Turtle Beach Ear Force X2
Turtle Beach offers a series of wired Ear Force surround-sound gaming headphones that includes the X-51 and the HPA for PCs, as well as the AXT for the Xbox 360 and the original Xbox. Now the company is also selling a set of wireless stereo headphones, the Turtle Beach Ear Force X2s ($100 list, but widely available for $80), which are designed for Xbox 360 and Xbox owners looking to play their games loud without creating a racket.
Like other wireless headphones, the Turtle Beach Ear Force X2s come with an infrared base station that connects to your game console or home-theater system. While neither the base station (wireless transmitter) nor the headphones themselves are homely, they're far from sleek and have a bit of a budget feel to them. For better or worse, the combo matches the Xbox 360's off-white color scheme, and while these headphones aren't as bulky as the AXTs, they have circumaural (ear cupping) leatherette padded earpieces and a self-adjusting headband. Two AAA batteries that provide about 30 to 40 hours of gaming reside in a compartment in the left earcup and power the headphones. In ideal world, the batteries would be rechargeable--and they'd recharge when the headset's docked in the base station. Alas, that's not the case, though you can certainly buy rechargeable AAA batteries if you're concerned about the cost of burning through alkalines.
To set up the base station, you have to cobble together an included set of male and female connector cables to split the red and white Xbox or Xbox 360 audio outputs; that way, they plug into to both your TV (or A/V receiver) and the headphones' base station. After you properly rig the cabling, you connect the power adapter; Turtle Beach says you should toggle the three-way switch on the back of the base unit to the Low setting, which is designed for high-level audio sources such as the Xbox. There're also Mute and High settings for low-level audio sources. While designed with the Xbox systems in mind, the Ear Force X2s can be used for listening to any device that has an audio output.
Like Turtle Beach's HPA and AXT wired gaming headphones, the Ear Force X2s have an integrated flexible mic, but to use it, you'll need to plug the included 2.5mm cable into the bottom of the left earpiece and connect the other end to your Xbox 360 controller; owners of the original Xbox console will need the optional Xbox Communicator module to enable the mic. In addition to the bothersome dangling wire, you'll have to adjust the voice-output options (you must have voice output play through both the speakers and headset) and tweak the volume levels in the Xbox Dashboard to hear other players during Xbox Live sessions. In short, it's a workable solution, though far from ideal. And lastly, we felt the mic-muting switch was not well designed and felt chintzy.
OK, on to the gaming: For starters, these are comfortable headphones, though your ears will get a little steamy during long gaming sessions. They feel a little lighter than they look and do a decent job of not putting too much pressure on your ears--so long as you don't have a huge head. For those of you who wear glasses while gaming, it's worth noting that the headphones won't interfere with your eyewear unless you have really thick armatures.