Written by Eric Yee Thursday, 11 October 2012 11:28
When it comes to gaming headsets there are a few areas that I generally look at in order to gauge my desire to use a product. The first and foremost is audio quality followed closely by comfort and convenience. Mid-tier and high-tier gaming headsets released in the past few years have been making incremental improvements to their designs but have remained largely similar with a few notable variations between models. Thanks to an exclusive contract with Microsoft, the new Warhead 7.1 from Tritton uses proprietary technology that may give it an edge over its competitors; a true wireless experience.
While there are a few wireless headphone gaming solutions on the market, none work as well with an Xbox 360 as the Tritton Warhead 7.1. Due to the agreement with Microsoft, the Warhead is the only product on the market that can provide wireless voice chat without having to run a cord or dongle between the headset and the controller. While an extra cord isn’t that big of an issue, the ability to be completely free and unattached is a plus that does offer additional mobility and a certain level of comfort. I always feel that dongles and cords from a headset to a controller are a little restrictive, keeping my posture in a particular position. These attachments mostly go unnoticed but when you decide to get up off the couch or pivot your head in certain directions their limitations become quite apparent.
With the Tritton Warhead 7.1 you won’t have to bring your controller with you like a lost puppy dog if you decide to walk to the kitchen to make a sandwich. Being able to keep the conversation going with your friends while still moving around the play area unrestricted is a benefit that may go overlooked. Another feature that is due to the partnership with Microsoft is the ability to check the battery level of the headset on screen. Just like the battery indicator for the wireless controller or first party Xbox 360 voice chat headsets will show up by pressing the guide button, the battery indicator on the Warhead does as well. Being able to check the battery level is much more preferable than having the headset die on you mid game.
The voice chat support is a major aspect of the Tritton Warhead 7.1 offering but like all gaming headsets the real draw is the in-game sound. Put quite simply the quality of sound put forth by the headset is fantastic and is very close to being a replacement for some surround sound sets up. I started testing the headset by playing Dogfights 1942 and was quite impressed. The sound of the airplane’s engines and the sounds of the hull being scattered with bullets from multiple directions quickly made me feel like I was actually piloting an aircraft. I really doubt I would have enjoyed the audio aspects of the game as much if I was rocking my standard surround sound.
Playing Battlefield 3 really solidified the Tritton Warhead 7.1’s ability to translate directional sound. I was immediately able to identify the direction of the bullets whizzing by my head and the general location of a far off explosion. Before using this headset I would have been oblivious to the sound of an enemy’s footsteps quickly approaching me from behind but now I at least have a fighting chance of twirling around and catching them off guard.
The fidelity of voice acting and a game’s score also came across quite well during the more narrative driven moments of The Walking Dead video game. I’ve actually become convinced that in a game with strong character moments and zombies creeping around like The Walking Dead, I prefer to play with this headset.
Many wireless devices on the market operate at a 2.4 Ghz frequency but the Tritton Warhead 7.1 runs at 5.8 Ghz. With such a big difference the Warhead is sure to be one of the most powerful wireless devices in your home. What this translates to is that because the frequency is so different, the level of interference with other wireless devices should be minimal. Playing games using the headset almost exclusively for the better part of three weeks, I never noticed a single instance of interference. Keep in mind that I’m always playing with my cell phone right by my side along with my wireless laptop for note taking. I can’t recall ever hearing static, pops or any other type of interference, even when my phone rang. It should also be noted that the Astro A50’s also operate at 5.6 Ghz.
In addition to the clear sounding wireless audio, the physical design of the headphone is pretty sleek. Pictured above the Warhead 7.1 is reminiscent of headphones out of a sci-fi movie. The squared design aesthetics with rounded edges lends itself to the impression of heavy duty audio equipment. While the appearance of the Astro A50s have a little more flair and could be characterized as techie, the Warhead 7.1 is big, bold and intimidating. The black high gloss finish with silver detailing gives the headphones a clean minimalistic appearance. Looking at the inside of the headphones the Tritton signature orange appears inside the cans giving off the impression that the real quality of the headphones should be judged by clarity of audio.
The headset itself is very comfortable around the ears and sits nicely on top of the head. While it isn’t light enough to forget about it being on your head, it isn’t heavy enough to become uncomfortable or to pose a distraction. The cans are lined with imitation leather that form a tight, firm cup around the ears. This design works well to block out external noise, allowing you to concentrate on the ambient in-game sounds or the conversation with your friends. The cans also pivot slightly which when coupled with the adjustable headband gives plenty of options for different shaped heads.
All of the audio options are handled by external controls on the headset itself. The wheel on the back of the left can controls the voice chat volume and can also be used to engage selective voice monitoring to gauge the volume of one’s own voice. The front of the left can features a button to switch between analog and digital input. The right can has a wheel on the back that controls the game audio as well the ability to mute the sound. On the front of the right can is a button that controls the various EQ settings offered by the headset. The power and sync buttons are smartly tucked away on the inside of the headset so they aren’t accidently pushed.
The microphone on the Tritton Warhead 7.1 is very impressive both in quality and intuitive design. One of the problems that have plagued other alternative headsets has been the terrible microphone quality. There have often been times where friends commented that my voice kept cutting out or it sounds like I was whispering. The microphone offered on the Warhead delivers the user’s voice with a crisp, clear fidelity. With the use of selective voice monitoring users can double check to make sure they sound great before conversing with friends. Even though the voice pick up is superb, the microphone doesn’t pick up the sound of the user breathing even if it is located close to the mouth. Nothing is more annoying than listening to someone breath heavily into their microphone.
One of the most important aspects of any good microphone for the Xbox 360 is the ability to mute oneself. Conversations with a significant other or a parent yelling at you should never be a chore to quickly block out. A dedicated mute button is located on the side of the detachable microphone, with visual feedback in the form of a red light at the tip of the microphone turning on, letting the user know they are muted. This is a much more intuitive than that of the Astro A50s that require you to rotate the microphone 90 degrees upwards with zero feedback to know if you’re actually muted.
With this headset launching this late into the console life cycle one cannot help but wonder if they will work with the eventual successor to the Xbox 360. It could be kind of a bummer to find out that you dropped $300 on something that can’t be used on the next device. I would be willing to bet that the wireless technology Microsoft uses in the next Xbox won’t be radically different but you never know. Interestingly the Tritton Warhead 7.1 supports up to Dolby Digital surround 7.1 while the Xbox 360 only supports 5.1 digital surround. This could be Tritton’s way of future proofing their headset for use with the Xbox 360 successor.
With the aforementioned agreement with Microsoft, Tritton has incorporated some Xbox 360 design elements into the base station of the Warhead 7.1. The base station for the headphones has the iconic Xbox 360 power ring that lights up green to correspond with which controller that headset is currently associated with. More than one Warhead device can be paired with the base station which is beneficial for those who like to game in groups. Syncing the headset with the console is just as easy as syncing any wireless Xbox 360 controller.
The base is finished in the same black high gloss finish as the headset and looks great sitting on an entertainment center with or without the headphones sitting on it. The front of the base has indicator lights letting you know which type of surround sound is currently being pushed to the headset. Dolby Headphone, Dolby Digital EX, Dolby Pro Logic IIx, and Dolby Digital are the four surround sound modes available with the Warhead 7.1. There are also indicator lights for three of the four EQ settings; movie, game, and music with the EQ setting of none being displayed as nothing lighting up.
Having the EQ setting set to none enables regular stereo without surround sound and it lacks a certain quality that we have come to expect by digesting media using surround sound. The other three EQ modes all sound great, especially when used with their respect formats. With the music mode, the bass seems to be turned up a notch while in game mode ambient noises and sound effects are put towards the forefront. Movie mode delivers crisp dialogue while maintaining very realistic directional sound effects that are especially noticeable during sequences that take place on busy city streets.
The base station also doubles as a charging station for the two batteries that come included with the Tritton Warhead 7.1. One battery can be left to charge when the other is powering the headset while you’re playing an online match in Call of Duty: Black Ops. Swapping out batteries is simple with both the base and headset implementing magnetic covers that easily slide on and off. The batteries themselves last a very long time, much longer than the battery packs for the wireless Xbox 360 controllers and other wireless headsets on the market. While the batteries are advertised as lasting over twelve hours, I found that they lasted closer to seventeen regardless of whether I was playing a game, listening to music or catching up on a TV show on Netflix.
The Tritton Warhead 7.1 may be the best premium headset available for the Xbox 360. While it is comparable to the Turtle Beach XP500s and the Astro A50s on sound quality and comfort, the use of propriety Xbox 360 technology pushes it over the edge. There are a couple minor issues with the headset but nothing to hold it back from being at the top of your Christmas list. While the black high gloss finish looks great on the headset and base, it is inevitable that fingerprints and smudges will accumulate on their surface.
A regular matte finish may have been better for long term use of the headsets but could have detracted from their appearance. The other area of contention is that because of the proprietary technology from Microsoft the voice component of these headsets will only work with the Xbox 360. The Tritton Warhead 7.1 is a premium gaming headset whose full potential can only be realized with an Xbox 360. If you’re looking for a multiplatform headphone solution you may want to re-evaluate your choices.