I’ve never been a big audiophile, but I realized this year that I was going to have to make some upgrades. My most advanced audio technology up until recently amounted to a cheap pair of RadioShack speakers for my PC and Panasonic earbuds that go for about $10.
A couple of weeks ago I was playing Enter the Gungeon for what seemed like the 12,000th time and plugged said earbuds into my PC speakers to keep things a little quiet in the house. I was shocked at how much I was missing with my junky Gigaware speakers. Even with reasonably well-made but inexpensive earbuds I was getting dimensions of sound I didn’t even know were there, in a game that I’ve put over 150 hours into. At that point I realized some things had to change, and took the leap on some new audio tech across the board in terms of my main platforms, Xbox One and PC. This is one of three impressions articles I will be writing detailing those upgrades.
The **deep breath** Turtle Beach EAR FORCE Stealth 420X Wireless Gaming Headset is the new (for me) headset that I am now using with my Xbox One. This was sort of a random choice given that I am so confused about what does or doesn’t worth with the Xbox One due to its lack of Bluetooth, and also the fact that my launch day controller has that goofy proprietary input that now requires me to buy an adapter for just about anything. As a result, the choice simply became a matter of Turtle Beach being a long-time presence in console gaming and figuring that with their pretty positive reputation, it’d be a safe choice as well.
At this point I should mention that going wireless was what caused most of the confusion over what to buy. This was my number one requirement. I had no interest in effectively going backwards and adding wires instead of removing them from my setup. (If you’re wondering why I was concerned with the controller input mentioned above even when going wireless, I was concerned about it because I didn’t know if certain headphones would require something to be plugged in there as opposed to a USB slot).
So the headphones arrived and set up began. Inside the box you have the unit itself, a USB dongle for wireless, an auxiliary cable with 3.5mm jack on both ends, and a USB to micro USB cable for charging. So pretty standard stuff plus a quick start manual, and I must say the set up is indeed very quick. Plug in the wireless dongle onto any USB port on the Xbox One, which then recognizes it immediately, then press a button on the right earphone disguised as a logo to pair everything. This only takes about ten seconds, though mine seemed to have trouble pairing at first. On the second attempt it worked fine though and everything was ready to roll.
My game of choice at the time was Dead Rising 4, so I jumped right in. I realized soon after that my cans were WAY too loud. The volume on these suckers can get crazy high if you so desire. I turned it down with the volume wheel on the back of the right earphone, which does bring me to one small complaint: the volume wheel is in a weird place. To reach your hand basically behind your head and turn the wheel is just odd and unnatural. The equalizer is back there too, so it’s kind of wonky to try and fine tune everything whilst actually wearing the headset itself. I would’ve preferred a couple of small buttons on the actual face of either headphone, and I could live without them being hidden just for the sake of looks.
As far as the build quality, people seem to be somewhat divided. Admittedly these are a little plastic-y feeling and sounding when handling them. For me personally though it doesn’t really impact my impressions. Plus the silver lining even if you are very much into build quality is that these are relatively light.
Comfort-wise, I initially felt that the 420X was a little tight. Some adjustments made helped somewhat, but they still didn’t feel especially comfortable. It’s not so much the physical features; the foamy ear cups covered in faux leather are nice, and the band connecting the two headphones is padded enough. As a whole they simply felt too tight though.
I took a break upon waiting for The Witcher 3 to install (yes, finally getting
around to that one) and decided to use the headset again, and something clicked in terms of ergonomics. I realized I was wearing them slightly behind where they should probably rest on my head. This was either just a habit of how I had put headphones on in the past or pure coincidence, but regardless the second time I threw them on everything fit like a glove. My ears were perfectly housed on each side and the band rested perfectly across my dome. I am now happy to report that these fit me perfectly other than maybe some slight remaining tightness, but it was never particularly notable and I had no desire to take them off or take a break from wearing them. Side note: Regarding head gear, I have always had a hard time with fitted hats and such. They’ve always been too big on my silly-shaped melon, so if you have a larger one you may agree with users that deemed these too tight.
So how do they sound? In my opinion as a layman who is pretty far from claiming to be an audiophile, I think they sound very, very good. Everything is extremely clear. I think they could use a littler more bass, but there is a Bass Boost feature that I haven’t experimented with yet (or the equalizer for that matter). Dead Rising 4 sounded very good and I was hearing a ton of zombie grunts and growls that would’ve barely registered without wearing these. The Witcher 3’s sweeping music and environmental sound came through perfectly, and the headphones added to the immersion and atmosphere. No complaints about the sound at this point in my time spent with these.
What else? One thing that’s often a deal breaker for these wireless headsets is that you can’t hear yourself in the earphones when talking to other players in multiplayer. With the 420X you can, which is nice to know even if I’m not playing anything online at the moment. Another user mentioned being able to play a game with these on as normal but also connecting your phone to them with the auxiliary jack. This enables you to play a game while listening to music, all within the headset. I don’t usually do this and it kind of cancels out the wireless nature of the device, but I know many others are interested in it and do it quite often, so it’s a useful option for some. The range on these is claimed to be 30 feet, which is a nice distance, and the battery life is said to be 15 hours per Turtle Beach’s promotional materials. The voice chat headset attachment is also detachable, which I appreciated.
The 420X originally retailed for $149, though you should be able to find them now for around $100-120. This is the low end option in the Stealth series from Turtle Beach, but a mid range option considering all the headsets they make in total. This means that there’s room to maneuver depending on your budget or how much importance you put on the sound quality. Me? I just wanted something for my Xbox One that sounded good, was reliable, and also wireless. For those purposes, the 420X fits the bill without putting a big strain on your wallet. For me this is a fairly priced option that will do everything you want a wireless headset to do in a market where you can easily spend upwards of $300 or more. If you’re not crazy into audio tech but still want legit headphones, the 420X will serve you well.