Premium is a word batted around so frequently it’s started to lose its meaning. Top flight, cream of the crop…premium. As consumers, we’re conditioned to believe that premium is the be all and end all of our relationship with products, the heady Shangri La to project as a vision of what life could be like, if only we went premium.
Sadly, the word is used far too often, over far too little. In a swelling subsection of an ever growing gaming headset market, the space occupied by premium models has expanded in leaps and bounds in recent years, buoyed by the ubiquity of certain blockbuster titles that almost necessitate quality audio hardware to lend serious players a competitive edge. And who these days doesn’t consider themselves a serious player?
Bolstering their substantial lineup of product, Turtle Beach have issued a new contender to wage warfare in the competitive premium headset market, bringing their for-Xbox range into line with their PlayStation offerings. The Elite 800X, a top end, fully wireless (and wirelessly-charging) set certainly weighs in at the wallet-shredding end of the market with an RRP of £249.99, but can it justify such a hefty expenditure?
Feature-wise, all the basics are obviously covered as standard. Turtle Beach’s patent Bass Booster technology is included amongst a raft of default presets. Also present are the much-hyped Superhuman Hearing and Footstep Focus settings, geared entirely towards optimising to lend advantage in the FPS arena. There are additional audio optimisations available catering for movies and music.
The game presets show their quality best in the FPS arena, and it’s on the battlefields of the genre giants, Call of Duty, Battlefield et al. that the headset system’s big boss gimmick is unleashed to greatest effect. Superhuman Hearing picks out and amplifies quiet in-game audio markers, such as the footsteps and reloads of approaching enemies, giving players a one-up on the competition.
The flexibility is undoubtedly laudable, and the extent to which Turtle Beach have stretched customisation is itself a testament to a company clearly striving to maximise consumer choice. With so many options on the table, sifting through to find the best-suited can prove a tiresome task, one triggering yet more headscratching once the extra presets available for download via the EarForce Audio Hub come into the mix. Players looking for plug and play will have a tough time getting the most out of the Elite 800X. Those looking for a more streamlined bit of kit might do well to look towards the Astro A50 as an alternative, though it should go without saying that with streamlining comes a cut in versatility.
The 7.1 DTS Surround Sound is available in more affordable headsets, Turtle Beach offering their own mid-range offering with the Stealth 500X released last year, but the execution displayed with this set is worthy of attention. Slickly designed black cans, wrapped in comfortable leather-effect material, adorn the ears snugly but without excessive pressure, subtle green trimmings denoting the product’s Xbox affiliation. A round, rich bass frequency is topped off with a tight high end. The sound on offer was well represented during a session of The Witcher 3, each subtle ambient noise crystallising together into an absorbing audio fresco, clearly recreated for my listening pleasure. The set is unreservedly brilliant for game audio, but its performance playing decent quality music audio is not to be sniffed at either.
The boom has been left behind in favour of invisible mics embedded in the body of the headset. Slightly disconcerting, though their absence reduces distraction, increasing immersion. Despite the mic pickup presets, optimising the input based on the ambient volume of the space you’re playing in, the internal microphones can’t quite seem to match a repositionable boom in terms of clarity of communication – a definite alarm bell for hardcore multiplayer gamers in need of perfect voice chat at all times. That said, the lack of a boom certainly makes the administration of emergency caffeinated beverages far less of an ordeal.
Minor issues surface when using TV audio and headset audio simultaneously, the setup revealing a slight but noticeable audio delay in the transmission of sound to the headset. Also somewhat vexing is occasional clipping and dips in signal, though this is thankfully kept to a bearable minimum.
In terms of audio quality, the Elite 800X lives up to expectations given its lofty position on the pricing ladder, though as always at this end of the market, there’s definitely an element of diminishing returns. The set’s fantastic active noise cancellation maintains an immersive audio experience. As far as intentions go, Turtle Beach have it right here.
Of course, the problem with investing in a high-end headset is that not everyone online is so keen to join you aboard the good ship Audio Fidelity; however good your set is, you’re still going to be relying on someone else’s tech at the end of the day. However, where decent gear is used at both ends, voice audio comes through with enough clarity to coordinate skirmishes, boast or flame, depending on your wont.
The set’s build quality offers a reassuring sturdiness without sacrificing comfort, though as is the problem with so many feature-laden sets, the Elite 800X does start to feel somewhat of a millstone around the neck after several hours solid use.
The inclusion of a wireless charging dock is an unquestionable success, maximising ease of use and tidiness in one fell swoop. This practical asset, however, can’t quite compensate for the 8-10 hour battery life. Whilst theoretically capacious enough for most gamers, a little extra juice wouldn’t go amiss.
Another practical element to the set is the ability to pair with Bluetooth devices, making handsfree mobile connectivity a doddle, though whoever severs the tension when it’s just me and Alien Isolation’s Xenomorph playing cat and mouse will find themselves with a rather angry voicemail.
For all its charms, the Elite 800X was always destined to be fighting a battle to justify its staggering price point. When the price of a gaming peripheral is not all that far from the system it’s designed for, eyebrows are always going to be raised, along with expectations. Whilst expectations are met, the cost remains a pill slightly too bitter to swallow.
Feature buffs will revel in the scope for customisation, and the complete lack of wires and mic boom aids immersion, but whether that’s worth such a searing pain in the back pocket is a question that can only be answered by your bank’s personal loans advisor. If they give you the nod and it’s time to go premium, you could do worse than plumping for the Elite 800X.