The built-in headphone jack on the bottom of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 controllers have eliminated some of reasons you’d want a wireless gaming headset for those systems, but I still prefer that option because cords are the worst.
Turtle Beach is still making wireless headphones for the PC, PS4, and Xbox One, and they are affordable and impressive for the price. The Ear Force 520 is $130 and it works with both the PC, PS4, and PS3. The Ear Force 420X is $150, and it is compatible with the PC and Xbox One. That makes these options more than half the cost of the competing Astro A50 headphones, but they still get the same job done even if they’re missing a few handy features.
For this review, I’m going to consider the 520 and 420X together because the only major differences are that the former requires an optical-audio connection and it works with both the PS4 and PS3. Beyond that, the devices are indistinguishable.
What you’ll like
Simple to set up with a strong battery
Turtle Beach has taken advantage of Microsoft and Sony building tools into their latest consoles that make it easier for the systems to manage extra peripherals. This means that setting up the wireless headset on these devices is as easy as plugging in a USB stick. On PS4, you’ll also have to hook up the optical audio signal, but that’s not a lot of extra work.
Once everything is powered up and connected, the headsets just work. You don’t have to struggle with pairing or syncing. It’s so painless, and Turtle Beach doesn’t add any extra crap to get in the way of the experience that Microsoft and Sony have solved on their own. To me, this shows restraint by Turtle Beach that ensures that you don’t have to think about much about its devices in order to enjoy them.
Another aspect that enables enjoyment without lots of planning is the impressive battery. Lots of headsets are starting to see north of 12 hours of battery life, and both the 520 and 420X surpass that range easily. Turtle Beach claims they get around 15 hours of powered-on time, and I’ve hit that mark with each of them. This means you don’t have to recharge them after every session unless you are gaming for 15 hours at a time on a regular basis.
Excellent for audio and communications
In addition to the easy setup, I’m really happy with the audio quality of both the 520 and the 420X. They pump out thumping bass through their 50mm audio drivers without losing a lot of the detail you want on the high ends. At louder volumes, they don’t sound as great as the more expensive wireless options like the Logitech G933s or the Astro A50s, but they aren’t that far behind those competitors in terms of quality.
I also think both headsets have really nice microphones for a wireless headset. If you are at all familiar with the gaming-headset space, you probably know that the wireless options tend to skimp on the voice quality due to a combination of a shoddy radio signal and cheap mics. But Turtle Beach, which makes some of the best headset microphones (check out its Elite Pro Noise Canceling Mic), is really delivered with the 520 and 420X. They sound clear and loud with relatively little distortion. It still doesn’t sound as great as most wired mics, but it’s not leagues behind something like the $50 HyperX Cloud Stinger.
Check out the mic-check playlist below to hear how the Turtle Beach headsets sound compared to the competition:
I also really love how well the headsets feel on your head. They sit firm without squeezing too tightly. Like with the battery and the setup, it’s easy to forget about the 520 and 420X once you start using them because they meld into place.
This means I was able to enjoy lengthy gaming sessions without getting annoyed with my earphones. I could also get up, run to the kitchen, help out around the house for a moment, or any number of other things without having to worry about the Turtle Beach devices falling off or rattling around my hair. That’s more important than you might think, and I’m glad the company’s engineers got this right.
What you won’t like
Feels kinda cheap
The 520 and 420X both have the same plasticy body that you would probably associate with an inexpensive toy. This does not come across as a high-end piece of consumer electronics when you’re holding it or looking at it. That’s not the end of the world, but companies like Razer, SteelSeries, and LucidSound are making some gorgeous headsets, and this doesn’t stand up to those at all.
You have to remember to plug it in when you’re done
I love the 15-hour battery, but I don’t love having to remember to plug the headset into a lose micro-USB cable. For me, the headset will last four or five gaming sessions, but if I forget to charge it after that fifth instance, I’m probably screwed the next time I try to turn it on. I know a dock would add to the price, but I think something like that is worth it.
These are easy headsets to recommend. They sound great, comfortable, and easy to set up and use. That’s the basic criteria by which I would judge any gaming headset, and the 520 and 420X pass these easily. Now, they don’t go above and beyond, but I would still recommend them for the price.
Turtle Beach provided us with sample units for the purposes of this review.