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Turtle Beach PS3 Ear Force PX21 Gaming Headset review: Turtle Beach PS3 Ear Force PX21 Gaming Headset

Turtle Beach PS3 Ear Force PX21 Gaming Headset

Jeff Bakalar Editor at Large
Jeff is CNET Editor at Large and a host for CNET video. He's regularly featured on CBS and CBSN. He founded the site's longest-running podcast, The 404 Show, which ran for 10 years. He's currently featured on Giant Bomb's Giant Beastcast podcast and has an unhealthy obsession with ice hockey and pinball.
Jeff Bakalar
3 min read

Any gamer who plays at night knows how important it is to have a solid set of headphones. We've looked at solutions in the past for Xbox 360 like the Turtle Beach X4s and the all-in-one Tritton AX Pro. If PlayStation 3 is your console of choice, you may want to check out the Ear Force P21. While they don't offer true 5.1 surround sound, they're very comfortable and offer plenty of customization features to suit your individual gaming needs.


Turtle Beach PS3 Ear Force PX21 Gaming Headset

The Good

Stereo headset for PlayStation 3; works with PSN in-game chat; long 16-foot wire; RCA bypass-capable connections; in-line control box; adjustable boom mic; also works as a PC/Mac headset.

The Bad

No support for surround sound; stereo analog connections only.

The Bottom Line

The Ear Force P21 headset may not support surround sound, but it is a solid PlayStation 3 accessory that supports in-game chat.

The P21s come in all black plastic. The adjustable padded headband 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 PlayStation 3 gaming.

When held, the headset does feel a bit cheap, especially where the earcups attach to the headband. There's a certain hollow characteristic to them--fortunately this did not carry over to the headset's overall performance, more of which we'll get to later on.

Out from the left earcup protrudes the boom mic. It's quite long and completely adjustable, so you'll have no trouble getting it placed perfectly. The tip of the microphone has two listening areas, one for your voice and one for ambient noise, which the headset itself will deflect. We really liked the fact that the boom can swivel 360 degrees out of sight when not in use.

We really liked the fully adjustable boom mic with its ambient noise reduction.

A few feet down the connecting wire rests the in-line control box, which can be clipped onto your clothing if desired. On the box you'll find various switches and knobs allowing you to mute the mic, control chat, game, and bass volume, in addition to enabling Expander mode (which tries to give you fuller overall sound). That said, we enjoyed our game time better with the mode turned off.

Setting up the P21 headset is simple enough thanks to its bypass-capable RCA analog audio connections. The ports can attach right where your PlayStation 3 wires hook into your TV or receiver, preventing the need to constantly switch out wires when you want to use the headset. The cable length is also very generous, giving you up to 16 feet to work with. An included USB extender allows for the headset to hook into your PS3 when chatting.

The analog audio connections allow for bypassing wires.

While we're satisfied with analog stereo audio support, we were a bit disappointed to find that you can't use a digital optical audio connection with the P21. This also means the headset is incapable of producing surround sound like we've seen in other 5.1 Turtle Beach products.

During our testing, we were impressed with the P21's performance. We used the boom mic for a handful of rounds playing SOCOM: Confrontation, which yielded solid results. Our teammates heard us clearly and we were able to adjust the chatter to fit our preference.

Sound quality was good; even with just a stereo connection, we were able to tell where gunfire was coming from. However, the P21 does not do a good job at sound isolation. If you're using the headset next to someone, they will most likely be able to hear what's going on through the earcups.

The P21 can also double as a PC (or Mac) gaming headset. You can either use the USB dongle as a virtual soundcard or purchase a 1/8-inch-to-stereo-RCA adapter in order to attach it manually to your soundcard. Either way, the headset performs just as well, adding to the overall value of the product.

We liked the P21 headset's performance, we just wish it supported 5.1 surround sound. Priced around $80, you may want to look at another headset if you'll need something for more than just PlayStation 3 gaming sessions. The company makes a solid 5.1 surround headset--the X4--for double the price, but it can be used with a wide range of home theater devices. That said, 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.


Turtle Beach PS3 Ear Force PX21 Gaming Headset

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 5Performance 7