Manufacturer: Turtle Beach
Sound Produced: Stereo
Primary Systems: Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3
Connection Method: RCA, USB (power, chat for PS3), Bluetooth (chat Xbox 360, adapter included)
The Ear Force XP300 marks the fifth Turtle Beach headset to enter the RipTen Gaming Headset Buyer’s Guide. We’ve covered the most basic models in the P11 and Z11 and, on the other end of the spectrum, the fully featured XP500. We’re about to split the difference. This stereo headset is a fully wireless solution for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 using a combination of 2.4/5.8 GHz dual band and bluetooth to provide all the functions necessary to take your fight online in privacy. As with every headset, it’s important to understand the features you’re getting for the price. It’s even more true with mid-priced products, because the price point typically includes a great deal of variety.
What’s in the box?
- RCA splitter (to connect transmitter to TV or console)
- USB charging cable
- XBA bluetooth chat adapter
Aesthetics and Durability
Unlike the XP500, which comes with a tall transmitter that doubles as a headset stand, the XP300 takes up relatively little space. Because the unit is stereo and not Dolby surround, there is no need for a larger body to house a signal processor. The transmitter houses one button on the side for the purposes of pairing the headset. On the rear are two ports. One is used for sound from the RCA jacks. The other is optional for those that would rather purchase the additional cable for wired Xbox Live chat. This is available for those that don’t want to use the XBA adapter due to its incompatibility with non-standard controllers and the Xbox Live Chatpad. The front houses a single blue LED that identifies connection and pairing status.
From a distance, the headset looks identical to its big brother, the XP500. The primary differences are the earcup controls, of course. The XP300 doesn’t offer the customizable presets of the XP500 (one of the two major differences, the other being type of sound output). Instead, the left side houses Tone and Depth of Field buttons. On the underside, there’s a port for wired Xbox Live chat and two dials that control master volume and the level of the selective voice monitoring that adds what the mic picks up into the mix. This is in place to help you avoid screaming unintentionally. It can’t do anything for those moments when you do want to shout at your opponents, though.
The right side is where all the bluetooth chat functions are housed. Here, you can increase or decrease the volume, mute the microphone and sync up with the XBA adapter or the PlayStation 3 directly. On the underside is the USB port for charging. This is another key difference from the XP500, which uses two disposable AA batteries.
As you can see from the images, the headset is largely black with accents in metallic and green. The adjustments are sturdy plastic that would have to be abused quick severely to be cracked or broken. The headband features black leatherette with the Turtle Beach name embossed. It’s not flashy, but it gives off a distinct sense of comfort.
Ease of Setup and Use
The XP300 is extremely easy to setup. Simply plug the RCA cables into your TV’s stereo output and the USB cable into your console. If you use a cable or adapter that offers stereo RCA, you can use the passthrough function of the included cord. The headset comes pre-paired to the transmitter, but if you do need to re-sync, it’s a painless process.
Once your Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 is powered on, simply press the power button on the left earcup until you hear a tone. The light on the transmitter should turn solid within seconds, indicating a connection. Connecting the bluetooth to the both the XBA adapter and the PlayStation 3 directly is an easy process. The steps outlined in the manual worked flawlessly the first time.
Turtle Beach’s claim of 15 hours of battery life holds up to testing, though I wasn’t using the bluetooth functions for much of my time. It’s unlikely that leaving that function powered up at all times would yield quite as long in between charges. Recharge time was brief, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that you can both charge the unit and use it at the same time. The included cable is long enough for most setups, but any USB mini cable will work just fine.
One thing I did run into during testing is that it is very easy to errantly press a button when removing the headset while powered up. The tone and sound field buttons in particular ended up on the wrong end of my fingers when lifting or positioning the unit from rest on my shoulders. Assuming you remember which beeps correspond to the settings you want, it’s not too much of an inconvenience. It’s unfortunate that this model is missing the voice prompts from the XP500 though.
Sound Quality and Performance
Turtle Beach has done a magnificent job with the XP300. Multiple times during my use, I found myself astounded that what I was hearing was a stereo soundscape. Especially after tweaking the equalizer and depth of field settings, it’s possible to get much closer to a surround sound experience than you might expect.
The 50mm drivers go a long way to creating a richer, fuller soundscape to compensate for the lack of Dolby processing. However, moreso on this unit than others sporting the larger speakers, I noticed a bit of fuzziness on the default settings. Again, playing around with the four different tone settings and the depth of field options help mitigates it a bit. If you value bass and thundering explosions that make your teeth chatter over absolute clarity on the highs, you’ll likely be thrilled with what you get out of the XP300.
Given that this unit is not compatible with the PC, we don’t have a recording sample for you. However, using test recordings via Xbox Live yielded consistent clarity.
When I reviewed the XP500, I mentioned ear and neck discomfort during marathon gaming sessions. I’m pleased to report that the XP300 didn’t plague me with either of those problems. The unit is fairly light, and it was easy to find the proper adjustment points to balance snugness and freedom of movement.
The earcups are heavily padded and covered with the soft mesh fabric featured on many other Turtle Beach products. The same mesh is on the underside of the headband. Most of the time, the unit is extremely comfortable, but occasionally, the headband would shift in such a way that it dug into my scalp. I don’t know if it was an issue with the way the padding was secured on my review sample or if it’s a design issue. It didn’t happen often, but when it did, I needed to stop immediately to adjust.
The important thing to know about the XP300 is what sets it apart from the XP400, XP500 and other headsets in the price range. Here’s the quick rundown:
- XP500: 7.1 (Simulated)
- XP400: 5.1 (Simulated)
- XP300: Stereo
- XP500: Customizable (Main plus 8)
- XP300: Four standard equalizer presets
- XP500: Two disposable AA
- XP400: Built-in rechargeable
- XP300: Built-in rechargeable
- XP500: Wireless
- XP400: Wireless
- XP300: Wireless
- Others at price point in the guide (Tritton AX Pro 5.1, Tritton Ghost Recon 7.1): Wired
As with all entries in our Gaming Headset Buyer’s Guide, it’s important to pick the product that has the right feature set for your needs. If you aren’t dying for surround sound and you can live with out customizing your presets, the XP300 is ready to save you $100 for forgoing those options. The XP400 will get you the surround sound, but not the customizable presets. That model retails smack dab in the middle at $219.99.
If you would like to use the XP500 with an Xbox 360 controller that does not fit the XBA device, you will need to purchase an Xbox Live Talkback cable. The latter puts the volume controls in-line and will connect to any 2.5mm port on a controller. There is also a wired puck similar to the connector on the XBA and default, packed-in Xbox 360 headsets. Both cables cost $5.95 each, direct from Turtle Beach.
Turtle Beach was smart to group the XP headsets into a family. It makes it easy for consumers to compare features and make an educated decision. For our part, the XP300 is a competent headset that sounds good when compared against others at similar price points. If you’re hungry for a wireless solution and can live without surround sound, this is a great option for a middle of the road price.
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