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Turtle Beach finally hits the mark
on April 15, 2012
Having tolerated the Turtle Beach X41 wireless headphones for a while, stepping-up to the XP300s has been incredibly satisfying. Turtle Beach seems to have finally provided all the functionality that I've desired (plus some I didn't expect), while improving the overall comfort and feel of the headphones. While a few things have been overlooked, my overall experience has ben positive.
Comfort: I can wear these for hours. The padding on the earcups is very comfortable, and they don't make my ears (or head) warm. The over-the-head band is comfortable as well, but while the headband expands sufficiently to increase size, I still wish they were just slightly smaller. However, they don't fall off and they stay positioned while moving around.
Sound: There are two things to consider regarding sound quality with wireless headphones:
1) the transmission through wireless. These are considerably improved over the X41s I was using. I can't detect any hiss during non-audio segments, and haven't had any issues with interference with other wireless networks (I am running simultaneous wireless-G and wireless-N networks in my home, in addition to 5 Ghz cordless phones). The XP300s run on two bands (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz), and will automatically switch between them based upon interference. Only once in a while do I detect this transition, but it is seamless. No pops, no clicks -- perfect audio always.
2) sound output. While these are improved over the X41s, they still don't exactly hit the mark when it comes to the bass response. Overall, however, the sound quality is relatively balanced, with very good midrange (for voices) and decent, if not exceptional bass response. Treble/highs are perfect, from my perspective. The headphones offer the ability to adjust the "tone", so you can boost the bass (or bass and treble, as an option). While there is also an option to increase the stereo field (like an artifical surround sound), I think it stretches the sound too thin.
Connection: I am using this with an Xbox 360. Unlike the X41s, however, there is no optical input on the control device. You have to use any available analog audio output (either on your 360 or on the back of your TV) and connect it directly to the control device. This could make connections challenging in some situations, and the lack of an optical input provides a less-than-ideal audio response. Fortunately, the control device/transmitter is small, and it does provide an auxilary-in jack, so you can also connect an MP3 player or any other device to it. The control unit/transmitter is powered by USB, so you will need a free USB jack in order to power the transmitter.
Power: the headphones have built-in, non-replaceable rechargeable batteries. They are charged via a proprietary USB cable (you'll need another USB port for this). Fortunately, they can be charged while in-use, so a "low battery" warning doesn't mean you need to switch to something else. Unfortunately, once the low battery warning starts to beep, you have no idea how much additional time you have available. Fortunately, I've been getting 15-20 hours from them.
Wireless Chat: These XP300's solve the one problem I've had with the X41s and other similar headphones -- they now provide true wireless chat with the 360. The package includes a small bluetooth transmitter that plugs into your 360's controller. It then syncs with the headphones, and transmits audio via bluetooth. From my perspective, incoming chat is perfect, and nobody has complained about the quality of my voice. The benefit here is that I can finally put my controller down, and get up and walk around the room (or out of the room, within about 30 feet), without having to carry a semi-wired controller around with me. I can still hear things and talk to others without being tied to the controller. NOTE: if you are using the 360's "Chatpad", you can't use the included controller transmitter. You will either need to remove your Chatpad from the controller or use the included cable to hardwire your headphones to your controller (which is how the X41s work).
Bluetooth: In addition to wireless chat, the headphones will also sync to a cellphone via bluetooth...and it can handle booth wireless chat and a cellphone connection simultaneously. This means that you can take calls from your phone while gaming -- this is incredible functionality that is extremely helpful -- no more missed calls, and no more taking a headset off in order to take a phone call.
What keeps these from being perfect? The documentation isn't entirely clear. I spent the better part of 20 minutes just trying to get the headset to sync to its transmitter, because the documentation wasn't clear (just hold the power button down beyond the initial tones). From my perspective, the documentation also seemed to be "backwards" regarding the wireless chat "sync indicator". Like a normal bluetooth headset, if it's flashing infrequently, it is synchronized. I had to experiment using a second 360 over LIVE just to figure this all out. However, once you get everything synchronized, things seem to work quite well thereafter without further intervention required.
I also haven't had much luck with balancing the mix of chat and game audio. No matter what settings I choose in the 360's dashboard settings in conjunction with various volume levels/controls on the headphones, I can't find a mix that works best for me. I typically end-up turning down game audio to compensate.
Overall, I'm pleased with the XP300s. However, I can't overlook the lack of an optical connection, the confusing documentation and syncing processes and indicators, and the chat/game-audio mix issues. They still aren't "perfect", but they hit enough of the mark for me that they are my new favorite gaming headphones.