Manufacturer: Turtle Beach
Sound Produced: 5.1 Dolby Surround (Virtual)
Primary Systems: Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3
Connection Method: Digital Optical, USB (power, chat for PS3), Bluetooth (chat Xbox 360, adapter included)
The Ear Force XP400 completes our look at Turtle Beach’s XP lineup of gaming headsets. It also happens to be the seventh Turtle Beach headset to enter the RipTen Gaming Headset Buyer’s Guide. This model is a fully wireless solution for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 using a combination of 2.4/5.8 GHz dual band and bluetooth to provide all the functions necessary to take your fight online in privacy. It differs from the XP300 in only one discernible way: surround sound rather than stereo. As with every headset, it’s important to understand the features you’re getting for the price. It’s even more true with mid-priced products, because the price point typically includes a great deal of variety. The surround sound functions include a lot of what’s found on the standalone DSS2, so what you’re getting with the XP400 is a blend of different technologies in the manufacturer’s lineup.
What’s in the box?
- Digital Optical Cable
- USB charging cable
- XBA bluetooth chat adapter
Aesthetics and Durability
Unlike the XP500, which comes with a tall transmitter that doubles as a headset stand, the XP400 takes up relatively little space. In fact, the XP400’s transmitter looks very similar to the one that accompanies the XP300, though with added buttons to manipulate the surround sound features. The transmitter houses three buttons on the side for the purposes of pairing the headset, toggling surround sound on/off and adjusting the listening angles. On the rear are three ports. There are incoming and outgoing digital optical ports (so sound can be passed through), as well as a port for analog sound. Unlike the XP300 transmitter, there is no port for a direct Xbox Live chat cable connection, meaning you’ll have to use the Bluetooth adapter (and a standard controller) with the XP400.
From a distance, the headset looks identical to its big brother, the XP500. The primary differences are the earcup controls. Like the XP300, the XP400 doesn’t offer the customizable presets of the XP500. Instead, the left side houses Tone and Limiter buttons. The latter works as a safety net to ensure that sudden, loud explosions don’t blow out your eardrums. On the underside, there’s a port for wired Xbox Live chat and two dials that control master volume and the level of the selective voice monitoring that adds what the mic picks up into the mix. This is in place to help you avoid screaming unintentionally.
The right side is where all the bluetooth chat functions are housed. Here, you can increase or decrease the volume, mute the microphone and sync up with the XBA adapter or the PlayStation 3 directly. On the underside is the USB port for charging. This is another key difference from the XP500, which uses two disposable AA batteries.
As you can see from the images, the headset is largely black with accents in metallic and green. The adjustments are sturdy plastic that would have to be abused quick severely to be cracked or broken. The headband features black leatherette with the Turtle Beach name embossed. It’s not flashy, but it gives off a distinct sense of comfort.
Ease of Setup and Use
The XP500 is extremely easy to setup. Simply plug the RCA cables into your TV’s stereo output and the USB cable into your console. If you use a cable or adapter that offers stereo RCA, you can use the passthrough function of the included cord. The headset comes pre-paired to the transmitter, but if you do need to re-sync, it’s a painless process.
Once your Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 is powered on, simply press the power button on the left earcup until you hear a tone. The light on the transmitter should turn solid within seconds, indicating a connection. Connecting the bluetooth to the both the XBA adapter and the PlayStation 3 directly is an easy process. The steps outlined in the manual worked flawlessly the first time.
Turtle Beach’s claim of 15 hours of battery life holds up to testing, which is exactly the same as the claim (found to be accurate) on the XP300. It’s unlikely that leaving the bluetooth chat function powered up at all times would yield quite as long in between charges, though. Recharge time was brief, and you can both charge the unit and use it at the same time. The included cable is long enough for most setups, but any USB mini cable will work just fine.
One thing I did run into during testing is that it is very easy to errantly press a button when removing the headset while powered up. The tone and limiter buttons in particular ended up on the wrong end of my fingers when lifting or positioning the unit from rest on my shoulders. Assuming you remember which beeps correspond to the settings you want, it’s not too much of an inconvenience. It’s unfortunate that this model is missing the voice prompts from the XP500 though.
Sound Quality and Performance
The sound quality of the Turtle Beach XP400 is by no means poor, but the difference between this model and the XP500 is profound. There are limited ways to configure the audioscape. One is to use the tone button on the left earcup to cycle through flat, bass boost, treble boost and bass and treble boost. Even bumping up the treble or both ends of the range, I couldn’t get the XP400 to sound quite “bright” enough for my taste.
There are six different configurations for the angles, and they definitely change the way sound is produced. I found that different positions were better suited to different games. For multiplayer shooters for instance, emphasizing the rear channels will help keep you focused on enemies coming up from behind. This is a great option, but it doesn’t replace the ability to configure presets that allow users to align the soundscape in ideal fashion for each game.
Again, the XP400 doesn’t sound bad. It simply came across a bit muffled for my taste. The tonal settings and different angles help compensate, but for me, it wasn’t quite enough.
When I reviewed the XP500, I mentioned ear and neck discomfort during marathon gaming sessions. I’m pleased to report that, like the XP300, the XP400 didn’t plague me with either of those problems. The unit is fairly light, and it was easy to find the proper adjustment points to balance snugness and freedom of movement.
The earcups are heavily padded and covered with the soft mesh fabric featured on many other Turtle Beach products. The same mesh is on the underside of the headband. The unit is extremely comfortable, and I did not run into the same problem that plagued my time with the XP300. At no point did the headband dig into my scalp, and I found this to be one of the more comfortable Turtle Beach products I’ve had the pleasure to test out. This is one model I can wear for hours at a time without the slightest bit of discomfort.
The important thing to know about the XP400 is what sets it apart from the XP300 and XP500. Here’s the quick rundown:
- XP500: 7.1 (Simulated)
- XP400: 5.1 (Simulated)
- XP300: Stereo
- XP500: Customizable (Main plus 8)
- XP300: Four standard equalizer presets
- XP500: Two disposable AA
- XP400: Built-in rechargeable
- XP300: Built-in rechargeable
- Cable Management
- XP500: Wireless
- XP400: Wireless
- XP300: Wireless
As with all entries in our Gaming Headset Buyer’s Guide, it’s important to pick the product that has the right feature set for your needs. If you aren’t dying for customizable presets, the XP400 is ready to save you $50 for forgoing those options.
If you would like to use the XP500 with an Xbox 360 controller that does not fit the XBA device, you will need to purchase an Xbox Live Talkback cable. The latter puts the volume controls in-line and will connect to any 2.5mm port on a controller. There is also a wired puck similar to the connector on the XBA and default, packed-in Xbox 360 headsets. Both cables cost $5.95 each, direct from Turtle Beach.
Turtle Beach was smart to group the XP headsets into a family. It makes it easy for consumers to compare features and make an educated decision. The XP400 is a competent headset that sounds good when compared against others at similar price points. If you’re hungry for a wireless solution and want surround sound and can live with the stable of onboard presets, this is a great option. The surround sound bump is $50 over the XP300, but it’s definitely worth it.
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