Tritton Xbox 360 AX Pro Dolby Gaming Headset
In addition to high-definition graphics, the current generation of video game consoles also offer discrete 5.1 surround sound. While it's occasionally overlooked by some gamers, surround sound adds an entirely separate dimension to the experience of playing video games. Of course, to enjoy all surround sound has to offer, you'll need a home theater setup including a receiver that can process the audio information.
If you're not willing to pull the trigger on a new home theater setup or you just don't have a properly sized room that can accommodate such a system, you may want to turn to 5.1 surround sound headphones. We've already looked at a wireless solution with the X4 Headset from Turtle Beach, but we weren't impressed with its lackluster infrared signal radius and sound isolation performance. The Tritton AX Pro Gaming Headset is a wired device that sounds fantastic and does a great job of immersing you into the game with its effective noise canceling design.
Let us get one thing out of the way first: the Tritton AX Pro has a lot of wires. It also requires you to provide power to not only the amplifier box, but to the headphones as well. You'll also need to run wires from your console or computer to the amp, and if you'll be chatting online, that'll require an addition wire. When all is said and done, you could literally be dealing with six or seven different connections before it's time to play. We figured this information should be disclosed right from the get go, so if you're the wire-fearing type, you may want to look elsewhere at some wireless headphones.
The AX Pro 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 Pro amplifier. DVD and Blu-ray players, even a PC with a sound card supporting the proper outputs, will also work. Surprisingly enough, the AX Pro amplifier also has analog 5.1 inputs for some sound cards that support such an interface. (More on the AX Pro amplifier box later.) Only stereo sources are left out in the cold. That includes the Wii.
The adjustable headphones themselves are covered in a gray, gun-metal glossy plastic with room for the detachable microphone under the left ear cup. Four drivers make up each ear cup, allowing for discrete channel separation of front, center, rear, and subwoofer audio streams. The wire coming from the left ear cup contains an in-line volume adjuster that allows you to separately tune each audio channel. 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 two connections; one for the amplifier box and the other will need to be plugged in for power.
The headphones alone are actually quite heavy. 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. The AX Pro comes fitted with soft, cloth-covered earpads and you're given the option to replace them with spare leather-cushioned pads. In terms of comfort, each had its pros and cons so we recommend trying each of them on. We should note that the leather pads caused our ears to sweat a lot, quicker than the cloth-covered pads did.
In terms of sound quality, we were very impressed with the overall performance of the AX Pro. 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 Pro 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.
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 or the PC, you'll also need to attach an included USB cable from the amp box to either device. You may need to invest in a longer cable as 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.
The AX Pro amplifier box is small and won't take up much surface area. That said, you will need it accessible whenever you're using it, as this is where all main volume controls and connections will be made. The box allows for up to two AX Pro headsets to be attached simultaneously, and the unit itself also requires power. You'll then 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.
After you've managed to connect your devices, you can play around with the various settings on the box. You can switch between Dolby Digital and Dolby Pro Logic II as well as adjust time delay if you feel audio isn't syncing up to what you're seeing on the screen. We should note that in our testing this was never an issue.
Overall, we really enjoyed the performance of the Tritton AX Pro gaming headset. While setting up the device isn't for the timid, the time it takes to get going is worth it if you're serious about enjoying surround sound. The experience the headphones create is very unique if you can look past some of the necessary tedious steps to get it set up properly. Priced around $160 online, the Tritton AX Pro 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.