Category Archives: Hardware

Xbox One Elite Controller review

SCUF has been one heck of a success story, producing modified controllers that allow gamers to keep their thumbs on the sticks while still having full control over the face button. A paddle system configured to the A, B, X or Y is positioned underneath the controller so that your resting fingers can work them, keeping your thumbs in full control of where you are aiming. I fully expected Microsoft to partner with SCUF for the launch of the Xbox One and release an officially licensed controller. Now, finally we have that controller, although MS have stepped out on their own.

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The Elite controller is an absolute beauty, and at £119.99 it’s competitively priced against those of SCUF – but the Elite has a huge advantage – it’s completely customisable. The controller comes with a variety of options: four paddles (two short and two long), three sets of thumbsticks (short concave set, medium domed set, long concave set), a traditional d-pad, a funky disc d-pad, a braided cable for charging and a hard case to keep the controller safe. It’s one heck of a package, although MS forgot to include a rechargeable battery!

Each of the controller’s accessories magnetically snap in to place, and once they are on, they hold – no chance of slipping and no chance of falling off mid-game. The final gem in this customisable package is the option to tweak a variety of settings via an app, accessible through the Xbox One. Two different setting loadouts can be stored on the Elite at any one time and can be selected via the mode switch located in the centre of the controller – SCUF must be looking over at the Elite with a little envy, at least they have their famous trigger stops to brag about… well… MS have that covered too.

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A pair of trigger stops can be effortlessly flicked on or off, reducing the distance you need to press down on the triggers – and by using the app – you can set how they respond. Creating dead zones for a more controlled trigger press – ideal for racing games – or setting up a heightened sensitivity, which is perfect for shooters like Call of Duty. The Elite controller really does tick all the boxes, apart from that elusive battery.

Jumping in to the Elite app, which unfortunately isn’t available to snap, you can control a whole host of options. You can remap the face buttons and paddles; tweak the brightness of the guide button and the strength of the rumble motors; and adjust the sensitivity of the thumbsticks and the triggers. If it’s all a little over your head then you can select a pre-defined setup, like the ‘smooth’ control system. You can also download and use developer profiles and setup your Elite controller with one of their settings.

Like the other new Xbox controllers, the Elite has the new 3.5mm jack input and the RB/LB have been overhauled and respond no matter where you press them. What I liked most about the Elite was the thumbstick turning circle. It’s silky smooth. Since release I’ve managed to pour in around 250 hours use and the sticks feel just as smooth as the day I first used them, and they haven’t lost any of their magnetic strength needed to snap the sticks in place. The only downside to the controller was that the right trigger was ‘sticky’ when I engaged the hair-trigger lock, although this did eventually disappear after I had used the pad for around 10 hours.

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The Elite is weightier than the standard controller, its components are made from steel, it has rubberised grips and a soft matte powdered finish making it feel like a premium product. The Elite is comfortable to hold, and although you’ll need to train your fingers to use the paddles, they are so well placed that using them feels comfortable and natural. It did take some effort to think about what and where I was pressing – undoing years of muscle memory – but once the paddle location clicked and I remembered which buttons I’d set to each paddle, they were a joy to use and easily the best paddle design I’ve come across. Now the standard Xbox controller seems like a distant and archaic tool – a bit like the “Duke”.

The Elite is a beauty. Retailing at £119.99, it may seem a tad on the expensive side, but you get a lot of bang for your buck – it’s just a shame MS didn’t throw in a rechargeable battery!

We bought our Elite controller to bring you this review

ASTRO Gaming A50 wireless (Gen 2) Xbox One headset review

A few months ago I put ASTRO Gaming’s A40 + M80 MixAmp Xbox One edition to the test, and boy was I impressed. Now it’s the turn of their prized headset, the ASTRO A50, but will the 7.1 Dolby Pro Logic IIx headset live up to its £250 price tag?

Like the A40, the A50 comes exquisitely packaged in a high quality gloss box that is clasped shut by magnets and wrapped with a cover sleeve. Within the box the contents are proudly displayed in molded plastic, but like the A40, there’s no hard case included, however, the A50 does come with a neat stand that, although tricky to assemble, looks great, proudly displays your A50 and houses the Tx MixAmp neatly beneath it.

The headset is of the same quality build and style of the A40, with soft touch plastic, shaped cushioned earpads and unidirectional swivel meaning the headset can be adjusted for maximum comfort, giving my ears that same feeling of being “hugged”.

Box contents

The non-removable mic boom is attached to the left ear and when in the upright position, the mic is muted. The left side is also where the charge and audio cables connect; unfortunately the A50 isn’t completely wire free. A micro USB (that’s included) can be connected to charge the non-removable lithium-Ion battery, although the cable is rather short, perfect in length for charging when stowed but not so good should you run out of power mid-game – during which time I used my Xbox One controller play and charge cable. When low on power, the headset will give you several warning beeps before cutting out, with the battery life at around 8-10 hours – considerably less than the awesome battery life of ASTRO’s A38.

For voice chat, you need to plug the audio cable into the left earcup and connect the mic puck to your controller. Like the A40, the wire connecting to the back of the puck is at a slight angle and should it need replacing, you can swap it with the official Microsoft adaptor. The connection into the headset is well positioned and unlike the A40, it doesn’t catch against my shoulder when I turn my head.

The mic fidelity is double that of the A40, and at 48MHz you would expect it to perform far better, and it does, although I did find that I needed to position it closer to my month to be heard more loudly. The clarity of the mic is superb, with no static surrounding my voice and very little background noise coming through – my friends could tell when I was using the A50. The moment I stop talking, the mic cuts straight out, whereas with some mics there is a pause of white noise. My only criticism is that if you are in a party chatting with a friend with no audio playing, the headset won’t recognise there is any audio and turn off to save power.

The right earcup is home to the A50’s audio controls, with a nifty rocker switch built into the earcup plate that allows you to adjust your sound in favour of game or voice – there’s a helpful audible beep when you hit 100% game or voice volume, or the optimum 50/50 split. The right earcup also has a small dial that allows you to control the master volume, and a switch that can be set to one of the three EQ settings – Media, Core or Pro.

Like the A40, I ended up favouring the Pro EQ setting, which boosts high frequencies – ideal for hearing someone sneaking up behind you. I also favoured this setting more than the others because the A50 is rather heavy on the bass, switching off the Dolby Digital sorts this, but you lose all of the enhanced depth that the Pro Logic IIx gives. With this in mind, and having used a similar headset from a rival brand, I must admit to being slightly disappointed that there isn’t an option to customise your own unique EQ – what a feature that would make if you could use the ASTRO app to control each EQ level!

I also found switching between EQ settings rather tricky, particularly as the switch is so close to the headset’s power button. The rest of the audio controls however are perfect – particularly the ability to mute the mic just by flicking up the boom, but by having the audio balance control as part of the right ear plate and a non-removable mic on the left, it does mean that the A50 isn’t compatible with ASTRO’s speaker tag system, which is a real shame, but there are several colour combinations to choose from, all of which look really smart, particularly the Halo 117 edition!

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The audio magic happens within the A50’s tiny MixAmp – the Tx. The USB powered box connects to the Xbox One via an optical cable and can also be used on a PC via USB. The unit itself simply has two buttons – one for power and one to turn the Dolby Digital on/off. Unfortunately the unit doesn’t power down/up automatically when you turn the Xbox off/on and I would have liked the option to control Dolby Digital as part of the headset – not all games sound great in glorious 7.1 virtual surround sound. Telltale’s Game of Thrones was one such game that sounded better in stereo, you just need to get off your backside to see whether you prefer stereo or surround sound for each game you play.

As with the A40, the stereo sound is incredible but once you hit that Dolby Pro Logic… wow… the depth to the sound is incredible – audio swirls around your head – when switching to stereo you can certainly hear how the sound changes to be more direct, coming in straight to your ears rather than sounding like you’re engulfed in it. The clarity that the A40 introduced me to suddenly opened up, giving my audio a depth to the space it filled, immersing me even more in the sound. Rather than being able to point at enemies left or right, the sound that the A50 pumps out gives greater accuracy to directional sound and it works superbly well. My audio was alive, it felt real – living in its own space, almost like I could reach out and touch it.

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The A50 has given me a whole new experience to my audio, everything from menu selection sound effects to how a gun sounds as you unload a clip into an enemy, ambient noises in the world of Tamaria to the hustle and bustle of a busy Los Santos street corner. I’ll be honest, some sounds actually made me jump because I wasn’t used to hearing them behind me, hats off to ASTRO and the virtual 7.1 surround sound because it works a treat!

I’ve even begun to play my music through Dolby Digital, which gives it a nice spatial depth, making the stereo option almost sound flat in comparison – both options are of course great, with a crispness and presence to the sound.

If you are after quality and an audio experience that you won’t be disappointed with, then I highly recommend you look at ASTRO Gaming’s range of headsets – but which one should you go for? The A40 or the A50? It’s difficult to recommend one pair over the other because they are both such great headsets, it really comes down to personal preference – do you want the depth of Dolby Digital, the bass of explosions and to be able to pinpoint sounds to a higher degree of accuracy or do you just want a high quality stereo headset – I would be happy with either!

So what’s next for ASTRO? On my ‘would like’ list would be the option to create my own EQ settings, and after using the A38, I’d love to get the noise cancelling technology into my gaming headset for the ultimate immersive audio experience.

Thanks to ASTRO Gaming for their support and supplying TiX with a review unit

Gioteck HC4 amplified stereo headset review

I don’t normally do headset reviews. I think it might be something to do with the fact that I don’t really do that much multiplayer online gaming that would warrant using a headset so much. Perhaps it’s more of a gentle reminder from Rich and Dave that I ought to get a little more involved.

The headset in question then, the Gioteck HC4 amplified stereo headset, when it arrived, was a medium sized box of mysteries and I opened it with a little trepidation. This is a multi-platform headset, and as such, you’ll need the Microsoft controller adapter in order to use the gaming features on your shiny Xbox One. This isn’t, unfortunately, compatible with the 360.

In that mysterious box, you’ll find the headset itself, a couple of handy user guides and a mini-usb cable to charge the headset up. Pulling the headset out of the packaging, I was surprised to feel how heavy they are. This is mainly down to the battery pack inside the left ear cup, which allows the headset power, handy as they are amplified.

I’d like to pass comment on the design front before I talk about the sound quality. The headset itself is very attractively designed, with smooth, velvet-like black plastic surrounds on the ear cups, a triple whammy of cushioning on the underside of the headband and ultra-soft ear cup cushioning for the speakers themselves. The left side has a set of four buttons and the all-important mic arm. Power them on and you have a futuristic blue glow gently caressing the side of your face. The headband itself has a snap-adjustment allow for a wider head fitting and the mic arm pivots up and down so you can tuck it away nicely.

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The ear cups are nice and large, for those of us with massive old-man ears and the connecting cable is flat, anti-tangle, with a 3.5mm jack. The mic arm is the only disappointment in the design overall as it is soft rubber with no wire insert to keep the mic in position nearer to your mouth. This didn’t seem to have an effect on the mic pickup though and is merely a cosmetic grumble from myself. The usb charging cable length is a little short too, if I’m honest, but the audio cable is a tangle-free metre or so in length.

The sound on these is simply brilliant. Having been used to small earbud-type headphones for so long, I’ve really forgotten what proper over the ear headsets can offer from a sound quality perspective. Of course, having no point of reference to compare them to helps, but as I get used to them I’m sure I’ll start to take the sound quality for granted. The gaming adapter allows you to adjust game and chat volume independently, and you can adjust the volume of the headset using the buttons. There is a mute button in those controls also and it’s easy to lose where this is when you have the headset on, but again, you can use the controller adapter to mute so this isn’t too much of a hassle.

The bass notes from the speakers are juicy, some might say phat, and the treble pips along at a good rate, giving an all-round healthy sound to these. It might take you a minute or two to get the headband in a comfortable position and it’s really worth making sure the ear cups are covering the ear completely to fully appreciate how well these sound. I tested the sound range as I normally do with these, by plugging them in to my laptop and popping some Nine Inch Nails on. The multi-layered tones from Trent and the gang really put headphones through their paces and the HC4 coped magnificently.

How do they fare in the gaming world? Well, the sound is crisp, chat was very clear and the unit itself, while slightly heavy is very comfortable, even if I did feel as if my ears were in a vacuum for the first ten minutes. This soon wears off though and despite the ungainliness in their initial feel, you soon forget that you’re wearing them. My co-gamer let me know that my voice was coming through loud and clear from mic with little background pickup from the sounds in my lounge. Despite that slight suction sensation there is a little noise leakage when these are on, even with the dampening effects of the cushioning and the efforts of the headband spring to attach these firmly to the side of your head.

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Summing the HC4 up then, the sound quality is brilliant, even if it is just plain old stereo. The mic picks up well enough and seems to miss out background noise, which is a bonus if you’re gaming in a noisy room. The ear cups fit well, once you’ve got the headband adjusted correctly and the amplify option is a nice touch, even if it isn’t necessary all of the time. The cable is roughly the right length for connecting to the controller and design touches like the soft feel surrounds are pleasant and stop you feeling like a military helicopter pilot from M.A.S.H.

I think this could have done with an adjustable mic arm and a slightly longer usb charging cable though. The in-built battery has a stated life of 8 hours but I managed a little more before it needed a charge with the bonus being that even without the amplification, the headset will still work. Would I buy this as an alternative to the big-hitters Astro and Turtle Beach? Probably yes. They look good and sound good, what more could you ask for?

ASTRO Gaming A40 + M80 Mixamp Xbox One headset review

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When deciding which headset to purchase what makes you choose one brand from another? Loyalties? Quality? How about whether it’s stereo or surround sound? Everyone has their preferences and sometimes even an allegiance to a brand, but in my experience most seem to agree on one thing – ASTRO Gaming makes the best headset. That’s quite a bold statement and one I just had to investigate for myself.

After chatting with a representative and looking at all the headsets that ASTRO offer, one word can describe my initial experience with them… impressive. Their website is well laid out and includes a forum, blog and community page, which links to two of their pro eSports teams – Team EnVyUs and OpTic Gaming – there’s even apparel and accessories you can purchase, all of which are reasonably priced. First impressions are everything and mine is of a company that loves its brand and its community equally – you can’t help but be sucked into the vibe that these guys create – but while ASTRO Gaming looks impressive, the proof in the pudding is in the eating… or in this case the listening!

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These days companies pay as much attention to packaging as they do to the product itself and the Xbox One edition of the ASTRO A40 is no exception. Packaged in high-gloss heavy cardboard, the headset is neatly displayed in molded plastic and the box is held shut with magnets – in the absence of a proper A40 case, that can be bought separately, the packaging is more than adequate at keeping the headset safe and sound.

I certainly appreciated the quality right from the moment I took the box out of its cover sleeve and with a big grin on my face I carefully removed the contents, which includes everything you will need to get on with gaming plus an extra 3.5mm audio cable that you can use to connect the A40 to a smartphone. It’s worth noting that this isn’t a standard audio cable, using another high-quality cable, only delivered sound in one ear so if you do fracture the cable make sure you pick up a replacement directly from ASTRO.

Before getting down to business and plugging the headset in, I took a moment to admire the craftsmanship of the A40 – it’s stunning. The build is solid without making the headset cumbersome or too heavy. The ear padding is shaped, fits around your ears and made of soft-brushed fabric for maximum comfort – the unidirectional swivel of the cups mean that you’re guaranteed to get the perfect fit and you won’t overheat while using them.

The A40s are a snug fit, it was like my ears were being given a huge hug but not so that it crushed my skull! At no time did the headset give me any pain or discomfort while gaming or listening to music. When you do need a break, the A40 can be rested comfortably around your neck with the earcups folding flat – they look pretty awesome too in sky blue and grey. The ASTRO branding is accented across the A40’s design, which really celebrates its brand without overindulging.

Once you’ve checked that your Xbox One controller has been updated with the latest firmware by using the micro USB that comes in the box, you’re good to go. Plug the headset into the M80 Mixamp and that’s it, no other leads are required. ASTRO are renowned for their Mixamp technology, which for the Xbox One edition of the A40 has been combined into the chat adaptor. The style of it puts Microsoft’s official adaptor to shame.

M80 Mixamp

A rocker switch controls the balance between voice and game while a large turn dial located at the face of the Mixamp controls the overall sound, depressing it lights the dial red and mutes your mic. In the centre of the Mixamp is where the magic happens – the equaliser.

There are three EQ presets that cycle with each press of the button: Pro, Core and Media. Pro is best for when you’re gaming online; you won’t be caught out when you have this EQ setting active. While playing Evolve I could easily pick out which direction the monster was headed and on Advanced Warfare I was aware when some sneaky bugger was trying to shank me in the back. Core is your all-round EQ setting, ideal for single player gaming and Media is… well, for listening to films and movies.

Combining the chat adaptor with the Mixamp is genius, there are fewer wires than the previous Mixamps and all the controls are directly at your fingertips. The only downside is that you will only be able to use it with the Xbox One; also the wire that connects the Mixamp to the headset is enclosed so if it fractures you’re kind of screwed. The wire itself protrudes from the bottom of the Mixamp and at a slight angle, I would expect that ASTRO have done enough tests to ensure that fractures are unlikely and should you suffer one I’m sure the good folk over at support would only be too happy to sort out a replacement or repair – after suffering a fracture with the official Xbox One stereo chat adaptor this is something that bothers me more than it would do most.

The Mixamp’s buttons are well placed; you’ll never be caught fumbling around for the right button. The EQ settings are perfectly pitched and I often cycled between them during games depending on whether I was listening out for other players, running through a level or just immersing myself in a cutscene.

The presence of the headset’s audio is something I wasn’t quite prepared for. Having used a variety of stereo headsets over the years, I thought I had heard it all, but the A40 really places you inside the sound – ok, so not many of us have been to a warzone, but when listening to music it really sounded like the band were there in the room with me.

This brings me on to another standout feature of the A40 – how they work with an iPhone. I’ve found that the iPhone has a nasty habit of making the best headphones sound crap but not even the A40 could be knocked off its game. My music was alive and I wanted to hear my entire iTunes library again to see how different it sounded.

I don’t think I will be wearing the A40 out in public anytime soon though, as much as I like the design I did find that they suffer quite a bit from sound leak – not to worry though, ASTRO have a smaller Bluetooth set that I’m sorely tempted to purchase just for music on my iPhone. There’s even an iOS app that includes a music player, equaliser, manuals, videos, community links and iPhone wallpapers – the app has it all – the music player even allows you to queue up music and create playlists.

Headset tags

Another of ASTRO’s headset features is the speaker tag, customisable cover plates that magnetically snap onto the outside of the headset ear cups. New sets and designs can be purchased from ASTRO and include two plain plates and one that has a mic hole – unfortunately the set included with the A40 only has one of each – the plain plates are for when you don’t have a mic connected.

The mic

The mic itself is on a super flexible boom and can be attached to either ear, using the speaker tag that includes a mic hole. I did find that the mic is actually the weak link in an otherwise perfect headset. While using the Razer Kraken, my friends commented on its mic clarity but when I appeared online with the A40s I was asked if I had a cold! I could still be heard perfectly fine, but I sounded deeper – I did find that I could hear my friends more clearly and even though there’s no voice monitoring, I could also hear my own voice better so I didn’t end up shouting down the mic. With the Kraken I found that the mic was too sensitive with it often picking up my breathing, with the A40 this is not an issue – if the weak link is just that I sounded deeper then I’d consider that to be quite an achievement!

I’ve used a lot of great headsets over the years and without being disrespectful to any of them, ASTRO Gaming has knocked them all out of the park. I can’t recommend the A40 enough, everyone who has had a listen to them has remarked at their clarity and comfort and it only leaves me with one question… is it wrong to love a headset so much?

I must admit to being surprised at the audio clarity and how different my games sounded – everything just sounds so perfect, so alive. The A40 is a premium headset and it’s no wonder why ASTRO owners speak so highly of it, sure the initial outlay is rather daunting (£170) but if you have the pennies for a top of the range headset, look no further than the A40. If you’re after a surround sound solution for your gaming needs then ASTRO Gaming also have an A50 but that’s for another review.

Thanks to ASTRO Gaming for supplying TiX with a review unit

 

Controller Modz Domin8or review

The Xbox One’s controller may have received quite the design overhaul but that hasn’t stopped a variety of companies springing up on the internet to offer customization services – one company is UK-based Controller Modz who not only offer an aesthetic customization service but can also add an additional set of buttons underneath the controller – you need never take your fingers off the left and right sticks again!

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Established in 2010, Controller Modz began life as a small ebay store offering rapid-fire controllers but soon moved on to customising the aesthetic of controllers rather than providing mod chips. Looking to capitalise on a growing market, Controller Modz grabbed the bull by the horns and launched one of the UK’s first websites offering a custom controller service. Three years later a “build-your-own controller” was launched that proved most popular among the many customers that Controller Modz had received – to date they have built around 23,000 controllers!

As the market continues to demand more from customisation, Controller Modz launched a new initiative, the Domin8or buttons – small round buttons that are located underneath the controller and can be mapped to any two-existing buttons. Controller artwork can be chosen from a selection of options and you can also opt to replace any of the buttons or sticks with coloured alternatives. There’s also a range of house designs, with new ones being added all the time – the only thing missing is an option to add user-created custom designs but these guys are a friendly bunch and if you have a great idea for a design I’m sure they would only be too happy to fabricate for you… for a small price of course!

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I was lucky enough to receive a batch one domin8or controller, which I have been using now for a month and while I feel a bit like a guinea pig, the build quality is so high that the batch one controller feels far from a prototype.

The artwork, the Green Hades design, isn’t something I would have picked out for myself but the quality is great, although it’s worth noting that any design with a pattern warps slightly over curved areas – this is down to the hydro dipping process and while it doesn’t spoil the look of the controller you might notice it if you’re a fussy bugger like me!

The finish of the artwork feels really smooth, you will be excused if you are caught gently caressing your new best friend – seriously, it feels that good to hold. The buttons and sticks are painted to a high quality and you may even believe that this was an official controller. Other than the image warp, I can’t fault the craftsmanship of the artwork, the finish doesn’t scratch or tarnish even when I purposely tried to do some damage by scratching the paintwork with my nail and my wedding ring, but it’s not all about looks when it comes to this controller, it’s about what’s under the hood or in this case under the controller… A pair of domin8or buttons.

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I opted to map the X and B buttons – reload and crouch/prone although I wish I had gone with Controller Modz’ advice and stuck with fan favourite A and B – oh well, just means I will have to grab myself another controller. The buttons are quite high and you will need to press them down firmly, a light tap will result in nothing happening so if you need to hit the dirt quick in COD, just make sure you give that button a firm press or you’ll be left to receive a barrage of bullets. I also felt that the buttons were slightly too large, smaller ones could mean that there would be enough space to mount four buttons underneath the controller – two each side. It would certainly solve my problem of not being able to decide between having the X or A button mapped.

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The buttons are perfectly positioned and sat naturally under my fingers as I held the controller normally, some other companies that offer a custom button setup have their buttons set so that you have to alter the way you hold the controller but the domin8ors are positioned perfectly so that you don’t need to adjust your grip, you just need to remember that they are there.

The custom face buttons look great, I’ve gamed long enough to know which button is the A,X,Y and B so the black look really finished off the overall feel of the design – I did find that the X button wasn’t quite as responsive as the stock buttons, firm presses always got a response but if you don’t press the X button all the way down you will get no response from it.

Overall I’m really impressed with the craftsmanship of Controller Modz. The artwork is well finished and the domin8or buttons are superbly fabricated onto the controller – I’m already eyeing up my next Controller Modz purchase, green metallic gloss with black thumbsticks and buttons with the A and B buttons as the domin8or setup.

Thanks to Controller Modz for providing TiX with a review unit

Controller-Modz

Turtle Beach XO Seven Pro headset review

There’s so much choice when it comes to headsets these days, ranging from ‘cheap as chips’ to ones that you’ll need to remortgage your house to fund them – ok so that’s an exaggeration but you get my meaning. There are so many different brands of headsets too that it can become quite confusing in choosing the right set for your needs. I’ve personally always stuck with Turtle Beach, I started at the cheap end of the market before finally buying my first wireless set. Time took its toll on them and I upgraded and they are still going strong after three years.

When the Xbox One was released I was concerned that I would have to source a new pair but it turned out all was ok and they worked just as well with my new console, although it hasn’t stopped me looking out for what Turtle Beach are were releasing with the Xbox One in mind. The pair that caught my eye was the XO Seven Pro.

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When they arrived I couldn’t wait to bust them open, but when I noticed how nicely they were packaged I spent more time checking out the packaging rather than what was inside! As well as the headset, the XO Seven Pro’s come with Turtle Beach’s own version of Microsoft’s chat adapter, there are two breakaway cables, one for the Xbox and the other is the mobile cable with In-Line mic. There is a removable microphone boom and a micro USB cable for updating controllers.

On first inspection the XO Seven Pro is a really nice looking headset, it’s sturdy but lightweight and as soon as I put them on they immediately felt comfortable. The 50mm earcups have Memory Foam cushions that not only make them feel like there are pillows on your ears but they also create great noise isolation. I’ve been using these at work as well as gaming, it blocks out everything and allows you to immerse yourself in whatever you are doing. The headband is also padded and adjustable depending on your head size.

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The headset takes seconds to set up, plug your adapter into your controller then the headset plugs into that and you are all set! If you are online with friends you can plug in the removable mic boom for chat. Not having to worry about masses of wires and having batteries charged made life a lot easier too. You may need to update your Xbox controllers, luckily I had already done mine so there was even less to do before I could get gaming.

So, the question on everyone’s lips at the this point should be, how do they sound? Actually pretty good! Due to the limitations of the headset adapter you are only getting stereo sound but frankly it’s still really good. I played a whole host of games to try to pick out differences in the audio. I played FIFA 15, Call of Duty Advance Warfare, Titanfall, Dying Light and Evolve. I love subtle bits of Audio within game design, especially when developers pay extra attention to ambient sounds in the audio. In FIFA 15 for example, listening to chants and atmosphere generated by the crowd while playing made a huge difference to the experience. With Titanfall it was great listening to the detail of your Titan’s machinery and the jet packs on the pilots almost sounded completely different with this headset on.

What’s extra special about the XO Seven Pro is the headset adaptor and the ‘Superhuman hearing’ button. Pressing the button causes it to glow and then all of a sudden you feel like the headset has evolved. FPS titles like Titanfall and COD suddenly opened up and I became more aware of what was around me. The monsters in Evolve sounded more fierce and my team mates orders were clearer. I was genuinely surprised at how much effect one button could have on the headset.

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The chat adapter allows you to control the mix between chat and game volumes and when in a party my voice came across more clearly to my friends. There is another added feature that the Microsoft adapter doesn’t have, game and microphone presets. The game presets enhance voice, add extra Bass and Treble or just allow natural sound through. You can also adjust the microphone according to how noisy the room your gaming in is. Thanks to mic monitoring, you are also able to hear yourself talk so you don’t end up shouting at your TV, this can also be adjusted via the adapter too.

It’s great that the headset looks good because it means I can wear them out and about in London on my way to work listening to my music or watching Netflix. The in-line mic works really well for calls and both sets of cables are quite thick so hopefully they won’t get damaged too easily. The XO Seven Pro also have little faceplates that can be changed to whatever you like, though I quite like the design of the ones that come with the headset.

If it wasn’t for the fact I have a surround sound pair of Turtle Beach I would happily use these as my main gaming set, they are easy to set up, much more comfortable than my other pair and are more stylish too. The chat adapter will get Microsoft thinking about what features to add when they eventually upgrade theirs. The XO Seven Pro headset should really be on your radar if you are looking to up your game.

Thanks to Turtle Beach for supplying TiX with a review unit

Razer Kraken Gaming Headset review

The Kraken… just how cool is that for a name of a headset? It certainly sets the bar high when you name your product after a legendary water beast! Razer is renowned among the PC crowd for their quality headsets and gaming peripherals, now they are stretching out on to the Xbox One with their first stereo headset – so how does the Kraken fare?

razer-kraken-xbox-one-gallery-12The Kraken is beautifully packaged, with the headset proudly on display behind thin transparent plastic secured down by the Velcro backed flaps of the packaging – it certainly looks the part!

First things first, you need to get your headset connected to your console. Simply plug it into your controller via the 3.5mm jack and connect the controller (while it’s switched off) to the Xbox One via the USB that comes supplied with the headset – ‘update in progress’, job done – it’s as simple as that.

After fracturing the wire in one of my previous headsets, I was a little concerned that the Kraken’s connecting wire from headset to controller wasn’t detachable and therefore not replaceable, upon further inspection and after some use I noted that the connecting wire and jack are in fact quite durable and so a potential fracture looks like it may well have been considered and not as likely as I had previously thought.

razer-kraken-xbox-one-gallery-7The headset chat adaptor that is included in the box is identical to the official Xbox One adaptor save a few differences to the aesthetic. By default the game and chat volume is equally balanced but you can increase or decrease either one and also adjust the overall level of sound in the headset. The trusty mute button takes centre spot on the adaptor for when you just don’t want your group to hear the level of cuss words that come out of your mouth, or when your wife walks in wanting a conversation about what the kids want for their tea!

Having previously used a wireless receiver for connecting a headset, this was the first headset I’ve used that only needs to be connected via the controller – that’s right, no additional leads are required – simply plug it in to the controller and it works, gone are the days of being tangled in a mass of wires, mind you if you did get tangled the bright vibrant Razer green wires are easy to unravel.

razer-kraken-xbox-one-gallery-2The mic clicks down into place and stowed back again when not in use, it’s positioned neatly at the end of a flexible boom, which is rigid enough to perfectly get the mic into a position that you prefer. Be warned though, the mic is very sensitive so best not put it too close to your mouth unless your friends like hearing you breath heavily down the mic. As for clarity of voice, the mic gives crystal clear sound – the difference was extremely noticeable when I swapped out the Kraken for another pair I own. Unfortunately (like most headsets I’ve used) you can’t hear your own voice, which can mean you might end up talking far more loudly than you need to. Remember to mute the headset when you’ve stowed the mic – there’s no auto-mute for when it’s in the upright position, which I feel is a feature that should have been included.

While the mic isn’t obvious when stowed it’s enough to put me off wearing these while walking down the street with them plugged into my iPhone, I couldn’t help but feel like an idiot wearing a pair of gaming headphones out in the neighbourhood!

razer-kraken-xbox-one-gallery-1The headband of the Kraken features little padding, but I never understood why some headsets put so much effort into headband padding – take beats for example, they have virtually no padding and they’re super comfortable.

Unless you have large ears, the ear cups are perfectly adequate in size and have ample padding. The lightweight design of the headset make the Kraken one of the most comfortable pair of cans I’ve worn – this is no fashion show, but you also don’t look like an idiot while wearing them.

razer-kraken-xbox-one-gallery-3The sound of the Kraken is great, offering a beautifully crisp balanced clarity to your games although if “you’re all about the bass” then you might be left wanting because I found that the Kraken lacks the deepness to bass making them sound rather too high on the treble – this also means explosions won’t rock your head as much. Once my ears became accustomed to the lack of bass I can’t say I missed it and the high treble enabled me to pick out other sounds like my good ‘friend’ Dave trying to sneak up on me and stab me in the back – apparently that’s what friends do!

I would have liked for there to be some options to adjust sound on the Kraken, like a bass booster or a way to reduce the treble – while some games sounded perfectly balanced, others were far too ‘light’ because the bass just wasn’t coming through well – the opening menu of Titanfall and sound of your Titan coming thundering down to earth just sounded weak and needed that extra thump from the bass.

Range wise, the headset doesn’t quite make it round all the rooms in my house and even a trip to the kitchen suffered some loss in connection.

The Kraken is a no fuss headset, it looks great, the mic is crystal clear and the sound mix is almost spot on. To top it all off the Kraken is one of the most comfortable headsets I’ve worn – congrats Razer you certainly have my attention, now how’s about a 7.1 surround sound version?

Thanks to Razer Europe for supplying TiX with a review unit

You can buy the Kraken for Xbox One directly from Razer for £89.99.

SteelSeries H Wireless Gaming Headset Review

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The guys and gals over at SteelSeries have been busy crafting their latest creation, the brand new H Wireless Gaming Headset. Not only is it a beauty but it’s also rammed full of features. The headset itself is beautifully packaged with a circuit board effect adorning the box which is printed in a spot varnish for added beauty to those that appreciate graphic design. The unit is slightly more heavyweight than the 7XBs and the quality and build is far better (not that the 7XB wasn’t any good). The headset features the same super comfy ear cups and retractable mic although this time round SteelSeries have made the cups fully rotate so you can rest them around your neck – handy for when you take a break from gaming and the mic is slightly longer and sits closer to your mouth. It always felt a bit strange with how the 7XB’s mic sat so far away.

I had fallen in love with SteelSeries after reviewing the Spectrum 7XB and even though it was only a stereo headset that connected to the Xbox via a 3.5mm jack and RCA splitter, the comfort and sound it created was exquisite. All the controls were located on the ear cups meaning you had to remember what all the different beeps and tones meant when selecting the correct EQ setting – now that’s a thing of the past.

The H Wireless’ transmitter has an OLED display that tells you exactly what menu you are in or EQ setting you have selected. The menus can be controlled with a spin wheel which is located on the ear cup, you can then tweak the currently selected menu item and cycle through menus by depressing the wheel. If you press the headset’s power button you can mute the mic (depress it for a few seconds to power on/off) when muted, a handy red light illuminates on the mic letting you know you are in mute mode.

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The decoder box that makes all the magic happen isn’t too dissimilar in style to apple TV and it’s packed with inputs so you can easily integrate the H Wireless into all your audio systems whether they’re optical or analogue. It’s all very well having lots of options but what if you don’t have all the wires to make full use of the kit? Well, the H Wireless comes complete with a whole host of wires, even an optical cable – you won’t be left wanting for anything extra. The kit even includes multiple power adapters meaning you can take this bad boy abroad and still be good to go right out of the box.

The headset is powered by a slim lithium battery and the kit comes with two packs so one can sit charging inside the decoder while you happily game away with the other. The folks at SteelSeries really have thought of everything – well, most things. The menus and options may well be controllable via the headset but there are several menus that are only accessible from the decoder itself including the standby option which is hidden away in several menus.

My favourite feature of the H Wireless is the EQ settings, literally they are music to your ears. You can select an EQ setting from several presets or create your own,  what’s more is that you can even create profiles for each member of your house, each genre of game or even for each device that you connect to the decoder. LiveMix returns with the ability to tweak the ChatMix and if you hold the mic close enough to your mouth and speak loudly you can hear your own voice through the headset but not well enough for it to be a feature worth praising, the headset instructions do mention that to work effectively the game and chat audio must be connected via two different inputs but whether this allows your own voice to be heard better through the headset is one for SteelSeries to confirm because I couldn’t get anything worth while from my optical setup.

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The mic still needs to be connected via a wire to your control pad (I assume Xbox One support will follow) and there’s also a second input on the headset so you can connect an mp3 device straight into it or share your game audio with a second headset. I’m sure there will be several audiophile fanatics out there that would point out issues with the highs and lows to the audio, but I feel that’s like someone pointing holes in a beautiful HD picture – unless you have over sensitive ears or just fussy enough to pick holes in a brilliant system then you’ll find the H Wireless a brilliant piece of kit. The sound is so clear that everything around you in-game sounds far more vibrant than it did previously, it’s like you’re hearing the sound in HD. Going back and playing games that I had poured tens of hours into I found that the audio sounded new as my ears picked up on several effects and instruments that had previously remained masked or drowned out.

I must admit it took me a while to adjust to the virtual 7.1 surround sound but wow was it invigorating to be able to place direction to the various sounds with a far greater degree of accuracy. While playing Gears 3, my mate held a revved chainsaw and walked around me in a circle. The resulting sound was not just beautiful but I could close my eyes and be able to say exactly where he was. For a virtual surround sound system to be this good is something that SteelSeries should be very proud of.

I’ve also used the headset to listen to music directly on my iPhone and boy does it impress. Infinitely better than my earbuds, I can happily sit for hours listening to music through them although I can’t say I’ll be stepping out into the street wearing them!

The H Wireless is a truly stunning piece of kit that builds upon the impressive 7XB and gives the full Dolby experience. It’s easy to use and offers that same level of comfort that I’ve become accustomed to. The icing on the cake is the ability to tweak and save your own EQ settings but at around £250 the H Wireless may be on the expensive side for some gamers. It’s worth noting that there were no hoops to jump through when setting them up and even though some people may point out that you could invest in a pair of Astros, I’ve never really got on with them and heard of several people who have had complications in getting them set up properly.

If you have the need for a headset that is the perfect cross-platform solution then look no further than the H Wireless Gaming Headset. SteelSeries were testing my resolve by teasing me away from Tritton with the Spectrum 7XB and with their latest effort I’ve now packed up the Trittons and given them to my brother – SteelSeries is the only headset for me.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6tnLdCDpIs

Hands-On with Plantronics RIG Stereo Headset + Mixer

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Hands-on with the latest Plantronics RIG headset that can be used for PC/Mac, console and mobile’s I was really very impressed with both the quality of stereo sound as well as the RIG Mixer that allows you to switch and mix between taking mobile calls or streaming music in-sync with your gaming! With the RIG being the first headset I have used since my wireless Xbox 360 mic, I can genuinely state that my little wireless mic can stay in the drawer now I have discovered a multi-tasking headset that provides me with noticeably clearer and sharper voice quality and sound combined.

Headsets do not often become the centre of your social gaming universe, but hardcore gamers who can sit for 4 hours or more in one night on their favourite multiplayer game (as I can be found doing during the launch period of many triple AAA first person shooters as I attempt many an all-nighter); the inconvenience of having to stop mid game to take a phone call can be irritating – especially if you’ve been playing so well. Or, you might not bother taking calls and really miss something important! The benefit of the RIG Mixer included with the stereo headset is that with the press of a switch you can alternate between your mobile and your game chat on the fly without having to grind your game to a halt. Alternatively if you’d rather hear something more personal such as music or anything from an App you can blend it into your ears using the variable controls on the RIG Mixer – and remember that whatever you listen to it is only going to be in your ears only, so any other person nearby no longer needs to suffer if you happen to like heavy rock music whilst boosting your kill streaks. It’s all about variety with the Plantronics RIG headset, and the convenience of being able to listen to exactly what you want musically from your mobile and tablet device or blend both into your gaming session.

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Although I have spent most of my time with the Plantronics RIG on the Xbox 360 because it is what I use primarily for gaming, you can use it with a PC/Mac and PS3 also as it comes with everything you need to connect to other devices in the box with an easy to use set-up guide. Worth mentioning at this point too that if you are thinking ahead with the Xbox One, the Plantronics RIG is Xbox One compatible with Microsoft’s upcoming mic converter that will allow any mic that works on the Xbox 360 to be used on the Xbox One. If you wanted to use it on just your mobile and head off out and about not only can you do that, but in the box comes an additional microphone so you are free to switch between a boom mic or an inline mic – Plantronics have really thought of everything to get you multi-connected to your favourite devices.  Getting on to the specifics the wired headset is 40mm stereo, with a simple button press for seismic bass and 3 EQ modes to fiddle with. It also has optical input and everything is powered by USB. There is no need for additional batteries or power, or re-charging.

The whole idea and marketing theme for the Plantronics RIG is to “Play More. Pause Less.” This bold statement fits well as the ability to take calls and keep playing, game and use voice chat as well as streaming music and able to keep playing ensures you don’t have to just sit there with game music anymore – nor leave the room or even so much as move to answer calls. It’s a few additional activities that can be blended in with your gameplay, but be prepared for a little cable cluttering if you have only previously been used to plugging in a cheap nasty plastic headset straight into the controller. At the small cost of an extra wire here and there, I will say that the Plantronics RIG has exceptional sound quality and background noise cancelling-out technology when it came to chatting on Xbox LIVE, which included sending voice messages. All comments in return from messages I had sent came back with a majority not only wanting to know what amazing headset I must be using, but that I had sounded the clearest and sharpest they had ever heard from me. My Xbox LIVE friends have known me for years, some since the launch of the original Xbox 360. Not only was I totally impressed, but my new found super clear sharp voice over Xbox LIVE impressed others too!

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Design wise and comfort also impressed with a really soft foam cushioned ear cup and headband that felt light and was still comfortable many hours later. There are three adjustment settings to the headband and the ear cups can be rotated so you can lay them down flat (which is a nice touch). For review purposes thisisxbox.com was sent a black and orange pair, but you can buy them in white too which looks pretty cool if you have white iPhone’s, iPads, or Mac’s and you like to colour co-ordinate your peripherals. When it comes to setting the RIG up for the devices it looks more complicated than it is due to the wiring. In simple terms for Xbox gamers you just plug in the boom mic, plug in the USB cable and sound connector, and then attach the small jack included from the RIG Mixer to the Xbox 360 controller so you’re all set to go. Once you have spent enough time on the Xbox 360 with the Plantronics RIG headset, it will only be a matter of time before you find yourself using it as your preferred headset for your PC as it is also Skype compatible (well anything that uses  audio and mic on PC) and I have taken a liking to using it on my Windows Phone 8 for gaming and apps too.

As a gamer and a user of PC’s, Tablets and mobile’s I found the Plantronics RIG to be a fantastic piece of kit that I cannot recommend enough. The quality of audio over Xbox LIVE was exceptional and a noticeable improvement in comparison to other leading headsets and even Microsoft’s own. Having the ability to attach my mobile for calls is a great feature that can be applied when using the RIG with any other gaming console or even whilst just listening to music on your PC. Although the Plantronics RIG is a little pricier than regular gaming headsets, it’s likely an unmatched quality. You will never go back to that cheap little bit of plastic ever again!

Visit: http://www.plantronics.com/rig/us/ for more details and to see how it works.

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