The Asus ROG Delta S Animate is another contender for the best gaming headset on the market right now, and it certainly has plenty of heritage behind it – you may remember we previously tested and loved the Asus ROG Delta S headset, and this is the follow-up.
As you'll notice, the key difference between the Delta S Animate and the Delta S – in terms of aesthetics at least – is that Asus has swapped out the RGB lighting for a monochrome, mini-LED dot matrix lighting system that you can customise to show various designs.
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Asus ROG Delta S Animate review: price and availability
You can check the widgets embedded on this page for the latest pricing on the web, but at the time of writing the headset costs in the region of £220/$250.
Asus ROG Delta S Animate review: design and setup
Open up the box that the Asus ROG Delta S Animate comes in and you'll find the headset itself, the detachable microphone, and a USB-C to USB-A cable adapter (in case you don't have any USB-C ports on the device you're connecting to).
There's no wireless connection available here, so there's no need for a wireless dongle. The built-in USB-C cable is really well done, 1.5 metres long and nicely braided for a feeling of extra quality. You also get a spare pair of ear cushions, with a leather-like rather than a fabric finish.
You then need the free-to-download Armoury Crate software from Asus, although this is only available on Windows. While the plug-and-play audio functionality will work on any device with a USB-C or USB-A port, the software is required to access features like the sound optimisation equaliser and the AniMe Matrix customisations (the static or moving pattern on the side of the ear cups). It means that the headset is particularly appealing if you're planning to use it with a PC, less so for Mac.
The AniMe Matrix mini-LED dot matrix lighting system won't suit everyone, but if you do happen to like it, there are plenty of ways of tweaking it: there's a variety of built-in images and animations to pick from, and they can all be customised. You can even load in your own images, although of course they'll be simplified and have the colour taken out of them to fit the sides of the headset. Another option is to have the dot matrix displays show a shifting sound wave that moves in time to your voice when you're on the mic, which is rather cool.
Aside from the AniMe Matrix, this is a really well-put-together headset. There are switches on the left ear cup, one for controlling the headset lighting and one for volume, which are easy to locate and firm to the touch. Along the top you've got a cushioned, adjustable headband with a leather-like finish, while the ear cups also fold flat if you're putting them around your neck. Overall, it feels like a quality piece of hardware.
Asus ROG Delta S Animate review: sound and features
Asus certainly hasn't skimped on the features here, with a hi-fi ESS 9281 Quad DAC installed, support for 7.1 virtual surround sound, MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) compatibility for additional audio detail, and 50mm Neodymium magnet drivers that provide a broad frequency response of 20-40,000 Hz. There's no active noise cancellation (ANC) here, but you get plenty of other perks, and based on our testing the headset delivers top-quality audio in just about every scenario.
We tested the Asus ROG Delta S Animate with games, music and movies, and it really impressed us every time. Quieter sounds are delicately represented, while louder sounds pack a punch – all across the frequency spectrum, details are clear and crisp, and there's no evidence of distortion at all. Individual sounds are given plenty of space too, with separate instruments (for example) sounding distinct and clear.
On games and music with surround sound enabled, the directional audio is very good and easy to pick out, and definitely worth enabling. A word too for the detachable microphone, which is eminently adjustable and picks up voices with a decent degree of quality, as per the time we spent with the headset. Taking everything into consideration, we had no complaints about audio performance in any scenario.
The Asus ROG Delta S Animate headset is incredibly comfortable to wear too, a gentle head-hugger that presses in just the right amount – and the fabric ear cups can last for lengthy gaming sessions without starting to chafe. The headset weighs in at just 310g, so it's very lightweight on the head, and you'll barely notice it if it's slung around your neck. A wireless option would be nice to have, but you are at least guaranteed minimal latency and zero connection problems with a wired link.
Asus ROG Delta S Animate: verdict
We very much liked the standard Asus ROG Delta S headset, and the same is true of the Animate follow-up edition too. The top-tier audio quality is the same, you're just choosing a different type of design, one that might appeal if you're after an aesthetic that really stands out from all the other gaming headsets on the market. It's also an option to go for if you want to spend time customising the look and the lighting of the cans you have around your ears.
Putting the Asus ROG Delta S Animate through its paces, it really did stand up well – not just in games, with its virtual 7.1 surround sound capabilities, but also when watching movies or listening to music. It's an audio upgrade across the board, no matter what that audio might be, and if you've been putting up with a cheaper pair of headphones then you're going to notice the difference straight away.
There are very few negatives to talk about – some people will prefer a different design, and some people will want the freedom of a wireless connection, but that's really a subjective choice rather than anything objectively bad about this headset. You could argue that it's a little on the expensive side too, but we think that when you take into consideration the quality of the audio and the fit and finish, it's money that's well spent.
Add in the host of audio customisations that you can manage (if you're on Windows), and it really is one of the best gaming headset packages around. It's fair to say you can get even better audio fidelity at higher prices, and that you can spend less and get sound performance that's almost as good, but this headset manages to hit something of a sweet spot – and if you're particularly taken with that AniMe Matrix feature, you won't be let down by everything else.
A glance at our list of the best gaming headsets you can buy right now will show you that there are a lot of great options to pick from. If you want to go premium and you have the money to afford it, the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay Portal headset is a superb choice: its audio quality is second to none, and there are both wired and wireless connection options, but it will cost you more than double the Asus headset that we've reviewed here.
Towards the more affordable end of the market, there's the Razer Barracuda X headset, which we would also recommend – that will set you back less than $100 / £100. Okay, you don't get all of the same high-end audio features as you do with the Asus ROG Delta S Animate, but it still packs a punch as far as sound goes, and impresses across gaming, movies and music.