Mad Catz Tritton AX 720 Gaming Headset
Among all the video game accessories available today, no other market seems to be expanding as rapidly as the video game headset. With most current-generation consoles able to produce 5.1 surround sound, finding a headset solution to handle such a request is now much easier than before.
We've tested a handful of gaming headsets, most of which are not designed to accommodate 5.1 sound. The latest from Tritton, the AX 720, not only handles 5.1 surround sound, but it does a pretty impressive job at doing so.
The last Tritton product we tested, the AX Pro 5.1, performed well, but we were really turned off by the gratuitous number of connections that had to be made in order for the system to function properly. This time around, Tritton has slashed the amount of connectivity required, all while maintaining most of the same user experience.
The AX 720 will take any optical audio connection you can throw at it, allowing you to hook up any video game console that supports it (Xbox, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation 3). This also means that any device with an optical out can be decoded by the AX 720 amplifier. DVD and Blu-ray players, even a PC with a sound card supporting the proper outputs, will also work. There's also an included PC adapter that will work separately. Only stereo sources are left out in the cold. That includes the Wii. For those looking for compatibility with stereo sources, we recommend checking out the AX 900.
The headphones themselves are still too heavy, but at least they don't require their own power supply like we saw in the AX Pro 5.1. At first we weren't concerned with their weight, but after just 45 minutes of gameplay we needed to take a break for some head relief. They're covered in a white, glossy plastic with room for the detachable microphone under the left ear cup. Two drivers in each cup allow for simulated surround sound, which in our opinion sounded just as good as some four driver in-ear setups. The wire coming from the left ear cup can detach from the in-line volume adjuster. From here you can connect an Xbox 360 controller (with an included wire) and then adjust the microphone volume as desired. At the end of the headset wire you'll find a connection for the AX 720's white control box.
The white source control box is small and can be placed anywhere in your entertainment center. Just make sure it's in a location where your headphone wire can reach (the included 12-foot wire should be ample in length). On the front of the box are power and volume controls in addition to a Dolby Digital mode button. By default the system is set up for "game" mode and hitting it once will activate "movie" mode. We didn't find too much of a difference in these two modes, but we recommend trying them both out. Hit a third time, the Dolby Digital button will turn off surround sound altogether. Finally, there's an extra headphone port on the white box that allows for an additional unit to be connected.
You'll need to run the optical audio cable from your source to the box, which may result in some headaches. For one, you'll need to access the rear of your devices, which isn't always easy to do. Also, you'll need to either be close enough to said devices or acquire a long enough optical cable to reach where you'll be playing or watching. The included 3-foot optical audio cable really won't help you out here, so you're probably going to want to go out and find a wire at least double that length, depending on your situation.
In terms of sound quality, we were very impressed with the overall performance of the AX 720. We played various games on all consoles including Gears of War 2 on Xbox 360, Resistance 2 on PlayStation 3, and Shadow of the Colossus on PlayStation 2, and the AX 720 was really sharp and precise. During the height of some gun-fighting sequences, you're really immersed in the experience, something even a great 5.1 home theater system isn't always able to do. The headphones' excellent noise canceling and sound isolation really allow for this type of intimate effect to shine. Our only letdown was bass presence, as we didn't really feel the oomph associated with some low-frequency effects.
The included boom microphone can be detached when not in use and will work with Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC gaming. When using it with PlayStation 3, you'll also need to attach an included USB cable from the white amp box to either device. You may need to invest in a longer cable, because the include 3-footer doesn't quite cut it. During our gaming sessions, we were heard clearly by our teammates. You can also adjust the microphone volume to your preference.
Overall, we really enjoyed the performance of the Tritton AX 720 gaming headset. Setting up the device is mostly easy and the experience the headphones create is very unique. Priced around $130 online, the Tritton AX 720 should be the only headphones you need for a while, considering the vast amount of sources it can support. Future game consoles should be able to work with it in terms of audio, but there may be issues with getting the headset feature to perform correctly.