There are few things more exhilarating than competition. No matter the venue, whether on a basketball court or at a computer, fighting and winning a challenging match against other organized combatants is a satisfying, heart-racing experience. For such moments, the right equipment can be as important as the talents of the person wielding them. Turtle Beach’s latest headset and its accessories are advertised to meet the needs of those most competitive. And though I’m no professional gamer, their Elite Pro headset, Tactical Audio Controller, and noise cancelling microphone made me think that I could better throw down if I ever braved the world of e-sports.
Turtle Beach Elite Pro Tournament Headset
Turtle Beach has sometimes left me a skeptic in the past, but their Elite Pro wired tournament headset delivers build quality and features that are nothing short of impressive. Its large, closed-back cans house sizable 50mm speakers. Thick, black plastic comprises the majority of the headset that feel like they could take a beating. Accents of orange and silver give it an edge of cool aggressiveness.
Attributes of convenience are found with and on the Elite Pro’s breakaway cable. One end is color-coded for easy attachment to a dangling, female-ended connector on the headset’s left ear cup. Inline volume and mute controls are placed roughly a third down the four-and-a-half-foot cable. It ends in a standard 3.5mm plugin, so the headset is usable with most devices.
The microphone is detachable, as well. The omni-directional boom mic fits securely into the left ear cup and holds its position nicely. Its thin neck is widely adjustable. Furthermore, a reflective piece of attractive silver plastic keeps the foam windscreen in place. Thankfully, it transmits audio as well as it looks. My voice came out loud and clear, free of any distortion or background noise.
Comfort is a primary pillar of any headset, and Turtle Beach has done some neat things with the Elite Pro. The outer sides of the “Aerofit” cushions are covered in faux leather while the inner material, the portion that rests around your ears, is made of a soft fabric. It’s comfortable for extended periods of time, aided by an interior of memory foam that’s likewise found on the headrest, without ever getting too warm. Interesting, and something I haven’t seen before, the Elite Pro’s “ComforTec Fit System” allows for tension control of the headband via dual sliders in addition to the typical height adjustment. That level of customization for how a headset rests on the head is something I now wish was a common feature. Altogether, this is up there at the top of gaming headsets for comfort.
Another unique comfort-related selling point of the Elite Pro is its “ProSpecs Glasses Relief System.” There’s a tab on the interior of each ear cup that can be pulled and fastened to create a channel for glasses. It’s designed to relieve the pressure of glasses pushing against your skull. Unfortunately, it’s not an easy task to remove the ear cups. They’re held in place by a locking mechanism that no matter how or where I twisted, they would not come undone. The pictures in the quick start guide were of little help. The harder I toiled, the more worried I became that I would rip something. That said, I still found the headset enjoyable to wear with glasses even though I wasn’t utilizing the relief system.
The Elite Pro feels great, but it also does a wonderful job at conveying crisp, powerful audio. The symphonic metal of my favorite band, Nightwish, comes through its 50mm “Nanoclear speakers” with a healthy balance. The highs aren’t too sharp, the lows give a satisfying kick, and the vocals are clearly prominent amidst the chaos. The mids are neither overpowered by nor overpower the other frequencies. For video games, that all translates to impactful explosions, discernible enemies, and an all-around good time. You don’t want any cue lost in translation in the middle of a battle. Thankfully, nothing goes missing with the Turtle Beach Elite Pro. And those qualities are made all the better when utilizing the optional Tactical Audio Controller.
Tactical Audio Controller
The Tactical Audio Controller is a palm-sized device that gives you mastery over the audio being sent through the Elite Pro’s speakers. It has several sliders for individual volume control of separate channels. Moreover, it transforms the stereo audio of the headset into startlingly accurate surround sound. The TAC will set you back an additional $200, bringing the total cost of the headset and controller to a high $400. It’s unquestionably a steep price, but the TAC justifies itself by providing one of the best implementations of surround sound I’ve ever heard.
The TAC is a fairly weighty device largely made of sturdy, black plastic and is outfitted with more sliders, buttons, and ports than many competing products. You have the usual slider for tweaking the game and chat mix, but you also get a background noise limiter, an outbound mic boost, and a mic monitor level slider. I was particularly impressed by how natural the latter feature presented my voice, free of any robotic or stuffy tone. Below the four sliders is a master volume dial. Pushing it down mutes the headset. The microphone can likewise be muted with a small button situated near the bottom left corner.
Ports are in abundance on the TAC’s forward and rear sides. Three 3.5mm jacks – two related the headset and its microphones and one for the Xbox One controller – are located at the front. Lengthy USB and optical cables plugs into the back of the TAC to then connect to either a PC (only requires the USB cable), Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, or PlayStation 4. Multiple TACs can be daisy chained together via the two Ethernet ports. Finally, an auxiliary port is a notably welcome addition. You can plug your phone into the TAC to take calls or easily listen to your own music while playing.
Placed at the top of the controller are two buttons for selectable surround sound modes and presets. Each button cycles between four options with LEDs beneath them to denote the current selection. For modes, you get Game, Movie, Music, and Surround Off. Every mode has four presets that alter their characteristics in some way, pulling certain elements forward or backward. Game Mode’s Footstep Focus, for example, really helps to identify the movement of enemy players in first-person shooters where that truly matters. If you don’t want to deal with finding the right preset, however, the default Signature/Natural Sound options are nicely tuned for bass, vocal, and treble balance.
Turtle Beach uses DTS Headphone:X for its surround sound capabilities, a technology unsurpassed in its ability to expand a sound stage with 360-degree positional audio. Competing surround encodings for headphones work well enough, but certain front and back channels can be hard to discern based on hearing alone. I only know someone is behind me because I can’t see them in front of me. DTS Headphone:X, and thus the Elite Pro headset paired with the TAC, is appreciably more precise. I could close my eyes and pinpoint every single time where a sound was coming from. And when playing games like Call of Duty, the difference is astounding. I could detect the positions of gunshots and people with a level of accuracy few headsets I’ve used before can match. I actually stopped myself at several points just to listen to the action and go, “Wow!”
Tournament Noise Cancelling Microphone
The final accessory we were sent was an optional microphone designed for loud environments. Its head houses dual microphones and a noise cancelling system. The neck is flexible, but the head is noticeably heavier. The microphone doesn’t hold its position quite as well as the lighter boom mic. The included cable is Y-split with audio and chat connections. It does not have inline controls.
In my home, the difference in quality between the two microphones was negligible. In fact, most people I chatted with preferred the boom mic, commenting to me that it sounded a tad clearer. Both are great mics, but unless you’re in a crowded room surrounded by other gamers, you may as well save yourself $30.
I have had at times a checkered past with Turtle Beach. Their last headset I reviewed, the Elite 800, delivered similarly strong surround performance thanks to DTS Headphone:X, and yet it fell short in terms of comfort and general audio quality. The Elite Pro tournament headset has none of those faults. Its build quality, comfort, and clarity of sound are exceptional, especially when coupled with the Tactical Audio Controller. I may not be a professional gamer, but this headset has made me all the more eager to jump into competitive arenas.