Surround sound at the cost of convenience.
While the name may evoke imagery of cute turtles and soft sunny beaches, for the techie among us, the name Turtle Beach only evokes one picture: kick-ass surround sound gaming headsets. And what a lovely picture that is. Turtle Beach have been at the game for a long time, making a name for themselves by churning out impressive, high quality headsets for the current gen consoles.
Their Ear Force series has been particularly successful, especially the PX 21 headset, which now married (or forcefully packaged – however, you may look at it) with its Ear Force DSS sound processor, has been turned into a holy grail of surround sound of sorts. Or at least that’s what the fancy blood red packaging and the hefty $150 price tag may make you believe.
Right out the box, you will immediately notice that the actual hardware has not been renamed – the PX 21 and the Ear Force DSS still retain their original names despite the box featuring a DPX21 branding. So, it’s literally a mash of the two products with a fancy box attached, but that’s not entirely a bad thing. The PX 21 and the Ear Force DSS would cost you $80 and $90 separately, so that’s a cool $20 off on the bundle package.
This is my first time using the PX 21 and I was surprised how light and toy-like it feels in the hands. It also has a very clumsy styling that almost drowns in the overdose of black gloss and plastic, if not for its silver banding on the ear cups. It’s also quite flexible – it almost pours all over your hands with the ear cups so easy to twist, and the head band expanding as much to fit a giant.
But it oozes solid build quality despite its seeming frailness. It’s just one of those products that, although looks to be made of low quality material, is not and can easily, and has, taken a few beatings while it works to outlast you. And for all its lightness, it’s a great headset for prolonged use, barely burning at the edges after 3 hours, and once I almost forgot I had them on!
The main challenge I, and most users, will face is in installing the headset. It’s not particularly hard but as I found out, it wasn’t as simple as plug-in and go. Much like the Tritton headsets, the Turtle Beach uses a lot (and I mean, really, a lot) of wires to get to the using end of it. First, there is the actual headset with its unnecessarily long 16 foot wire. It ends with a USB and a 3.5mm plugs, both of which must go into DSS processor. A USB wire must then run from the DSS to the PS3 to power it; and an optical cable must run from the DSS to the PS3 to get sound. Suffice to say, once you have the cables setup, it can easily double up as a nest for your pet bird.
With as many wires going to and forth from the console, the headset and the processor, one has to wonder if it’s worth all the hassle. But let me sort that out for you: it is. Once you have it setup, once you have popped in your favorite game, and once you seated yourself in your favorite chair, the Turtle Beach DPX21 will transport you. The incredible thing about the headset is how full and vibrant everything sounds. It’s engulfing, it creates a field of sound around your ears, engrossing you in whatever you are playing, no matter what the quality of entertainment it is.
Then there is virtual 7.1 surround sound. Producing surround sound from a stereo headset is always botchy but the DPX21 duo pulls it off with aplomb. A heated session in COD: Black Ops left me overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things buzzing around my ears. Everything was sharp, crisp, punchy, and the sound positioning was class leading. It has certainly created a benchmark for other headsets at Tbreak.
And the best part about the DPX21 duo is the utilities it gives you to fine tune your listening experience, if ever so little. The headset features an inline controller that allows you to adjust the game and chat volume separately, adjust the bass, turn off the mic, and use a built-in sound ‘expander’ for ‘wider’ stereo performance (this is not recommended). The DSS processor too allows you to adjust volume and bass, and also features an option to force Dolby-esque surround sound with the material (this too, is not recommended).
Turtle Beach DPX21 then is a fantastic bundle that’s well worth its $150 price tag (the headset and the processor can be used separately as well, so that’s an added bonus). However, it demands gamers to ‘accommodate’ it into their setup, which is not many would be willing to do. It gives you fantastic aural experience at the cost of some convenience. If you can live with that, or if you are a single console user, or are a miracle cable manager, the Turtle Beach shouldn’t pose too much of a problem. For others with confined space and tight gaming setup, you might better forget about this.