A good headset won’t make you a better gamer, but it sure can make gaming better. So is the Turtle Beach XP Seven ‘pro’ gaming headset good enough to justify its $279 price tag?
With its rich feature set, and the ability to connect to virtually anything, excellent audio and a wealth of customization options, the XP Seven may well be—for pros and mere mortals alike.
The XP Seven consists of a trio of devices and sports more cables and connectors than any headset I’ve ever reviewed. The three main devices are the headset itself, the ACU (Audio Control Unit), and the Console Interface.
The headset is powered by twin 40mm drivers, and sports a detachable, ultra-flexible microphone. The ear cups and head band are lined with soft leather and provide a very snug but fairly uncomfortable fit—the headband could use a tad more cushioning in my opinion, but I also don’t have a lot of hair to help with the padding.
The XP Seven’s snug fit does an excellent job of cutting out external noise—possibly the best external noise suppression of any headset I’ve ever used. This was “scientifically measured” by measuring how much I pissed off my wife when I wore it and couldn’t hear anything outside of my games. I think the XP Seven now holds the record on the wife pissedometer.
The Console Interface is a small hub where you can connect various things. Most PC users probably won’t need the Console Interface device (it’s mainly for, uh, console gamers). However, I used it in my own setup as an optical pass through from a DVD/5.1 receiver. Suffice to say my configuration is a bit messy in the cabling department.
And finally—the piece de resistance—the Audio Control Unit. It looks like a super-sized inline controller but it does much, much more than adjust the volume and mute the microphone. The ACU is the ‘brains’ (audio processor) of the whole operation; I’ll circle back to it shortly because it does so many different things it needs a whole section unto itself.
Rounding out this impressive assortment of goodies and accessories are some Turtle Beach stickers (Sorry TB, you’re not getting those back), a detachable microphone, and replaceable outer ear covers so you can swap them out with something more colorful (sold separately, and not available as of this writing).
And finally, the XPSeven includes pretty much every cable you could possibly need:
- 9-pin PC speaker cable
- Breakaway cable for the headset
- Mobile adapter cable
- Optical Cable
- USB cable for the Console Interface
- 3.5mm 4-pole auxiliary cable
- Audio control extender cables
- Xbox 360 Chat cable
Meet the ACU—the brains behind the audio
The Audio Control Unit is the XP Seven’s nerve center. It enables you to control and configure the XP seven with no need for any additional software drivers. Normally this might be a limiting factor, but not so much with the XP Seven.
The ACU is an impressive feature and function-laden beast—it does so many different things it’s difficult to cover them all. Thankfully, despite its powerful features, learning to use it isn’t too difficult. There’s a slight learning curve if only because the ACU can do so much it will take you a little time to remember it all.
Here’s a brief rundown of some of the ACU’s highlights:
First, the ACU features a nice large master volume knob that also mutes audio when you press it—which in turn changes the LED ring around the knob from white to red. There are also separate, small roller-style volume controls for your microphone and your mobile phone (if you connect one).
The rest of the controls on the ACU are handled through an array of capacitive-touch buttons.
For example, press the Main button on the bottom of the controller, and then press one of the number buttons to switch to any of 8 different audio presets (Flat, Max Treble, Max Bass, etc.). Similarly, you can press the Chat button and then press a number to select any of 8 Chat presets, which includes 5 chat audio settings and 3 voice morph options (high, low, and robot).
One of the cool built-in features of the XP Seven is the ability to dynamically adjust the chat volume in relation to your game’s audio—so if the game gets louder, the ACU compensates by turning up the chat volume so you can still hear your buddies.
Additional touch controls enable you to turn the Dolby Prologic sound on or off and switch speaker modes between surround and stereo. More importantly, you can use some touch buttons in conjunction with the volume control knob and adjust the (virtual) angle and discrete volume levels for the XP Seven’s (virtual) surround sound speakers.
On top of it all, you can connect the ACU to virtually anything—including the headset itself, your mobile phone, and Stereo PC speakers—all at the same time if you’re so inclined. The ACU even has an industrial strength belt clip.
So how does it sound?
Pretty awesome I'd say, although audio quality is always a very subjective judgment. I certainly can’t say I found anything to complain about with the XP Seven. Cranked to maximum volume it maintained solid audio quality (no distortion, crackling, etc.). The virtual surround sound worked as well or better than any other surround headset I’ve ever used with default settings. I’m still tinkering a bit with speaker angles to see if it makes a difference in Left 4 Dead 2.
I even put the XP Seven through a “test” I don’t normally do: I took the XPSeven on a 5-hour flight, where I used it to drown out the ambient, noisy din of air travel and enjoy my movies and music in peace. And even for a headset not necessarily designed for travel, the XP Seven survived the trip through the airport, security, and returned home in tact—probably a good thing because Turtle Beach is probably wondering where they are right now…
I can wholeheartedly and sincerely say that I love the Turtle Beach XP Seven and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them. The high price ($279) might be hard for some to swallow, but they’re worth every penny, and (even despite the large number of cables and connectors) I would even replace my long-prized Logitech G930 wireless headset with the XP Seven—if I didn’t have to send them back anyway. These might just have to get “lost in the mail” on their way back to TB.