Turtle Beach Ear Force X4 Review

tacohunter52 - 2009-01-17 17:26:22 in Speakers/Headphones
Category: Speakers/Headphones
Reviewed by: tacohunter52   
Reviewed on: January 25, 2009
Price: $169.99

Introduction:

Headsets are an essential part of every gamer's setup. They allow you to communicate with others, they give you the ability to have your game as loud as you want without disturbing others, and, for some people, they make for a nifty pair of headphones. Because of these essential needs, headsets come in a variety of price ranges for a variety of different purposes.

You can obtain a cheap $20 headset at your local Radio Shack solely for the purpose of minimal usage/minimal quality VOIP in Crysis, or you can order a $100 dollar headset designed for a higher level of gaming experience. Therein lies the question. Are the higher-priced headsets worth it for your needs? Do you really need the 50Hz Frequency Response, the surround sound quality, or even the noise cancellation abilities? The answers to these question will depend on budgets, the product, and most of all, YOU, the gamer.

The EAR FORCE X4 is a little bit different; it is designed for the Xbox 360. However, that is not to say it falls short of great gaming features. Along with the ability to stand more then 30 feet away from your Xbox and still hear the 13 year old boys screaming at you for taking the sniper rifle, you also get over-sized, high-fidelity 50mm speakers that are capable of Dolby 5.1 Channel Surround Sound. Oh yeah, baby! If your computer, or Blu-Ray/DVD player has an optical output, you can use the EAR FORCE X4 as a pair of normal headphones. This may not make these the most attractive headset for someone buying soley for PC use, but it is a great feature if you own an XBOX and like listening to loud music withought disturbing others.

And if you ever get tired of being shouted at by the other players, Turtle Beach was nice enough to include the ability to adjust game and chat volumes separately. Now when you get shouted at you can turn THEM down and the GAME up. You also have the great option to hook these up to your home entertainment system. This way you can watch The Matrix turned as loud as it will go with the Bass Boost on and no complaints from those you live with. But is all of this worth the $200 dollar price tag? Is the EAR FORCE X4 really that much better than the included Microsoft Headset. Let's find out.

 

Closer Look:

The package came in an ordinary brown box with the Turtle Beach logo and website on it. The box inside the box is wrapped in plastic. Through that protective wrap you can see the headset, the transmitter, and a few specifications of the EAR FORCE X4 (I love writing that! It has a zing to it).

 

 

 

 

 

After taking it out of the plastic, you can get a clearer picture of the box. On the back is the EAR FORCE X4 logo, as well as some pictures on how it hooks up to your Xbox. At the top right there is another logo that says "LATE NIGHT GAMING", meaning you can play your games at night with as much noise, chaos and world destruction as you want without being arrested by your neighbors for disturbing their peace and quiet. Under that you can see a few more specifications, as well as a quick description of how comfortable the headset is.

 

 

Turtle Beach did not waste any space on the box. On the right they offer a few sentences of how much better the Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound makes the headset, as well as how you live in your game world without being disturbed or disturbing any one else. The opposite side features a diagram of both the headset and the transmitter. The bottom of the box goes on to list the package contents, a full list of specifications, the system requirements, and the copyright agreement.

 

 

 

 

 

Pulling the headset out revealed two fold open side doors that both read "Play Like a Pro." You can also see some of the package contents in the back.

 

 

Taking out the headset revealed all its contents. A power adapter for the transmitter, an Xbox Controller Cable, a Digital Optical Cable, a pair of AAA Batteries, a user guide, a mini brochure, and a sticker uniquely/oddly proclaiming, “All Your Ears Are Belong To Us.” And no.., that is not a typo on my part and you are not going crazy. It actually reads, “All Your Ears Are Belong To Us.”

 

Closer Look:

Both of what I am going to refer to as the “sides” of the transmitter have the Turtle Beach logo, and one also has the Dolby Surround Sound logo. The front of the transmitter has a power indicator (a digital indicator showing whether or not the digital input is being used), an infrared emitter allowing you to go more than 30 feet away from your Xbox/entertainment system (not that you'd want to do this), Dolby Digital and Dolby PLII indicating when Dolby processing is active, and a bypass switch that allows you to hear unprocessed audio. On the back of the transmitter, you are given optical input connections, a digital pass-thru so you can use your headset on your home theater system, stereo inputs that enable the headset to be used for listening to T.V. (too cool), and an AC power adapter input so you can get, well, power.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As for the headset itself, you are rewarded with large, velvety, plush cushions for maximum comfort with minimum weight. It's easy to forget you are wearing them! You can also remove the microphone, which is nice if you want to watch a movie and not feel or look silly doing it. On both sides of the headset ,and just under the headband, there are two infrared receivers. On the left ear pad there is a LED indicator for power, as well as a volume control and a Bass Boost switch. On the right ear is the battery chamber.

 

 

 

Installation:

 

Because this headset was built for the Xbox, I figured that the installation would be very easy...and it was. In fact, I can't really explain it any better than this picture provided by Turtle Beach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You plug the transmitter into your wall outlet, then plug the optical cable into the transmitter and your Xbox. One major downside of this is that the digital input on the Xbox is located on the component cable. This means you will not be able to use an HDMI cable while using these headphones. This, however, has nothing to do with Turtle Beach. Rather, it is a function of Microsoft's poor slot placement. As for using the chat feature, you will need to plug the headset into your Xbox controller.

 

Configuration:

The only thing you may need to configure is if you are using an HDMI cable. The component cable blocks the slot. This is not too much of a downside, but stops you from using a HDMI cable at the same time as the headset; engineering oversight perhaps?

 

Specifications:

 

X4 Wireless Headphones

50mm neodymium speakers
IR FM reception
Speaker Frequency Response:
20Hx—20Hz,>120dB SPL @ 1k Hz
Condenser Microphone 50Hz – 15kHz
Headphone Amplifier: Stereo DC-coupled, 35mW per channel
THD <1%, DC – 30kHz
Bass Boost: +9dB @20Hz – 150Hz
Chat Boost Expander provides +10dB boost @ max game volume
Audio mute when out of range
Quad IR sensors provide 360 degree reception range
Operates on dual AAA batteries
Automatic battery power shut down
Approximate battery life > 20 hours of continuous use with alkaline cells
Weight: 9.5 Oz (270g)

X4 Wireless Transmitter

IR FM transmission
IR range > 30 feet.
Automatic Gain Control (AGC).
Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz
Optical TOSLINK digital audio input
Optical TOSLINK output for pass-through of digital input stream.
150MIPS Digital Signal Processor for
Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic 2 and
Dolby Headphones processing
Analog input level adjustable up to maximum setting: 2V pp (700mV rms)
Weight: 8.4 Oz (240g)
Power adapter: 9VDC @360mA
(100VAC – 240VAC)

Courtesy of turtlebeach.com

 

Features:

Headset

Large, deep, velvet ear cushions (+)
Over sized, high-fidelity 50mm speakers (+)
Removable microphone
Soft, cushioned head band (+)
Dual, high-sensitivity infrared receivers (+)
LED power indicator
Power switch and game volume control
Bass Boost switch (+)
Mute switch
Adjustable chat and game levels (+)
Wireless (+)

X4 Transmitter

Digital indicator shows if the digital input source is active
Infrared emitter capable of a 30ft range
Dolby Digital and Dolby PL2 indicators
Bypass switch (not really a + but not a – either because this allows you to watch T.V. the way it was recorded)
Headphone stand
Optical input (- only because it hinders your ability to use HDMI, but this is due to the Xbox, not the headset)
Stereo inputs (+)

 

 

Information courtesy of Turtle Beach @ http://www.turtlebeach.com/products/efx4/home.aspx

Testing:

ALL YOUR EARS ARE BELONG TO US: Can this $170 headset perform up to its price tag? I will be testing the headset's capabilities to use chat while in a game at different volume levels. I will then test the headset with different types of music, as well as watch a movie. One thing is for sure, during ALL this testing, this headset is comfy. I wasn't quite sure with what to compare these performance aspects because they are made for the Xbox 360. Because the microphone will only work with an Xbox controller these will not work as a headset on a PC, but you can still use them as normal headphones. This product obviously dominates a normal Xbox headset in every way and has features you wouldn't have dreamed a Xbox headset could include.

Setup:

 

GAME:

Halo 3

This game deserves an award for the amount of people who play and shout at you when you grab the sniper rifle. Because of this trait, Halo is the perfect game to test the headset's chat function.

Sound:

The sound quality of this headset is amazing! You can hear everything ranging from the crackling explosion of gunshots to the subtly quiet things you never noticed before, like the footsteps of an opponent sneaking up behind you. There was some static whenever the game got quiet, but this wasn't a major problem. As soon as there is any relevant audio, the static is unnoticeable.

Chat:

I was disappointed; nothing major, but a bit disappointing. The chat is, without a doubt, way better then the original Xbox headset. However, it will sometimes detect the noise coming from your headphones. This of course happens with the normal Xbox headset much more often.

Another feature that wasn't working well was the ability to hear my own voice when the volume is turned all the way up. What can I say, I like my games LOUD! It works perfectly fine in the midrange volume levels, but as soon as you put the volume up all the way, you're having to shout to hear yourself. Needless to say, those around you who are not playing the game will think you have completely lost your mind.

That being said, Turtle Beach did an awesome job with the Chat Boost. You can have your sound as high as it will go and the chat will get louder without you doing anything. But wait, there's more! What if you get stuck in some grenade explosions right when someone tells you a secret?!? No problem! I was actually surprised at how well the EAR FORCE X4 was able to disntinguish loud sounds and raise chat volume levels accordingly (very, VERY COOL). Once again, I have to comment on the Dolby Surround Sound because it sounds like your teammates are actually right there! It's weird because even if the games deafeningly loud you can still hear them. It's like they are really there, which increases your overall immersement in whatever world you are currently playing in. This feature is definitely a PLUS.

Another plus is how well the microphone worked. You can have it all the way to the left side and people will still be able to hear your voice; great for being able to stuff your face while continuing to play. Not only that, but when it is that far away from your mouth, it still does a decent job of only detecting your voice.

MUSIC:

I used this headset (without the microphone, of course) to listen to a variety of music on Both the XBOX and PC. Although there was no noticable difference in sound between the two, all I can say is WOW! The sound quality with this headset rivals a complete Surround Sound system, and the Bass Boost only makes it greater. Listening to classical music made me feel like I was IN the orchestra, and you could clearly distinguish the nuance of every instrument. I then went on to listen to some rap, hip-hop, rock, pop, and metal; ALL sounding way better than on any headphones I've ever used. I got so into the quality of sound, it made me forget how much I actually loathed some of the tracks I was sampling. You could crank the volume all the way and the person next to you would only slightly here the bass. Turtle Beach definitely did something right with the sound quality. I even got curious enough to try the bypass switch to see what it would sound like without the Dolby processing; oops, not so good. But even then it sounded about as good as it gets with any other pair of lesser headphones.

MOVIE:

The Matrix:

Come on, you know you love it, and oh yes, with this headset you will love it even more. The sound quality is so superb you feel like you are in a movie theater. You will even hear subtle things you never noticed before; for instance the scene just before Neo gets in the car while it is raining (the one where he gets “the bug” taken out of his gut), you can actually hear a few footsteps approaching him. The only downside is that if there are any silent portions in your movie, just like in your games, you will hear some static. Nothing big, and it is certainly not irritating, but it is there, so it's worth mentioning.

Comfort:

A+, enough said. You will be hard pressed to find another headset as comfortable as this one. A combination of how light it is and the cushion on the headband make it feel like you're not wearing a headset at all. The velvet cushions on the ear pads are extremely “cushy” and do not hurt your ears like other larger headsets can do. However, it does get a little warm, so if you're prone to sweating, I'd pick up some of their replacement pads. They are removable, and this is probably why.

 

Conclusion:

All our ears definitely do belong to the EAR FORCE X4. This is an amazing headset! Turtle Beach did a great job of creating virtual surround sound. The fact that it's wireless just makes things even better. Of course there are some cons, but it's the pros that win out here! This headset provides epic game sound, much better Chat, and the surround sound will just blow you away. In fact, just listening to the opening sound when you turn on your Xbox will make you a raving fan of EAR FORCE X4. When Turtle Beach said the headset was capable of Dolby 5.1 sorround sound, they meant it. When you put the headset on, you wonder how did they cram a whole stereo system in these things. The wireless is great, albeit not completely wireless; when you use the microphone, it will be connected to your XBOX controller. If you're up late and don't want to put the game away, NO PROBLEM. The EAR FORCE X4 has the abilities to both cancel noise coming in and block noise going out. In other words, you can play as loud as you want with the Bass Boost on and not disturb anyone.

However, if you are up late with the headset volume turned up high, don't be surprised to find yourself shouting above your headphones. The good news is you won't be able to hear your neighbors shouting back at you because you woke them up at three in the morning in your heightened state of excitement. This, as well as the fact that you will not be able to use HDMI at the same time, are my only two serious cons. In fact, if you own an Xbox 360 Elite, the HDMI cable is slightly farther away from the component cable and will fit in perfectly with the original cable. Or you could just rip apart your component cable like I did and make them fit.

If you're planning on pulling an all-nighter, the headset is extremely comfortable and wont hurt your ears even after long hours of gaming! And don't worry about leaving your game for eating, because you have a 30 foot range with which to work. So as long as your fridge and microwave are within that perimeter, you can have a meal and still play your game. The chat boost may not increase the chat volume over the sounds of your chewing, but you can always increase chat volume manually if need be. If it is an in-game noise, however, every bit of your conversation would be crystal clear.

If you're looking for some great sound quality for your Xbox and you can afford it, I'd drop the money on these any day. You don't even need an Xbox to own a set of these babies. You can hook em up to your DVD/Blu-Ray player and watch your favorite movies in peace. Even better, if your sound card has an optical output, these make for pretty sweet headphones on the PC as well.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: