Turtle Beach Earforce XP500 Review
A good gaming headset can be a tricky thing to find. There are so many different options and choices, and it can take hours of searching online to find one that is going to fit all of your needs. For myself; I wanted a good quality headset that would be primarily for my PC, but also work with a PS3 and an Xbox360, preferably wirelessly, and do chat on all three platforms. After buying and returning a few terrible headsets, I managed to find the Turtle Beach Earforce XP500. If your looking for a headset to do everything, and you have a lot of money to spend, this set may be perfect for you.
When you look at the website for the XP500, the specifications include almost everything you could ever want in a headset. This had me a bit worried, because usually when a product tries to do everything, it ends up doing none of it well. On the other hand I have had good experiences with Turtle Beach before, and this is the only headset that I could find that did not require me to sacrifice one of the key features I was looking for, so I went for it.
At their core, the XP500s are like most other wireless headsets. You connect the base to your audio equipment through either stereo RCA plugs or optical, as well as a power source. In order to hookup my computer and both game consoles, I run all three into an optical switch, which allows me to switch between them without having to unplug any wires. The base transmits the sound to the headset using 2.4 GHz radio frequency. Unfortunately, like other wireless headsets, that make them prone to interference with other wireless devices, like your router. I usually plug everything in to my router, and the ability to walk around wearing the headset is more important than the risk of occasional static.
One of the best features of the XP500s is surround sound. Now keep in mind, all though they are advertised as 5.1 and 7.1 capable, it is not the same as regular surround sound. Each ear-cup contains only two speakers, one for audio and one for chat. They have what is called simulated surround, which only needs one speaker on each side to achieve a surround sound effect. If you are like me, you probably think that sounds fishy. So the first thing I did when I hooked them up is load up Dead Space 2, a game known for its ambient noise. I found an area where it is very quiet, and the only source of sound is a monitor that is playing scary sounds, and I spun around slowly with my eyes closed. To my surprise, I could always tell exactly where the sound was coming from. Whatever technology or pixie dust that they use to achieve this effect is very impressive.
The biggest concern I had while looking for my perfect headset was finding one that could do chat on all three gaming platforms, because they all use different connections for the headset. Some of the headsets I bought before the XP500s had complicated wiring systems with adapters and switch boxes to overcome this problem. The downside is that it would take 5 minutes to switch from chat on your Xbox, to chat on your PC, and all of those wires defeated the purpose of the wireless headset. What solution did Turtle Beach come up with?
Bluetooth is a wonderful technology. The PS3 already has the ability to hookup a bluetooth headset for chat. The Xbox is a bit trickier, so the headset comes with a small bluetooth adapter that plugs into your Xbox controller, and pairs to the headset for chat. As for the PC, if your computer didn’t come bluetooth ready (it probably didn’t), you can buy a USB bluetooth dongle online for less than 20 dollars. Or, if you have an xbox controller that can be used on your computer, you can use the same dongle that comes with the headset for your computer. All of these connections are simple, easy to switch between, and most importantly, they are all totally wireless.
An added benefit of the XP500s being bluetooth capable is that they work for things other than in game chat. Pairing them to your cell phone will allow you to make and receive calls while you are gaming. Ever wanted to listen to some music or a podcast while you are playing a game? If you have it on your phone or other bluetooth capable device you can listen to the game and the music on the same headset, and they even have separate volume controls so that you don’t miss anything important in the game.
The only real down side to this headset is that it is not rechargeable. Some other wireless headsets can use rechargeable batteries and they will charge up the headset while it sits in the dock. Having used headsets like that, I will say that getting the headset to sit correctly in the dock is usually a huge pain, but it is preferable to having to go through batteries all of the time. The easiest solution is to pick up some rechargeable batteries that have their own charger. 6 AAA batteries will allow you to use one set, while the other set is charging, and then swap them when they die. This is not the optimal situation, but it is certainly not a deal breaker.
I hafta say, there is no other piece of equipment that will give you more of an edge in a shooter than a surround sound headset. Being able to hear the direction that your enemy is coming from is invaluable. With all of these other features, the XP500 really stands out as one of the most versatile headsets I have come across, but you will pay for it. This headset is not for everyone because they are super expensive. If you only play on one platform, then there are alternatives that will cost a fraction of the price and serve you just as well. With so many options out there, you should be able to find a headset that does only what you are looking for, and not have to pay so much for it. But if you are like me, and you want a headset that can do everything, then the XP500 might be exactly what you are looking for.