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Gear

E3 2010: Headsets Galore Coming Your Way

E3 2010: Headsets Galore Coming Your Way

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E3 is an insanely busy place. With all the new games, press conferences, appointments, and parties, it’s sometimes easy to forget the boothes featuring the latest and greatest gear.  Everything from new mice and keyboards to plastic peripherals for your motion-controlled games to gaming headsets can be found on the show floor, and we thought it would be a good opportunity to tell you what’s coming up from some of the companies that were on hand at E3.

We have impressions of headsets from Tritton Technologies, Turtle Beach, NOX Audio, and SteelSeries for you after the jump!

Tritton Technologies

The newest thing with Tritton is the fact that they’ve been purchased by MadCatz.  Yes, that company that used to make those crappy knock-off controllers back in the day.  Their reputation has picked up considerably since those days as demonstrated by their work on some excellent arcade joysticks as well as their partnership with Harmonix on the upcoming Rock Band 3, so don’t let this development turn you off to the future of Tritton.

In terms of what’s new with Tritton Technologies, however, we mentioned back at Comic Con 2009 that the more affordable AX 180s were coming, and here at E3, they had the AX 180 Wireless headset to show us.  For those who purchased the AX 180s already, the upgrade is as simple as purchasing a dongle, but users who perhaps skipped the AX 180s have another reason to consider the set if the AX Pro and AX 720 headsets are out of your price range.

SteelSeries

SteelSeries is a company founded by former members of a Quake clan, so these guys aren’t your typical corporate tech people trying to make a buck off of gamers.  They’re rolling out their Spectrum 5xb set later this year that will feature a number of clever design choices to ensure that even the most destructive gamer will be able to enjoy their in-game audio experience without having to replace their set.

First of all, the set is durable and extremely flexible despite being lightweight.  It can be twisted around the headband without breakage, and can even be deconstructed for easy transportation.  Another issue that SteelSeries observed was that players will often get their cabling stuck in their chair and tug the connection out of their headset, so they’ve created a sturdy 1-inch plastic plug to prevent this from happening.  Finally, to prevent damage to the cable itself, it’s sheathed in a highly durable braided nylon to avoid ripping.

SteelSeries will be the first to admit that this set isn’t for audio enthusiasts, and they made it a point to tell me that more bass isn’t the answer, as a true gamer will need to listen for footsteps, gunfire, and location-specific cues, which I had never really considered.  They’ve also enabled a feature called “live mix” that adjusts the volume levels of chat and in-game audio independently, turning down the background audio to accommodate voice chat without upping the overall level coming from the set.

All of this and more will be available for less than $100 this August.  And for those who are even more strapped for cash, the Spectrum 4xb set will provide most of the same features without the braided nylon cabling and deconstructability.

NOX Audio

NOX Audio was also present at E3 looking to bridge the gap between functionality and high fidelity sound in their Specialist line of headsets. The Specialist features slick designs and a variety of colors to choose from. The headset uses a standard mini-plug that can be used in virtually any device on the market. For those wanting to make use of it on the Xbox 360, NOX Audio offers a separate device dubbed the Negotiator which allows for the Specialist to plug directly into an Xbox 360 controller. I was told that for those interested, the Specialist will be available in a combo package with the Negotiator as well.

As I mentioned before, the Specialist is well designed and certainly was very portable given it’s small size. A volume dial is built into the right ear pad as opposed to being located along the cord or not being included at all as is the case with most standard headsets. I spoke with a NOX Audio representative on the floor who told me that this design choice was to avoid the hassle of fumbling for the volume control while in the middle of gaming. You will always know where the volume dial is on a Specialist which would certainly save you those precious moments that could be a difference between life and death. A retractable mic snakes out of the left side of the Specialist proves convenient when all you want to do is listen to the music. All of this coupled with a collapsible design made for a convincing package.

Although there were some hardware hiccups in getting a Xbox 360 on the floor ready for testing out the Negotiator and the Specialist together in a gaming environment, I did have a chance to at least listen to the audio quality on the Specialist. The NOX Audio representative had his iPod ready with some select Moby tracks for me to listen to and I was impressed. The sound came out rich and clear and was certainly several steps above your average headset.


Turtle Beach

Aside from having a cool name, Turtle Beach had some interesting products to show off at E3. Their latest headset is teh Z2, a PC gaming headset with stereo sound that will launch for an affordable $69.99.  I was impressed by how comfortable the was, and the range was also quite nice in whatever World War II game it was that I was playing.  It plugs in via USB, but I was a bit bothered by the fact that the microphone was not removable or retractable.

The two other products debuting at E3 were the DSS and PBT devices.  The DSS is a surround sound processor that can turn stereo headsets into true 5.1/7.1 sets.  The device also boats a bass boost feature and a volume knob, and will be on sale for $89.95.  The PBT, on the other hand, is a bluetooth communicator for use with the PS3 and mobile phones.  You can basically go back and forth between phone calls and gaming, which I thought was clever.

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