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Certainly the star of our LucidSound care package is the LS30, but LucidSound also sent along a sample of their wired headset, the LS20. The two headsets have a lot in common, and it’s clear they share a lot of the same DNA. If you’re on the fence about the LS20, chances are you’re comparing it to its bigger brother. Coming up, we’ll take a close look at the LS20 vs the LS30 and see what you give up if you save a few bucks going for the lower-cost LS20.
LS20 vs LS30: What’s the same?
Related Article I’m going to very quickly cover a lot of similarities between the LS20 and the LS30, but if you want a more in-depth overview of the “LucidSound style,” read through my LucidSound LS30 review and then head on back over here for the LS20-specific bits.
Let’s first talk about what’s exactly the same between the LS20 and the LS30:
- Both feature anodised aluminum frames
- Both have optional boom mics (and in fact the mics are identical down to the blue “mute” LED on the end)
- Both have built-in “mic monitoring” while powered
- Both have 3.5mm analog audio input/output
- Both feature internal rechargeable batteries and micro USB charging ports
- Both work without power, but without power the volume and mute controls don’t work
- Both headsets’ cups rotate for more comfort when you’re wearing them around your neck
LS20 vs LS30: What’s the difference?
LS20 has no USB “base station”
Obviously, the biggest thing about the LS20 right away is the lack of wireless. There’s no USB “base station” included with the LS20, and any audio coming into or out of the sets is via the 3.5mm jack on the left ear cup.
The base station does more than just wireless, though. It’s how the LS30 handles dealing with separate voice and game audio channels. Thus, the LS20 is missing a few voice chat features that the LS30 has. The right earcup still has the mic mute button, but the ring around the outside of the button is fixed in position and can’t be used to control voice volume. You’ll need to work with your PC or console’s software mixing to change the voice/game balance, which can be much harder to mess with in the heat of a competitive match.
Without wireless audio and voice/game mixing feature, I have a hard time understanding how much the powered amplifier really adds for most people. I found that the sound quality and maximum volume were pretty much identical between the powered on and powered off states. You do lose the hardware volume control and mute (as well as the mic monitoring) if the headset is off, though.
LS20 is on-ear vs the LS30’s over-ear design
Both the LS30 and LS40 are over-ear, meaning that the ear cup rests against your head and your entire ear is covered by the headset. The LS20 is LucidSound’s only on-ear design. The outer diameter of the cups just about matches the height of my ear. Really, on-ear vs over-ear is typically a personal preference, although there are some reasons why I think the LS20’s design is inferior in this particular case.
For one, both LucidSound headsets I’ve tried had very stiff headbands. This puts a fair amount of pressure on the sides of your head. I found this less objectionable with the LS30’s over-ear design, since with the LS20’s on-ear design I get a lot more squishing of my ears.
Another important point is that the mic mute button is on the right ear cup, which means you have to press down on the cup to mute or unmute the mic/game. On top of this putting extra pressure on your ears, there’s enough compression required that there’s an audible squishing sound that comes from the cup’s padding pressing against your head.
I wouldn’t go so far as to call the LS20 uncomfortable, but I certainly prefer the LS30’s design for these reasons.
LS20’s “console modes” and bass boost
Given that the LS20 has limited control over the incoming analog audio, LucidSound designed a set of three presets to ensure optimal performance depending on what the headset is connected to. One set is for PlayStation 3/4, the other for Xbox 360/One, and one for PC/mobile use. It’s hard to quantify what the differences are specifically, although I did determine that one of the modes disables the mic monitoring. Most likely this is a feature built into that console’s audio profile already.
The LS30 has an EQ button that switches between normal, bass boost, and treble boost. This wasn’t really a killer feature to me, but the LS20’s version is weirder still. The button is still marked “EQ,” but now it just toggles on and off a bass boost. I honestly had a really tough time telling if the bass boost was on or off. The boost is so weak that I really had to play something super bass heavy to even notice.
The LS20 is a well-made headset with a bunch of unique features. The core feature set is high quality and executed well. The lack of wireless and separated voice/game audio hurts, though. In the end, the LS20 is eclipsed by the LS30 and can’t quite beat the competition to become my favorite wired headset.