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Turtle Beach Ear Force AXT review: Turtle Beach Ear Force AXT

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The Good True eight-driver, 5.1-channel headphones with an onboard amplifier; cord has stereo RCA plugs for direct connection to any A/V source; integrated Xbox Live microphone; in-line volume control; stellar gaming and DVD sound.

The Bad Requires outlet power; doesn't include adapter for standard headphone jacks; analog stereo input only; big, clunky design.

The Bottom Line The Xbox Live-friendly Turtle Beach Ear Force AXT delivers immersive surround sound to gamers willing to deal with the cumbersome design.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.1 Overall
  • Design 5
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8

Review Sections

Turtle Beach's Ear Force surround-sound headphone line comprises the X-51 and the HPA for PCs and the AXT for the Xbox 360 and the original Xbox. Ear Force models incorporate multiple drivers into each earpiece to approximate the experience of listening to a 5.1-channel surround-sound speaker system. The bulkiest of the bunch, the AXT ($79), includes an in-line amplification module to drive the sound, a microphone for voice communication in games, and stereo RCA plugs for connection to audio outputs on an Xbox or an Xbox 360. Xbox 360 owners won't have any trouble fully connecting the AXT to their systems, but owners of the older system will need the optional Xbox Communicator module--if they don't already have one--to enable the mic.

Constructed almost entirely of black plastic, the AXT has circumaural (ear-cupping) leatherette padded earpieces and a self-adjusting headband. When we first donned the 'phones, they put uncomfortable pressure on our head, but the sensation quickly subsided, enabling us to wear the AXT in relative comfort through several long gaming sessions. The AXT is among the largest and bulkiest of the headsets we've seen. Although the mic isn't removable, it can be swiveled out of the way when not in use.

The headphones have a single-sided cord with a 1.3-foot segment running from the left earpiece to the AXT's capsule-shaped in-line control module/amp. A second segment approximately 5 feet in length emerges from the opposite side of the control module. It terminates in analog stereo RCA plugs as well as a connector for the mandatory power adapter, which must be plugged into a wall socket or a power strip. Given a total headphone-cord length of less than 7 feet, you may end up purchasing an extension cable to get farther away from the TV set. Because the headphones are self-amplified, you can connect the RCA plugs directly to your console's outputs. The AXT's RCA plugs are male, but the 'phones come with male-to-female adapters so that you can mate them with the Xbox's audio cables. A coiled microphone cord also emerges from the module. The somewhat heavy control module feels uncomfortable when it tugs on the cord, but you can generally avoid the problem by keeping the module in your lap. The module has a volume wheel, but it doesn't have controls such as bass or treble, which we would have appreciated. Unlike the HPA headset for PCs, which has six separate audio inputs to deliver discrete 5.1-channel surround sound, the AXT relies on stereo-to-surround upmixing to approximate the same effect (it's a proprietary system but similar to the matrix surround effect used by Dolby Pro Logic II).

The four drivers (front, rear, center, and sub) in each earpiece help deliver aggressive sound that won't disappoint gamers in search of an adrenaline rush. While the experience doesn't quite rival that of gaming with a good 5.1-channel speaker system, when we connected the 'phones directly to our Xbox, they proved capable of playing loudly, and the overall sound was big and bold. In a surround-sound test that simulated a music source continuously circling our heads, the AXT created a surprisingly gapless 360-degree soundstage devoid of noticeable sonic blind spots. In fact, the HPA model, with its discrete 5.1-channel drivers, didn't perform any better in the 360-degree surround test, though it delivered deeper, more natural sound.

For gaming, we can't say the AXT headphones helped us track the locations of other players better than standard headphones would have, but we were nonetheless impressed by the ambience they created. For instance, when we played Top Spin tennis, the convincing sound of a large crowd of spectators seated around the court helped make gameplay exciting.

With DVDs, dialogue sounded clear, and we again felt immersed in the action. With music, however, we longed for headphones with lusher midrange and more detailed treble. Despite not sounding as rich or natural as the HPA model for PCs, the Turtle Beach Ear Force AXT is still a good, solid option for Xbox gaming, whether in single-player mode or on Xbox Live.

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