The name Turtle Beach is quickly becoming synonymous with high-end gaming headsets. It is a market that really didn’t exist a few years ago, and now it is growing by leaps and bounds — so much so that it’s no longer enough to simply release a headset that channels the sounds of the game you are playing, the headset needs something more. And that is where Turtle Beach comes in.
At $139, you may not think that the Earforce PX3 Programmable Wireless Gaming Headset is a value buy, but for what you get, it definitely is. You get a rechargeable battery (a first for Turtle Beach) that runs up to 10 hours, multiple pre-set channels and more available online, and a comfortable fit that offers great sound as well as noise-cancellation, which is fairly incredible for only $139. There are a few sacrifices made, like the loss of Dolby Digital 7.1, but for a gamer looking to spend under $200, the PX3 may be the best gaming headset made today.
Out of the box
The packaging of the PX3 is attractive, and shows you what you are getting, but more importantly it comes with everything you might need. Included with the headset is a charging cable, a talkback cable (for Xbox 360 chat), the PX3 transmitter, a transmitter USB cable, an RCA audio cable with piggyback connectors, an instruction manual, and a list of preprogrammed audio presets. When you first fire up the headset, you can surf through 18 preset options, or you can head online to download more — unless of course you feel comfortable mixing your own, in which case you can indulge yourself on the Turtle Beach website. All in all, the headset comes with everything you will need.
Features and design
The PX3 headset is designed to work on Mac, PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. That actually makes setup incredibly easy, and you can switch between systems by flipping a switch on the transmitter box. But with simplicity comes the only real negative to the PX3: They don’t support Dolby Digital 7.1 surround sound, but rather, standard stereo.
The PX3 is not quite the souped up hot-rod that its cousin, the PX5 is, but the PX3 do an incredible job of hiding the differences (at a much lower price point). The omission of surround sound is felt more keenly while watching a movie than it is during a game, mainly thanks to the presets, which amplify particular sounds. The results are that the loss of surround processing is negligible while playing games. For those who are troubled by the loss, you can buy an additional surround sound processor, which will run you $80 or so. It drastically balloons the price, but still keeps the total cost under that of many comparable headsets.
Setting up the PX3 is a simple matter. Included with the headset is an RCA cable with piggyback connectors. To connect the headset, you simply plug the RCA cables coming from the system into the female part of the piggyback plugs, then plug the male ends back into the TV. If you are using an HDMI connection, you will need to use a separate A/V breakout adapter in order to tap analog audio, but you can do so with only the audio cables connected and still use the HDMI for video. The transmitter then needs to be plugged into an open USB port for power, and you’re set. From there, synching the headset is simply a matter of holding down the power button as well as a button on the transmitter. The entire setup process can be done in a matter of minutes.
The headset itself is sturdy and comfortable. Built mostly with plastic, it has a hefty feel, but is not especially heavy. A padded headband offers support, and the design of the set is curved to fit more comfortably over your head. Each ear-cup also has a limited range of motion below the adjustable arms to make for a better fit. The color scheme is a simple and classy black, silver and red, including the plush black ear cups, that offer plenty of padding. Even after hours and hours of use, they remain comfortable and lightweight enough to avoid irritating you.
The ear cups are circumaural, meaning they cover the entire ear, which leads to some incredible noise cancelling. That technology cuts both ways, so while you can be in the middle of a digital gun fight, the person sitting next to you would barely hear a peep. The headset comes with two separate volume controls: a wheel for the game volume, and buttons for the chat volume. An sliding power switch for the mic rests between them, next to the USB charge input — which brings us to one of the best features of the PX3: the rechargeable battery.
The PX3 is the first headset from Turtle Beach that offers a rechargeable battery. With a full charge, the headset can run a good 10 hours, maybe a bit more depending on how much you use the mic. Out of the box it will be ready to go for a short while — enough to run it through its paces — but it will need a bit of time to charge. Thankfully the charging time is short, and if you decide to charge it off a nearby computer, the cord is long enough that you can easily have it plugged in and charging while still using it.
The mic is also worth mentioning. You can swivel it all the way up and out of the way, and the bendable arm means you can adjust it as close or far from your mouth as you need for the volume of your own voice. If you are trying to keep quiet, you can put it next to your lips and almost whisper, and the mic will pick it up.
The headset also features “Dynamic Chat Boost,” which automatically increases the chat volume when the game volume gets louder — mercifully, it will also limit the sound of loud noises to avoid deafening you.
But if the cheerful sounds of explosions and such aren’t your thing, you can always listen to music instead, as the PX3 does feature auxiliary input. You might lose a bit of your edge by cancelling out the game sounds, but there is something to be said for playing to your own soundtrack. The sounds of Call of Duty are well crafted, but they can’t touch the classic Joe Esposito song from the original Karate Kid, “You’re the Best Around,” as a source of motivation.
When connected to the PS3, the mic will work wirelessly via Bluetooth, you simply need to go into the PS3’s settings and have the console accept the headset as an accessory. For the Xbox 360, you will need to plug a cable into the headset then into a controller for voice chat, but that is due to the Xbox’s design, not a limitation of the headset. Besides, it is as unobtrusive as it can possibly be.
Despite the lack of Dolby surround support, the sound on the PX3 headset is nothing short of extraordinary. These headsets are designed for gaming in particular. Because of that, the bass may seem a bit light at times, but the overall sound more than makes up for it. If you want to, you could more or less deafen yourself with the PX3s, and only people nearby would know. There is only so much the noise cancelling can hide though, and the PX3 get loud enough that they can be heard even with the dampening technology. In other words, they can get very loud.
The audio presets are what hardcore gamers should really have their proverbial eyes on though. Each preset is designed for gamers, by gamers. Each of the 18 preprogrammed presets offer a very specific function. A few of them are good for music or general sound, but the real beauty of the presets is when you are in the middle of a heated game, and you use them to give you a tactical advantage. There are presets that allow you to hear footsteps more clearly, focus in on sounds like an enemy reloading, hear opponents coming at you in a small structure with an echo, and many more. And it is not just for competitive games either. Although the preloaded presets favor games like Call of Duty, there are presets for games that have heavy engine noises like a driving title, for example.
The PX3 offers a distinct advantage to competitive gaming. And if you can’t find a preset that suits you, you can go online for more. The creation of an audio preset is no easy task. Anyone can do it, but the best results come from hardcore audiophiles. Generally, once someone creates a new preset though, you can download it to your PX3. You can even request particular sound filters, but it will be up to someone in the community to create.
Using the PX3 as a communication tool is also a highlight, as the mic is incredibly clear, and cancels out most ambient sound. When speaking into the mic, you can also hear yourself, which prevents you from yelling into the it. The multiple volume controls also help, as you can adjust your teammates’ volume to match the game or stand above it. The sound quality of incoming voices is also as good as you will get.
One minor stumbling point on the sound is when there is silence. If there is a slight background noise — maybe a muted soundtrack or even the sound of wind — you won’t notice a thing, and the PX3 picks up everything. But when it goes silent, the headset goes totally mute until there is even a bit of sound, which causes a brief distortion as the headset begins to pick up sounds again. It sounds like the headset is turninng itself on and off, which it very well may be to save power. This is a minor complaint, and a rare one that is far more common in movies than games or music, but it can be distracting.
The range of the signal to the PX3 will vary by house, but we were able to receive an intermittent (and admittedly static-filled) signal from at least 75 feet away and a floor down. It should have more than enough range for any house.
Overall the sound quality on games was exceptional, and that mostly translated to music as well. The bass was solid, and the trebles high (but not overpoweringly so) and the volume doesn’t go so high that the sound begins to crack. They may seem a bit underpowered because of that, but they are not. The range of sound is truly impressive, and by experimenting with the presets you can truly hear an incredible range of sounds that most won’t even know exist until they hear them separated and amplified.
The biggest knock on the PX3s are that they don’t natively support surround sound. But after using them for a bit, you probably won’t even notice. Besides, you can always buy an additional processor if it is really an issue, but it won’t be for most, especially not gamers.
When it comes down to it, the price point might seem a bit high for those that have never bought high end headsets for gaming, but for what you get, $139 is an absolute steal. The sound output is incredible, the headset is comfortable, the mic is crystal clear, and the presets will give you an advantage once you learn how to flip between them.
The negatives to the PX3 are quickly forgotten, as the positives drastically outweigh them. For anyone looking for a gaming set that will give you top dollar quality but won’t break your bank, it really doesn’t get much better than Turtle Beach’s Earforce PX3 Programmable Wireless Gaming Headset.
- Programmable presets
- Works on Mac, PC, PS3, and Xbox 360
- Rechargeable battery
- Reasonable price
- Stereo Surround instead of Dobly Digital
- Slight distortion when going from silent to sound