Manufacturer: Tritton
MSRP: $199.99
Sound Produced: 5.1
Type: Wired
Primary Systems: Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3
Connection Method: Digital Optical, USB (power, chat for PS3),  Xbox 360 chat cable

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Basic Description

The Tritton Pro+ 5.1 is an impressive, mid-priced option for console gamers that is different than most of what’s in the RipTen Gaming Headset Buyer’s Guide. As an improved version of the Tritton AX Pro, this is one of the only true 5.1 Dolby surround sound headsets we’ve looked at. What sets it apart is that there are actually four drivers in each ear (two 30mm drivers for front and rear, 23mm center channel and 40mm for the subwoofer). There is a distinct difference between virtual surround sound created through application of Dolby’s ProLogic II processing and the real deal. This is one of the best-sounding units I’ve reviewed.

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What’s in the box?

  • Headset with in-line volume and channel control
  • Removable microphone
  • Dolby Digital decoder box
  • Xbox Live communication cable x2 (one cable, one cable with puck)
  • Digital audio adapter
  • Optical cable
  • USB cable
  • AC adapter

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Aesthetics/Durability

The first thing I noticed when removing the key pieces of the AX Pro+ from the well-packaged box was the striking glossy white the covers most of the headset exterior and the top of the decoder box. While it most certainly picks up fingerprints (though not as bad as black gloss finish), it gives the unit a distinct look and feel. The white is offset by a black stripe and the Tritton name on the top of the headband along with red accents in the form of the brand logo on the ear cups and top of the decoder.

The cups aren’t rounded, nor are they perfectly square, featuring smart angles that prevent the unit from appearing too boxy. The underside is pure black from the softer plastic of the non-padded segments to the leatherette of the ear and head cushioning. The in-line volume and independent channel control might be the most comfortable and well-designed one I’ve used. On the face are buttons for the four different channels (front, center, rear and sub) that glow in different colors depending on their volume level. Of course, had Madcatz/Tritton actually included the manual (or even the correct link to it online), it would have been easier to discern what those colors actually meant. (Side note: if you are going to sell a $200 headset, including more of a manual than a connection guide is appreciated.)

The adjustment points are a tad bit loose for my taste. It’s more an issue of keeping them in place in between uses rather than slipping while on my head. Still, I prefer having my headset ready to wear without the need for fitting every time I put it on.

On the in-line control panel you’ll find game volume, chat volume, mutes for both along with the on/off button for selective voice monitoring, which pumps your own voice into the mix (to help you moderate your speaking volume). Each of these is easy to manipulate in the heat of combat, and flipping through the different channels and tweaking them is simple. Overall, this is an attractive headset with a well-designed control unit.

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Ease of Setup and Use

Setup is extremely easy. The rear of the device has ports for power, digital optical and USB. The latter two should be connected to your console. For Xbox Live chat, there is a port on the in-line control device that will lead to your gamepad. The front of the decoder box offers two ports for Tritton headsets, so you can drive game audio to two users at once. It’s a handy feature. These aren’t standard USB connections though, so you can’t connect any ol’ unit.

I recommend grabbing the manual from here, which will give you all the information you need on decoding the different colors on the channel buttons, resetting all of them at once and more. Tuning the different drivers has a distinct impact on the sound, and I recommend spending some time with your favorite game and focusing on getting them just right. Unfortunately, there is no way to save presets for different games, so take notes.

If you like using a non-standard controller, you should appreciate that Tritton has packed in two different chat options for Xbox Live. Additionally, there is an adapter for classic configuration units that allow you to use HDMI output with digital optical audio. One thing that this company knows is convenience. All of these little pack-ins ensure that you’ll be ready to use this headset right out of the box.

The trickiest part of the whole setup (once I had the manual in-hand) was getting the microphone to stay where it belongs. The stem locks into the headset and can be removed when not in use. I had a bit of trouble finding the right place to start from, which led to me thinking it was connected and secured when it wasn’t.

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Sound Quality and Performance

The first thing I noticed when listening through the AX Pro+ for the first time is that there is a marked difference between virtual surround sound and the real deal. While Dolby ProLogic II, which powers the processing of most gaming headsets, typically does a fantastic job, it’s not until you actually have four drivers in each ear that you realize that it’s not quite perfect. The ability to tune all four channels is a powerful feature that sets the Pro+ apart.

I absolutely love listening to games and movies through this set, and there is a good chance that it could become my go-to choice. The largest driver is the 40mm subwoofer. Distortion is absolutely minimal, and if you are feeling a little overwhelmed by the bass, it’s a simple matter of turning it down with the in-line controller. Positional audio through the AX Pro+ is as good (if not better) than the best units I’ve tested. There’s a clarity to the soundscape that makes this headset a pure joy to use.

My biggest complaint is with the sensitivity of the microphone pickup and selective voice monitoring. The element grabbed the sound of a fan that wasn’t terribly close to where I was playing, leading me to wish there were a windsock included. I was forced to mute SVM when playing solo (much to my wife’s chagrin), and playing multiplayer resulted in some unhappy teammates. If you don’t like fans and manage to play in external silence, you won’t have an issue. My kids, dog and need for a fan exclude me from that category, though.

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Comfort

Earlier, I mentioned that I wished the adjustment points had a bit more rigidity to them, holding their shape between uses. The reason for this is largely in part due to the sparse padding on the headband. Where many headsets offer cushioning across a wide swath of the center, the AX Pro+ is skimpy, only covering a narrow section. With four drivers in each ear adding to the weight, this is one area that should have been beefed up. It’s not that what’s there isn’t enough, rather it takes a bit of jiggling to make sure that narrow pieces is what’s in contact with your skull (and not hard plastic).

The leatherette-covered ear cushions are extremely comfortable, and definitely get the job done over extended gaming sessions. I am most impressed with the AX Pro+ because of lack of neck strain and ear discomfort I experienced even after mutli-hour usage. When first taking it out of the box and feeling the heft, I would have put money on inevitable pain. I was pleasantly surprised time and time again.

The positioning and comfort of the in-line control unit is superb. I typically dislike it when these are on the bulky side, as they tend to weigh things down a bit on one side. Again, I was pleasantly surprised. The unit is easy to use, and most functions can be adjusted without looking while playing.

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Differentiating Features

The AX Pro+ is only the second true surround sound headset we’ve covered. If you’re looking for the most authentic reproduction of surround sound audio, this is where your focus should be.

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Accessories Required/Recommended

None. Everything you need is in the box.

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Conclusion

There are some slight missteps in the design of the AX Pro+, but spending a few minutes before each use to find the proper fit and tune the channels for the game or movie you’ll be playing/watching will help improve the experience. Given the power consumption issues and limitations of wireless technology, you’re not going to find a true surround sound headset that is also cable-free. Making a choice as to which feature is more important will either make this a product you should investigate or (unfortunately) rule it out entirely.

 

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