Gear to impress your ears
With more and more console games using Dolby Digital sound to deliver louder booms and crisper dialogue, a set of good-quality headphones is a must to deliver the best audio quality.
In an age where wireless is king these days, Tritton's wired headphones seem like a throwback to the days when headphones with big ear cups and long wires ruled the roost.
The AX720s have a long cable, too, plenty long enough to run from your entertainment unit (or wherever your gaming console is located), across the coffee table and to the couch or comfy chair. It plugs into a good-sized transmitting/decoder unit (which requires its own power supply) and comes with a detachable control unit that lets you adjust the individual volume levels for in-game audio and voice.
The AX720s felt great on, too. The earcups are padded nicely, cosseting my ears nicely, with padding thick enough to stop a lot of external noise from leaking in (they're not noise cancelling, though). I liked the additional padding on the underside of the head bracket but they are bulky, and made me feel like I was an airline pilot coming into land.
Set up was easy enough: plug in the receiver to your console (or PC) and a power source, plug in the digital optical audio out cable (if you have your console/PC connected to an audio system) to the receiver then plug in the headphones. And because the headset is wired, you don't have to "pair" it to the receiver. It comes with a removable boom microphone.
You'll have to go into your console's audio settings menu to activate the Dolby 5.1 functionality and, once you're up and running, LEDs on the receiver will let you know whether you're getting Dolby Digital or Pro Logic 5.1 directional audio.
Testing headphones is all about the sound and the AX720s don't disappoint. Playing Rocksteady's Batman Arkham City, a game that features bone-crunching combat and a stirring soundtrack, the headset performed admirably, and unlike some cheaper headsets, the bass didn't dominate and the high and mid-range notes were crystal clear.
At $299, the AX720s aren't cheap, but for sound aficionados who want only the very best for their ears as they screech around a racetrack or assault an enemy base, the AX720s could be just what you're after.
Turtle Beach X42
By comparison, Turtle Beach X42 are wireless, and powered by two AAA batteries (supplied), which means you have to "pair" the headphones with the receiver. It took a few tries to sync with the receiver but eventually the two "talked" and I was under way.
I own a pair of Turtle Beach PX3 headphones and I love them, but they don't do Dolby Digital 5.1 sound which the X42s do, and like the PX3s, Turtle Beach's top-of-the-range X42s are comfortable, with nicely padded earcups and give great sound quality. The volume controls are on the headphones themselves so you can adjust game and chat audio independently, and there is a button to adjust balance of bass and treble. Like the AX720s, it also has a removable boom microphone, and a nice feature is that the headset operates at both the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz wireless frequencies, so avoids any conflict with other wireless devices in your house (such as wireless telephones).
The X42s let you adjust the surround sound angles using a button on the receiver, providing subtle differences in the sound direction, but to be honest, I didn't see the point of this and my ears couldn't really notice the difference in sound positions.
❏ ❏ ❏
Both headsets offer great sound and comfort, but after testing both, I have to give the victory to Tritton's AX720 - but just by a whisker.
Both headsets are exceptionally good, but the AX720s just felt more comfortable, and just pipped the X42s for sound quality. Both are expensive - and the wired Tritton's may put off console gamers who hate cable clutter - but if you're serious about your game audio either would be a worthwhile investment.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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