Gaming and adulthood are a nasty mix sometimes. The freedom of having your own money to spend on games is quickly doused by the realisation you need to pay the bills. Spare time isn’t taken up by homework or parents, but you have a job and social life and dinner parties. And you can stay up all night, every night, if you can stand the entire house screaming at you for defending the earth from alien scum on a weeknight.
Which is why you need a good headset. In my case, preferably a wireless one, as being tethered to one spot is bound to lead to one disaster or another. Unfortunately there isn’t as wide a variety of wireless options as one might think, and those that do exist are often prohibitively expensive.
Turtle Beach now have an option of their own, and one that won’t entirely break your bank. The Ear Force X32 is a wireless headset exclusively designed for the Xbox 360. At first glance these are some reasonably sexy devices, all done up in 360 black and green. Despite looking and feeling very sturdy, they’re also quite light, which is a nice surprise. They’re comfy, too. The X32s have the same cushy earpieces seen on other Turtle Beach products, and they’ve left a lot of room for those of us blessed with a lot of ear. I often have trouble wearing headsets for long periods as my poor, squished ears get sore, but after several hours I felt no need to take these off. It also helps that they’re breathable, removing that annoying problem of hot, sweaty headsets.
The X32 has an auxiliary input jack which allows the user to listen to other audio sources while playing. It means you can connect your mp3 player or sound system to the headset and pipe that in instead of game audio. A tone button messes with the equaliser settings, giving you the option of normal sound, more bass, more treble or more of everything. It will depend on the source, but I found that the normal setting worked just fine for most games. An effects button allows you to mess with various reverb options, if that’s your thing, but it didn’t seem especially valuable.
Setting up the headset is relatively simple, although you still need some cords to make your cordless device do its thing. RCA cables link the included transmitter to your Xbox via component cables, which is an easy thing to do unless you’ve fully upgraded to HDMI. As you may or may not know, it’s impossible with many component cable designs to have them plugged in at the same time as HDMI, meaning you might be forced to downgrade your visuals to get your sound. Once it’s plugged in, you just need to hold the pairing button on the headset and transmitter until they find each other. Easy. Without much trouble you can also connect the headset up to your PS3 or Wii just by switching the cables, although the microphone will only work on the 360.
Sound quality is excellent on the X32. It’s roughly comparable to the wired X12 headsets, which means it’s very clear and balanced. As I mentioned before, the amount you need to fiddle with the tone and effects buttons will vary from game to game, but you’re sure to find a combination that suits. The stereo sound works very well, giving an almost surround sound feeling. There was a constant, but slight, buzzing on the left side while I was testing. It’s most likely just a result of the wireless technology, and it was never bothersome, but it was there.
The only major problem you’re likely to come across with this headset is also connected to the wireless. If you’re in an open space, the transmitter will give you around 10 metres, but that’s only out in the open. In the very likely event that you want to put the box in a cupboard – or anywhere out of sight – you’re going to have a bad time. Without line of sight, the transmitter was constantly dropping out whenever I tried to move my head, pausing to reacquire the signal. Bottom line is that you’ll need to have it out in full view all the time, or learn the patience and stillness of a ninja warrior.
Overall, the Ear Force X32 headset is a sleek beast. It performs just as well as the wired versions for the most part, and most importantly the sound quality is great. Wireless technology is still a little finicky, and some might be put off by the extra cost compared to a wired set, but this is the best you’re going to do for the price. And you can go grab a sandwich whenever you want.