about to go on sale in the US for $169.00.
The PG16 displays Austrian Audio's hi-fi pedigree, using the same 44mm drivers as the company’s high-end Hi-X65 headphones, and boasting an impressive 12Hz - 24KHz frequency response that provides very clear and detailed sound quality.
The PG16 weighs only 265g, so it’s light enough to wear for hours at a time, either for long gaming sessions or simply listening to music. The body of the headset is made of plastic, but the adjustable headband and hinges are metal, and allow you to fold the earpieces flat if you want to slip them into the included carrying bag when you’re travelling.
The boom microphone isn’t removable, but it’s flexible enough that you can position it comfortably while playing, or simply push it out of the way when you’re done. You can also mute the mic as well, simply by pushing it straight up into the vertical position.
However, the low price means that the PG16 doesn’t exactly go overboard with extra features. It’s a wired headset, with a 1.4m cable with 3.5mm audio connector, which provides compatibility with any PC, console or other audio device that has a standard audio connector. There’s no Bluetooth, though, no active noise-cancellation (ANC), and there are no volume or other controls on the earpieces, either.
The only other added extra is a voucher that gives you a serial number to download an app called Spatial Sound Card L, which aims to provide virtual 7.1 surround sound effects. This app is provided by a third-party company called New Audio Technology, and in the US and UK it’s also available as a standalone app sold on Steam for $9.99 / £7.19.
The Steam reviews are ‘mostly positive’ for the effectiveness of its surround sound features, although the app can be a bit fiddly to set up at first. However, there’s a trial version available from New Audio’s website if you want to check it out first. The Spatial Sound Card L app is Windows-only, though, so there’s no support for mobile or console gaming. There is a Mac version of the app, but New Audio told us that it’s having problems with the latest versions of the macOS and Apple hardware, so Mac gamers - yes, they do exist - should definitely check out the trial version of the app first.
Some people will prefer the convenience of the best wireless headphones, but the word on the web is that all the cool kids are wearing wired headphones at the moment, so hopefully the wired design of the PG16 won’t be a deal-breaker for too many people.
It’s smartly designed too, with the 265g headset and memory foam earpieces being light and comfortable enough to wear for long periods, both at home and when you’re listening to music on the move. They still feel pretty sturdy, though, and the red trim on the black headset looks smart without being too gaudy (although the boom mic might make you feel a bit conspicuous when you’re out and about).
The lack of physical controls on the headset is a bit disappointing, though, as it means you’re always reliant on your gaming rig, smartphone or tablet to adjust volume and other settings. And while the sound quality for stereo audio is great, we found the Spatial Sound app rather unhelpful when it came to using surround sound effects. The app assumes that you’re familiar with the complexities of Windows audio drivers - a messy kettle of fish at the best of times - and leaves you to wade through a long series of menus and settings without providing much help for beginners.
The PG16 may lack Bluetooth and noise-cancellation features, but its 12Hz - 24KHz frequency response is rare in headphones in this price range, and really delivers the goods when listening to music. Down at the lower end, the deep electronic bass on Bad Guy by Billie Eilish hits like a piledriver, yet stills feel relaxed and rhythmic enough to get you dancing, while the nervous, ticking percussion has a creepy, sharp edge to it.
At the other end of the spectrum, the massed harmonies of Queen’s Somebody To Love ring out loud and clear, catching all the details in the multi-layered vocals, and delivering Roger Taylor’s swooping falsetto with a glass-cutting clarity. If you’re looking for a high quality set of wired headphones at a competitive price then the PG16 is hard to beat in those regards.
That high quality sound works well for games, too, with the twittering birds and ambient sound effects of Amazon’s New World creating a great sense of atmosphere. The surround sound effects are more of a mixed bag, though. The app initially left us with no sound at all, and only after wading through a lengthy PDF manual and a bit of trial-and-error with our audio settings did we manage to activate the surround sound features.
To be fair, the surround sound effects do work well and create a more immersive sense of space as we traverse the countryside in New World on yet another of the game’s endless fetch quests. It doesn’t have quite the sense of precision that you might need for team-based shooters, but the immersive sound and atmosphere are ideal for an open-world MMO like New World.
The PG16’s microphone is perfectly adequate, although it lacks some of the noise-reducing features found in more expensive headsets. We like the fact that the mic boom can tilt and flex to help you find a comfortable position, and the ability to quickly mute the mic simply by pushing it upwards is very handy, too.
Sound quality is good, and the omnidirectional mic picks up the sound clearly even if you prefer to have the mic pushed a little bit away from your face. The use of a wired connection means that the sound is always clear and reliable, without any Bluetooth hiccups and, of course, you don’t have to worry about battery life, either.
You're an audiophileThe PG16 headset is basically a high-quality set of stereo headphones with a mic bolted onto it. The large drivers and impressive frequency response sound great with any genre of music, and represent really good value for money.
You don't need BluetoothSome people prefer the convenience of Bluetooth, but it can be a little erratic at times - especially for high-speed action games - so you can’t go wrong with a straightforward set of wired headphones.
You understand Windows audioThe PG16 provides excellent quality for stereo sound and music, but it relies on the third-party Spatial Sound Card L app for its surround sound features. This app only runs on Windows, and can be confusing for people who don’t have a good understanding of Windows audio drivers and settings.
You like or need BluetoothA wired headset like the PG16 can provide better sound quality than the compressed audio of Bluetooth, but many people still prefer the convenience of wireless headsets.
You're a console gamerThe headset’s 3.5mm connector will work with most devices, but the Spatial Sound Card L app is only available for Windows, so console gamers are overlooked there.
You're a mobile gamerThe surround sound app is Windows-only, and the lack of physical controls on the headset means that you have to rely on the controls on your smartphone or tablet close adjust the volume and other settings.