I'm a fan of Turtle Beach, but they've made it hard to recommend their latest wireless headset.
The Turtle Beach Elite 800X launched a few weeks ago with a promising array of features. Some of these include a robust wireless design that looks as sleek as it does functional. Throw in an awesome charging dock to help keep your gaming space tidy and DTS 7.1 surround sound with customizable modes that can enhance games by genre.
Then, why does this Xbox One headset self-described as "the most advanced ever" fall short?
- Costs £249.99 / $299.95
- Wireless connectivity listed up to 10 ft
- Xbox One and mobile phone compatible only (There is also a Playstation variant)
- Noise cancellation
- DTS Headphone:X 7.1 360 Surround Sound
- Magnetic charging dock that connects wirelessly to the headset and via optic audio cable and USB to the Xbox One
- 8-10-hour battery life
- Hidden integrated microphones
- Customizable speaker plates
The Good: Audio quality, design, and features
First let's talk about what aspects of the 800X truly make the grade. The 800X earphones deliver an incredible audio experience that is a cut above other headsets I've used. The potential volume range is insane, and whether you're playing games or listening to death metal, you'll find your ears more than saturated (and maybe damaged if you're over-zealous with the volume rocker).
Like the Stealth 500X and XO Seven, the Elite 800X comes with tailored audio pre-sets for a generous amount of scenarios. You can adjust the stereo settings and rock through a ton of customizable modes per use case. If you're gaming, you can adjust the audio for horror, racing, and even to emphasize the sounds of gunfire and footsteps. You can download further pre-sets that are game-specific, as Turtle Beach have worked with major developers to tailor the experience for several games.
The 800X also comes with Bluetooth, which makes them a viable option for mobile music lovers. Pair your phone, swap the audio setting to music and you'll struggle to find a better experience. I tested them on a busy road, armed with the noise-cancellation setting and a Deftones album. The rich bass and crisp high and mid ranges added a new dimension to one of my favourite albums, which now sounds underwhelming when I listen to it using other methods.
For gamers, the Bluetooth pairing has other uses. It allows you to receive notification tones from your phone even when you're gaming on your Xbox. If you wanted to be really industrious, you could turn down the background music in the game and replace it with your own music from your phone. The versatility offered by the addition of Bluetooth is great, particularly if you're still waiting for the Xbox One to support background audio.
Design-wise, Turtle Beach have largely delivered, with only a couple of minor annoyances in tow. The cans are cushioned using a suffocating faux-leather, which is comfortable but can get clammy, particularly if you're putting up with the summer right now. The headband is among the most solid I've seen and offers reassurance as a person who is notoriously clumsy for snapping headsets. The only minor annoyance I have stems from the trade-off of allowing customizable speaker plates. Customization is a great addition, but I fear the result makes the control rockers overly sensitive. When you're trying to adjust the audio and you accidentally hit the preset rocker, a woman invades your game to inform you that you're now in a new mode. Thus cutting out party chat and all other sounds. I'm sure with practice you could circumvent these issues, which is why they're only listed here as a minor annoyance.
For me, the 800X's killer feature is the magnetic charging dock. As someone whose desk is covered in devices, peripherals and wires, the charging dock is a godsend. It fits neatly on top of the Xbox One besides the main vent and generates no heat. The headset snaps into place as satisfyingly as a Surface Pro 3 keyboard and informs you when it's charging. The battery will net you around 8-10 hours of use time which isn't great if you're a marathon gamer, but I think the vast majority will find that adequate.
There's a lot to celebrate about the Turtle Beach Elite 800X, sadly though, as a headset designed for Xbox One it's let down by a couple of major flaws.
The Bad: Rough mic-monitoring, terrible internal microphones
Right now, I'd prefer to use the stock Xbox One mono-headset over the 800X, which is a major problem. The Turtle Beach Elite 800X are designed to be versatile, complete with Bluetooth, customization and wirelessness, but they're marketed to, and designed for Xbox One gamers. As of writing this, they offer an inferior experience compared to cheaper headsets for that user base.
The Turtle Beach Elite 800X have internal microphones, which sounds like it could be a good thing. Surely you'd be more likely to wear these outside, taking advantage of that killer Bluetooth integration if it didn't have an awkward boom mic sticking out of the side. As I said though, these are Xbox branded cans, and by offering a poor party chat functionality they've killed their purchase argument. Up until the party chat experience, I would've recommended these without hesitation, but if you play lots of multiplayer games, you'll want to avoid the 800X.
The microphones are simply bad. With fully updated firmware, I've jumped into various parties on Xbox Live only to be asked if I'm using Kinect as a microphone. The amount of times people have asked me to repeat myself has frankly been embarrassing, and at this price point it simply isn't good enough. I've tested them using Skype on Xbox One and with party chat on a second Xbox and in all conditions the microphones are simply too quiet, sounding muffled at the other end. The omission of a boom mic might make it more pretty from the outside, but it's severely hindered as an Xbox headset because of it.
You can adjust the microphone for "Quiet Room", "Normal Room" and "Loud Room", but none of these settings wildly improves the experience for those trying to hear you. It's incredibly frustrating, particularly as the 800X does so much right, but to stumble like this suggests a degree of half-heartedness.
The half-heartedness continues when it comes to the headset's mic-monitoring, which is notably worse than the Stealth 500X and Turtle Beach XO Seven. The only way to adjust the volume for mic-monitoring is via an Android app. As a Windows Phone user, I'm used to our ecosystem being ignored but failing to offer a PC or iOS app to adjust core settings just seems strange.
These fairly major oversights are perplexing. It makes me wonder whether the "most advanced headset ever" was thoroughly tested or even intended for the Xbox One. Pure frustration.
If you're not into multiplayer, Skype, or other apps that use the 800X's shoddy mic array, you'd be forgiven for thinking the 800X is perfect. The audio quality is stellar, and the build quality is complimented throughout with a premium feel. The control rockers are a tad sensitive, but with the trade-off of awesome customization. The charging dock is a brilliant addition that I hope they keep for future wireless headset iterations, as well as the versatility offered by Bluetooth.
If you ever use Xbox Live party chat, the 800X should be avoided. The free stock headset that comes with the Xbox One provides a better mic experience, which is a harsh criticism considering this headset is priced so highly.
- The poor party chat experience stops the 800X being the ultimate Xbox One headset, which is incredibly frustrating as a fan.
- The fact you can Bluetooth pair them to a second device in combination with the Xbox One is awesome.
- If you're still in the market for a wireless Xbox One headset, the Turtle Beach Stealth 500X is a better option for party chat.
- If you aren't into long stints in party chat, the 800X might be the greatest Xbox One headset on the market today.
I'm left hoping that Turtle Beach can bring the best of the 800X and the 500X together in the future. For now though, I'll be more than happily to tolerate the 500X's USB charging cable.