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Turtle Beach Ear Force XP510 Review

7
Life’s a beach, and so is gaming with the Ear Force XP510 headset.

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We are currently in one of those transitional phases of gaming, where you, the gamer, have quite a few choices in platform. With the rise of online multiplayer games using in-game voice chat on all of those platforms, a headset is a must have item for most gamers these days. Turtle Beach is definitely aware of this with their highly versatile Ear Force XP510.

I dare call this set the Swiss Army Knife of gaming headsets.

Ear Force seems like a somewhat peculiar name for this headset, as there is definitely nothing forceful about them. Rather than blasting out your ear drums with sheer loudness, the XP510 makes sweet gentle love to your ear canals from four directions at the same time. With a 15 hour battery life as well, this set has the stamina to last all night. Also being wireless you can game from any position... but enough with the ear sex jokes, let’s get this review started. 

Before I go into the details of the headset, let me just lay out for you what it does and does not do.

The XP510 works on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. It also works on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and mobile devices to a certain extent. The PS4 does not recognize the headset as Bluetooth, and requires a wired adaptor, similar to Xbox One, which does not register the microphone at all or output in Surround Sound.

In that case, gamers can use the Kinect’s built-in microphone or wait for a promised adaptor from Microsoft.  They also function as wired headphones for anything that has a standard headphone jack in it. If you are on an older model Xbox 360, you need to purchase their separate HDMI audio cable; and Wii/WiiU owners are left in the cold with the lack of an optical audio port.

Ease of use

The primary platform I’ve been testing the headset on is a Windows 8 PC (you need a Windows system, so better luck next time, Mac/Linux). The included manual only covers how to configure the system for PS3 and Xbox 360, so I spent an entire day with the headset improperly installed on my PC. I made the mistake in assuming this works as both Bluetooth headphone and a Bluetooth mic. In order to properly work on PC, your PC needs to have both Bluetooth and an optical audio port.

After a visit to the Turtle Beach site, I found the PC setup guide. While on the site, it was also very important to get the support software, as the XP510 I received came very out of date. The box firmware was 3.5, the current firmware is 6.7. I can’t speak for the retail box, but the audio quality noticeably improved with the new firmware; as well as including the very useful music and movie modes. Also, pay close attention when updating--during the first update, I unintentionally killed the voice prompts on the set that are very important for letting you know what mode you are in.

Console setup is an absolute breeze compared to PC. The manual has very clear instructions with illustrations, and that’s obviously the target platform for the headset. Chat works over Bluetooth on PS3, and there is an included dongle for your Xbox 360 controller that enables wireless chat. The key to this ease of use is the RF Transmitter base, included with the set. The transmitter uses dual band wi-fi and delivers near identical audio as to a wired or Bluetooth connection.

Having the headphones operate on wi-fi opens up a huge amount of options with the ability to dual pair the Bluetooth.  You can mix in-game audio with an additional Bluetooth source… so you can stream music, or even take phone calls while racking up some kills. Each audio source also has separate volume controls, giving you perfect control over the mix. The only real downside is the limited range of the headset; traveling more than 25 feet away from your audio source will cause it to break up and eventually just cut out.

Not that I would ever wear a pair of review headphones on a trip to the bathroom, but rest assured whoever gets this set… it was far out of range (not that I tried or anything). 

Buttons, knobs, and dials

You have exactly eight buttons and two dials at your disposal on the headset itself, and the transmitter has a few controls for the surround sound. 

The mode button cycles through three main audio modes: Game, Movie, and Music. Each mode provides a distinct sound best suited towards that use, with Game Mode having its own set of 8 presets.

The Game Presets button gives you a wide range, from flatter audio for dialogue heavy titles, extra base for all those explosions, and even modes that boost small details like enemy footsteps.

A similar Chat Preset button below that will add different modulation to your voice to ensure you annoy as many people as possible online with your best Alvin the Chipmunk impression. On this side of the headset is also the all-important power button… but oddly enough there is no way to turn the power off. The only way to power off the headset is to disconnect the power cord from the transmitter (which is USB only), or wait for it to automatically power off after several minutes of silence.

The right earphone controls Bluetooth functions. There are volume up and down buttons rather than a dial and the button to pair. Since the mic is Bluetooth as well, the mute button for that is located on this side. If you plan on using these for headphones, I suggest just unplugging the mic, as it automatically turns on after powering up and remains on unless you hit the mute button.

If all those control options weren’t enough, you can also customize things even more via the Advanced Sound Editor, which is initially used to update your firmware. All the modes are fully customizable along with a library of downloadable user-created modes.

Make sure to pay attention to which USB cable you attach to the headset, as there is a "power only" USB cable included that will not transmit any data. 

But how does it sound?

For the last six or so years, my primary headphones have been the Bose QC3. The first time I fired up the XP510, the audio felt quite hollow in comparison to what I had grown used to from my Bose. After updating the firmware and learning the proper modes, however, I can say that this set definitely gives my trusty Bose a run for its money.

The big feature the XP510 has going for it is Dolby Digital surround sound, or a virtual version of it, at least. There are six different presets to choose from that will shift the angle from which these virtual speakers are pointed at you.

For some reason I thought it was a good idea to start playing Outlast to test out how well the surround sound works. I’ve put off playing the game since Halloween, so of course the playthrough scared the ever-loving piss out of me. If you watch my video review, you can see the surround sound is so accurate that my head is reacting in the direction I hear sounds… and, of course, I scream like a little girl.

I ran the mic through its paces in a couple matches of Team Fortress 2; you can hear the voice modulation on your end as well, so that leads to a lot of fun. If you are planning on using this as a microphone to record voiceovers, however, you’ll be let down by the quality. I recorded some samples directly from the headset’s mic that you can hear in the video review.

I also ran into problems with Google Hangout and Skype recognizing the microphone--I’m sure with enough fiddling and driver management, it is possible to do… but I wasn’t going to sink more than an hour into trying to get it to work properly.

How comfortable is it?

The XP510 is a pretty hefty headset, and you are definitely not going to forget that they are on your head. Like most headphones with large cups that envelope your ear, it becomes somewhat uncomfortable if worn for long periods of time while wearing glasses. The padding is very nice though, and you’re never left with sweaty ears. The set can adjust to practically any head size and the mic is flexible to any position imaginable or just altogether removable.

So is it worth $290?

You can buy a WiiU for the price of these headphones, even though they, ironically, won’t work on that system. If you are planning on using these on a next-gen console, they technically do work… but were not designed for those systems. On PS4, you are forced into a wired connection, and on Xbox One, you are forced into using Kinect for a mic.

I dare call this set the Swiss Army Knife of gaming headsets.

As a PC headset, I would have said no during my initial impressions. It is not labeled on the box or manuals that it requires a PC with an optical audio port. I should note that a line in adaptor can be purchased, which will work with your PC’s audio jack if you lack that port. It is also very easy to set things up improperly on PC, which lead to me initially testing the set without a properly functioning mic or surround sound.

To Turtle Beach’s credit, they have a slew of videos and guides available online for any kind of setup you can imagine. So yes, it is definitely worth it on PC after you have updated the firmware and properly set up the transmitter. The transmitter is great by the way, I had it about 5 feet away from a wi-fi router and there was never any interference; and the base doubles as a stand for the set when you are not using it.

The XP510 accomplishes its goal: a gaming headset that is compatible across the most popular gaming platforms.

As a bonus, they are terrific surround sound headphones for music and movies, but the microphone is “telephone” quality at best. I almost forgot the long battery life--15 hours of it, to be exact. I found myself taking the set off for digging my glasses into the side of my head long before I ever had the battery die on me.

Turtle Beach’s Ear Force XP510 is a jack of all trades, and a master at most. If you own multiple gaming systems and don’t want to buy multiple headsets, this is a great solution to that. If you are a WiiU or next-gen console owner, however, you are probably better off with a headset designed with that hardware specifically in mind.  

Do you want to get this headset for free for just for having read through my review? It's not quite that easy, but here is our $800 of swag contest that includes the XP510. For audio samples and cheesy green screen effects, check out my video review:

Originally Published Dec. 20th 2013

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Lifelong gamer, artist, writer, lurker, occasional troll, and 1994 Blockbuster Game Tournament Store Champion.



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