06. Jan, 2017
Product: Turtle Beach Stealth 520 Wireless Gaming Headset
Release Date: October 2, 2016
Manufacturer: Turtle Beach
Original MSRP: $129.95
This product was provided by the manufacturer for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.
The audio review for this product is available on Episode 499 of the podcast.
The last Turtle Beach headphones I used were the wired PX21’s on the PS3, and even though I liked them quite a bit, the build quality and abundance of bass put me off a little. When they offered to send the new wireless model for review, the timing couldn’t have been better. They arrived only days before our Extra Life marathon, so right out of the box they got a twenty-four hour workout.
First, setup was a breeze. Like many other gaming headphones in this current generation, these connect wirelessly to the PS4, and also the PS3, via a USB dongle. But unlike those others there’s a custom optical cable that runs to the rear of the console, which allows for full Dolby Digital sources to be used.
The other headphones that simply use a USB dongle only support stereo sound via the USB interface, which is then processed by those headphones, if they support this feature, into a virtual 5.1/7.1 sound field. The result is that your headphones don’t need to process the audio as much, and that movement is handled even before it’s transmitted to them.
… does a nice job of isolating noise …
In essence, spatial audio will be much more accurate but at the same time weightier since all five or seven channels are being broadcast to the headphones instead of simply two channels which are then post-processed.
You’re still dealing with only two drivers, one per ear, in the headphones themselves but the combination of separate audio tracks being received, and using the newer DTS Headphone:X 7.1 codec will result is a more accurate representation of the sound design in the game or movie. Some may not like that you have a cable going from the front to the back of the console, and that’s understandable, but it never bothered me at all.
I like the lightweight feel on my head and at no time during that twenty-four marathon did they get uncomfortable at all. The soft lining of the earcup padding feels great and does a nice job of isolating noise while still allowing just a little to bleed through, which I prefer.
The Stealth 520 headphones use 50mm drivers, which I usually feel are a bit of overkill, but in this case I’m extremely happy that they don’t overpower you with bass. Instead, Turtle Beach, and I believe a good amount of this also comes from using the DTS codec instead of Dolby’s, has done a masterful job at balancing everything from low to high.
Being in a more budget-conscious price range though, there aren’t any audio adjustments separately, but they do offer four different EQ modes built-in, and so far I’ve been very happy with what they offer for different audio needs. For surround modes, you can either turn surround processing off, or use one of the three included modes: Movie, Music, and Game.
It might take some fiddling to find your favorite combination, but what makes it much easier are the included voice prompts when you make a change. When you hit any of the buttons, a pleasant voice tells you what you’ve switched to.
… controls are all easy to reach and understand …
It’s such a welcome feature instead of needing to take them off your head to see what you’ve done, and it allows Turtle Beach to simplify what buttons and/or switches are on the headphones themselves. Also, there are separate volume controls for game and chat audio, which I really like having.
The controls are all easy to reach and understand, especially with the mic mute button being on the front, which keeps some confusion at a minimum when you need to turn your microphone off quickly. Power, surprisingly enough, is the one switch that I had the hardest time finding on my own, so much so that I had to look it up. It’s actually the cover of the right earcup instead of being simply a button by the rest of the controls.
I had a good laugh about it, but honestly that’s a great decision so that you don’t accidentally turn them off when you’re trying to make an adjustment. If you press and hold the cover, you can activate what Turtle Beach is calling “Superhuman Hearing”, which is a proprietary audio mode that is supposed to amplify far-off or “slight” audio cues such as footsteps or someone reloading a weapon.
Overall, it really does work. There were a couple of games that it was less impactful though, but for the most part, I was actually pretty impressed. I think that one will be reliant on a personal preference though.
… very impressive all-around …
The audio you get from these headphones is nothing less than stellar across the board, although a few times they did still seem to produce a bit too much bass for my liking. They never got distorted or lost connection.
Another welcome function is that there’s a slight microphone monitor, which helps you keep your voice down when chatting. I’m a huge fan of headphones including a mic monitor, especially when they’re designed to isolate you from outside noise.
The norm though is that the monitor level isn’t adjustable, but there’s one option on these headphones that can help a bit called Dynamic Chat Boost. Basically, it uses what’s called “automatic ducking”, but it works very well in adjusting your levels depending on how loud or quiet the game audio is.
The removable microphone sounds great too. It’s very impressive all-around, especially for the cost of these headphones. Everyone I played with during Extra Life was saying that it sounded great on their end as well, and hearing livestream replays was very satisfying for my desires too. The mic is on an adjustable arm that allows for quite a bit of movement, which I definitely prefer over some of the more rigid options from other companies.
… pretty fantastic at this price …
Battery life is reported to be fifteen hours, and that’s about what I got out of them. Recharging is supposed to take an hour, but since I had to recharge them while still using them it took a bit longer. Fifteen hours for normal usage though should really be more than sufficient, and it’s definitely enough for me.
Also, Turtle Beach has included a 3.5mm input if you want to connect to a laptop or phone to listen to music. It plugs into the microphone jack on the headphones though, so you can use them for phone calls etc. Also, while connected in this way, they’re working in passive mode, so no volume controls or audio modes/processing is available. That’s actually pretty standard and not very surprising. Frankly, I like that they added the option.
Honestly, the Stealth 520 wireless headphones are pretty fantastic at this price. They’re designed with a minimum of frills, like not including a fancy recharging dock, and instead offer a welcome simplicity in a few key areas.
Where they’re not simple though is in the overall comfort and audio quality, because both are excellent. I love that these break the familiar mold of gaming headphones in this price range by adding optical audio support. It would be nice if there was an option to buy an additional battery so that you could swap a charged one in, but that’s coming from having that option with headphones that were double the cost of these.
They don’t feel cheap or cut-rate in any way and they’re a pleasure to use. I can’t think of a single serious criticism for these headphones, especially at their current price. When you compare them to something like the Gold Wireless from Sony there’s no competition because these outdo the Golds in every way. Color me impressed and very satisfied.