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Review: The Turtle Beach i30 headset doesn't just rock for iOS users

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Turtle Beach Ear Force i30 Wireless headset

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Why should Apple iOS users have all the fun? The Turtle Beach i30 headset may be aimed at that hip demographic, but this rockin’ Bluetooth 4.0 headset rocks just as hard for the rest of us (i.e. Android and general mobile users).

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I was initially put-off when I discovered the i30 was an iOS peripheral—not because I’m an Apple hater (I’m not) but because I don’t own any iOS devices.

But the i30 is not really an iOS exclusive device. It’s just marketed to that ecosystem. The Ear Force i30 is just a Bluetooth headset, and an excellent one at that. And it works just as well on an Android (or any other Bluetooth-capable) device as it presumably does on an iOS device. If you’re an iOS user, you just get the added bonus of an i30 app you can use to interface with it.

But you don’t need the iOS app to enjoy the i30.

Features

The Ear Force i30 is a simple but elegant stereo headset powered by 50mm drivers and backed by both active and passive noise cancellation—drowning out unwanted distractions while you enjoy your music, movies, or that call to mom. The i30 microphone is ‘invisible’, i.e. there is no extending boom mic or the like to get in the way.

A micro-USB charging cable, a 3.5mm adapter cable (for wired use), and an airline adapter for air travel are all included. Also included is a rugged and relatively upscale, suede drawstring travel bag with an extra internal pocket for all the accessories. (The carry bag alone is a marked improvement over those often bundled with portable devices.)

The (non-removable) i30 battery is rated for up to 15 hours of continuous use and it can be charged using the inbcluded micro-USB cable. The ear cups fold a full 90 degrees as well, so you can rest the i30 comfortably around your neck if you like.

Comfort and Design

The i30 is light and comfortable. Its tight design can make your ears warm up quite a bit, especially in warmer conditions, but it was never so tight as to cause discomfort/pain on the top of my head (which is woefully under-cushioned by hair—something the Turtle Beach XP Seven painfully reminded me of).

Controls for the i30 are mounted on the back of both ear cups. On the left ear cup you have the power switch and a mode-switch button for toggling between 4 basic equalizer presets: flat, increased treble, increased bass, and increased treble+bass. A small button below the mode switch button toggles between 4 voice-morphing options: normal, low morph, high morph, and voice reverb.

Voice morphing is an odd feature to include with this class of headset. I can think of others I would find more useful, such as a dedicated button for taking calls (instead of using the Bluetooth button—see below) or even media controls.

The back of the right ear cup holds the Bluetooth button, which is used for pairing the device as well as answering calls and hanging up. The volume up/down buttons and a small mic mute button sit below the Bluetooth button.

One of more innovative features of the i30 is that all of its controls provide voice feedback so you know what you just selected or activated. For example, when you switch to a new equalizer preset, the i30 tells you which one you just activated. Every command is accompanied by voice feedback, so there’s never any guesswork involved with what mode you just activated or whether or not the button you just pressed actually did what you expected it do.

My only quibble here is that I would have appreciated larger, more tactile buttons to make them easier to find and distinguish. They are very small. Regardless, it didn’t take me long to adjust and the learning curve is minimal.

Performance

Shortly after removing the i30 from the box, I paired it with my Galaxy S4 and played a variety of musical selections – classical music, rock, pop, and even some selections from the Portal 2 soundtrack. Although the i30 only has 4 presets (toggled through the control on the back of the left ear cup), I found little use for anything other than the treble + bass boost mode for general music listening.

I’m not an audiophile, but I can say that the i30 delivered satisfying, strong bass and the music and media playback was more than adequate. And after a while—maybe half an hour or more—I realized I’d never spent this much time tuned into my smartphone and enjoying my music this much while just sitting around the house.

I also used my S4 to attend a work meeting via GoToMeeting (a popular web-conferencing app), which worked very well, and watched a variety of short videos. And of course I played a few games.

Suffice to say the i30 performed beautifully. The sound quality paired with the noise cancelation immersed me in my music and my smartphone like never before, and I almost immediately put the i30 on my personal “tech to take on vacation” and “tech to take to E3” list. The Ear Force i30 would be a nearly perfect air-travel companion. It comes with virtually everything you need.

About my only other minor quibble is that I wish the i30 could fold up into a smaller package—but it’s still one of my first picks for a traveling headset. It’s sure to give the Astro A38 a run for its money.

Overall: 5/5 stars

The Turtle Beach Ear Force i30 is an outstanding mobile headset. It carries a pretty hefty price tag at $300, but if you’re a frequent flier looking for a travel-friendly full-coverage mobile headset, the Turtle Beach i30 is a best-in-class device and well-worth a look.

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