Manufacturer: Turtle Beach
MSRP: $39.95
Sound Produced: Stereo
Type: Wired
Primary System: PC/Mac
Also Compatible With: Mobile devices
Connection Method: Twin 3.5mm/Single 3.5mm

Basic Description:

The Turtle Beach Z11 is a straight-forward, simple-yet-versatile PC/Mac headset that delivers solid sound without the bells and whistles that accompany some of the more expensive headsets. It’s a compact set-up ideal for gamers on the go looking for something more substantial than ear buds, or people on a budget who just need to shift to speaker-less PC gaming.

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What’s in the box?

Headset, 3.5mm 4-prong mic/audio Connection, Twin 3.5mm Adapter Cable

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Aesthetics and Durability:

The Z11 is incredibly similar to the P11 in size and shape. The Turtle Beach logo is embossed on the top of the head band and printed on the sides of the ear cups (TB’s blue palm trees are printed on the inside.) They’re very lightweight with a matte finish. A honeycomb pattern extends from the center of the ear cup out from the headband joint. The ear cups adjust easily on a swivel in order to conform to the wearer’s face, reducing tension when worn.

The cups are padded with mesh-covered foam, but the padding on the headband is foam covered in faux leather. This particular strip is very thin and doesn’t provide much of a barrier between the top of your head and the plastic of the headband. It’s not particularly comfortable during longer gameplay sessions.

At its price point, the Z11 is a great package. It boasts adequate durability and a sleek build.

 

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Ease of setup and use:

The Z11 technically only requires one 3.5mm jack to operate, making it one of the simplest headset installations I’ve come across. This headset comes with a PC adapter for systems that offer separate mic and audio ports, those with newer systems can use the single 3.5mm 4-prong cable to gain both mic and audio functionality.

Most devices will automatically detect the Z11, so you can skip messing with your computer’s settings. The downside of its simplicity is that you’ll have few customization options. The volume control pad only affects audio volume and the mic mute. You can adjust the stereo settings on your computer, but that’s about it. You have four feet of cord to work with, which is plenty considering this headset was intended for consoles used in close quarters.

 

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Sound Quality and Performance Notes:

I switched from a 5.1 Dolby Surround unit to the Z11 and immediately noticed the lack of depth in the sound I was hearing. After a few minutes, though, I fully transitioned to the standard stereo and found that though the audio wasn’t pulsing in my head, the sound was clean, clear, deep and full. No, you’re not going to have pinpoint accuracy when it comes to listening to someone’s in-game footsteps, and the bass isn’t going to rock your teeth. What you have here is a very inexpensive headset that delivers quality sound.

There are 50mm speakers and here and while they might not be 5.1 or 7.1 or whatever the kids are clapping about now, they’re very, very good. There’s a good sense of directional value and closeness. No ear buds or grocery store headphones can compare – this headset really is a first step into a larger world.

Aside from the comfort issue, my only other griping point about this headset is the mic’s recording quality. It’s perfectly adequate if you’re making a quick Skype call or chatting with a friend, but if you have plans to get something more serious out of the Z11, you’re going to be disappointed. Samples I recorded in Audacity were hollow and noisy, but leaps and bounds ahead of most mics built into webcams. It’s a flexible mic and can be moved away from your face, but you just sound more distant.

It all comes back to the price tag. It’s not going to help you record your podcasts or blow your ears out, but it will sound really, really good for $40.

Recording sample:

Turtle Beach Z11 Sample

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Comfort

If I was given the opportunity to try this headset on before purchasing it, I probably would have passed altogether. The moment I first put the Z11 on was the most jarring. I felt tension at the very top of my head, as if something was scraping my scalp. After about twenty minutes, I didn’t notice it, and I was able to enjoy my game uninterrupted for a few hours until I felt that irritation again. The earcups, however, were quite comfortable. I never had any issues with them and found that they contoured to the side of my head well.

This is a light piece of hardware with just enough padding to make it acceptable, but I’m a comfort snob. These are adequate, but Turtle Beach has dozens of other headsets in its catalog with better padding. Again, though: price point. If you’re not a dainty princess like myself, you won’t have a problem with the tension in the head band. If you can feel a pea from atop eight mattresses, then invest in something else.

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Differentiating Features

The Z11 is the next step up from the Z1 in both build and price. While the Z1 is only compatible with PCs, the Z11 switches between Macs, PCs and mobile devices with no fuss at all.

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Accessories required/recommended

None

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Conclusion

The Z11 is a great entry-level headset for PC and mobile gamers looking for something more substantial than casual headphones. You get a solid package for $39.95 and probably won’t find yourself lusting after a different set until you start to get into precision gaming or serious audio editing. They’re the PC equivalent of the P11, so if you liked those, the Z11 won’t be a big transition.

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