Recently I was in the market for a new set of gaming headphones for my Xbox 360 and after doing some searching at local stores I managed to find the Turtle Beach X41 Wireless headphones with 7.1 surround sound. The question now is, was the hefty price tag of $229 worth it for what you get with these headphones? Let’s take a look and find out.

Before I get too far into this review I should mention the features and specs of the Turtle Beach X41 headphones and they are the following.

Headphones

-50mm diameter speakers with neodymium magnets
-Digital Wireless RF carrier reception (2.404-2.476GHz)
-Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20kHz, >120dB SPL @ 1kHz
-Condenser Microphone Frequency Response: 50Hz - 15kHz
-Headphone Amplifier: Stereo 35mW/ch, THD <1%
-Bass Boost: +9dB @20Hz - 150Hz
-Chat Boost™ Talkback Expander: +10dB gain boost at maximum game volume
-Digital RF provides wide 360-degree reception range
-Audio mutes automatically when carrier signal is lost
-Operates on dual AAA batteries
-Automatic shut down after approx 5 minutes of carrier loss or silence to conserve battery power
-Battery booster circuit extends battery life for up to 25 hours and assures that sound quality will be unaffected until the batteries are completely drained
-Weight: 9.5 Oz (270g)

Digital RF Wireless Transmitter

-Digital Wireless RF wireless carrier reception (2.404-2.476GHz)
-Digital RF wireless transmission range up to 30 feet
-Stereo headphone output with volume control for external wired headphones
-Frequency response: 20Hz - 20kHz
-Optical TOSLINK digital audio input compatible with 48kHz digital audio stream
-Optical TOSLINK digital audio output pass-through of digital input stream.
-150MIPS Digital Signal Processor for Dolby processing
-Maximum analog input level with volume control on maximum setting:  2Vpp (700mV rms). Input sensitivity may be adjusted to accept higher level signals by lowering the volume control.
-Dimensions: Height 8.875 in (22.5 cm), width 4.375 in (11.1 cm), depth 4.375 in (11.1cm)
-Weight: 8.4 Oz (240g)
-Power requirements: 5VDC @180mA max

In the picture below you can see the X41’s after they have been taken out of their packaging. You will notice in the picture that there are several types of cables that come with the headphones along with the headphones and the transmitter. The cables that you see in the picture are the USB power cable along with the headphone mic cable and also the optical cable that you use to get the audio from your Xbox360 to the headphones.

Something worth noting here is although these headphones are meant for the Xbox360 you could use them with whatever audio source you like that has either an optical out or RCA Line out connectors. One thing to keep in mind here is these headphones do not come with a power adapter that plugs into a wall outlet, instead the X41 uses the power from the Xbox360 USB port via the supplied USB cable, so you may need a USB to household plug adapter that Turtle Beach sells off their web site should you decide to use the X41 with something other than Xbox360.


In the next picture you see the headphone controls that are placed on the left hand side of the headphones. Starting from the first arrow with the number one above it in the picture you have the power on and off button to the right of that you have the game controller input for the cable that goes from the headphones to the Xbox360 controller for the Xbox360 live chat and to the right of that you have the effects button.

Note: The effects button on the headphones is no more than a bass boost switch. If you have it enabled you get more of a bass type sound and with it off you don’t have as much bass and you get more of a treble type sound. There is no way at all to adjust treble or bass as you would if you had some sort of EQ controls and that’s a shame on a set headphones that cost what these cost.

The next dial that’s to the right of the effects button is the volume dial and as one would expect that turns the headphones up and down.

Something not shown in the picture below is on the side of the headphone above the controls is a Turtle Beach logo and this has a red led light in it that will blink when the headphones are powered on.


The next picture is looking at the right hand side of the headphones and there you can see the battery compartment that holds the two AAA batteries. It’s funny when I was at the store looking at these headphones before I purchased them, I asked the sales person if the headphones needed batteries or not and after some back and forth with a few different sales people it was clear that in fact these $229 headphones would in fact need a constant supply of batteries to keep them going if you used them all the time.

For me these headphones were already way more costly then I think they should have been, and now I have to go out and get rechargeable batteries as well???? The only thing that made the battery issue a bit more easy for me to deal with was the fact that I had months ago went out and purchased some rechargeable batteries and so I didn’t have to spend even more money. You really do need rechargeable batteries for these headphones because as my testing has shown at best I was only able to get between 16 - 18 hours of continuous use out of them before the batteries went dead.

16 - 18 hours of constant use is really quite good performance but the Turtle Beach web site claims up to 25 hours of use, you may be able to get that with non rechargeable batteries but it’s going to cost a fortune to have to keep slapping energizer batteries or some other brand of batteries in there all the time.

The rechargeable batteries I use for the X41 are the Duracell AAA / HR03 / DX2400 NiMH / 1.2V / 800 mAh

You really do want to have at least 4 AAA rechargeable batteries so that you can have two in the headphones and two fully charged and ready to go for when the first two die. You may be able to get better battery performance out of these headphones if you use better rechargeable batteries with a higher mAh ratting as well. My batteries that I have here were the best I could find months ago when shopping around for batteries so that’s what I’m stuck with.

After using these headphones for a while now I’m glad Turtle Beach decided to use the standard replaceable AAA batteries. At first I was thinking this was quite the cheap move on their part especially when you consider the price of these headphones however, if they had of used some kind of custom battery pack for the X41 it no doubt would have died over long use and then you would be stuck buying some expensive replacement that you would have to make a special order for. So in the end their decision to use standard AAA batteries works out well for the consumer and gives the consumer more choice in what they use for batteries.

One final note on the batteries here is the headphones are smart enough to turn off if there is no audio being sent to them. This is good for example if you shut your Xbox360 off but forget to turn the headphones off. It’s nice to see a feature like this that helps preserve battery life.


The next picture is looking at the X41 headphones along with the detachable microphone. The cool thing about these Turtle Beach headphones is you can easily get replacement parts from the Turtle Beach web site and that includes replaceable cables as well as ear cushions and also the mic itself and that’s pretty cool, also most of the replacement items they do sell don’t seem to cost all that much.

While on the topic of the ear cushions, I would like to see the ear cushions a bit larger in diameter in terms of them fitting over the ears so they don’t rub up against your ears and make your ears sore when you have them on for long periods of time.


In the next picture you get to see the cable that plugs into the headphones and then goes into the Xbox360 controller so that you can chat on the Xbox live service via the mic on the headphones. For me this is one of the down sides to these headphones, I can’t even imagine why Turtle Beach decided to use a wired connection to get audio from the headphones into the controller and then into the Xbox360. The amount of times in a day where I have to move the wire out of the way from the controller is maddening to say the least. The chord also seems to find its way under my one arm all the time and makes it so if I move my head I almost pull the headphones right off my head do to the wire being attached.

Now that I got that off my chest, when you look at the cable for the headphones that goes to the Xbox360 controller it’s a pretty basic cable that allows you to use the mic from the headphones on the Xbox live service. The cable itself has a volume control and also a mic mute switch so you can mute the mic on the headphones.  The volume control dial is used to turn the Xbox live chat volume up and down when you’re talking to people on line.


The next picture shows the transmitter for the X41 headphones. The first thing you notice with the transmitter is the steel hook looking thing that’s sticking out of the top of it and that’s what you use to set the headphones on if you’re not using them. The transmitter has several red led lights that light up (not shown in the picture below) for the various functions of the transmitter. For example you have lights that show you if there is power and the transmitter is communicating to the headset. You also have lights that show you if the transmitter is receiving a digital signal off the optical input connector. There are also various lights that come on depending on what type of audio signal is coming into the transmitter such as a surround sound signal or just a stereo type of signal.

Moving down toward the bottom of the transmitter you see the bypass button and if you hit this it will remove all processing being done to the incoming signal and it will just give you an unmodified / unprocessed signal into the headphones. Under the bypass button you have a volume control and a headphone jack. The Volume control will adjust the volume of any wired headphones that you have plugged into the headphone jack.


The next picture is showing the back of the X41 and this is where you will hook up your audio connections. Starting at the top and working down you have the optical in and out jacks. The reason you have an optical out is in case you want to run the transmitter inline between an Xbox360 and a home audio receiver.

Next up you have the RCA line in jacks and this is where you can hook another audio source up and have that sent to the headphones as well. It should be noted you can only have one audio source going to the headphones at one time in terms of the optical input and the RCA line in jacks. The RCA line in jacks will be disabled if the transmitter detects any incoming signal over the optical input.

Under the RCA line inputs you have a volume control and that will control anything coming in over the RCA line inputs. So if you want to plug your mp3 player in and it doesn’t sound quite loud enough you can up the volume of it by adjusting the volume control dial.

The next thing you see on the transmitter is the DC in and this is where you plug the supplied cable into and then the other end goes into the Xbox360 to get the power the transmitter needs to operate. Under the power connector you have a simple on and off switch that turns the power to the transmitter on and off.

The transmitter according to the specs can transmit the digital signal up to 30 feet away however, during my own testing if you put a couple of walls between you and the transmitter the signal will be lost in no time at all. Also if you have a lot of wireless devices present in the room with the transmitter that may cause issues for you as well. In terms of other wireless devices interfering with the transmitter I haven’t had any issues there at all and that’s with a wireless router in the room a few feet away from the transmitter.

One thing I have seen from time to time is the audio will get out of sync with what I’m seeing in game and that’s normally fixed by reselecting my video input on my TV. I have the transmitter hooked up to use the optical out of my TV. The reason I have my system setup this way is due to the fact I have the older Xbox360 that doesn’t have an optical out like you see on the new Xbox360’s. I have an HDMI cable going from the Xbox360 to my TV so the only optical out I have is on the TV.




So now that we are done with the hardware end of things we can get down to how do these headphones sound? In short I’m pretty impressed with the audio sound overall. I think the fact that you are getting a digital signal all the way from the Xbox360 to your ears keeps the audio really clean and in that regard the sound is great when using these headphones with anything that has an optical output.

One thing to keep in mind is these headphones are stereo type headphones that only have two drivers, one for the left and one for the right. The surround sound that you hear is a simulated surround sound since you’re only working with two drivers. Having said that I spent quite a bit of time listening to these headphones and using the bypass switch on the transmitter (which gives you a stereo sound) and even though the headphones may not be true surround sound (there isn’t multiple drivers in each headphone) the surround sound effect that you get with them is quite good.

One of the issues I did notice is the surround sound in games like Modern Warfare 2 seems a bit odd. There are times in that game where I can hear people like they should be right beside me in terms of weapon fire and I look around and no one is there. I’m not sure in that case who is at fault, it could be that the surround sound in the game itself wasn’t done properly or it could be the headphones not working right with that game so I’m not sure which is to blame in that case.

Another issue some people may have with the X41 headphones is they don’t seem to have a high quality in terms of build quality. When you look at these headphones they look cheaply built and I’m hoping I’m wrong here and they last for years but only time will tell. Should I run into any issues with the headphones falling apart or going defective in some way I’ll be sure to update this review with my findings.  

In conclusion as I stated early on in this Review, the digital sound quality of these headphones is top notch. The price of the X41 Headphones I feel is way too high, I would like to see these headphones in the $100 range and not the $229 range. The other big problem I have with them is in a few months time Turtle Beach will be bringing out a new set of these headphones called the PX5 and they’re going to have features like EQ settings that you can adjust and bunch of other stuff. These new PX5 headphones will cost a bit more then the X41 headphones as well.

After looking at pictures of the PX5 headphones I noticed they to have the same game controller input that the X41 headphones have, and that means you have to have a wire running from the headphones to the Xbox360 controller in order to use the mic on the headphones with Xbox live chat and that really sucks if that’s the case. I was hoping the mic would have been wireless for the Xbox360 with these new PX5 headphones.

So now what you have to ask your self is do you spend the money now and get the X41 headphones or do you wait and get the somewhat better PX5 headphones? If I had of known when I purchased the X41 headphones that I would see a press release soon after detailing the PX5 headphones I think I would have waited for sure. At the time of this Review you could purchase the X41 headphones for $229 Canadian.

If you would like more information on the Turtle Beach X41 headphones you can go to the turtle Beach web site here. For more information on the upcoming Turtle Beach PX5 headphones you can find that here.