Manufacturer: Turtle Beach
MSRP: $99.99
Sound Produced: 5.1 Surround (Virtual)
Type: Wired
Primary System: Xbox 360
Connection Method: Digital Optical, USB, 3.5mm, 2.5mm (for Xbox Live chat)

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Basic Description

How do you take an entry level headset and give it some appeal for those eager for a start to their surround sound experience? You take a page from Turtle Beach’s book and bundle in the extremely impressive DSS2 Dolby Surround Sound processor and turn the “ho hum” into “oh, damn!” This isn’t the product for diehard audiophiles, though. It’s for those that are looking for something more than a stereo experience, but can’t (or don’t want to) drop money on a high-end model. At $100, this is where surround sound begins on Xbox 360.

The XL1 headset that comes in this bundle is the Xbox 360 version of the Ear Force P11 (but without the PC compatibility). It’s no frills and, frankly, not terribly comfortable for extended wear. However, looking at the prices of the components (DSS2 at $79.99 and XL1 at $39.99), spending the $20 now gives the flexibility to upgrade to any other 3.5mm headset later (passive or amplified).

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What’s in the box?

The headset, DSS2, digital optical cable, USB cable, Xbox 360 Talkback cable (2.5mm to 2.5mm)

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Aesthetics and Durability

The aesthetics of the headset match its feature set as a standalone piece. The gear is a simple, matte black with green glossy highlight rings on the earcups. The Turtle Beach name is embossed into the plastic of the headband. Additionally, the logo, brand name and model name are featured on both sides of the lower band.

The cups are made of a meshed foam and the cushioning on the headband is made of simple foam covered with a plasticky, vinyl-feeling material. The plastic construction of the set feels much less substantial than the other products included in the buyer’s guide. However, Turtle Beach has managed to strike a good balance between price and construction.

The DSS2 is a compact device that is extremely sleek and attractive. In use the headset 3.5mm and USB cables plug into the side with the volume dial/mute button. The opposite side are where you’ll find the digital optical and USB ports to plug into the console.

The four lights from left to right (which also blink in code when cycling through the equalizer and surround angle settings) indicate digital input, Dolby processing (when 5.1 signal is detected), surround sound (when toggled on) and power. Buttons are on the side underneath for equalizer, surround angle and surround on/off. For most users, switching amongst the presets will not be terribly easy during play, which leads me to my biggest complaint about the DXL1 configuration: the cables.

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Ease of Setup and Use

The Ear Force DXL1 should come with a warning label that reads, “Not for those with children or pets.” I think I almost strangled my dog with the cabling for this setup. The headset has a long branching wire that comes off of it that terminates in a 3.5mm jack and USB plug. Those get inserted into the DSS2. On the other side, you’ve got a digital optical cable and another USB coming out to the console. If you want to talk on Xbox Live, there is a 2.5mm cable coming off the in-line remote and into your controller. It’s a lot.

Once you have all the plugs in the right places, configuring the system is a bit challenging. I don’t love the coded blinking of the lights on the DSS2 to signify which equalizer and surround angle setting you’ve selected. It’s almost inevitable that you’ll need the manual close by to remember which nine EQ and six surround settings is which. If you are someone that likes to experiment with your settings, it’s likely going to take you a while to memorize them.

The in-line remote is far more straightforward with a power switch, mute toggle, dials for game and chat audio and the Xbox Live chat port. Given the geography of everything, you’ll likely be using this more in-game. I can’t imagine fiddling with the DSS2, even in between rounds of a multiplayer game.

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Sound Quality and Performance Notes

Alone, the DXL1 headset is a decent stereo headset. Given the budget-friendly price point, you are giving up some of the heavier basses found in other models, but the sound never felt empty. The 50mm drivers do a good job of filling the soundscape. Everything is certainly more clear and crisp than you are getting out of stock television speakers.

Connecting it to the DSS2 though, was a remarkable transformation. The Dolby processing that happens in that little box does a great job of turning the stereo design into something with respectable positional audio. Finding the right surround angle is a matter of preference, but I was definitely able to hear the difference as I experimented. For those looking at this as a starter bundle, and have an intent to upgrade in the future, the DSS2 is the most important part of the package.

The microphone is scaled back from what you find on the pricier models, but it’s certainly better than the packed-in Xbox Live chat headset. The thin, flexible microphone is serviceable and delivers value at the price point. Unfortunately, the active voice monitoring pumps just a little bit too much from the microphone into the mix. Moving the headset away from my mouth left my friends telling me I sounded distant. Too close and I was too loud in my own ear. Finding the “goldilocks zone” took a bit of adjusting the first time, but once I knew where it was, it got easier moving forward.

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Comfort

The DXL1 isn’t the most comfortable headset for extended gaming. The mesh-covered foam on the earcups tended to chafe me after a while, and the foam on the headband isn’t firm enough to withstand compression. I had a hard time finding an adjustment point that offered the right snugness. I never managed to find a point that wasn’t just a little too loose or pinched a bit more than I wanted.

I recommend adjusting the microphone before you put the headset on. While this isn’t strictly a comfort issue, the loud clicking the microphone makes is a little too loud in the left ear.

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Differentiating Features

This bundle essentially saves you $20. If you are a PS3 gamer, you might want to take a look at the similarly bundled DP11, which is the P11 headset we already covered and the DSS2. The difference in price between the DXL1 and the DP11 (which costs $119.95) seems to be the P11′s compatibility with PC. If you already have an XL1 or a P11, purchasing the opposite bundle will give you surround sound on both consoles and PC.

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Accessories Recommended/Required

None

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Conclusion

For those that don’t mind the wires and are looking for an affordable and flexible surround sound solution, the DXL1 (or the DP11 for PS3 users) is a smart purchase. It gives you everything you need up front with the opportunity to upgrade the headset portion later on.

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Products to Compare

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