In ancient Japan, the kunai was originally conceived as a common farming tool. Over time, it became synonymous with the Ninja, who developed it to be used as a multi-functional martial arts weapon for both inflicting injury and scaling walls – presumably as a prerequisite for inflicting further injury. A highly stylised symbol of Japanese culture – reflected in everything from museums to Manga – the kunai is evocative of ingenuity, functionality and adaptability. That’s a reasonably tall order for the new TRITTON Kunai headset to stand up to, then.
Kunai is also a type of Japanese grass, though, which is an entirely different (and less relevant) analogy – so it’s not all impassable benchmarks for the latest offering from Mad Catz.
The TRITTON Kunai weighs in and sizes up about the same as its older cousin, the TRITTON Trigger, with 40mm speakers and features typical of the TRITTON brand. Mad Catz have always claimed ergonomic design and extreme comfort over long gaming sessions and this is true of the Kunai. The typical TRITTON staples are there, the earpieces are about as comfortable as anything on the market – as well as the adjustable head-strap, the speakers themselves can swivel up to 90-degrees, and with a liberal dose of faux-leather for the ears and the scalp, the Kunai snuggles itself around your head nicely.
It might seem like a given that a high priority for a headset would be comfort, but compared to the Turtlebeach Earforce PX21, for example, the cosiness over longer use is admirable – a common feature of the brand. The Kunai shares its good looks with its siblings, too. Minimal and lightweight, the Kunai’s geometric speakers look great and the headset as a whole has a modest but stylish visage.
While the TRITTON Kunai shares many of its features with its predecessors, this new headset differs in several key areas from its brothers and sisters. Principally, it’s designed to be compatible with Sony products – so it won’t work with your Xbox 360. That aside, it works with Playstation 3 and PS Vita as well as being compatible with smartphones, thanks to its standard 3.5mm jack. This catapults the Kunai into the lifestyle-headphone category, rather than just gaming in isolation. Fitting into this mould, the Kunai also has a detachable microphone, meaning that it can be used with your phone or MP3 player while you’re out and about, without making you look like you’re on day-release. After a little initial fiddling, the microphone is easy enough to add and remove – simply plugging it in to the left earpiece and twisting to lock does the trick. The mic itself is the typically malleable and durable affair you might expect if you’ve owned a TRITTON before.
While the Kunai’s cable to connect to your console is a generous fourteen feet in length, it’s a shame that the detachable 3.5mm jack cable isn’t a little bit longer. Using it while walking around is an experience predicated upon how you like to wear your trousers – if anything the cable could do with being about four inches longer. Wearing a jumper over the cable with your phone in your pocket actually becomes slightly restrictive. If you wanted to take out your phone and change tracks, you would have to unplug the cable to do it, which isn’t ideal.
It’s a sacrifice well worth making though as there are plenty of reasons to want to keep the Kunai to hand. While I wouldn’t recommend that you start lobbying Dr. Dre for a refund, the TRITTON Kunai retails for just over £40 ($60), putting it in a different financial category to the Beats brand altogether. The overall sound quality is great, and the affordable price-point makes the Kunai a brilliant lower-priced alternative to the relatively expensive Beats, while being compatible with Vita, if you’re on the go, or Playstation 3 while you’re at home.
The caveat to all this is that in spite of the aforementioned good looks, the TRITTON Kunai does still look like a gaming headset. In the world of console audio the headset feels quite dainty, but compared to your average high-street headphones, the Kunai looks just a touch chunky. There’s a school of thought that wearing big headsets outdoors makes you look a bit special, if you subscribe to this ethos, this headset will do little to change your mind.
For the price, the overall audio experience with the Kunai is spectacular. Across an eclectic cross-section of different musical genres, it didn’t fall short once. The more facets to pick up, the better the Kunai performs – high-end treble sounds crisp, while stopping short of crystal-clarity, drums have a oaky warmth, and the cans deliver more when pumping out bass than in any other area.
Bass through a set of TRITTON Kunai headphones feels like an amber layer of syrupy tree-sap has been brushed over each note with a golden turkey-baster. There’s a thickness and smoothness to be found, unlike most headsets in its class. This translates equally well to gaming, whether handheld or console, the Kunai picks apart the elements and crystallises them, filtering them down and bringing them together beautifully. Finding the balance is all the easier with the Kunai’s separate channels for in-game audio and chat, which can be tweaked easily while playing.
The Kunai is the kind of headset that will have you making excuses to use it. Even though the cable is slightly too short, I found myself wired up through the audio-jack in my PC, listening to everything from Youtube videos to podcasts – things that generally don’t benefit from souped-up audio – just to drink down the details. While playing Vita games, I found myself sacrificing sociability for sound-quality, burying my head in a blanket of sound – I still haven’t felt the need to apologise.
When you consider that a standard in-ear official Sony headset for Playstation 3 will likely cost you £20 plus, there is no reason to stop yourself from going right out and grabbing a set of these. Whether you’ve been thinking about getting more out of your MP3 player, or you’re looking for a cheap but competitive option for the bevy of quality headsets already available, the Kunai makes a salient argument for your cash.
It’s not much like grass, but the TRITTON Kunai certainly shares plenty of qualities with its other Japanese namesake.
Sound quality – 4/5: Outstanding for the price, but never likely to fully replicate the high-end juggernauts.
Comfort – 5/5: They feel great when you put them on, and this lasts for as long as you might care to wear them.
Value – 5/5: Being priced ever so slightly above your bog-standard wireless gaming headsets makes this a viable and thoroughly recommendable alternative.
Aesthetics – 4/5: Looks good for a gaming headset but lacks the silky curvature of some of its potential new high-street rivals.
Final Score: – 4.5/5 If you’ve been thinking about it, now’s the time.