ASUS ROG Delta S Animate gaming headset review
The Delta S Animate is a premium gaming headset from ASUS. It is a multi-platform USB-C headset, which works with most platforms, including Windows, Mac, PlayStation, Switch, Android, and iOS.
One of the most interesting features of the Delta S Animate is the array of mini-LED on the sides, which can be customized to animate text and images. The headset is compatible with ASUS’ Armoury Crate software, which lets you customize the LEDs and includes features such as AI noise cancellation for the microphone. Meanwhile the audio processing is handled by the ESS 9281 Quad DAC with Hi-Res Audio certification and MQA renderer.
Let’s put the headset to test and see how it performs in the music, voice, and the all-important gaming tests.
The Delta S Animate has an attractive all-black design that is surprisingly minimal despite the size of the headset. Most of the surface is covered in matte black plastic, which does look quite nice but also shows smudges quite easily.
The earcups have a triangular design with perforations on the outer side for the LEDs. The yoke provides rotating the earcups as well as turning them sideways for storing the headphones. The length adjustment is really well engineered, with tactile, audible clicks and clear markings to remember your position.
The headband is covered in a leather-like material with a soft cushion on the underside. It’s flexible enough and can stretch to accommodate even the largest of heads.
The left ear cup has controls for volume and LED control. The volume rocker is spring loaded and can be turned up or down, or pressed in to mute the microphone. The LED switch has three positions, off, on, and microphone (more on this later). Both switches have a really solid feel to them.
The left ear cup also has the cable going into it. Unfortunately, the cable is fixed to the side of the headset and cannot be removed or replaced if it ever gets damaged. The cable isn’t even particularly special; it’s a standard braided USB-C cable that could have easily been made removable. I’d personally would have liked to replace it with a thinner, more flexible USB cable, as braided cables tend to be irritating.
That aside, the ROG Delta S Animate is a fantastically well-built and good-looking headset. Even premium headphones usually don’t have build quality this good. Just wish that cable was removable.
The ROG Delta S Animate can be a comfortable headset. I say can be, because it comes down to the pads you are using.
The headset comes with two sets of pads, a 100% protein leather set and a hybrid with fabric mesh on the outside and protein leather on the inside. Despite ASUS calling the former a fast-cooling protein leather, it gets intensely warm in there unless you are in very cool climates. It was impossible for me to wear them for more than a few minutes in summer without my ears cooking like a Thanksgiving turkey.
The hybrid pads don’t completely solve this issue but they are significantly better. The mesh surface doesn’t get as hot on your skin, even though the material itself is coarse and somewhat unpleasant.
The good thing is that the insides of both pads are protein leather. This means they both create a similar seal around your ears, so there is no difference in sound if you change pads.
Also, regardless of which pads you pick, the insides of them aren’t as wide as I’d have liked them to be. They are quite deep but I still found my relatively small ears touching the inside rim of the cushions.
Still, once you pick the right pair of pads for you, the Delta S Animate can be reasonably comfortable over long wearing sessions.
By far the most interesting feature of the Delta S Animate is AniMe Matrix. Each ear cup has white 245 mini LEDs on the outside that can be made to display any pattern you want. There is a range of preset animations within the Armoury Crate app and you can also upload your own text or images to be displayed on the side.
If you slide the side switch to the microphone mode, the LEDs can also be made to animate to the sound of your voice as captured through the mic.
The LEDs are quite bright and fairly visible even during daylight or under bright lights. The animations all flow fluidly and most text and patterns are easy to discern, although you should probably not bother with images as they can be hard to make out on the low resolution of the LEDs.
But as cool as the effect can be, it is ultimately for others, as they lights are impossible to see once the headset is on your head. This may be of some value to you if you are a streamer or an esports player who plays in public. But if you are playing by yourself in your home then the whole show is for nought.
The Delta S Animate interface with the ASUS Armoury Crate application. The headset works just fine without the app, which is just as well since it’s only available on Windows and everywhere else you are just expected to use the headset as-is.
The Armoury Crate is a somewhat generic app that ASUS uses for several of its products, so it has many sections that don’t necessarily apply to the Delta S Animate. Only two sections are relevant, one which lets you adjust the sound and the other the AniMe Matrix.
The audio tab includes features such as EQ, bass boost, compressor, voice clarity, reverb, and virtual surround sound. The app includes presets that can adjust each of these settings to specific values based on the chosen preset. The EQ has presets of its own along with a 10-band graphics equalizer.
The app also has options for the microphone, including noise gate, Perfect Voice, and AI Noise-Cancellation. The last one is on by default and the only one worth using.
The AniMe Matrix tab lets you pick from one of the preset patterns or you can enter your own text or image. The effect can be set for individual ear cup or both. You can also have the LEDs display a spectrum analyzer for any audio that may be playing on your PC or scroll the track info.
The Armoury Crate app isn’t very good. If you’ve used apps made by PC hardware makers then you know exactly how this goes. The app is janky, buggy, and generally doesn’t work as well as you’d like it to. Moreover, it’s only available on Windows, so if you are using the headset with any other platform exclusively then you have absolutely no control of any of the aforementioned features.
Fortunately, the headset remembers every change you make through the app, so you could just set it the way you like and then remove the app if you like.
The ROG Delta S Animate use 50mm dynamic drivers, with neodymium magnets and 20-40000Hz frequency range. The drivers are powered by the ESS 9281 Pro DAC/amp and connect to the source over USB. The headset shows up as stereo and goes up to 24-bit, 96kHz. It has native decoding support for PCM, DSD, and MQA (renderer-only).
The ROG Delta S Animate is somewhat unconventional by gaming headset standards. Most of the time, gaming headsets tend to be bass cannons with little in terms of resolution, detail, or even subtlety. But the Delta S Animate took me by surprise, as it’s nothing like that at all.
The Animate has a very mid-forward sound profile, with the rest of the sound leaning towards a more neutral side. Starting with the bass, the Animate almost disappoint with it delivery. The mid-bass has good amount of punch and slam and never gets boomy or obtrusive. However, the headset has essentially no sub-bass delivery, as the bottom just falls out below a certain frequency range.
This makes the sound much more thin and lifeless than it should be as there is very little rumble and thump to the sound. Deeper bass notes hit with very little impact and there’s even a hint of distortion in there that’s present regardless of the volume level.
On the other end of the spectrum, the treble performance also doesn’t come across particularly well. The treble is a bit leaned back with less air and brilliance than there should be but the upside is that it never gets shouty or sibilant on bad recordings.
The mid-range was clearly the focus here because it comes through loud and clear. Vocals have exceptional clarity and authority in the mix and all other instruments and sounds that live in this range have a very prominent place in the presentation.
Unfortunately, where the Delta S Animate struggles the most is in imaging and soundstage. Neither is particularly impressive, with a very claustrophobic soundstage that just lives inside your head.
This has severe repercussions for gaming, which is, after all, the primary use-case for this headset. While the detail retrieval and distinctiveness of sounds is good, there is not much sense of spacing and object placement is lackluster.
My preferred use for the Delta S Animate was watching video content, as the prominent vocal performance made them quite enjoyable. Music on occasion also sounded fine, but the lack of sub-bass was bothersome. As for gaming, the experience was subpar. A sufficiently skilled player wouldn’t be affected by this and a poor player would benefit more from practicing than an expensive headset. However, if you don’t need a microphone, there are better headphones out there for gaming, such as the HiFiMan HE400se or the Sennheiser HD560S.
I should note here that the audio features in the Armoury Crate are of little to no benefit as none of them seemed to meaningfully improve the sound. Even the bass boost setting does very little to improve the sub-bass situation and just adds more distortion. The application also seemed to apply some sort of dynamic range compression when active as if the compressor was enabled, so I chose to quit the app when testing.
Moreover, the app comes with a rather odd EQ profile enabled by default on the headset. I would recommend installing the app just to disable this as it does improve the sound, which would otherwise carry over to other devices since the headset saves the profiles on its memory. But if you don’t have a Windows PC to install the app then you are out of luck.
The ROG Delta S Animate has a detachable microphone that can be plugged into the left ear cup. The microphone is adjustable for direction and has an LED indicator for when it is muted.
The microphone performance on the Animate is very good. Without any software features enabled, voices come through very clearly with a natural timbre and full body. If you are in quiet environment, you can very well just use the mic without any of the AI enhancements.
But since most of us don’t live inside an anechoic chamber, the AI Noise-Cancellation feature comes in handy. It does remove most background hum and keyboard noise quite effectively at its default Mid setting and voice still sound mostly natural with it enabled. The other two mic settings really didn’t seem to do much at all so it wasn’t clear if it was just the Armoury Crate app being buggy.
The Delta S Animate claims a wide platform support, including Windows, Mac, PS5, PS4, Switch, Android, and iOS (audio only, no mic). I was able to test the headset with Windows 10, macOS Catalina, PS4, and Android 12 and the headset worked perfectly with all of them.
However, as mentioned before, the Armoury Crate app for adjusting the headset features is only available on Windows 10 and 11. Regardless, both audio and microphone functionality worked flawlessly on all tested platforms.
The ASUS ROG Delta S Animate are priced at INR 23,999, which is approximately $319. That makes it a premium product, especially by gaming headset standards.
There are several aspects of this headset that are worthy of the price. The build quality is excellent and the headset feels really well made. The AniMe Matrix effect, while almost entirely lost on the wearer, does look really cool in action. The microphone quality is also really great.
Unfortunately, the Animate is let down by its audio quality. On one hand I’m pleasantly surprised that ASUS didn’t just make another bass-heavy headset but on the other hand there really isn’t much bass to speak of and the sound is one-dimensional and closed off.
In the end, the ROG Delta S Animate is a better product for showing off on streams where its superior microphone performance and cool lighting can figuratively and literally shine but if you’re playing by yourself then you are better off getting a cheaper pair of headphones with a separate mic.