Turtle Beach X41 – Wireless Surround for Exceptional Cost
Turtle Beach is a company that’s been associated with Gaming for over 20 years now, developing products known for the best quality in the area of sound. As time went on and high quality games moved from being a PC exclusive to the console, Turtle Beach expanded. Today, they develop a number of high quality solutions for the Xbox and PlayStation 3 as well as the PC.
For the gamer, high quality audio is important not just to appreciate the excellent sounds that go with the sights of gaming, but in the multiplayer realm as well. Surround support is highly integral to hearing your opponents stalking your every move behind you, waiting for that right moment to pull off that uber-kill or assassination. For the longest time, this was only available to those who could afford top dollar surround systems for their home theatres, or those who were stuck paying less money for lower end systems that provided the surround but at the cost of losing quality and dealing with failures in far less time.
Turtle Beach has a number of headsets available for the Xbox 360 user. The Ear Force X41 is Turtle Beach’s entry level 7.1 surround headset with wireless capability. So how does this set of cans stack up for the hardcore gamer? Let’s find out!
The X41 headset is fairly lightweight with large pads that are sure to fit around the biggest auricles one can have. The webbed, woven cloth covers allow for the ears to breathe without sacrificing your hearing experience as well. The construction of the headphones are a lightweight composition that looks a bit cheap in the white and black matte, but don’t be fooled; after viewing a demo pair at the local Best Buy that had been obviously used by a few hundred people, the construction managed to show their durability. The cans themselves are connected to the cross piece with swivel hinges that further allow for a comfortable fit, so as not to feel like your head is pinched between them.
The adjustable microphone boom sits on the left side and is detachable allowing you to remove it when you’re not online gaming with your buddies. This is a welcome feature as I find that having a boom mic out in my peripherals can be a distraction that’s just not needed when I’m playing on my own. The left can also sports your controls: an Effects button which enables or disables bass boost, a low profile power button that prevents you from accidentally turning them off during a crucial moment, an 1/8th inch jack to plug into your Xbox 360 controller (more on this later), and a volume control situated up behind the middle of the ear for easy access while preventing it from being accidentally bumped when adjusting your headset. While many prefer buttons to knobs, it’s functional and does its job well.
The Ear Force X41 headset receives its signals wirelessly from a base station that connects to one of the Xbox 360’s USB ports for power, and the optical audio port for sound. The advantage to the optical input is that you receive a higher quality audio signal than RCA. However, if you have an older-gen Xbox 360, this may be problematic depending on what connector cables you have available. Luckily, it also has left and right RCA audio inputs to suit your older 360 or other external sources such as your television or BluRay player if you so desire to use it for those as well.
Speaking of BluRay players, if you have a PlayStation 3 you can still use the X41 headset for your gaming pleasure. You can use the microphone for voice chat as well if you shell out an additional $50 and get the Ear Force PBT. But for the money, you may as well just purchase their top end solution, the XP500 headset for $270.
The RF distance is advertised at a maximum of 30 feet, which is substantial. While writing this I was watching Final Fantasy VII Advent Children (on my PS3) and was able to go downstairs, grab a bottle of water, fix a sandwich and still hear Sephiroth goading Cloud in crystal clear surround sound the entire time through my 70 year old house. To say the least, the signal quality at distance and through obstructions is substantial and phenomenal.
The sound quality of the X41 headset is exceptional during gameplay as well. While it tends to sound somewhat tinny if the Effects are turned off, when enabled, the X41 headset gets a good amount of range in sound. Low bass reverberates when a car passes by you in LA Noire, the sound of the engine panning from front to rear on the left side. Bullets thunk against the wood barrier you’re hiding behind in FEAR 3 with dull thuds in the mid-ranges. And the highs give away the distinct sound of a grenade being tossed from behind you in Halo: Reach.
When compared to the standard Xbox 360 headset that plugs into the controller, the Xbox 360 Wireless headset, or the Kinect microphones, the sound quality when speaking into the X41 is like day and night. As our writer Dominic described it after I sent him a few test messages via Xbox Live, “No comparison, voice thru the cans was WAY more clear than the Kinect. In fact, never try to talk to someone thru the Kinect, it’s that bad. The headset sounded clear, can’t sing an aria through it but good enough” Your voice is louder, clearer, and more distinct than ever before, providing you clean communications with your teammates in matchmaking.
The most important aspect of course is the cost. At $159, the X41 headset provides you with fantastic surround sound at the fraction of the cost of a full-blown 7.1 theatre system for your home. Furthermore, for those that live in apartments or have a spouse that just really doesn’t want to listen to you blaring Battle Los Angeles for the 55th time, the headset gives you what you want while not disturbing everyone around you.
The Ear Force X41 headset isn’t without its gripes though. While the base station comes with a nice little hanger for you to set your headphones on when not in use, it would be nice to be able to have a plug in the headphones to allow them to charge while sitting there. Furthermore, the headset uses two AA batteries instead of an internal rechargeable battery. While the batteries are advertised to be able to power the headset for up to 25 hours of gameplay, there is the additional cost of constantly replacing batteries that must be considered. I can easily blow through 25 hours of game time in a week, which means that I’ll be investing in some new rechargeable batteries soon.
Overall the Turtle Beach Ear Force X41 headphones provide exceptional quality sound for cost. It carries many excellent features to entice today’s Xbox 360 gamer. However when you’re paying $160 for a headset, it should look as high quality as it sounds to give the gamer a sense that they’ve paid good money for high quality merchandise.
The Turtle Beach Ear Force X41 headset receives a 4.0/5.
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