Over the years, Turtle Beach Inc. has slowly conquered the space for video game headphones. If you could mark a turning point, it would be the introduction of the groundbreaking Ear Force PX5, which boasts a host of features that includes wireless surround sound and programmable presets. That device set the tone and direction for the company.
Since then, the company has expanded its offerings and signed licensing deals with the likes of Activision Blizzard Inc. for "Call of Duty"-branded headsets. But potentially, its most important partnership may be with Major League Gaming. Players who play competitively online are the ones that care most about sound. It's one of the few ways where a player's gadgets can give an advantage. In "Call of Duty," hearing footsteps behind you over the shots of gunfire can mean the difference between keeping that killstreak alive and dying prematurely.
With that in mind, Turtle Beach has come out with two wired headsets geared toward that group _ the Ear Force Z Seven and the Ear Force PX22. They both offer great sound and boast several features, but don't come cheap.
IT CAN ALMOST DO ANYTHING
Let's take a look at the Ear Force Z Seven, the $279.95 device from the company. As I wrote before, they have an unbelievable sound quality and list of features that would satisfy the most demanding of hard-core gamers. The surround sound is crisp and rich, and the combination of the Audio Control Unit lets players customize the audio any way they see fit. Players can tweak the virtual speakers, increasing the intensity to the ones in the back or the front with the touch of a button via the eight that's available on the unit. It seems as though Turtle Beach thought of everything when making this headset.
And if you want to listen to your own music on your smartphone? Players can do that. Even better, gamers can answer calls in the middle of a gaming session. There's even the ability to change your voice when talking to others or emphasize the chatter of teammates over the game.
IT'S NOT PERFECT
However, the Ear Force Z Seven isn't without its flaws. The headset becomes uncomfortable to wear after long gaming sessions. Even with the adjustable head strap, it starts to feel like a vice after two hours. The soft memory foam cushions can't reduce the stress put on your head.
Furthermore, when it comes to the Audio Control Unit, it can be too easy to touch. Players will have to be careful not to accidentally hit one of the touch-sensitive front buttons. A switch to prevent that would be helpful.
But one of the biggest obstacles the Ear Force Z Seven faces is its complicated setup for anything other than a PC. Console manufacturers are partly to blame for this issue; they make setting up a third-party headset akin to a space shuttle launch, which leads to an unnecessary spaghetti mess of wires. The other issue is build quality. (Note: I reviewed an early model and Turtle Beach has since said the company has fixed the issue.) The review unit of the Z Seven had the right ear cup break down on me. That's unusual for Turtle Beach, which usually makes cans that are durable.
A SOLID SET OF CANS
The other headset, the Ear Force PX22, fares better when it comes to the build quality and comfort. The model is definitely lighter and fits better on the head, allowing long-lasting wear. They also feel sturdier and less bulky than the Z Seven. But at $79.95, expect features that are a step below its bigger sibling.
The most obvious lacking aspect is the sound quality. It doesn't have the deep bass and clarity that the Z Seven has nor does it dampen outside sound as well as other models. Nevertheless, the cans do a solid job enveloping players with audio. Players can hear the general direction _ left or right _ an audio source is coming from. It also reproduces the rich bass of a grenade going off and the staccato rat-tat-tat of machine gunfire nicely.
Included with the headset is a small amplifier. It's easier to set up than the Z Seven, which boasts several different setups and wires. The amp lets players adjust bass and treble as well as listen to music from a smartphone and adjust chat volume levels. Like the Audio Control Unit, plugging it in via the USB slot will automatically sync it to a PC, while players will run into issues plugging it into a console.
As for looks and design, these are headsets that you won't be wearing in public (you could get away with wearing the Z Seven on a train). The audio microphone is attached to the ear cup and not detachable like the Z Seven. It also lacks the removable speaker plates that let users add personality to the device. The Ear Force PX22 headset is essentially like a Honda Civic: It's a solid device that has a few bells and whistles, but its main purpose is to give you good sound, which it does. Meanwhile, the Ear Force Z Seven is like a Transformer.
So are they worth it? These headsets aren't perfect. At nearly $280, the Ear Force Z Seven boasts the features and sound that make it almost worth it, but the comfort and build quality hold it back. For those worried about the ear cups breaking down, Turtle Beach said it has a one-year warranty across all of its products. If you were to use these headsets for more than just gaming and let them be your regular set of cans, then it offers the bang for the buck, especially when you consider the fact that the Audio Control Unit is included and will likely support any other future headsets.
As for the PX22s, they're reliable, comfortable and workmanlike. But at nearly $80, it's probably not the best value. There are other headsets such as the PDP Afterglow line that offer more features at a comparable price. For those competitive gamers and fans of MLG, it's the branding and the comfort factor that may make this headset worth it.