LucidSound’s volume control headphone dials are a smart solution for a nagging gaming issue

In today’s digital age, it sometimes feels like hardware has taken a back seat to the software that drives out devices. Button of the Month is a monthly look at what some of those buttons and switches are like on devices old and new, and it aims to appreciate how we interact with our devices on a physical, tactile level.

It’s hard to put a good button on wireless headphones. Like I’ve said before, wireless headphones need to include audio playback controls, and they need to do so in a way that makes it easy for wearers to access them without looking. Some headphones have solved this for music listening, like Marshall with its joystick control scheme, but gaming headsets are twice as difficult.

Gaming headsets not only need to control game audio, but they also juggle a simultaneous input from voice chat. Some headsets do this with multiple volume wheels or identical feeling buttons, which are hard to use, especially without looking. LucidSound’s gaming headsets accomplish the task perfectly, with a clever two-dial system that turns the frustration of managing multiple audio streams into child’s play.

LucidSound’s volume control headphone dials are a smart solution for a nagging gaming issue Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

What make LucidSound’s system so good are the large buttons and clear controls. Instead of putting indistinguishable buttons or small, fiddly wheels on the ear cups, LucidSound turns the entire outside surface of both ear cups into buttons. There are two comparatively huge, physically rotating dials that let you adjust the volume, with the middle of each earpiece serving as a giant mute button.

LucidSound splits the controls for game audio and voice chat onto either side of the headphones; the left side of the headset controls game audio, letting you raise or lower the ambient noise in the game with the dial, and the right side controls voice chat.

The mute buttons are also well thought out. The left side button cuts all audio so that you can hear if, say, your roommate needs to ask you a question, while the right side mutes your own mic so that your snack munching isn’t transmitted to your entire squad.

I’ve been using the LucidSound LS35X, which tweaks that formula a bit to work with the Xbox One, specifically, but the conceit still works just as well: huge physical inputs let you balance game and chat audio without having to take your eyes away from the screen. (Due to how the Xbox handles input, one ear adjusts the balance between game audio and chat, while the other does overall volume.) They’re not the absolute best headphones I’ve ever used in terms of build or sound quality, but for gaming, the control scheme helps elevate them over the rest of the pack.

Is it a perfect solution for all wireless headphones? Probably not. Music-focused headphones need more controls than just a single button and a volume dial, especially with today’s features like digital assistants, noise cancelation switches, and pairing buttons. But it is a creative solution, and the dial control is one that we’re already starting to see come to more traditional wireless headphone models, like the Surface Headphones.

For gaming — which is what LucidSound’s headphones are meant for and truly excel at — it’s a nearly unbeatable control scheme that perfectly factors in the function that it needs and designs a solution specifically to solve it. It’s simple, it’s elegant, and having used it, it’s nearly impossible to go back to any other way of controlling game audio.