It is baffling to think that you can cram a 7.1 surround sound system into a pair of headphones. Thankfully, Tritton has been doing most of this thinking with the release of their latest flagship headset for the Xbox 360 console – the Warhead 7.1 Wireless Surround Headset.
Retailing at around £199.99, the Warhead isn’t the most wallet friendly headset out there, however the saying “you get what you pay for” stands true here with this particular headset. From the packaging and the build quality, to the features and audio finesse, the Warhead 7.1 oozes premium headset quality.
At first glance, the Warhead 7.1 is one of the best well packaged headsets I have reviewed to date. Each component comes well presented to you as you dive into each layer of the packaging – something that even Apple would be proud of. Accessories such as the leads, the power adapters and the detachable headphone boom come bundled in their own clearly labeled white box, whilst the headset itself is presented before you in its pearl-white moulded casing.
The Tritton Warhead 7.1 Wireless Surround Headset (right) and base unit (left)
All available power sockets are available out of the box, including UK, Euro and USA pin plugs. Tritton has also thought about the original Xbox 360 and analogue audio users too, with a number of cables that connect the original Xbox 360 and/or TV display to the Warhead base unit. However, to get the most out of the Warhead headset, more specifically the 7.1 surround sound, you need to embrace the digital age and connect the Warhead’s base unit directly to your Xbox 360 with the bundled optical cable.
Connecting up the Warhead 7.1 is a very simple process. There aren’t many components required to get you up and running, and it is a joy not to have a large amount of additional cables to think about or to clutter up your AV system. If you are using digital (like me) you just need to connect the optical cable to the Xbox 360‘s optical port and plug in the bundled power adapter into an available wall socket.
Being a wireless headset you always face the concern of how you power the headset. Thankfully, the Warhead 7.1 headset has one of the best power solutions to date. Rather than charging directly from the base unit, or via an additional USB cable, Tritton has supplied two rechargeable battery packs in the box. This great solution allows you to power the headset with one battery pack in the headset, whilst the second pack is charging and raring to go before the first runs out of power.
The Warhead 7.1 base unit cradles the headset when not in use, keeping your setup tidy
The best thing here though, is that the base unit has its own front compartment, where the spare battery pack is charged from. This feature helps to keep everything clean and tidy, no loose charging wires lingering around or spare battery packs laying about here. The cover for the front charging compartment can be replaced once the battery is inside and charging, which helps keep the aesthetics of the base unit clean and clutter free. Charging each battery pack can take up to 8 hours, which is much less than the life of the headset’s battery and it means you’ll always have backup power at the ready.
The base unit contains a number of LED status lights on the front, along with a big circle light that mirrors the Xbox 360’s own “ring of light”. Once connected, and sync’d up to the headset, the base unit’s ring of light will light up the quarter segment of the base unit to match the controller it is bound to – this opens the possibilities of transmitting up to three additional Warhead headsets (should you have bottomless pockets to buy three additional headsets that is).
This brings me to the second most pleasing feature of the Warhead 7.1 – it’s communication system. As far as I am aware, the Warhead 7.1 is the first third-party headset to directly support Microsoft’s voice chat. Unlike previous Xbox 360 headsets I have reviewed, the Warhead 7.1 directly communicates wirelessly to the console for voice chat. There are no cables required between the headset and the controller to communicate here. In addition, by pressing the Xbox button you can view the headset’s remaining power alongside your controller’s battery on the dashboard. So there is no need to second-guess how much life is left before the headset’s battery pack needs replacing.
The base unit’s Ring of Light (left) and charging bay (right)
Moving the attention over to the headset itself. Packing 7.1 speakers, the headset is certainly not a low profile one, and can sit quite dominantly on your head. The positionable over-the-ear earcups create a snug fit over your ears, which helps to drown out any outside noise, plus they are very comfortable during long sessions. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the headband. There just isn’t enough padding in the headband as i’d have liked, and after three hours of gaming, the almost firm rubber cushion in the headband started to feel a little uncomfortable and required a little repositioning to continue wearing them.
Like the Tritton Primer, the battery is placed under a magnetic attached plate on the right earcup. Power and Sync buttons are located on the insides of the headset band, above each earcup, which makes it less likely for them to be interfered with by mistake. Two additional buttons are located on the front of each earcup. The first toggles between the headset’s three equaliser presets: Game, Music and Movie, whilst on the other side the second button switches between digital and analogue inputs on the base unit. On the backside of each earcup are two volume jog-dials to change the levels of voice chat volume and main game volume. Depressing the game volume switch mutes the headset’s overall volume, whilst the depressing the voice switch will enable and disable SVM (Selectable Voice Monitoring) system – a feature that allows you to hear yourself over gameplay audio.
Finally, the detachable microphone boom plugs into the left earcup by plugging in the 3.5mm connector into the earcup and locking the boom into place. On the outside of the boom there is an additional button to simply turn the mic transmission on and off. The boom itself features a very solid and bendy plastic material that keeps the Tritton labelled microphone firmly in place. At its furthest extension, the mic itself just reaches the corner of my mouth, which is more enough for voice to be picked up, whilst avoiding any “pops” you’ll make if the mic was right over your it.
The Warhead microphone boom (left) and volume switches (right)
With its 50mm drivers and 5.8Ghz Wireless technology the Warhead 7.1’s audio quality is, in a word, breathtaking. To give you an idea of my first impressions: I had to check that my AV amplifier was muted properly when I switched from my full surround sound speaker setup over to the headset. This was the first time I had set ears on a 7.1 headset, the effect you get can only be described as, spacial, or in more layman’s terms – roomy. It really does feel like you are sitting in a large room with speakers positioned around you. You’ll never beat a dedicated rear speaker AV system, but the effect of rear spot effects isn’t too bad.
One of my main concerns with wireless headsets – silent noise – has also been addressed here. The Warhead 7.1 gives out very little “hiss” from its speakers when inactive or during silent scenes in a game, and it is a significant improvement over Tritton’s Primer Xbox 360 headset.
The Warhead’s audio quality performed very well across all various types of games during my test, especially in first-person shooters. Bass from explosions and gunfire in Battlefield is very deep, as does the thud when you clash against side walls in Forza or off bodywork in Dirt Showdown. The spacial sound effects that the 7.1 speakers create also makes in-game soundtracks rich and inviting, whilst speech in games like Mass Effect are tight and focused, as if they are coming out of a center speaker in front of you.
Overall, I have been very impressed with what Tritton has accomplished with the Warhead 7.1 Wireless Headset. If I were to nitpick at its audio quality I would have liked to go a little deeper in the bass range, however when the bass does punch through it is still very good. The headset’s overall build quality and audio performance is solid throughout and affirms its premium price tag. You could quite easily replace an entire audio setup costing over £1000 with the Tritton Warhead 7.1 Wireless Surround Headset, the downside though is that only you will be able to experience the great 7.1 surround sound it pumps into your ears, which isn’t such a bad thing.