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Headphone review: Turtle Beach Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Ear Force Sentinel Task Force


22:5816/12/2014Posted by Chris BraithwaiteNo Comments

Increasingly, many gamers use headphones rather than TV speakers or expensive surround sound setups for their gaming audio. Turtle Beach are pretty much dominant in this market, and D+PAD put a set of their brand new Call of Duty branded line through their paces.

    Look

Honestly, these headphones look pretty average. They won’t be mistaken for a pair of decent on-ear headphones that you see folks walking down the street in, and that’s even if you ignore the gaudy Call of Duty branding on each of the ear pieces. That being said, they do go pretty nicely with their intended companion, with the two-tone black styling matching that of the PS4 pretty tightly. The Call of Duty branding certainly detracts a little from this classy look, but I guess if you cared enough about that, you could find a way to remove it. The headphones don’t look out of place next to a PS4, and that’s pretty much all you need to ask for. Honestly, you’re wearing them to sit at home and play games – do you care too much about what they look like?

    Setup

Setup is pretty much a dream. Connect the headphone wire to the one of the two holes on the headphones. Stick the mic into the other. Stick the USB into the PS4, and set the PS4 to output sound to headphones and you’re done. It’s that simple, and the PS4 will recall your settings, so if you happen to remove the headphones, next time you plug them in it will switch right back to outputting to the headphones. If you can set up a TV and PS4, I don’t think you’ve much to worry about with setting these up. The in-line control has extremely simple controls for volume, bass and mic muting. The only thing you could ask for is that the volume and bass controls had indicators of what sort of volume level you are at.

    Feel

The feel of the headphones is something of a mixed bag. The earpads and additional cushioning on the headband help to make them absolutely fine to slip on, and the adjustable headband should allow them to fit onto pretty much any head without any issues. The wire connecting to the console is nice and long, so even if you habitually sit a good distance away from the TV, you shouldn’t have any issues with discomfort caused by a tight cable. A minor niggle is that the in-line volume control is more than a metre down the wire, so grabbing it is usually involves dragging the cable towards you, which is a bit of an annoyance. The bigger niggle is that after a while they just become a little uncomfortable. Nothing enough to make you stop playing, but also not so comfortable that you don’t feel the need to take a break for a few minutes every hour or so. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

    Sound

I guess this is actually the part of the review that matters. Looking acceptable, being easy to use and comfortable to wear are all nice, but if the headphones sound worse than TV speakers, there’s no point in shelling out. So how do they sound? Honestly, pretty much as you’d expect. The relatively bold claim of surround sound through two ears is pretty much dead on, although you do have to be listening for it, to be honest. In Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, you’ll sometimes hear enemies shooting you in the back (all too often for me), but if you’re not really tuned it as often as not you might get the feeling they are off to your left or right. Both in games and in films the headphones do a good job of separating dialogue from background noise, which is a testament to their surround sound nature. The bass control is particularly handy in case things ever get overwhelming.

The headphones do also highlight poor sound design in games. The crowd noises in FIFA 15 which sound at least like a vague approximation of atmosphere through a legitimate surround sound setup sound dreary and monotonous through the speakers. Thief isn’t a game noted for good sound design (the opposite, in fact), and the headphones just highlight even more the inability of the designers to be aware that the distance from which a sound originates might have an effect on the volume you hear.

    Price and conclusion

The headphones retail for pretty much 80 quid, regardless of where you buy from. For comparison, that’s about 120 quid less than you’d pay for even the lowest quality surround sound setup, but obviously 80 quid more than your current TV speakers. From my brief period with them, they seem pretty hard-wearing, and given that they are wired via a USB, the most easily damageable part (the power) is also the most easily replaceable, so they should have a pretty decent lifespan. As the mic is a plug-in that should also be fairly easily replaceable if anything went wrong. Given the current stage in the console life-span for the PS4, your 80 quid seems like it has a chance to be a pretty cheap and fairly long-term investment. Sure, they might not be the best on the market, and advances in technology will only make that more the case. But for what is less than the cost of two new games, you could upgrade your solo gaming and movie watching for the next 8-10 years. That’s a pretty compelling argument.

To be honest, the headphones provide pretty much exactly what I expected. The sound is far and away better than the sound through a TV’s speakers. And yet the sound through an entry level surround sound setup is far and away better than the headphones. And while you can wear them comfortably enough for decent periods, that’s not as comfortable as, y’know, not wearing them.

The headphones are essentially great in context: if you either can’t afford a surround sound, or have family and neighbours who can’t put up with one, then I’d definitely recommend them. But if you’re torn between speakers and headphones, I’d recommend that you go for speakers all the way.

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