Wireless headphones have been around for a while, but it's only been in the past few years that quality has gotten high enough for discerning listeners to consider using them. Many manufacturers, for instance, have turned to infrared (IR) technology for wireless signal transmission, which powered the Turtle Beach X4 we looked at last year. Overall we felt the IR radius was a bit narrow and we really disliked the fact that they didn't work well while using a plasma TV.
The Turtle Beach X41 headphones are essentially the same product, but instead of using an IR signal, this headset takes advantage of an RF (radio frequency) to provide wireless audio. Besides a few hiccups and a hefty price tag, the X41s are one of the best wireless gaming headsets around.
While the Ear Force X41s are designed with the Xbox 360 in mind--they include a removable microphone and connections for chatting on Xbox Live--the headphones will actually deliver convincing surround sound from nearly any home theater source, thanks to their built-in 7.1-channel Dolby Digital processing.
The Ear Force X41 headphones include two main components: the wireless headphones themselves and a base station that houses most of the necessary jacks. The base gives you the option of either using a digital audio connection or an analog signal via a set of stereo RCA cables (red/white). That means that they will work with pretty much any audio source--anything with an optical digital output (such as a DVD player or the Apple TV) or standard analog line outs (pretty much everything). You could easily use the X41 headphones with a PlayStation 3 or Wii, but just don't expect to take advantage of voice chat--that'll only work with the Xbox 360.
The system boasts both Dolby Digital and Dolby Pro Logic IIx processing; the former handles the bit-stream surround soundtracks on DVD and Blu-ray movies and most video games, while the latter does a decent job of creating a faux-surround effect from any stereo source. The X41s' transmitter base also have a line-in volume control allowing you to just adjust the level of the incoming source. Up front there's also a headphone jack with a volume adjuster that will play the same audio being broadcasted. Finally, the base also features a "bypass" button that will allow you to hear unprocessed audio.
Setting up the Ear Force X41 headphones is fairly simple. For Dolby Digital processing, you'll use the included 7-foot optical cable to connect your Xbox 360 (or another digital source) to the "digital in" port on the transmitter base. If you're also using an AV receiver and surround speakers, don't worry; there's a digital out port for passing the signal on, so you don't have to constantly unplug and plug in wires whenever you want to play using the headphones.
For power, the X41s ship with a USB cord that plugs directly into the base unit. You can plus the USB end of the wire anywhere (including the 360 itself). We had an empty USB port on our cable set-top box, which worked fine. We should note that USB power is your only option here. The unit does not ship with a USB-to-AC adapter.