We have previously looked at AceZone, which is characterised by primarily delivering headphones that are intended for professional use, be it LAN events, live tournaments or training facilities for esports, but that does not mean that isn't interesting for ordinary users who would like to be closer to the equipment used professionally, and after all can be bought in ordinary electronics stores.
We have previously looked at the A-Spire, which is a scaled-down, more consumer-friendly version of the A-Rise, but without the additional features that come in handy in a professional esports tournament in an arena with 20,000 spectators.
It is in a somewhat different ballpark than what you usually see, and it is nice to see that it is designed around the functionality instead of the other way around as you unfortunately very often see with the consumer products that gamers are overwhelmed with on a daily basis. It is a very solidly built frame in cast aluminium, where the earcups themselves are made of fiberglass to limit the weight to 550g. Even the microphone boom is metal-wrapped and extremely solid, in fact at a level where I would say it can be used as a self-defence weapon.
The design is fairly hard and offers a firm fit to the ears so it won't bounce off in the heat of battle, and pretty much all of its parts are interchangeable, including the support pads on the headband. There are few buttons on each side of the earcups, and they are shaped differently and have different patterns on them, and you are never in doubt about what you are doing with them. Since the pads, like the earcups, are quite massive, your first impression will likely be that these are actually protective headsets for use on a construction site, and it may not be entirely wrong as AceZone has designed their headphones based on hearing protection for professional use.
The earpads are easily interchangeable and are described as "military grade", which is not just empty sales talk as several of the people behind them are known to help develop products for smaller Danish companies that act as subcontractors to the military industry, including in relation to noise reduction for fighter jet pilots. They may seem extremely large like the rest of the headphone, but it makes sense that you do not just cover the ear, but enclose it completely and at a distance to the ear, thus isolating the ear completely from the surroundings, and not leaving small openings where air can enter. The very solid earcups look extremely bulky, but this is simply a consequence of the fact that there must be enough space for the driver units to move and that the passive noise reduction that takes many of the high-frequency sounds must have the best possible conditions to perform.
Where many headphones have either passive or active noise reduction, AceZone has chosen to deliver both simultaneously. According to AceZone itself, this means that you typically have -30dB noise reduction, and since it is not fully linear, it works at certain frequencies over 45dB. That's a lot, but it is aimed at a loud environment, and probably not so much at a quiet home - if you have children or noisy neighbours, you will find that it is actually quite useful for ordinary people as well.
The microphone needs to be set more accurately than you're used to due to the more limited recording pattern, which is designed to let as little background noise through as possible, and there are very precise instructions on how to do this. However, as the microphone boom is reinforced with metal, it always stays in the correct position when you tilt it back and forth, and of course there's auto mute when it's pushed back.
My main criticism is really only that there is virtually no information about the units themselves, what material they are made of, what the magnet system consists of and so on. It's a 42mm driver, and that's about all we know. There's enough battery for around 16-17 hours of use at once, thanks to its 1100 mAh capacity, which is plenty for most people. I'd appreciate more battery life, but I also understand that it would have added more weight to an already heavy headset.
Connection-wise, it charges and can be listened to through both USB-C, the cable that comes with it in a smart travel case, as well as Bluetooth. Both Aptx and AptX HD are supported, as well as AAC and SBC. The connection is surprisingly stable, but AceZone doesn't recommend wireless all the time, as they tell you outright that USB is for gaming, Bluetooth for casual use, and wired aux for consoles.
You can choose between Pro Gaming, music/gaming with noise cancellation, and the same without. I would definitely recommend listening to music and gaming with noise cancellation active, even when at home, as it's perfect for eliminating fan noise from your computer. Pro Gaming is a clear and obviously very hardcore EQ tuned mode that optimises on all the frequencies associated with footsteps, reload sounds and anything else that can give you the edge in a video game.
The microphone is surprisingly good, and speech comes through clearly. However, there is also a lack of fullness in the voice, meaning it's not a device that lends itself to podcasts, it's purely for communication.
The sound quality is also surprisingly good, with a transparency in the midrange, and this is one of very few closed headphones I will actually use for music. The resolution is also significantly above what I usually experience with gaming headphones. The noise cancellation also made it possible to use the headset with a laptop in a living room with TVs, animals, and other people. What surprised me the most though was the ergonomics, because despite weighing over half a kilogram, they feel massive, but not heavy, and I never felt like I was being weighed down, perhaps because the weight is distributed throughout the headband, and not just on the earcups.
One of the things that AceZone sells itself on is their localisation in games, especially how they should have a better ability for identifying gunshots, footsteps and other things at a distance. And it must be said that the A-Rise delivers. The directions of easily-identifiable sounds like gunshots, especially behind you, are particularly clear, but I suspect that the absence of background noise actually matters more for this than you'd expect, although the tuning in the Pro Gaming setting certainly helps with that too.
And then there's the price. We haven't talked about it, but it's £700. That's what it costs to play at a professional level, but then you also get something that no one else has, mostly because they can't afford it. Ultimately it means t's just up to you on whether want to splash out the cash for a truly premium gadget.