home > review > Sounds Good, Good Sounds: Turtle Beach Ear Force X2 Review
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ups: Good sound, nice fit, (mostly) wireless.
downs: No passive mode, chat must be mixed with stereo output.

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Sounds Good, Good Sounds: Turtle Beach Ear Force X2 Review
game: Ear Force X2
four star
posted by: Shawn Rider
publisher: Turtle Beach
developer: Turtle Beach
date posted: 12:19 PM Thu Jun 29th, 2006
last revision: 12:16 PM Thu Jun 29th, 2006

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Click to read.I didn\'t like the old Ear Force AXT headphones. They were bulky, had spotty sound and required a spiderweb of wires and adapters that didn\'t work well for either Xbox system. But I won\'t even link to that review, because the newest model in the Ear Force line has fixed and enhanced every issue I had with the old version. The new Ear Force X2 Wireless Xbox Headphones are an excellent choice for the audiophile gamer, or any gamers looking for an affordable, high quality headset.

The Ear Force X2 headphones are targeted at the Xbox 360, and they maintain the Xbox 360\'s wireless controller paradigm. The headphone setup has two parts: the headset and the base unit. The base unit uses an ingenious cord to connect in-line with the stereo audio outputs from your Xbox or Xbox 360. The cord allows you to route the audio to both your stereo receiver and the X2 headphones at the same time. This is good because you can easily switch from headphones to room audio without changing any of the wired connections.

The base unit sits near the Xbox console, although the cord is quite long enough to allow for a good range of positioning. The wireless headphones use infra-red (IR) light to broadcast the audio signal, so the base must be in a \"line-of-sight\" with the headphones. This means that if you walk out of the room while playing your audio will cut out (although, interestingly, your controller, which uses radio frequencies to transmit your actions, will continue to work). While many folks worry about IR-based wireless systems, our tests have shown the Ear Force X2 headphones do a fine job of staying in touch with little to no interference from outside sources. The headphones sport IR receptors on both sides, so turning your head is never a problem. The only time the audio cut out was when we left the room entirely, or when you put the headphones behind the base unit (eliminating the line of sight entirely).

The headphones themselves do not sport full Dolby 5.1 surround-sound. According to Turtle Beach, this is due to the prohibitive cost of the Dolby decoding and the unreliable quality of current multi-channel wireless transmission technology. In other words, only wired headphones can really do Dolby 5.1 justice and those models are going to be more expensive.

Regardless, the Ear Force X2 headphones manage to produce excellent stereo sound quality. Although the surround-sound is not technically present, the immediacy of the headphones makes the stereo effects even more profound, allowing for great audio immersion. Game chat is blended into the stereo audio, providing a great experience on Xbox Live, too. The microphone is mounted on a super flexible boom and does a good job of ignoring ambient room noise.

Again trumping its predecessor, the Ear Force X2 has excellent sound quality. The clarity in the audio is a beauty to hear, lows boom and highs snap. These headphones are suitable for enjoying your favorite music as well as favorite games, and they are comfortable enough to encourage you to do so. Using the Xbox 360\'s media extender functions, we were able to enjoy music and movies in excellent quality sound.

Overall, for $99 you can\'t really beat the Ear Force X2 headphones. But that doesn\'t mean there aren\'t some drawbacks. First, the headphones themselves must be powered and require two AAA batteries. The sound quality explains the need for these batteries, and if you have a set of X2 headphones it probably makes sense to invest in a good general-purpose batter recharger and handful of rechargeable AA and AAA batteries. With more wireless controllers on the way, the need for batteries of different sizes should spur on sales of charging units.

Related to the battery issue is the second drawback, which has to do with the lack of a \"passive\" mode. It would make sense to have a minimal mode enabled on the headphones that would allow you to use them like a regular Xbox headset when the power is turned off (i.e. chat in the right ear powered by the controller connection). As it is, without the batteries nothing is possible.

Finally, our only real complaint is that in order to chat on Xbox Live you must set your Xbox console to mix the game chat and stereo output. Usually, one would have the game chat coming through the earpiece and the rest of the audio would come from the room speakers. But with the Ear Force X2, there\'s no way to play stereo audio out the speakers and listen to audio and chat through the headset.

These are small complaints. Anyone who wants decent sound will have to power their headphones, and the Ear Force X2 headphones are really intended to be used as complete speaker replacements. Why would you want to listen to the speakers and the headphones at the same time? (Maybe you\'re testing the headphones under somewhat unorthodox circumstances in order to write a review for your website?) The lack of any passive functionality at all does mean that you should keep your traditional Xbox communicator handy in case of a battery shortage, but if you\'re conscientious about your recharging, then it will likely never be an issue.

In the end, the improvements this time around are dramatic, and the Ear Force X2 Wireless Xbox Headphones are a worthy addition to any serious gamer\'s rig. Turtle Beach has even gone so far as to model the base unit to double as a headphones stand so you can show off your sweet speaks when not in use (and keep your set-up tight). These are headphones truly designed for the Xbox 360 gaming experience, and justify the price tag with excellent quality, comfort, and, most importantly, great sound.

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