Review: Turtle Beach Headset Pounds Out 7.1 Surround Sound Wirelessly
By Matthew Lentini | Wednesday | 11/05/2011
The Ear Force PX5 Programmable Wireless Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset, or Turtle Beach's PX5 for short, is a powerhouse of a headset. That's not necessarily for ultra-high sound quality, but for the depth of customisability and performance that comes with the price tag.
The PX5 is made specifically for the PS3, though also works on Xbox 360 with the appropriate attachments for both. The gaming-specific headset is just that, tailored for gaming rather than music. While the simulated surround sound make movies immersive, the bass and mid-range tones aren't plush enough to suit the timbre needed to really enjoy music.
The PX5 performs beautifully whilst gaming in surround sound via Bluetooth. While the sound quality is impressive, delivering sharp tones (which can be a little too sharp at high volumes on some presets) and distinctive mid-range sound, it also powers through at a decent range thanks to the Bluetooth signal's strength.
Tested at around 8-10 metres away with walls between the headset and the receiver, the sound gradually tapered out as the connection began to fail, but anywhere within a large room would keep the headset in fine shape. While some Bluetooth devices may suffer a crackling from loss of signal strength, that's never an issue with this headset.
The signal is directed by a Bluetooth receiver that connects to the gaming console via Optical input. After configuring the Bluetooth device in the PlayStation's menu, pairing the headset up is as simple has holding down a few buttons for a few seconds.
The receiver has a handy brace to prop the headset onto while you're not using it (that happens to look nifty too, each complimenting each other's black and red design).
If the headset stays idle with no signal for too long, it'll automatically turn off - a good thing considering it runs on ordinary batteries (which isn't a good thing). On the bright side, the batteries last for longer than a lot of other similar battery-powered devices, though when you're camping out for long gaming sessions you'll want rechargeable batteries.
One test was made playing Call of Duty: Black Ops which has a setting specifically for surround sound headsets, and the distinct edge you get with the PX5's high quality surround is noticeable when playing online.
Cycling through the eight presets with a button on the left earphone, different tones are emphasised which capture different sounds better or worse. Playing a first person shooter would match up with a high-treble, crisp preset that picks up subtle footsteps and distant gunshots without drowning out the little details in deep bass and overzealous musical soundtracks.
Similarly tested on Killzone 3, a deeper preset with a warmer timbre fit well with the dramatic cutscenes, raucous music and explosion-heavy ambience. Each preset is suited to a different type of gaming and gives this headset amazing breadth.
The surround sound is simulated exceptionally, with bullets streaming audibly past your head, subtle background sounds coming out that would otherwise be drowned out by bigger speakers with less attention to detail and an overall higher level of immersion.
The microphone has high clarity and, thanks to Bluetooth functionality, can be used to answer calls on a mobile. In fact, multiple Bluetooth devices can be paired up with the PX5 to multitask different media at once, so you never have to interrupt your game.
Another little note in the PX5's favour is the high comfort factor. It's a big headset, but barely noticeable thanks to its light weight and light resistance against your ears. In-line volume control is also a plus.
On the downside, sound leaks badly from this headset, so you'll be sharing the sound with anyone else in the room at higher volumes. This is also picked up by the microphone if it's too loud.
Overall, the Ear Force PX5 is a high performer that delivers stunning simulated 7.1 (even though most media will only take you to 5.1) with a somewhat hefty price tag of $300. If you're a serious console gamer, specifically on the FPS front, this is a highly recommended headset that won't leave you disappointed (as long as you've got some rechargeable batteries lying around).
Apr/May 2011 issue
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