Though we had only first heard of Logitech's F540 Wireless Headset just a few short weeks ago, we were instantly intrigued by its ability to stream audio from three separate sources.
Up until now, most, if not all, of the systems we've tested limited the user to just one source for wireless broadcasting. Though the F540 doesn't stream Dolby 5.1 surround sound, the audio it does handle is quite good. In fact, when we compared it with some of our other 5.1 systems, we chose the F540 for sound quality almost every time.
The Logitech F540 sports a matte-gray plastic finish with a matching adjustable headband. The headset's weight isn't overpowering, so it won't lug you down after extended gameplay sessions. The foam earcups provide some relief, but are not as comfortable as other headsets we've tested. In terms of specific comfort, we found the F540 somewhere in between the too-heavy Tritton offerings and the ultracomfy Turtle Beach headsets.
All of the F540's functionality is controlled from the left cup. An adjustable boom mic can hide out of the way, and the headphones conveniently play a soft tone to indicate a mute setting. Here you'll also find the power button, input selector, game and chat volume control, and Mini-USB charging port.
The F540's base is where you'll charge the headset's internal battery by attaching it to the front-mounted USB port. A full charge netted us more than 10 hours of gameplay, and a normal recharge should take around 3 hours. The F540 can also be used during charging, but you should expect a longer charge time when doing so.
The F540 comes with a healthy number of accessories to ensure that you'll be covered for any connection environment. Logitech provides a bypass analog RCA cable, an Xbox 360 controller chat wire, a Mini-USB wire for PS3 chat, and a Micro-USB cable for charging.
Setting up the system is easy if you're currently using analog audio connections, but if you're like us and have your consoles hooked up digitally, things begin to get a bit dicey--especially with the Xbox 360.
When using the system with a PlayStation 3, we simply attached our multi-AV out cable directly to the F540's transmitter base and opened up the audio setting in the system preferences that read "Multi-output On." This setting ensured that we'd be getting not only analog audio for wireless streaming, but digital audio, too, when we returned to using our AV receiver. If the PS3 game you're playing involves chat, you'll need to attach the included Mini-USB cable to your PS3 to allow for in-game chat.
Getting the Xbox 360 to work nicely is a different story. As with the PlayStation 3, an analog audio setup isn't a problem. That said, if you use an HDMI connection with the 360, there isn't necessarily a way to simultaneously get access to analog audio outputs.
If you're an owner of an Xbox 360 Elite, however, you're in luck. The included customized audio-out cable with this specific model gives access to the RCA analog outputs. If you don't have an Elite or access to that specific cable, you'll need to figure out another workaround.
Because Microsoft makes provisions to physically prevent multiple audio connections from being made to the 360 at once, we recommend either using the HD component 360 cable (which has analog audio outs) or using something like a universal audio-out from a TV or AV receiver. If all else fails, you may want to consider attaching a headphone jack to the transmitter base. In our testing we actually found that not only was this option the most convenient, but it also didn't compromise audio quality.
Chatting with the F540 and the Xbox 360 proved easy enough. We simply attached the included patch wire to our controller and headset, and were happy with the in-game results.
The F540's transmitter base is small and thin, though it does require its own power. It's tiny enough that it won't clash with your home theater setup, though it should probably be in your line of sight for charging and PS3 chat functionality.
Around back, three separate audio connections can be made: two analog RCA audio inputs and one 1/8-inch headphone jack input. If you're left with an RCA audio source and just the headphone jack, a cheap adapter can be purchased separately.
A lot of wireless headset manufacturers make a big deal about creating true in-ear Dolby Digital surround. Of course the F540 isn't capable of such things, but after using the system for more than a week, we're not sure a set like the Turtle Beach Ear Force X41 or the Tritton AX 720 is really worth the price differential. Neither of these aforementioned products supports simultaneous system switching, though the X41 can handle two separate sources.
The F540 does a great job of directional firing, so even though there aren't multiple speakers in each earcup, we were left with most of the surround-sound experience.
The only area where these surround-sound headsets can trump the F540 is in bass output. In terms of actually weight, the audio from the F540 wasn't always as rich as we've experienced in the past with other products. Other than bass issues, the sound performance out of the headset is spot-on. Not once did we get audio dropout, and the headset's range is well beyond any practical playing distance.
The various volume controls on the left earcup provide all the customization you'll need to get a desirable mix of game and chat audio. It may take a few rounds of trial-and-error tweaking, but after five or six rounds of Medal of Honor multiplayer, we had smoothed out all the wrinkles.
Here you'll also use the input button, which we found responded quickly to each tap. A microphone mute button sits next to the volume controls, which temporarily cuts off communication. Of course, sliding the boom mic up and out of sight does the trick as well.
With surround-sound headsets priced up to $200, we think most gamers will be satisfied with the Logitech F540 Wireless Gaming Headset at $50 cheaper. The headset's solid sound would be almost perfect if it supplied a bit more bass, but between the multisystem support, internal battery, and onboard volume controls, the system should have you covered for any console gaming situation--not to mention any other source you can throw at it.