Specialist gaming headsets are nothing new, PC gamers have been using them since the early days of Counterstrike but it is only in the last few years that console gamers have been given the choice of using some superior quality audio hardware. Even then the choice was fairly limited. Last year Madcatz acquired the company Tritton and they have recently released a huge range of console gaming headsets, no doubt hoping to build upon the reputation they earned from their fantastic series of console Fightsticks.
The two headsets I have been testing are the Trittion Detonator Stereo (RRP £59.99), and the Gears of War 3 Stereo (RRP £89.99), both are Xbox 360 wired stereo headsets that connect to your console and Xbox 360 pad in a similar way but the build and connectivity options do vary so I will detail the differences separately. Both headsets feature Tritton’s Selective Voice Monitoring technology, this gives you the option of hearing your own voice alongside other players on the chat audio channel, while this may feel odd at first it is very useful once you get used to it, as these headsets tend to block out any external noise you may find yourself shouting without SVM enabled. While testing the headsets I played both Gears of War 3 and Dungeon Defenders in co-op, Bastion and Batman: Arkham City alone.
Tritton Detonator Stereo
The cheaper of the two headsets is slightly heavier with more padding in the headband and slightly larger 50mm drivers. The inline remote features separate analogue volume controls for both game and chat audio, these can be a little fiddly to find without looking but work well enough. The three buttons on the remote allow you to mute all audio, your microphone and also enable SVM (detailed above) mode, the buttons light up when enabled making it very clear how your headset is currently configured. Out of the box you’ll have everything you need to use the headset with your Xbox 360 and, due to the way this headset is cabled, as headphones with any other device that uses a 3.5mm jack. While it may have looked a little over the top I tested the headset with my 3DS for a few games of BlazBlue: Continuum Shift II for a blast of some very pleasing J-metal. The boom microphone is rubberised and adjustable to suit your needs, it is also easily removed for safe keeping or when using the headset on the move. Ignoring the chat functions to begin with, in use Bastion’s amazing soundtrack sounded better that it ever had and the wind and rain of Arkham City came through very clear, perhaps a little too much bass but beyond that I cannot find fault with the sound quality provided.
Upon firing up Gears of War 3 for some co-op Horde I got to testing the in-game chat side of things. Initially I had some issues balancing my team mates’ voices against the game audio but soon found acceptable levels. However later in play I found myself constantly trying to adjust the levels, an issue I didn’t have with the Gears 3 headset. I also found the SVM setting seemed far harsher on the Detonator. However it is well worth noting that my team, who I play with often, all commented that I sounded very clear ‘for once’, in the past my older wireless headset would cut out and suffer from a loose connection to my pad. All in, and considering its price, the Detonator performed extremely well. It has a couple of advantages over the Gears 3 headset with it being immediately usable with any 3.5mm jack device with no cable clutter and the light up buttons on the inline remote giving excellent feedback and reassurance as to your current settings.
Gears of War 3 Stereo
Sporting some heavy Gears of War 3 branding this headset is not very subtle, and while on paper it may appear to be very similar to the Detonator it features a few more premium touches and slightly better performance that aim to justify its higher price tag. It is slightly smaller and lighter than the Detonator, featuring very slightly smaller 40mm drivers. The boom microphone is also removable but has a red metal shaft that is far more pliable than the rubber microphone on the Detonator, the microphone is also twisted to lock it into place and while I had no reason to think this was necessary it does feel stronger and somehow safer. Continuing with the overall look of the headset, the main cable has a crimson red plastic weave coating making it appear very tough while remaining flexible and light. Living in a house with two kittens and a young child I often find cables trapped in drawers or wrapped around the wheels of my office chair, and while I thought it best not to try and break the cable in such a way my initial impression was that it would survive a decent amount of abuse. The inline remote, while offering the same functions as the Detonator, is quite different. The game and voice volume controls are both digital jog switches that can be pushed in to mute all audio and enable SVM respectively. Microphone muting is handled by a large slide switch on the face of the remote. All of these controls are easy to find without looking but sadly lack the visual feedback of the Detonator’s light up buttons. While the main headset is removable from the remote just like the Detonator it uses a proprietary connector so is not immediately useable with other devices without using the full cable and the USB connector for power. Tritton do sell an optional adapter to convert this proprietary connector to a standard 3.5mm jack but it would have been nice to include this in the box.
Beyond the improvements in build, the Gears of War Stereo headset managed to justify its higher price tag by providing a clearer and cleaner sound in game. I found chat and game audio much easier to balance and using the SVM function was a much more comfortable experience. Being very similar headsets on paper I didn’t expect to notice that much of a difference but my time using the Gears of War 3 headset was noticeably more enjoyable. It’s just a shame that the 3.5mm adapter isn’t included and that the remote doesn’t give any visual feedback as to the current settings. That aside this headset offers a lot of bang for its sub £100 price tag, its hardy build and powerful sound means it has easily surpassed and replaced my Turtle Beach X31s as my headset of choice.