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Gamers understand that you can't always get a solid gaming session in during the daytime hours. If you share your living space, the odds are you've had to wait until nightfall so that you can have uninterrupted gaming time. It's no wonder, then, that we've seen a spike in console-gaming headphones and headsets to accommodate those brave night owls.
Last year, we looked at the Turtle Beach Ear Force P21s. Though we liked the gaming headset, we wish it included Xbox 360 chat support. Turtle Beach has released an update to the P21s, the PX21s, and though they still don't support 5.1 surround sound, they do support PC, Mac, and Xbox 360 connections in addition to PlayStation 3.
If you're a gamer who needs universal compatibility but doesn't mind stereo-only playback, the $80 PX21s will probably satisfy all of your gaming and voice chat needs.
The PX21s are all black plastic and have an adjustable padded headband that connects the earcups, which are covered in a shiny black shell. Each cup is cushioned with a mesh cloth that we found comfortable over long rounds of gaming.
When held, the headset feels a bit cheap, especially where the earcups attach to the headband. There's a certain hollow characteristic to them, which fortunately did not carry over to the headset's overall performance.
Its boom mic protrudes out from the left earcup. It's quite long and completely adjustable, so you'll have no trouble getting it placed perfectly. We really liked the fact that the boom can swivel 360 degrees out of sight when not in use.
The connecting wire has an in-line control box, which can be clipped onto your clothing. On the box, you'll find various switches and knobs that let you mute the mic, and control chat, game, and bass volume. There's also an Expander mode that tries to give you fuller overall sound. However, we enjoyed our game time better with the mode turned off. The box also has an included Xbox controller attachment wire for use when chatting while playing a game.
Setting up the PX21 headset is simple enough thanks to its bypass-capable RCA analog audio connections. The ports attach right where your console wires hook into your TV or receiver, thus letting you keep the headset connected and not have to switch cabling around each time you want to use the headset. That said, if you are planning to use the headset with multiple consoles, you'll need to swap these connections when switching systems. Of course, you could bypass this if all your consoles are connected to a receiver with an audio-out port available. The headset's cable length is also very generous, giving you up to 16 feet to work with. The wire terminates in a single audio headphone jack and USB port. The two are tethered closely, so you'll need the included breakout audio cable to connect to a console.
We're satisfied with the headset's analog stereo audio support, but we were a bit disappointed to find that you can't use a digital optical audio connection with the PX21s. This also means the headset is incapable of producing surround sound like we've seen in other 5.1 Turtle Beach products. However, the PX21s are significantly cheaper than the company's 5.1 efforts.
During our testing, we were impressed with the PX21 headset's performance. We used the boom mic for a handful of rounds playing SOCOM: Confrontation on PS3 and Modern Warfare 2 on Xbox 360, which yielded solid results. Our teammates heard us clearly and we were able to adjust the chatter volume to fit our preference.
The headset's sound quality was good; even with just a stereo connection we were able to tell where gunfire was coming from. However, the PX21s don't do a good job at sound isolation. If you're using the headset next to someone, he or she will most likely be able to hear what's going on through the earcups. The PX21 can also double as a PC or Mac gaming headset. You can either use the USB dongle as a virtual sound card or use the included 1/8-inch-to-stereo-RCA adapter to attach it to your sound card. Either way, the headset performs just as well, adding to the overall value of the product.
We liked the PX21 headset's performance, and it's a significant upgrade from last year's P21 model. The company makes a solid 5.1 surround headset--the X41--for double the price, but it can be used with a wide range of home theater devices. However, it won't work with PS3 chat in game, just audio. Your other alternative is the Tritton AX Pro 5.1 system for around $150, which may be confusing to set up, but it does offer close to universal compatibility.