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Turtle Beach Earforce P21 Headset – The PS3 Attitude Review

Submitted by on Tuesday, 27 October 20093 Comments

EarForce_P21_headset_and_amp_LRThe Turtle Beach Earforce P21 headset is a gaming headset that allows PS3 owners to hear great quality audio from their favourite game, whilst being able to chat to their friends at the same time.

So how does this unit perform during a long gaming session, and can it improve your enjoyment of PS3 multi-player titles?

Using the P21 is a simple affair. The unit has a long cable (16ft/3.7m long, to be precise) that ends in a three-way split cable. One has a USB connector that plugs into your PS3. The other two are the left and right phono connectors that plug into the audio out on your TV or hi-fi. Various adaptors are supplied to elongate the USB cable or turn the two phonos into a small jack plug so that you can get the audio feed from a headphone socket.

You can also connect the P21 direct to the audio output of your PS3 using the right cable combinations (see the diagram below), but this reviewer found it easier to use the audio output from the HDTV which also allowed people in the room to hear the sound through the TV too, if they were watching the game being played. Of course, for night-time gaming it was then just a matter of turning the sound down on the TV, because the audio out on the HDTV was not affected by the TV volume.

Don't worry, the P21's aren't really bigger than a PS3 or TV...

Don't worry, the P21's aren't really bigger than a PS3 or TV...

Sound quality is very good. If you connect using the phono cables directly, you’ll get very little background noise and a high-quality 2-channel audio experience from your games. Using the supplied adaptor to plug into the headphone socket did produce a small level of background noise, but nothing that spoilt the music or sound effects when playing.

The USB not only connects the device to the PS3 for chat (which you’ll need to enable in the Accessory Setup on the XMB) but also powers the headset and its in-line controls.

The controls allow you to determine the audio volume and the chat volume independently from each other, giving you the flexibility to mix effects and chat to your liking. If you do turn the audio up high, the unit has a built in ‘Chat Boost’ feature that enables you to still hear your team-mates clearly. This boost facility kicks in automatically, and will even switch itself on and off as the music or sound increases or decreases.

Ooooo... It has buttons, dials and lights!

Ooooo... It has buttons, dials and lights!

In addition to the volume controls you can adjust the level of Bass and switch on a Stereo Expander. In our tests the expansion did what you would expect – pushing the stereo effect wider so that sounds are more obviously placed in the left or right channel – but also increased the level of background noise. It is personal taste as to whether you’ll like the effect, since it didn’t really enhance or reduce the sounds coming from the game.

You also will find a switch to mute the microphone for those times when you need to fall silent. Nobody wants to hear your Mum telling you your dinner is ready, so this is a welcome feature.

We tested the game using Uncharted 2 and Guitar Hero 5, and the headset came through both tests with top marks. In Uncharted 2 our team-mates told us that we were the clearest of all the players they could hear, and we produced the least amount of ‘game echo’ as the P21 attempts to reduce that most annoying of effects – where the sound from the cans is being fed back through the microphone.

In GH5 we were able to play guitar and sing along at the same time without any issue, hitting all the rights notes – a fitting ode to the quality of the microphone on this gaming headset.

The cans themselves are very comfortable, with good padding around the ears and during a three-hour Uncharted 2 session never felt uncomfortable for a moment. When resting them on your neck, they swivel to sit flat on your shoulders – another nice design touch.

The microphone is extremely flexible and can be positioned wherever you need it.

In comparison to the more expensive surround sound gaming headsets we’ve seen lately, the Earforce P21 unit doesn’t quite deliver the quality of audio they can manage, but it does give you an excellent 2-channel experience – with great quality chat features – at a much more friendly price of around $80/£49/€53.

Add to that the fact that whilst the P21 is designed specifically for the PS3, it works well as a PC headset too, and you’ve got a really useful headset that won’t require you to visit your bank manager for a ‘chat’ first.

Want to win one of five Earforce P21 Gaming Headsets? Good, read on… »

Between now and 18:00 UK time on Monday 2nd November you can enter to win one of five Turtle Beach Earforce P21 Gaming Headsets. The competition is open to anyone, worldwide, as long at is is legal for us to despatch the unit to you.

To enter, simply follow these easy instructions:

  • Follow @PS3Attitude on Twitter (so we can contact you directly). If you don’t follow us, we can’t count your entry.
  • Tweet the following, “Just entered to win an Earforce P21 PS3 headset! To enter, just follow @PS3Attitude and retweet this. #PS3″ – just copy and paste the text inside the quotes and you’re done. Be careful to include all the text within the quotes or we can’t add your entry.
  • Keep following us to qualify automatically for future competitions and to keep in touch with our weekly Twitter-based giveaways (and stay up-to-date with the best news and musings from our team, of course)

We will contact you directly through Twitter with the code if you are one of the five lucky winners.

Updated: October 27, 2009

The Earforce P21 competition is now live - reveal the instructions above... good luck!