Gaming headsets are constantly climbing in cost, but are they worth it? And can you wear one and retain any amount of dignity?
We were recently sent the Turtle Beach EarForce XP400 headset, costing about £190, for a trial. So we decided to see if we could figure it out once and for all...
The Turtle Beach EarForce XP400 look exactly like a pair of £190 gaming headphones should look, in that they are utterly ludicrous.
They are a giant, black and lime green, techy piece of kit, and they are so big they'd look more at home on the head of a Gears Of War grunt than a human person.
And make no mistake - this is a premium product. Everything about the headphones is adjustable - the direction of every sound, and the balance between audio and game chat.
And obviously, it's all high quality. The Dolby surround sound, the 15 hour battery, the dual-pairing Bluetooth meaning you can answer calls while gaming, and the dynamic blast limiter to level out awkward sound jumps… We could go on. The tech specs and features are listed at Turtle Beach's site. They are many.
Set-up is relatively easy. This particular headset is 'designed' to work with the Xbox 360, though it is also compatible with the Playstation 3, so we tried it out with both consoles - and it worked well, with no drop-outs or other nonsense.
True, attempting to pair the headset to a separate, wireless transmitter - which you connect to the games console - isn't straightforward. In fact it took two or three tries to connect, and the instructions provided told us it could take up to five tries to get it to work. So, in a sense, one point to HuffPost.
But anyway, it's fiddly.
Luckily after you've done this once, you do not have to repeat the ordeal again, even when switching to a different console.
Wearing the headset was comfortable enough, though this reviewer noticed that they were a little too large for my head. Yes, having gone through most of my life with people telling me I have a small head, this was unsurprising - but when trying to adjust the positioning of the headphones, I found that the smallest fit was still too big.
For people with larger heads than myself, I can picture them being quite comfortable. But I was terrified to move, lest the review pair fly from my head and into the HuffPost television. If that happens to you and you've dropped near enough £200 already, you'll be annoyed.
The sound quality of the headphones is excellent, however. And in a sense, that's all that matters.
Yes, they look geeky. But you aren't taking them to the park. You want them to relay the sound of the battle, the crowd or your own splattering demise, clearly and with the maximum awesomeness. We found that sound effects and music were crisp and realistic on both consoles - though on Playstation 3, the voices seemed a little muffled. It enhanced the experience, made average games better and in that sense did exactly what you'd want them to do.
The surround sound is also noticeable (in a good way!) and the ability to change the position of that sound is handy.
The microphone was clear too, and we had no trouble distinguishing the sound of Modern Warfare 3 from the 12-year-old kids from Norwich attempting to kill us.
But look - you can't get around this: the problem is the price. The EarForce XP 400 costs more than an Xbox. There's nothing much you can say to soften that blow.
That said, if you're prepared to drop the cash for the best gaming headset money can (probably) buy, this will be a good choice. And if you don't require the premium features, you can always go with the Turtle Beach X32s, which at £84.99 are within more peoples' price range and still very good.
In their way, the XP400s are as much a lifestyle choice as any other premium, fashion product. You're buying them to by the guy who buys them. This is a Ferrari for gamers - with all the absurdity that entails.
So if you're prepared to pay the price, go nuts. You won't find a better product for your strange, twisted needs than this.