Name: Turtle Beach Ear Force XP510
Type: 5.1 wireless gaming headset
Specifications: Click here for full specs
Price as reviewed: £249.99
Turtle Beach's new Ear Force XP510 is a beast of a gaming headset, boasting wireless connectivity, Dolby Digital Surround Sound and plenty of preset EQ settings. But does anyone need to rage through a Modern Warfare match in a £250 headset? Read on to find out!
If you're laying down a quarter of a grand on a gaming headset, you're going to want it to be able to do everything but wash the dishes for you. Turtle Beach realise this, and have put together what's possibly the most comprehensive feature set we've ever seen from a gaming headset in the Ear Force XP510.Not counting an array of charging cables and a digital optical cable, the XP510 is comprised of four main components: the over-ear headset, an RF wireless transmitter, a detachable microphone and an XBA Bluetooth adapter that slots into the bottom of your Xbox 360 controller. Though billed as an Xbox 360 accessory primarily, the set will work with a PlayStation 3 too or Bluetooth-enabled PC. A cheaper version without the XBA adapter aimed at PS3 owners is also available.
There's a fair bit of kit here to set up but it's all pretty straightforward, with a choice of either RCA or digital optical audio connection on the back of the transmitter. A USB charging port on the bottom of the headset allows for rechargeable battery-powered dual-band wireless connectivity between it and the transmitter, and pairing the two is a simple matter of holding down the power button on each device for a few seconds. If you're using a PS3 you'll simply need to scroll through your Bluetooth settings menu to pair the headset with the console, but Xbox 360 players will also have to go through a short Bluetooth pairing process between the XBA adapter and the headset itself. Once paired with your device of choice, you won't have to worry about doing it again.You'll even be able to pair the headset with the base unit and a Bluetooth audio player (such as a smartphone or iPod) simultaneously, allowing all manner of combinations between answering calls, in-game chat, game audio and music playback through the headset.
The headset is a little weighty, but is well padded, making lengthy play sessions comfortable. The green and black colour scheme won't be to all tastes, but seeing as it's likely to be only used in the privacy of your gaming den, that shouldn't be too much of a concern. Having said that, its Bluetooth chops and on-board battery make it a viable set of Bluetooth headphones to go with your smartphone.A gaming headset of this price should really enhance your game considerably to be worthwhile, and the XP510 doesn't disappoint. As well as offering virtual 5.1 surround sound (with a good soundstage giving the impression that audio events are occurring all around you), the XP510 comes equipped with all manner of pre-loaded EQ presets on board, which an be navigated with a press of a button found on the left ear can. These include everything from a setting that enhances the sound of enemy footsteps creeping up behind you to a setting that amplifies in game explosions for a more immersive experience. Ten presets are pre-loaded into the XP510, but Turtle Beach's keen community have made tons more that can be uploaded onto the headset using the supplied data cable. For the first time in a Turtle Beach headset, there are also settings optimised for movie and music playback.
Sound quality is superb, with no hiss or interference despite the wireless connection. Bass booms and the ricochet of trebly bullets pierce through appropriately. Dialogue in the mid range comes across clearly (especially noticeable when watching movies on the optimised preset) and the well balanced sound across the frequency ranges makes the XP510 not a bad pair of headphones for music playback either. The simulated 5.1 surround is also pulled off with aplomb - you're able to pinpoint movement happening all around your characters as a result.Which is why perhaps we weren't convinced by the "surround angles" feature, activated by a button press on the transmitter. It's supposed to elongate and widen the "rear" channels of the simulated surround sound, but we couldn't hear any discernible difference with it activated. Thankfully, the standard 5.1 offering onboard does a fine job of enveloping you in game sounds.
The detachable microphone, plugging into a rotating port on the left ear cup, sits on a durable bendy arm, and offers crystal-clear audio pick-up. Directionally tuned, it expertly dampens ambient noises, meaning other players will only ever hear your own dulcet tones through the mic.
That's if you wan't them to hear your own voice, of course: the XP510 offers a range of chat/mic presets too, accessed by another button on the left ear can. Though there's a range of game-aiding settings (like one that ramps up chat voices if in-game volume spikes) we had loads of fun winding up our friends with the voice-masking settings, changing our voice to make it sound Barry-White deep, Tweety-Pie high or into an alien, metallic sound. The high-pitched one is a sure-fire way to get opponents to rage-quit.Perhaps the most useful of all the features of the XP510 is just how much control you have over all the separate audio volume sources. The left can offers separate volume dials for game volume and how much of your own voice you can hear in the headset from the mic, while the right has buttons for controlling the volume of connected Bluetooth devices (including incoming Xbox Live chat), while the transmitter base unit has a separate volume dial for line-in devices. Being able to fine tune them to your in-game needs is really useful - being able to quickly dial down mouthy teammates during a crucial co-op cutscene, for instance, can be a lifesaver.
Battery life is said to be good for between 10 and 15 hours depending on usage, and we'd say that's accurate - we're approaching a solid 12 hours with the headset so far, and haven't reached for the charging cable once, no mean feat considering all that's going on within the headset. Using the headset wirelessly, you'll be able to get between 15 and 20 feet away from the base unit before audio crackles to a halt.Should you run out of battery, the headset can be hooked up directly to a device with a standard 3.5mm cable.
Our one major concern? £249.99 is a hell of a lot of money to be dropping on a gaming peripheral this late in the console cycle, with attentions now turning to next-gen machines. Now there's nothing to say that the XP510 won't work with any eventual Xbox 720 or PS4 console - indeed its optical cabling and Bluetooth connections are industry standards. But there's nothing to say too that the Bluetooth controller attachment will work with future Xbox controllers, for example. Of course, this unit is being sold as a current-gen accessory, so let us make it clear that these are not faults with the device. But considering it's very possible that your PS3 and Xbox 360 may be gathering dust in 6 months time, think long and hard before splashing the cash if you're planning on diving straight into the next-gen.
Though it's expensive, it's hard to find fault with the XP510. Solidly built, offering superb sound quality and incredibly flexible when it comes to fine-tuning the headset to your personal needs, it's a superb addition to the pro-gamer's arsenal.