As a new console finds itself exploding into the mainstream, so too do the peripherals to go with it. And as consoles have become such an everyday thing, it was only a matter of time until dedicated gaming headsets aimed at the console market followed suit and over the past few years, the market has been expanding, particularly with the increased interest in eSports that has followed the proliferation of the console.
Turtle Beach have now brought out an entry-level Xbox One headset of their own, the XO ONE, to directly oppose Microsoft’s stereo headset. But how does it compare to other sets in the Turtle Beach range, and to Microsoft’s effort, in price and performance, the two biggest dealmakers and dealbreakers.
With an RRP of £59.99, the XO ONE sets itself thirty pounds cheaper than the currently mid-range XO FOUR, recommended at £89.99. At present the range is topped off by the XO SEVEN set, recommended at £129.99, though the end of October will see the release of a new wireless set from the company, designed specifically for Xbox ONE, under the moniker, ‘Stealth 500X’, currently available for pre-order on Amazon for just shy of £200. To contextualise these prices, the Microsoft set retails at £59.99.
In terms of build quality, the XO ONE is immediately appreciable as an entry-level product, particularly when compared with the more advanced models in the product line. Where the XO FOUR and XO SEVEN sets possess a reassuring heft and sturdiness, the ONE, whilst light and comfortably worn for extended gaming sessions, does feel a little loose and delicate, far less fit to absorb the unexpected impacts that come in the heat of some particularly enthused multiplayer battles.
In terms of aesthetics the set is a simple, understated black, the earcups aren’t too showy, merely functional, and there’s little in the way of branding aside from ‘Turtle Beach’ inscribed across the top of the headband and the model name simply stated on the sides of the earcups. A green finish on the insides of the earcups is the only thing to detract from the matte black, and so if an understated look is what’s preferred then these should tick the boxes, though anyone preferring a little more jazziness to their accessories and peripherals might want to look elsewhere. The simple look however does improve the suitability of the XO ONE headset for secondary use as normal audio headphones, where some might not wish to be so overt with their style; the high street’s a far cry from the gaming den. Also useful for retooling this set as your normal listening cans is the removable mic that simply pulls out from its jack.
The light build makes for a comfortable-wearing headset, with no excess of weight hanging from the ears and a soft strip of padding on the underside of the headband preventing the set from creating a bald patch or eroding the top of your skull through those weekend marathons.
The detachable mic is bendable but reassuringly resistant, so it will hold its position after you’ve worked out just the right placement in relation to your mouth. It’s lightweight and compact, so won’t obstruct or irritate when cramming wotsits in your gob during lobby time between matches.
This particular headset, as Turtle Beach are now doing with all of their products, ships with their own proprietary take on the headset adaptor for the Xbox One controllers. It’s a satisfyingly snug fit and the rubberised texture has a well-built feel. There are controls on the adaptor for balancing chat and game audio, altering headset volume, muting your microphone and – best of all – a Turtle Beach bass booster button, which comes in two degrees, for those who want to add a little meat to their sound. This equalisation really brings the XO ONEs into the region of sounding like a worthwhile purchase. The cans themselves sound fairly lightweight when the bass boost is off, but with the boost applied offer clear, full audio to satisfy the ordinary user. The buttons to change the settings are well positioned for quick and easy use.
Importantly for the XO One, mic monitoring is also supported, so no longer will that Barbara Streisand record – the one you think no one but you can hear – be broadcasted to those unfortunate enough to encounter you online. Mic monitoring is toggled with the small Turtle Beach logo button on the headset adaptor.
For all headsets, users should ensure to run a manual update for the controller firmware in the console system settings, as sometimes the prompts don’t occur and old firmware can result in crackly disrupted audio, which is a stinker after laying out a wad of cash on your sound gear. In my chat experience, voice came through nice and clear, though this is hard to judge as it depends so much on the hardware at the other end of the line. Those I was chatting to reported that my voice was being delivered very clearly.
The RRP price of the set puts it at an exact match with the Microsoft stereo set, and on that basis I’d wholeheartedly recommend purchasing the Turtle Beaches over the somewhat gawkish-looking, flimsy Microsoft offering, but with retailers offering the stereo set as much as £20 below RRP it really comes down to how much the improved build and the bass boost is worth it to you. I’d take the Turtle Beach any day of the week.
An alternative buy would be the Tritton Kama headset, priced at an RRP of £44.99. This would definitely be an improvement over the Microsoft set, but it too lacks the bass booster, which completely alters the audio experience when compared side by side. Again, the distinction of choice will come down to personal decisions about cost, and whilst the Turtle Beach might weigh in at the higher end of its bracket, for an extra fifteen-twenty pounds, the improvements felt over the days and weeks of gaming should prove it a wise investment. It’s worth noting however that by spending more and edging into the next price range, the improvements in build and audio quality really begin to make themselves heard.
This set is not for the audiophile and not for the pro-gamer who spends entire days, nay entire weeks, in front of the box, but for its target audience, the average gamer, the Turtle Beach XO ONE headset will give just the level of gaming audio required; as the Goldilocks of gaming might say, it’s just right.