/> ED I T O R S C H O I C E IN N O V A T IO N A W A R D
X

CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

Turtle Beach Ear Force X31 Gaming Headset review: Turtle Beach Ear Force X31 Gaming Headset

JeffHSurban2012.jpg

Editors' note: We've updated some of the information in this review to reflect the X31's functionality in reference to some of the other gaming headsets in its price range. The product's final score remains unchanged.

OVR
6.7

Turtle Beach Ear Force X31 Gaming Headset

The Good

Wireless stereo headset; adjustable boom mic; bass booster; audio bypass cable; includes everything you need.

The Bad

Stereo only; wireless RF interferes with Wi-Fi and vice versa.

The Bottom Line

The X31 is a great stereo wireless gaming headset for the Xbox 360, we just wish it could handle Dolby Digital playback.

Last month we took the Turtle Beach Ear Force P21s for a spin using its chat function with our PlayStation 3. To be fair, we thought we would even the playing field by checking out the company's Xbox 360 headset and voice chat solution with the Ear Force X31.

While the X31 is a wireless solution, opposed to the P21's wired setup, it provides just as good sound quality and voice chat performance in-game. In fact, if you're desperate for a wireless experience and don't mind living without voice chat, you could even use the X31 with your PS3.

As mentioned above, the X31 is quite similar to the P21 except for the fact that the X31 utilizes a wireless RF signal to transfer audio information from the Xbox 360 to your headset.

The overall construction of the X31 definitely trumps that of the P21; the headset simply feels more durable and not as frail as the P21s did. The earcups are comfortable and won't irritate your head after long sessions of play time. That said, the wireless headset is a bit heavy, which may become uncomfortable to some after wearing it for an extended period of time.

Setting up the X31s is easy enough. The included audio wire allows for bypassing, which lets you plug them into where your Xbox's audio would normally go. With that cable in place, you must then run its 1/8-inch jack into the RF transmitter, a tiny USB-powered black box. You're free to draw USB power from anywhere you'd like, including an open port on the front of your console. In our case we were able to power the RF transmitter via our cable box. On the rear of the transmitter you'll find an adjustable output volume.


The included RF transmitter can draw USB power from any available port, whether it be from your Xbox 360 or from a laptop.

The headset requires two AAA batteries (which are included) to operate. While Turtle Beach doesn't estimate how much play time you'll get, we didn't have an issue with power during the four days of our testing. As always, we'd recommend rechargeables in this situation.

Out of the left earcup protrudes the boom mic. Its wireframe design makes it completely adjustable--in fact we wish all boom mics were made out of this similar construction. It simply gives you the most control over the mic's location.


The X31 boom mic is 100 percent adjustable and can be moved out of sight when not in use.

Sound quality was better than we expected with an RF signal. While the X31 cannot decode Dolby Digital, it does do an excellent job of stereo separation. For example, during our sessions with Call of Duty 4, we could easy differentiate where gunfire was originating off screen.

The X31 also has an onboard sound effect button that has three settings. The first will initiate a bass boost, which we actually enjoyed. Explosions and other powerful sound effects carried more of a presence with the setting activated. The next effect was similar to what we heard with the P21s, something called "widening." Again, we weren't thrilled with its performance, so we just stayed with the bass boost. If you like both the widening and bass boost, the third setting allows for both to be active at the same time.

Next in our testing was chat performance. Using the included white Xbox wire, we connected the controller to our headset. While it's not the ideal totally wireless setup we'd like, it does work well. Best of all, you can separately control the chat volume on the fly, so game audio will never drown out the chatter you need to hear. Turtle Beach also includes a feature called Chat Boost that raises chat audio when game audio gets too loud. While we welcome this sort of technology, you'll probably wind up making adjustments yourself anyway.

One last note about the wireless experience the X31 offers: Since it operates on the 2.4GHz spectrum that routers and other wireless products love as well, you may get some interference while playing. While this is mostly unavoidable, we recommend separating the two items as far apart as you can. If all else fails, try assigning your router to a certain wireless channel and see if that helps.

Priced at $100, you may want to make sure you'll be able to get more use out of the X31s than just Xbox 360 gaming. Since the boom mic can be moved out of sight, there's no reason you can't use it for TV and movie viewing as well.

We would have been impressed if the X31 was able to deliver Dolby Digital at its $100 price tag as we've yet to see a headset do so for that price. If Dolby Digital is something you're after, check out the X4. It might be twice the cost, but its excellent sound quality and 5.1 reproduction in-ear creates an immersive experience.

OVR
6.7

Turtle Beach Ear Force X31 Gaming Headset

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 7