E3 Impressions – Turtle Beach Ear Force P21 Gaming Headset

In the last hour of the last day of E3, tucked away behind the Dance Dance Revolution-related cacophony of the Konami mutlimedia displays, I finally managed to uncover the booth for Turtle Beach Systems. Despite three days of active searching, their location had eluded me until the final moments of the show. But why was I so interested in Turtle Beach?

Because I’d really like to play FAT PRINCESS.

As I discussed on a previous podcast, my largest concern about FAT PRINCESS was the lack of communication between players. Without some kind of verbal coordination, FAT PRINCESS was going to be nigh unplayable. And even if enough of my teammates were using headsets, I was only going to contribute to the problem. For you see, I lack a dedicated Playstation 3 headset of my own.

Enter: the Ear Force P21 Gaming Headset.

The P21′s built-in amplifier comes attached to the cable (as seen in the photo above). Using this amplifier, you’ll be able to independently control the volume for both in-game sounds and chat. But since both of these sound sources will be coming out through the headphones, a proprietary system called Chat Boost will automatically increase chat levels to compensate for loud in-game sounds – a feature that works pretty well in their X4 Wireless Headphones for the Xbox 360. (Since the demo station was built mainly to demonstrate the quality of the audio experience, I didn’t have an opportunity to try out the chat functions.)

Unlike its Xbox 360 counterparts, however, the P21 is not wireless and features a 16-foot cord that plugs into one of the PS3′s USB ports. Although the cord is sufficiently long to operate in most living rooms, I’d ideally like to be untethered from my entertainment center. When asked if Turtle Beach was considering creating a wireless model that connected via Bluetooth, Director of Marketing Peter Ronick stated that the innate lag of the Bluetooth connection made it infeasible at this time. Instead, they chose to use “more reliable technology with less technical restrictions.” They are, however, working on creating wireless headsets for the PS3 to be released in the future.

But even if the P21 is wired, it’s hard for me to dull my enthusiasm for this headset.

During my demo, I watched a clip from the SPIDER-MAN 2. As Spider-Man attempted to slow down the out-of-control subway car, each webline flying from his hands rang clearly in its respective channel. When he dug his heels into the tracks, the sounds of splintering boards rose from below. I was a bit depressed, I must admit, to discover that these headphones exceeded the fidelity produced by my surround sound system. But I was also excited at the prospect of playing through METAL GEAR SOLID 4 with an enhanced audio experience.

Within the next few weeks, we hope to have a full review of the P21 in real world conditions – in particular, the comfort level over a lengthy play session and the quality of the Chat Boost.


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