Ever heard of James Donkey? Aside from the hilariously awesome name, they are a brand that manufactures peripherals for the hardcore gamers in our lives. They’re also based in China and operate in lower volumes than the likes of Logitech G, Steelseries and Razer.
But where does the 008 Tactical Master Headset compete in this already crowded market? It certainly looks legit, with styling cues that take inspiration from both aircraft pilot equipment and high-end audiophile headphones that cost at least quadruple the price. The headband design utilizes a industrial aesthetic made of leatherette that is self-flexible tilt of 15 degrees and held together by wireframe aluminum bars, with a minimalist assembly intended for ease of fitment on most heads. The 008 is wired USB so it is theoretically universal for game consoles like the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch, but you’ll get the out of this when used on PC.
The earcups of the 008 is where a lot of the functionality is shared between the left and right modules. James Donkey did a lot in the construction department—although molded from plastic, the general feel is durable to the touch and RGB light rings pulse where the volume knob and extendable microphone protrude. In many ways, I’m amazed with the initial build quality of the 008 and how intuitive they feel.
Internally, the 008 Tactical Master has some power behind it too. I’m specifically talking the 53mm PET composite electromagnet drivers that are larger than other comparable headsets, and purportedly offers sound pressure that aids in rich bass and equalized high frequency. Another trickle-down feature is the addition of 7.1 virtualized surround sound channels, which is gradually becoming commonplace in sub-$100 gaming headset. Or course, the 2.7mm noise-cancelling microphone and 19mm omnidirectional line is a welcome touch, although it doesn’t stretch out as far as I thought it would.
As I said earlier, the 008 is immediately comfortable to wear and then some for a few hours, with the earpads having the most weight but not noticeably heavy. Sound quality is surprisingly excellent for the money when left in stereo, and the 008 attempts to replicate a warmer profile to some degree. That’s not to say the 008 isn’t suitable for everyday listening, but it’s evident that the larger-than-average drivers are compensating for bass output. Listening to most genres of music is adequate but distortion and scratchiness is prevalent at higher volume levels. They’re slightly better than the Head:Set Pro from Snakebyte if you need a reference to go off of.
But these criticisms should be obvious since this is a gaming headset first. Expectations for video game audio is more forgiving and this is where the 008 is strongest, and I was genuinely satisfied as the 53mm drivers captured many discernable nuances that Metro Exodus and Final Fantasy XV portray in both effects, dialogue and soundtrack. One aspect that the 008 is mediocre in is its 7.1ch virtual audio on PC, it does work but I wouldn’t call it engrossing, let alone advanced. I don’t believe this feature is completely built into the 008, but instead seems to rely more on spatial settings from Windows 10 such as Windows Sonic or Dolby Atmos.
The microphone is another strong point with crisp vocal output, if a bit flat in expected depth. I used it for a podcast to test its performance and was impressed that all the outside interference was effectively negated, however, there’s no boost adjustments or muting to speak of. That noise reduction can be turned off though, but it’s not recommended since it makes everything sound tinny and compressed. Otherwise, this mic is perfect for Fortnite and Overwatch, or just some regular Mixer or Twitch streaming.
The 008 Tactical Master Headset started as a Kickstarter promotion a few months ago and is now available for everyone to pick up, but should you though? I stumbled upon James Donkey as a curiosity but I’m glad I did because these headphones are astoundingly good for less than hundred dollars. It gets the aesthetics right and is mostly good for game performance and is universal too, although the microphone leaves something to be desired for voice detail. Regardless, if you don’t know anything else about James Donkey then this headset makes a good introduction to the growing brand.