Audio is arguably the most underrated element of gaming. We spend hours poring over screenshots and gameplay videos, rarely giving a second thought to the sound as we inspect textures, lighting effects, and polygons. Despite this, a game’s ability to move or engage is often closely linked to the quality of its audio engineering, with the likes of Journey and Dead Space demonstrating the importance of a good score and intelligent sound design. However, in order to really appreciate the value of a title’s acoustics, you may need to splash out on expensive speaker arrays which aren’t always practical for all types of homes. That’s where headsets such as the Turtle Beach Ear Force PX4 have managed to carve out a market.
At the time of typing, the PlayStation 4 doesn’t make it easy for you to hook up any old pair of cans. You can certainly stick a set of iPhone ear buds into the DualShock 4, but the quality is jangly and without any bottom-end bite. The platform holder has promised to incorporate support for its own Pulse peripheral line as part of a future firmware update, but for now it’s the North American company’s abovementioned accessory that commands a monopoly on the next generation audio environment. With the on-message royal blue sound blasters commanding a hearty $149.99/£149.99 price point, though, is this headset worth the investment – or something that you should leave on store shelves until an alternative option arrives?
That’s going to depend on your desire for a decent audio receiver right now, as while these sound extraordinary for the money, they are not exactly plug-and-play. Setup on Sony’s recently released super machine involves the connection of a standalone wireless transmitter to the console’s USB port and optical audio output. Once hooked up correctly, you’ll need to delve into your console’s settings in order to tweak the route that any sound takes coming out of the device. The real hassle, however, comes from pairing the cans to the aforesaid black box, which demands you follow a list of steps more specific than brain surgery. It took us an hour or so of Google-fu and a real in-depth read of the peripheral’s instructions to get everything working as intended.
We suppose that this could come down to user error, but it really shouldn’t be so inanely complicated to get everything hooked up. We appreciate that Turtle Beach, as a third-party, has to work around the shortcomings of the Japanese giant’s device – but a quick glance at the included manual is enough to coax you into the kind of cold sweats ordinarily reserved for IKEA flat packs. Speaking of which, despite being advertised as wireless, you’ll still need to plug the included microphone into your DualShock 4 if you want to aim obscenities at the teenagers whipping your hide in Call of Duty: Ghosts – although this really is a fault of Sony’s hardware for the time being. Indeed, if you choose to connect the headset to a PlayStation 3 or smartphone, you’ll be able to use Bluetooth just fine.
Getting going is a hassle at first, then, but is the PX4 worth all of the hard work? Well, there’s no doubt that the cans sound great. While there are undoubtedly better headphones available on the market, you’d probably have to break the bank to get your hands on those. As a result, this set is exceptional for the price range that they occupy, and genuinely do add another dimension to your games. They’re customisable, too, allowing you to toggle through a variety of simulated speaker layouts, equaliser presets, and compression options. This latter option is particularly useful, enabling you to prevent deafening explosions from shattering your ears, without needing to dial down the volume of more subtle sound effects such as dripping water and footsteps.
The range of the actual accessory is also excellent, allowing you to move about freely without any inconsistencies in the quality of the sound. Obviously, if you happen to reside in a stately home then you might not find the signal holds all the way into the East Wing, but we didn’t have any problem moving around our sizeable living room, or even stepping out into the hall. The battery life is impressive, too, with the manufacturer’s advertised 15 hours proving roughly accurate rather than exaggerated. Obviously, your experience may vary slightly here depending on charge times and even the types of titles that you’re playing, but know that you’ll get a solid session or two of gaming out of a single charge.
Importantly, you won’t mind wearing the headphones for an extended period of time either. While they are a little chunky in terms of aesthetics, the cans fit snugly, with a well cushioned headband ensuring that they don’t dig into your skull. The spongy cups don’t feel quite as luxurious as more upmarket leather options, but still sit softly against the ear without rubbing or pinching at your skin. However, the controls located on the exterior of the speakers are a little less successful, as they’re flush to the plastic surface and require a stern push. Worse still, with a lot of functions to memorise – and very little in the way of feedback from the unit itself – it can take a while before you’re able to actually understand what everything does.
Like the initial setup process, though, you’ll overcome this issue in time. As such, assuming that you’ve got the patience to navigate the product’s shortcomings, you’ll soon be able to enjoy the PX4 for what it is: a comfortable, relatively affordable, and, most importantly, impressive sounding headset that works with the PS4. Those that can wait may be best served holding out until the promised Pulse patch arrives, but if you need a set of cans that’s compatible with your next-gen console now, then this a solid choice. Just remember to engage your brain before taking them out of the box.
Are you in the market for a fresh headset for your PS4, or are you waiting for Sony to make its Pulse peripherals compatible? Share your auditory issues in the comments section below.