Turtle Beach X31 Headset – My Impressions Tom April 12, 2011 Gaming, Tech Reviews, Technology A few months back I started running into problems with the original headset that came with my Xbox 360. The voices coming through the headphone would cut in and out and people couldn’t hear me very well on their end. I replaced that headset with another basic Microsoft headset although I was slightly disappointed when I realized the new one came with the mute/volume controls on the cord instead of mounted right under the controller, but oh well. Fast forward to 2 weeks ago and the new headset wasn’t working correctly. I could hear everyone fine, but nobody could hear me…. I got frustrated. I slammed the headset down on the couch and must have hit just the right spot because it snapped in half. I took some scotch tape and taped it back together and tried it again… of course it worked now, but there were some issues. For some reason now, whenever anyone would talk it would echo back to them. My microphone was picking up everything that was coming through the headphones. It was fine for me, but extremely annoying for my friends due to the fact that everything they said echoed back to them. Needless to say it was time to get a new headset. I went back and forth in my mind on whether or not to just bite the bullet and go with a Turtle Beach model or save some money and just pick up another basic Microsoft one. Ultimately my decision was made by my fiance when she informed me that she’d give me some cash towards the Turtle Beach headset if it meant that she didn’t have to hear the noises from the game all the time. So with my decision made I just had to figure out which model to go with. I kind of wanted wireless, but I wasn’t sure how the audio quality would be. Ultimately the thought of more cords running all over the place turned me off to a corded model and seeing as how I didn’t want to spend a ridiculous amount of money on a headset I went with the $99 Turtle Beach Ear Force X31 Gaming Headset. This model has wireless headphones, meaning there is no cord running from the Xbox 360 itself to the headphones, you still have a cord running from the headphones to the controller. There’s a little RF dongle that plugs into the Xbox 360 via USB and also plugs into the audio RCA plugs coming out of the Xbox. In my setup I run optical out from the Xbox to my receiver, but component to my TV, so all I did was took the Red/White RCA cables from the Turtle Beach dongle and plugged them into the ends of the RCA’s that come off of the component cable and just let them dangle behind the TV. Since I’m using optical for audio the RCA’s were never plugged into the TV and don’t need to be since the dongle is grabbing the audio before it gets to the TV anyways. The only issue with this setup is that my receiver will still pump the audio out through the optical while the RCA’s are sending the audio to the headphones. There’s an easy fix though, just turn the receiver down. So setup was really easy, let’s talk about the quality. First I want to talk about the in-game audio quality then we’ll talk about the xbox live chat quality. For the longest time I ran RCA audio from my Xbox straight to my TV so I never go the full surround sound experience when playing games. Eventually I was informed that I could use an optical cable and get surround sound through my receiver and believe me when I say it was night and day compared to the RCA audio. I honestly don’t know how I even played a game without surround sound in the past. So I had some pretty high expectations with these Turtle Beach headphones because of what people have told me about them, but upon doing my research I was a little disappointed to see that you need to buy a higher up model (or another dongle) to pull simulated 7.1 surround sound through the headphones… When I saw this I immediately thought I was going to go back to the non-surround sound I had used for many years prior, but honestly I was pleasantly surprised. The headset seems to try and simulate surround sound to a degree and it is noticeable when someone is walking behind you, you don’t actually hear them walking behind you, but you can still hear them as if they are right there. The quality of the in-game audio is amazing. Surround sound aside, I was worried the wireless would hinder the audio itself, but it doesn’t seem to affect it at all. It did take some getting used to for me just because I now had all these auditory elements that I hadn’t heard before, it threw off my game for a few matches in Black Ops, but once I got used to it, it was all good. Obviously the headset lets you do Xbox Live Chat as well so I have to touch on that. When I first set it up I was a little disappointed at the voice quality through the headphones. Everything seemed very muffled and hard to hear over the in-game audio. I thought that I was going to have to deal with this forever, but after finding a nice balance between the in-game audio and the voice chat audio, everything sounds pretty good now. Obviously if you have the in-game noise turned way up it’s going to be hard to hear your teammates talking to you so you just need to find that nice balance and everything sounds good. I also noticed that the microphone is super sensitive so I no longer have to have it right in front of my mouth when I’m playing. I always ended up eating the boom on the end of the normal Microsoft headset during intense matches which was extremely annoying. Or the fact that every time I wanted to take a sip of beer or eat something I had to move the mic away… not anymore. I can keep this mic far enough away from my mouth so that I’m not eating the thing and I can eat/drink without having to touch it at all. Good for me, but bad for the people I’m playing with since they can now hear everything I’m eating while playing… oh well. The other nice feature is that when you’re talking to your friends the headset filters your voice through the headphones slightly as well so that you’re not yelling so that you can hear yourself talk. It’s very subtle, but just enough to make you realize the volume of your own voice. So far I’m pretty happy with these things. I’ve only had them for a day, but so far so good. Aside from the fact that I look like an idiot when I’m wearing them, my only other complaint would be the fact that the headset uses AAA batteries. I’ll probably have to pick up a nicer set of rechargeable ones since I’m sure I’ll eat through these things in no time. So if you’re looking for an upgrade to your Microsoft headset and want to hear the game like you’ve never heard it before, Turtle Beach has some nice headsets and I highly recommend giving them a shot. So what are you waiting for, order your Turtle Beach Ear Force X31 Gaming Headset now! Berserk Hippo I’ve had these for over a year. I really like them. Everything you said is spot on. I don’t understand why the new headsets have the volume and mute on the cord. It doesn’t make any sense and I haven’t found anyone who thinks its better and most people find it difficult to mute while playing. Back to the X31s, the only complaint I have is that (at least on the revision I have) the connection of the cable that goes to the controller (for the mic) has a bad connection and comes lose easily. I had to use a rubberband to keep it secure. And yes, they eat through batteries like crazy. I use re-chargeables but I would say when I was playing Black Ops for a couple of hours per day I was replacing the batteries once a week.