GEEK TECH CONSOLE AUDIO GOLD MEDALIST: X11+DSS = Afternoon Delight

Turtle Beach X11? Meet the Ear Force DSS. Now have sex.

Mick

In a stroke of unabashed genius, the cats at Turtle Beach sent us two unique peripherals that complement eachother amazingly: the Ear Force X11 and the Ear Force DSS . And, well, they’re like chocolate and peanut butter—the two great tastes that taste great together! That being said, this combo gets the “Geek Tech Gold Medal” for console gaming headphones!

Ear Force X11 Headset for Xbox 360 (MSRP $59.99)

Let’s start with the X11: they’re wired headphones that Turtle Beach is famous for—amplified stereo , solid construction and well padded. The only real “problem” is that they’re wired, so at any given point, your entertainment system will look like E-Cthulhu has you firmly in his clutches. No joke. The X11’s require you to piggyback your television’s audio-out, which means you have a cable running from your TV to the headset plug, a USB cable running from your Xbox/PC to the headset, then a link wire running from your controller to the headset control-box.

Wiring layout. The Matrix. It haz you.

However, they make up for it by giving you an EXTENSIVE (16′) length of cable to work with, so you can comfortably sit, recline and muck about while playing. The flexible boom mic is fantastic, and picks up sound extremely well. There’s also a lightweight control box that allows you to turn up chat, main volume and a microphone mute toggle. Unfortunately, the X11 is configured for PC and Xbox 360 only, and you’ll have to pay $10 more for the X31’s if you want PS3 connectivity.

In any case, the X11′s are formidable, especially for their $60 price tag. Compared to the wedge-shaped Tritton AX-180 headset ($79), the plushy earcups on the X11’s are comfortable for all head types, and the bridge padding is unparalleled.

I tend to play games at excessive volumes, not because I NEED to feel immersion…I’m partially deaf (and no, motherfucker, it’s not from listening to music too loud). This meant, in the past, I’d have to close all the windows and doors to play games at an adequate volume. Not to mention, if the girl happens to be snoozing, I can’t really play at the volume I’d like.

Since expanding into headset gaming, I’m not bothering coworkers, neighbors or special lady-friends with booming explosions and screaming zombies. I can honestly say I was EXTREMELY surprised with how well the X11’s work, especially at its $60-or-less price. I should be clear though: these are amplified stereo headphones, not surround headphones. But honestly, the stereo expansion feels clean, with clear division between left and right channels. And the bass…oh lord the bass. The aformentioned partial deafness means I can’t always enjoy subtle nuances inherent in a lot of games. I get juiced on thunderous bass: explosions, gunshots, buildings toppling, concussive punches, you name it. While the bass thump isn’t on par with a sub, it gives a helluva admirable try.

The treble tones are crisp and clean, and layer well over the bouncing bass…never once do they overstep eachother, unlike, say the Trittons.

And the mic levelling allows you to customize how much chatter you want to hear during online matches. Having the lightweight toggle literally next to my hand during frantic multiplayer skirmishes helped hugely, since I tend to turn down chatter when I’m mobile, to get a better handle on my in-game environment. Of course, when the chatter starts, I zip up the comm volume.

Even with both settings at max, the audio doesn’t muddle much…granted, the comm chatter is REALLY treble-intensive, so I could only stand having the volume at 75%.

Pros:

+ 16′ cord ensures good mobility, and a built-in cinch allows you to gather the excess wiring.

+ Excellent clarity

+ Ear cups have nylon cross-hatch construction, so they’re soft but not easily torn.

+ Great directional sound, even though it’s only stereo.

Cons:

-  Excessive wiring isn’t a problem when you’re alone, but poses a significant tripping hazard when you have people and/or animals walking around.

Overall, for the price, the X11′s can’t be beat: the frames are solidly built, not too heavy and well padded. The sound quality is great, the comm input is good and sounds clear without having the boom lodged in your mouth. My only real gripe is the excessive wiring… if there was a single integrated jack, the X11′s would be perfect 10′s.

Final Score: 8.5/10

So the X11′s aren’t in surround…but you love ‘em so much! What’s a gamer to do!? Start by nabbing the Ear Force DSS unit.

Ear Force DSS (MSRP $89.99)

I know what you’re thinking: “more fucking wires!”…am I right? Actually, the Ear Force DSS isn’t as problematic as you’d think.

Not so bad, eh?

If you’re using an optical cable (because, well, why wouldn’t you?), it’s no more of a problem than using the X11’s—it’s actually one less issue to worry about. Tthe optical cable and the USB cable should be the only two wires running from your system, unlike the X11’s that require you to piggyback your TV audio-out jacks. The issue is more for people like me who sit 8-12 feet from the television while playing: the included optical cable is only 6’ and the USB  is 7’ in length, so the DSS “box” has to either sit on the floor, or stretched taut to a coffee table.  Then, the SUPER-long X11 cables can get cumbersome (if not secured with the Velcro cinch), and at the very best, you have a heavy-ass cord cluster hanging from your headphones. Of course, you could be smart and slide the cinch down toward where you connect to the DSS, but you’re still towing a large mass, regardless of placement. But, if you can deal with the setup and wire mess, you’ll find that the DSS is pretty slick.

Used in conjunction with the X11’s, the DSS sounds superb. The already impressive sound range of the X11’s skyrockets into glorious 7.1 (or Dolby Pro Logic IIx without optical) and honestly sounds phenomenal. We tested the unit on PC, PS3 and 360, and it performed well on all of them.

My main problem was the “bass boost control”…we used the DSS with the X11’s, a set of Sennheiser 202’s headphones, and a pair of Skullcandy Ink’d earbuds. With the X11′s, the “boost” barely added to the already impressive tone, and when I increased the “level” it just topped out, giving me a buzz instead of a rumble. Similarly, the non-powered Sennheiser’s exhibited a buzz when we increased the “bass boost.” The Ink’d buds were the only one that actually seemed to offer extra bass, but I suspect that’s more from creating a seal in the ear canal, rather than any extra-amazing tech.

Regardless, the directional audio is really where it’s at. We tested it with Borderlands, Arkham Asylum, Bad Company 2, Red Dead Redemption and Fallout—titles that have an entire spectrum of tones, from amazing explosions to the tinkling of broken glass in an empty hallway. This is where the DSS truly shines: we could hear people walking outside and above us in Battlefield 2, and could hear people sneaking about in Borderlands. It. Was. Siiiiiiick!

Pros:

+  Amazing directional sound, usable with PC, Xbox 360, PS3, and Ipods!

+  compact setup that doesn’t rely on an AC source.

+  Comes bundled with an optical cable (albeit, only 6’)

+  Extremely user friendly—minimum toggles/buttons

Cons:

-  “Bass Boost” doesn’t boost too much.

-  Adding an extra component means more wires.

-  In 7.1, sounds can bleed out of the headphones and be picked up on the mic.

-  USB/B and Optical cables are only 6’/7’ long

Final Score: 9.5/10

Overall, if you have the coin and are looking for a great headphone experience, the Ear Force DSS is a no brainer. It’s usable on all consoles and can be balanced for sound that’s perfect for YOU. Plus, the DSS ($89.99) + the X11′s ($59.99) will cost you $150 if you buy ‘em together, you’re still saving $20 over the Tritton AX Pro’s, and you don’t have to worry about AC-powering them.

>Mick

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Mick
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One Comment on "GEEK TECH CONSOLE AUDIO GOLD MEDALIST: X11+DSS = Afternoon Delight"

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