Gaming soundKey – Why and how?

The background to soundKey

soundKey was originally developed for mobile phones as we knew that for many customers it was a very significant source of their music.

Unfortunately, the audio components in even very expensive phones are usually of relatively poor quality. Even when better components are used, the components are crammed together closely and little to no regard is paid to their placement and the acoustic degradation caused by the powerful electromagnetic fields within the phone bodies. This is hardly surprising, given the manufacturing realities of mobile phones.

We knew this was a problem our engineers could solve. Through configuring a high-resolution DAC, using our deep understanding of these technologies and the inductive effects of various component layouts, coupled with the fact that we’re able to isolate the entire audio circuit from the noisy phone environment in a high quality extruded aluminium case, means we’re able to produce a sound that is vastly superior.

Why gaming?

soundKey was developed to be compatible with a wide range of devices, using the USB interface to pull digital audio data directly. Many of our engineers are themselves gamers. I don’t mean they play candy crush on the bus either! Most of them have many thousands of hours stacked up on their steam accounts.

These guys had been using soundKey already in their gaming rigs and it wasn’t long at all before they couldn’t play any more WITHOUT using a soundKey. The audio improvement was even more significant that on mobile? The reason is exactly the same as with phones, but even more so. The electrical noise inside PC cases and especially laptops is huge – no amount of careful component selection and configuration would get you to audiophile-grade sound. You have to use an outboard DAC to achieve this.

Outboard DACs (really just soundcards) for PCs are nothing new, but almost all of the manufacturers of those come from the world of PC components. They don’t really dive into the complexity of DAC configuration and certainly don’t fully consider the nuances of component placement in acoustic performance design.

OK, so why not just use a regular soundKey?

There’s another problem here. Some of our engineer gamers were getting different results to the others. Some of them were getting low-level hum on their headsets when using gaming headsets with microphones.

The problem is nothing to do with soundKey – it’s the USB implementation on PCs – it varies massively from manufacturer to manufacturer and even from model to model. The earth connection in most USB ports is ‘floating’ or not fixed to the main earth, so when a headset was connected with a microphone, an ‘earth loop’ could be created causing a loss of performance. The solution was to filter the microphone connection, using a special lead with tiny components fitted into the connectors. By separating the earth connections for the USB socket and the analogue microphone input socket on the PC, the noise was eliminated.

We now had a product which would not only sing with every normal stereo headset, it could be used with those analogue gaming headsets which have a combined (4 pole) audio and microphone jack.

The ultimate PC audio upgrade

So, sorry if that’s all a bit technical. The upshot is that our Gaming soundKey is a massive upgrade to your onboard PC sound and works with all common analogue gaming headsets – which is essential if you want to frag your way to glory! We hope you enjoy.