Turtle Beach Earforce XP400 5.1 Headset Review
As a gamer with multiple consoles, I’ve always yearned for headsets that I could use to not only enjoy the awesome high-definition audio from, but also to connect and chat with friends on either system without the need for extra cables or solutions to get me by. Microsoft’s proprietary wireless chat functionality and Sony’s Bluetooth solution made this exceptionally difficult as two methods means that you have to integrate two technologies – or, at least you used to. With Turtle Beach’s new line of EarForce headsets, you now have the option of connecting to one or both consoles on a single pair of cans. Not only that, but some new technologies have been introduced which improve the overall experience greatly, and for an even lower cost. So how does the EarForce XP400 stand up to the 500s we reviewed this last week? Well, let’s take a look!
At first glance, the EarForce XP400 Wireless 5.1 Headset doesn’t look very different from its 7.1 counterpart. However, closer examination reveals some key differences that a hardcore gamer might find enticing. For one, the XP400 uses a rechargeable battery pack instead of a pair of AA batteries. This ensures that there’s no need to swap out batteries in the middle of a Modern Warfare 3 session because your cans suddenly dropped offline at a crucial moment. Furthermore, a super convenient 12-foot USB cable has been included with the package for charging purposes, allowing you to have ample length from whatever power source you’re using so you can keep gaming while juicing up the internal battery and still sit comfortably wherever you may be in most rooms.
The next thing you’ll notice is that a majority of the buttons for tone control, Bluetooth enabling, etc. are now located on the side of the cans instead of the tiny buttons that ring the ear cups like on the XP500. This allows you to more easily find the correct button to press without hunting around or pulling the headset off to look at what you’re doing. In short, the XP400s are far better designed for gamer convenience with respect to the controls. The volume wheel is still located in the same position as the XP500s and other previous EarForce models, so you still have that familiarity as well.
Like any other Turtle Beach product, comfort is a top priority, and the XP400 Wireless Headset does not disappoint. Weighing in at less than a pound, the headset’s traditional over-the-head design would usually feel a bit weighty after a long gaming session of eight hours or more, but the angled design of the headband alleviates a large amount of the pressure on the top of the head that you would typically experience with previous models like the X41 wireless headset. The oversized cloth ear cups that Turtle Beach traditionally use also ensure maximum comfort while allowing your ears to breathe without sacrificing sound quality or disruptions from ambient noises in the household like the significant other that’s yelling at you. Other design changes come from the dual-band Wi-Fi base transmitter. Instead of the bulky, tall base that the XP500 line and previous models have, a smaller, more simplified unit takes its place. Of course, this means that you no longer have something to hang your headset on, but I’ve not known many people to use the hanger anyway. To be honest, my headset is usually left sitting in my gaming chair when I’m not playing. The transmitter features some new technologies in it to allow for a much cleaner audio experience. The dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4GHz/5.0 GHz), for example, searches for other wireless devices and picks a channel that nothing else is talking on. This ensures that there are no crosstalk problems that can occur when using multiple wireless technologies in an area, and eliminates the popping and crackling, or connectivity drops that other wireless headsets can cause or experience. Other features include a button to select Stereo or Surround sound, a pairing button if the connection with the headset is ever lost for any reason, and a Surround Sound Angles button, which we’ll talk about later in this review.
Unlike other models, the EarForce XP400 Wireless Headset only uses an optical digital connection for sound. So if you’re still using the old RCA inputs (older Xbox 360 users particularly), you’ll have to pick up an adapter that instead uses optical digital sound outputs, or possibly use the built-in 8mm analog jack with an adapter cable if that’s your desire; however, you’ll not get the surround sound by doing this. Furthermore, while the headset supports wireless chat for both consoles, there is only one optical digital input on the transmitter, so a separate digital switch (or a receiver with multiple optical digital inputs) will need to be purchased if you have both the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, unless you don’t mind manually swapping the digital cable back and forth between consoles.
Like the XP500 headset, the XP400 setup is built around two 50mm drivers that operate at a frequency response of 20Hz – 20,000Hz and 20 milliwatts per channel and just sound absolutely beautiful through the entire range of sound. The only disadvantage that the XP400 exhibits over the XP500s is the fact that the system is 5.1 instead of 7.1 capable. However, from a console perspective, there is no hindrance since the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are only capable of 5.1 audio via digital optical audio and most games are currently 5.1 with a few exceptions. Also built into the XP400 headset is Turtle Beach’s “Ear Guard with Blast limiter” functionality built-in with a button on the left can as opposed to having to enable it through the Advanced Sound Editor like the XP500. This allows you to turn up the headset to hear lower-level sounds, while higher powered noises such as explosions are limited to ensure that you don’t blow out your eardrums in the middle of a Modern Warfare or Battlefield match.
Unlike the XP500, the presets are not adjustable through the Turtle Beach Advanced Sound Editor; however, both the equalizer presets and the variable sound angle presets accommodate for this with a range of stored presets in an effort to ensure that there is a setting for just about anyone. Six speaker angle presets are available and vary the angle of both the front and rear speakers for optimum listening, but only four equalizer presets are available: flat, bass boost, treble boost, or treble and bass boost. While this will accommodate most users, I find that having the level of customization in the XP500’s Advanced Sound Editor spoiled my ears a bit, and is a feature that is sorely missed with the XP400s.
Wireless chat for the XP400 headset is exactly the same as the XP500, which is easy to configure for both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 with the integration of Bluetooth and the inclusion of the Xbox Adapter. For Xbox wireless chat, the Xbox Adapter is plugged into the Xbox controller where the headset or chatpad would normally go. The adapter is then paired to the XP400 using the Bluetooth pairing procedures outlined in the manual. Similarly, you can pair your phone to the headset and take calls while gaming if so desired.
Comparing the XP400 headset with the XP500s turns out to be a mixed bag that comes down to what your preference is. For the person that doesn’t care about fine tuning their equalizer but finds that the angle of the surround speakers is what makes the difference, the XP400 is the choice to make. If you like a customizable sound palette and the availability of 7.1, then the XP500 is the option for you. As far as sound and quality are concerned, both headsets really stack up evenly against each other.
The Turtle Beach EarForce XP400 Wireless 5.1 Headset is really designed around comfort and convenience to the gamer. The Bluetooth connectivity and Xbox Adapter maintain your wireless freedom and keep you connected, while the rechargeable battery pack keeps you from having to run out to find a store that’s open at 3AM to pick up a pack of AA batteries because all of your rechargeable batteries are recharging. A second digital input would be nice so you won’t have to troll through Newegg to find a new stereo receiver and justify the cost to your significant other. Perhaps if you mention that you saved $50 purchasing this headset over the XP500s, they’ll at least wrap the rolling-pin in a towel to soften the blow.
The Turtle Beach EarForce XP400 5.1 Headset receives a 4.5/5.0.
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