Do you know what group of products represents the fastest growing segment of the console accessory market? Although your first instinct is probably to say controller, that would be wrong. The actual answer is gaming headsets. Thanks to the rise in competitive gaming leagues and improvements in technology, product offerings of companies like Tritton, Astro and Turtle Beach have been increasing in both demand and quality over the past couple of years. The competition between companies like these has been fierce but the Mad Catz owned Tritton brand is prepared to pull out the big gun and take a stand upon the top of this market segment. The big gun in question is the aptly named Tritton Warhead and let me just come out and say it: this is the headset of all headsets.
Mad Catz has been teasing the gaming world with the Warhead for quite some time now. The product was originally announced way back at E3 2011 and has been shown to great fanfare at nearly every industry show since. Promising a full 7.1 surround sound experience with native 360 chat support, this package has had gamers and audiophiles alike drooling at the thought of getting their hands on a pair since its reveal. The time for hype and promise is over, the Tritton Warhead is finally here and has begun shipping from the Gameshark Store
. It will be available at participating retailers later this year and as I am about to explain to you, it is worth every penny of the $300 asking price.
The Warhead is a full 7.1 surround sound headset that is officially licensed by Microsoft for use on the Xbox 360. The headset expands native stereo signals and 5.1 game / movie audio to 7.1 surround sound. Although the Warhead is marketed as being for the Xbox 360, the truth is that it can be used on practically any platform, at least for audio. The audio input for the base supports both optical toslink and 3.5mm connections; obviously the toslink is the superior connection and required for the best overall experience. The mic on the other hand, which is integrated into the headset, is designed specifically for use with Microsoft’s console.
While it isn’t unusual for a headset to support a microphone on the Xbox 360, this is the first time that a third party offering has supported true wireless connectivity. There is no need for a cable or a Bluetooth adapter to chat as the headset sends the voice signal wirelessly to the 360 once you sync it up with your console; you don’t have to tether to your controller in order to communicate with the Warhead. For communication to the base, the Warhead utilizes 5.8Ghz wireless technology. The strength of these connections ensures that you get clear signal and sound within a 10m (33 ft) range with no interference. Performance wise, the communication is as good, if not better, than Microsoft’s official offerings, wired or wireless.
Tritton has also included a selective voice monitoring system in the headset to cater the experience to the likes of players. This allow players to choose whether or not players hear their own voice alongside gameplay audio on the fly. You also have the ability to toggle mute features and equalizer options on the fly with easily accessible buttons located directly on the headset. There are a couple of pre-set equalizer settings designed to improve the experience depending on the source of your audio feed: music, movies, or game.
Thanks to the inclusion of Micro proprietary technology, the Warhead is also capable of sending additional information to your console. Players can check the level of their rechargeable battery by simply pushing the Xbox Guide button and you have the ability to assign the headset to any controllers connected to your system. Speaking of the battery, Tritton wants to make sure that you stay in the game at all times, so two separate, rechargeable battery packs are included in the box. While one pack is powering the headset, the other is housed and charged in the base. These can be swapped out on the fly during gameplay to ensure that you don’t miss a single beat. Each battery can last roughly 12 hours on a full charge, sometimes more, so swapping them out isn’t something you will have to do very often.
Physically speaking, the Warhead is a massive piece of technology. These things are solid and heavy, but not in a manner that impedes on their comfort. The ergonomic design of the cups and the headband ensure that they will fit comfortably on nearly anyone’s head. The headband itself is padded and adjustable, so it doesn’t grind into the top of your head like many headsets do. The earcups are superbly designed for maximum comfort and performance during both brief and extended gameplay sessions. The cups use an around-the-ear design rather than on-the-ear, which does a couple of things for the experience.
In terms of comfort, you never have to deal with the pressure of the heavy headsets pushing down on your ears. Instead, they create a wide dome over both your ears on both sides of your head, encompassing your ears entirely. The cups are also heavily padded which means that the fit is incredibly comfortable. The combination of the full 7.1 surround support and the over the ear cup design results in what could be the best audio experience available in gaming. Working together, these two aspects of the Warhead design deliver better sound isolation and acoustic performance. The audio feed itself is top notch to say the least; the over-the-ear design and thick padding of the cups ensures that outside noise is kept out of earcups and that the desired audio is kept inside with your ears.
Literally everything that you need to experience the Warhead in its full capabilities is included in the box, so you won’t have to pick up anything extra to get the most out of them. The package includes not only the headset and two rechargeable batteries, but also all of the connections you will need, regardless of your current console setup, and base that serves as both your connection to your console (audibly) and a storage rack for your headset. They have even packed in converters for powering the base by varying international power standards. The front of the base also provides you with a variety of information regarding your headset such as equalizer modes, connection and battery status, as well as housing and charging your spare battery.
In terms of the audio experience that I have had using the Warhead, I couldn’t be more impressed. I have used a wide variety of games on a wide variety of setups in my years of gaming, but nothing has ever sounded as good as the Warhead. This includes true 7.1 surround sound setups via home theater systems both professionally and personally set up. I have tested the them on a wide variety of music, movies and games on both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Obviously, the chat and microphone functions were only available on the 360 but it worked perfectly in games such as Modern Warfare 3, Gears of War 3, and Street Fighter X Tekken. Audibly speaking, games such as Uncharted 3, Arkham City, and the DJ Hero series have never (EVER) sounded this good. Especially in games designed to offer a true surround sound experience, you really get the immersive feeling of directional audio; it is absolutely amazing how clear things such as footsteps and gunshots can sound when shifting in different directions in real time. Not only are the details impressive, but the sound in general is richer and deeper than I could have ever hoped for; differences in the quality are even noticeable on the most basic PSN and XBLA games. Long story short, the Warhead improves the sound you will be hearing from your consoles exponentially regardless of the content.
When you combine this incredible performance with the impeccable physical design of the product, what you have is simply the best audible experience that I have ever experienced. I think that you would be hard pressed to find any setup, for any price, that could match the performance of the Tritton Warhead. These are the definition of a must have accessory for any console, not just the Xbox 360. Sure, you will miss out on the chat capabilities with using it on the PlayStation 3 or something else, but the sound performance will more than make up for it. If you play games, you want these headsets, plain and simple.
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