[Review] Turtle Beach Ear Force PX3 Wireless Gaming Headset
Released back in June of 2011, the Turtle Beach Ear Force PX3 Wireless Gaming Headset (wow, that’s a mouthful) has been out for while. Nevertheless, the folks at Turtle Beach were kind enough to send a discounted review copy to Twinfinite. A link to the official device specs can be found here. Due to my lack of extensive experience with high-end headsets, my primary point of comparison for this headset review will be the Official Sony Wireless Stereo Headset.
Sound: The stereo sound is extremely crisp; better than any headset I have used. The lack of surround sound is a disadvantage, but for most applications it’s unnoticeable. The sound of music and most games on the PX3 will be roughly indistinguishable to the sound from a surround sound headset, but there are situations in which surround sound can come in handy- namely, a game like Call of Duty, where surround sound may enable a player to better identify the direction of a sound’s origin. The technology will also automatically amplify chat sounds when the game audio gets louder, and will diminish loud noises (like explosions) to avoid deafening the user. The headset sports 18 interchangeable audio settings, and users can add their own if they don’t find an option appropriate for their task. These audio settings can be used to enhance, amplify, or diminish certain sounds. Sometimes, these presets can even give a player a tactical advantage. For instance, a player can amplify the sound of footsteps or reloading in Call of Duty to get a jump on his enemy. In FTL (Faster Than Light), a player can amplify the sound of a raging fire or the air rushing out of a hull breach to identify potential hazards in an invisible section of the ship. They might want to amplify a sound indicating that Terrans… are Zerging… their additional pylons. Basically, use of the presets is going to vary wildly between players, dependent on the games that they play. Some may not use them at all- the default setting is great for most applications, and it is by no means necessary to mess with the presets if you aren’t interested. If a player can’t find the preset that fits their needs among the 18 available out of the box, they can make their own using the online tool. However, this should rarely be necessary, as there are a number of user-made presets available online as well. I haven’t explored beyond the 18 available presets, but it’s clear that there’s enough available for pretty much any application. The sound isolation/cancellation technology is very effective. To the listener, it is difficult to hear outside noise. It will sound muffled and quiet. The sound emitted from the headphones is difficult (but not impossible) to hear for someone standing near the listener. The headphones can get very loud however, and at higher volumes (probably uncomfortable volumes) it will be audible to parties in the vicinity of the listener.
Battery Life: The battery life on the PX3 headset is fantastic. Unlike many other headsets (including the PX3′s big brother, the PX5), the PX3 does not use double-A batteries. It has a lithium battery that can charge directly from your computer or console, which was a huge selling point for someone like me, who hates batteries. At maximum charge, it boasts a 15-hour battery life, although most sites will rate it at 10 hours. Of course, you can also keep it plugged in while you’re playing, and it comes with an extremely long mini-usb cable, so you can charge it from the comfort of your couch.
Connection: There is no bluetooth in the wireless headset, but I haven’t found it necessary. It’s more of an issue in initial setup, where you need to mess with cables and the transmitter box. After that, it should be fairly simple to get connected. However, the headset may occasionally have some difficulty connecting to the computer. You won’t be able to hear anything or use the mic, or see it in the list of available audio devices. You usually just have to unplug and reconnect the device to fix the issue, but on very rare occasions I’ve had to restart my computer. I’ve seen this issue appear on the forums, but it’s difficult to tell whether it’s an issue on the end of the headset or the PC- I was using Windows 7, and I haven’t had the issue on my PS3. Once successfully connected, it’s easy to switch between the device and the PC, simply by flipping the switch on the transmitter box. Occasionally the headset would start ambiguously beeping, and turn off a minute later. I took this to mean that the headset was low on batteries, but after checking online, I’ve found that it’s likely due to inactivity- after a few minutes of no sound output, the headset will beep a few times, and power off later. For forgetful people (like me), this can be a useful feature for saving batteries. However, just like an overenthusiastic screen saver, it can also be mildly annoying. I have not investigated whether or not there is any way to limit or disable this feature; it’s more of a minor inconvenience caused by an effective means of saving power. UPDATE: It seems to use beeping to indicate everything, and it can be confusing and annoying. The wireless signal is fantastic. Compared to the Sony Wireless Stereo Headset, the signal is much stronger. I can wear the headset and walk all around my apartment and beyond, and both the audio of the headset and my voice on the other end are consistently crystal clear, making it phenomenal for multitasking while talking to someone over Skype or watching something on Netflix (our sponsors… I wish). I can even go two floors down, directly under my apartment, and still talk and hear the audio (although less consistently). I found this out by accident, trying to do the laundry while talking to my girlfriend.
Comfort: The headphones are more comfortable than any headset I’ve used. Admittedly, my exposure is limited, but they feel fairly lightweight (but not cheap), and feel even lighter due to the super comfortable mesh cushions. They squeeze a bit to hold them in place, but compared to the Sony headset, it is much more comfortable. My head doesn’t feel nearly as constricted wearing the PX3; it feels like the pressure on my head is well-distributed between the ears and the strap. It is possible that the microphone could get in the way, but it is constructed in such a way that it could be repositioned to be further away from your face, or even up to the side, parallel to the headband if you don’t need it.
Style:They look great, especially for a heavy-duty headset, which can often look clunky. The black headphones have a clean, even professional look. Some might have problems with the looks of the long, positionable microphone. It looked a little unusual to me at first, but I think the benefits easily outweigh the small sacrifice in fashion. It does not have support for custom faceplates like some new headsets popular with the pros. The band is thin and rests back on the skull, and therefore will not mess up the player’s hair as much as comparable headsets. This may sound vain, but for those who livestream for long periods of time (like me), it may be important to have a headset that will not excessively mat down your hair. My girlfriend tells me they (the PX3s) make me look like a sexy air-traffic controller:
While the Sony headset makes me look like a Tie Fighter from Star Wars:
Price: The headset retails for $149.95, and has since launch. This may seem like a lot to the uninitiated, but it’s actually reasonable for headsets in the same class. The Sony Wireless Gaming Headset is similar in many ways- wireless, multi-device, charges via mini USB, and close in price range. The Sony headset, however, is only $100, and features 7.1 Dolby surround sound. Neither headset have dropped their price since launch. This is somewhat disappointing, but price drops like this more commonly occur with consoles and software, and less often with hardware that can’t make back money on software sales.
Conclusions: Overall, the headset is a great value. From what I’ve seen (which is limited, and I’m sure many might disagree), it’s the best headset you can get for the money. It has a few flaws, and I think that the price could still be lower, but overall, I find it quite worth the money, and I wish that I had picked one up sooner. The Sony headset manages a lower price point, and I will likely still use it for situations where surround sound is important. However, I find that the high sound quality, wireless range/consistency, and the style/comfort of the Turtle Beach headset make it superior to most, if not all headsets in the same class.
[+Programmable presets] [+Support for most systems] [+Rechargeable using PS3 mini-USB cable] [+Comfortable] [+Stylish] [-No price drop] [-No surround sound] [-Occasional issues connecting] [-Ambiguous Beeping]