[Review] Drown Audio

Written by Kieran Fifield

Introducing: Drown Audio review

Key Features:

  • Acoustic Seals – Silicone seals fit comfortably to deliver a perfectly shaped audio wave.
  • Passive Noise Isolation – The snug fit helps feed sound directly into your ear while blocking out environmental noise. The better the fit, the more outside noise will be blocked.
  • Bass – Drown’s bass is deep without overwhelming the higher frequencies. The best of both worlds for the most authentic sound.
  • Graphene Driver – Drown uses a high-quality graphene dynamic driver. Dynamic drivers move more air, create more vibration, and deliver deeper bass. Drown’s 14.8mm driver is precisely positioned to transfer vibration to nerves in the outer ear.
  • Wired for lag-free gaming – Wired headphones (with high-quality wires) give the best possible acoustic signal and eliminate lag for the highest quality gaming experience.

Price: £129 (Review unit provided by Drown)
Use code Nin10dad at checkout to receive 10% off of purchase.

Technological evolution is paramount to human progression. It will likely be responsible for our eventual and inevitable extinction too. As the world of gaming rapidly hurtles towards the next generation with graphical prowess seemingly having plateaued, the emphasis will shift toward load times and immersion.

Immersion. Gameplay, technical performance and graphics are all well and good but to complete the immersion, excellent audio design is the – for want of a better analogy – butter that finishes and enriches the sauce, bringing the whole plate together.

With that all being said, let’s crack on with this review of Drown Audio, a rather remarkable and utterly unique offering that has recently Kickstarted its way from conception to completion. The first time I was aware of this product was Gamescom in 2018, and although my time was brief, I was left delighted and equally disconcerted by the prototype. Having had the finished product in my ears for just over a fortnight now, I can say that I’m fully blown away and will struggle to play games with my old headsets or headphones. 

I think I’m drowning, asphyxiation.

Out of the box Drown is clean. The packaging does a great job of conveying the ethos of the product. Everything is laid out before you and instantly explains the idea of different sized earpieces for different sized ears. With Drown’s USP being immersive sound, creating the seal correctly is of the utmost importance. While it may seem somewhat intimidating and confusing at first, taking the time to find the right sized ear piece for your own ears is essential.

The next step to audio opulence requires learning how to properly twist the earpiece into place. Once you’ve done it a few times, it becomes second nature, a real snip. But, as previously mentioned, finding the right fit for you is a must. Once the buds are nestled securely and comfortably within the very realms of your outer ear, the flexi-wire located on both buds creates a sort of final security measure, as it wraps around the back of your ear.

Drown Audio offers an incredibly lengthy cable and is actually composed of two parts. The buds themselves flow into a male USB-C socket (via a little remote control to vary amplitude) and come with a female USB-C to 3.5mm jack to complete the circuit. It’s worth mentioning the quality of the cable too. As it is braided, it provides an extra level of protection against little kinks and nicks, as well as making it a lot less likely to get tangled, and infinitely easier to untangle, should it do so.

By having a two-part form, Drown is easily usable on other devices, such as the later generations of iPhone that did away with the headphone jack, via a lightning to USB-C cable. The headset also comes with a boom mic, which easily plugs into the left ear bud and offers exceptional clarity in spoken word, making it ideal for team chat in-game, as well as podcasting and audio/video calls. From a design aesthetic standpoint, Drown is a wonderfully imagined product that ticks all of the right boxes.

As a side note, and as somebody who would consider themselves something of a Nintendo Switch case aficionado, I personally loved the travel case that came with Drown Audio. Not only does it house the unit comfortably and securely, it also shares a wonderful synergy with the run-of-the-mill Switch cases.

Drown and out

The name Drown is incredibly apt for the product and the experience that it delivers. When using the product, the audio delivers an all-consuming level of fidelity that enraptures you completely. Whether exploring the depths of Rapture in Bioshock, or jumping into some Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, the experience is very much the same. Environments come to life and resonate in a manner befitting of their high production levels.

Its important to understand that when games are designed, the audio – much like music with high production values – is tested on top-end monitors, speakers which deliver depth and clarity. Often, when played through the modest speakers of even the highest-end TV, so much is lost. Headphones and headsets are naturally far more accommodating in delivering a clearer depiction of the designers vision, but even some of the best products on the market can focus too much on spoken word, or be overly bass-heavy.

What Drown audio does differently is it doesn’t, pun utterly intentional, flood you with an overbearing amount of bass, but instead drowns you in a complete and clear audio blueprint. It’s hard to explain, but anyone who has experienced VR will be aware of how having a game world all around you exponentially elevates the immersion and further pushes the boundaries of what is unfolding before your eyes. The same can be said of Drown Audio.

Footsteps to your rear left won’t just pan to the left speaker, they’ll seem as though they are actually behind your left shoulder. The whir of a drone in the distance will maintain the depth and as you approach it, will not just get louder, but also seem closer within the realms of your own perception. It’s an entirely disconcerting experience, but in the best possible way imaginable.

Drown by the bay

This is all made possible by the way in which Drown sends audio signals to your brain. Rather than just audio being carried in a single stream, it sends it via three concurrent flows. Imagine a river running to a pool. Now imagine the same pool receiving water from two additional sources. The effect is infinitely more intense and quickly fills the basin. Except, the basin is the part of your brain that processes sound.

Technically, it’s far more complex than that, as everything from the silicone used to craft Drown to the seal it creates help to create spatial sound, which in turns provides height, depth and precision that map these 3D audio environments. The culmination of the extensive work put in by the engineers at Drown HQ is in-game sound that is reflective of real life audio – no small feat.

Drown Audio is VR for your ears. What this clever little headset achieves is beyond explanation. I feel that the best way to understand isn’t to listen to the ramblings of a madman, however well edited they are. Instead, take the plunge, leave the life vest at home and prepare to be fully immersed with Drown Audio. The £130 selling point may seem a little high, but if you see gaming as an art, and want to elevate said art exponentially, Drown Audio is the headset for you. If you’re in a position where the price point doesn’t become a sticking point, buy a Drown Audio headset today and re-experience what it truly means to appreciate in-game sound design.

Use code Nin10dad at checkout to receive 10% off of purchase.

Despite being designed as a gaming headset, Drown Audio is also an incredibly competent pair of headphones and lends itself rather well to movie viewing too. When listening to music, it’s an interesting experience. Songs that have traversed the canals of my ears hundreds of times before seemed almost new, like remastered versions. Little licks and melodic sweeps appeared that I’d never picked up on before and I found I was experiencing my favourite songs and albums, all over again.

I listen to a lot of Hip-Hop – G-Funk to be specific – and I found the production values of some of my favourite beats literally blew my mind. Hearing new sounds in already intricate, complex beats was a sheer joy and made me appreciate music streaming services in a way I’ve never done before. I endlessly searched for all of my favourite albums in order to hear them again with fresh ears.

It’s dangerous to go alone. Take Drown!

As a Nintendo-centric site, there was only ever one title I was going to jump into with Drown, the Nintendo Switch’s magnum opus, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This is a title that I’ve put in excess of 300 hours into, and I always say I wish that I could experience it for the first time again. With Drown, I kind of did.

The sound design in Breath of the Wild deviates from the core principles of every Zelda title that proceeded it. Whereas previous titles have prominent area themes that played on-loop, BOTW utilises soundscapes, and ambient, environmental sounds to further elevate the grandeur of the game world. What I’d never noticed before was just how incredibly well planned out the audio design of BOTW is.

As I ran through Hyrule wearing my Korok mask, the faintest flurry of sound appeared all around me. It was light, almost to the point of tickling me. While this might seem like a lovely metaphor, it isn’t. I’m being deadly serious when I say the delicateness of the sound encompassing my entire being gave the illusion of the most gentle breeze.

As I progressed towards the Central Hyrule tower, the familiar piano trickle began, meaning a Guardian was nearby. More precisely, it appeared to be emanating from the north-west. Sure enough, as I turned slightly to the left, through a thicket, the recognisable arachnid form of a Guardian roamed. He hadn’t yet become aware of my presence, but thanks to Drown, I was alert to his.

Later, I climbed the cliff face of mountain. As I approached the top I heard the trickle of running water from my near right-hand side, panning to my far right. Sure enough, a stream birthed on the mountain top and made its way down the mountain, to the left. In the valley below, I could hear heavy footsteps and a low grumbling noise. Sailcloth Glider in-hand, I soared down into a clearing in an orchard where I encountered some frolicking deer, and an Hinox sleeping. Snoring.

My final stop was Hyrule Castle, which is where I really noticed the way in which the Malice has an ethereal growl, a really deep rumble. I noticed as it literally sent vibrations along my cranium, which adjusted accordingly as I panned the camera and altered Link’s position. I alluded to earlier how Zelda games of yonder have relied on area themes. One place where this is relevant in Breath of the Wild is in Hyrule Castle. As you approach the Sanctum for an inevitable showdown with Ganon, the wailing organ grows more intense as you reach the area’s climax, and this was never more evident than when playing the game with Drown.

Going Drown?

Drown Audio is a game changer that makes you reconsider the way in which you’ve been experiencing audio all of your life. It combines a comfortable, practical product with boundless imagination, but beyond all, it has an ideology that is unwaveringly adhered to. This headset does for sound what VR headsets do for vision: create an immersive and often unbelievable environment that elevates gaming, movies and music to unprecedented levels. With the next generation around the corner, there’s no time like the present to future-proof yourself and move past your previous perceptions of audio’s importance and step into immersion.

Pros

  • Meticulously designed
  • Phenomenal audio clarity
  • Unparalleled levels of immersion

Cons

  • Can take a while to get used to putting them in

Verdict

Drown Audio will drag you under and utterly consume you. The experience will change your entire perception of sound.

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