Mad Catz Tritton Pro+ 5.1 Surround Sound Headset for Windows and Mac
- Street Date:
- August 13th, 2013
- Reviewed by:
- Brian Hoss
- Review Date:1
- August 27th, 2013
- Game Release Year:
- Mad Catz
These days, Mad Catz is making a lot promises with products that belie the company's value-oriented history. One such product line, the Mad Catz Tritton headset line, consists of just the kind of product that make users say, "Wait, these are from Mad Catz?" With the Mad Catz Tritton Pro+ 5.1 Surround Sound Headset for Windows and Mac, the promise is even greater, and that is due to the headset's promised 5.1 surround sound capability.
There are dozens of headsets that promise surround sound capabilities, many of which are geared towards gamers. That said, there are precious few that boast capabilities in the vein of the Mad Catz Tritton Pro+ 5.1 Surround Sound Headset for Windows and Mac. The key feature is the ability to take analog fed 5.1 sound directly from a computer's sound card and push that to eight separate drivers (four per ear). The promised result is 5.1 surround sound in a headset without any extra matrixing, and for many surround sound enthusiasts, getting that pure signal from the source to the ear is worth some serious effort.
An Overview of the Headset
Of course, as desirable as a surround sound headset that delivers pure 5.1 is, there are many considerations when deciding the worth of a headset. Among these considerations are sound quality, mic quality, comfort of wear, durability, ease of use, and even style. (This happens to be white model. There is also a black model and a red one.) So while surround sound is the main feature, there are many obstructions between such a headset and justifying its price.
First off, it is worth pointing out two peculiarities with this headset. Namely, as a product the $130 PC headset is shared with a bigger product, the Tritton Pro+ 5.1 Surround Headset for the Xbox 360 and PS3. That $200 console version includes a Dolby Decoder that bridges the headset to the Xbox 360 and PS3. (Dolby only, no DTS.) Without that decoder, the headset needs a 5.1 analog set of connections in order to function. The headset's long (12') and somewhat thick cable terminates in male DisplayPort. The PC package includes an adapter that accepts the DisplayPort and breaks out into the four analog stereo mini jacks and necessary male USB cable. (As an aside, I was amused to find so many people online referring to the DisplayPort as a "proprietary port," when in fact it is a well-known connection that rivals HDMI and in some ways surpasses HDMI 1.4 in functionality. Mad Catz sells replacement adapters for $10.)
Ultimately, this means that the headset is too cumbersome to be connecting and disconnecting on a daily basis, and only makes sense for a serious gaming/Blu-ray/multi-channel analog audio capable PC.
In fact, upon first opening the box (the headset was graciously supplied by Mad Catz thank you), I attempted to play some music through the headset from my iPhone. No dice. Without USB power, the headset is dormant. By plugging the USB into a wall adapter, the headset came to life, but was more muted than I expected. (By "muted," I mean not as dangerously loud as I would have thought.) Fortunately, I quickly found a workaround.
The headset has an in-line set of audio controls. The volume rocker can raise and lower the volume and if depressed, mutes the headset's audio. Four illuminated buttons, 'Front,' 'Center,' 'Rear,' and 'Sub' give access to per channel set volume control. In this case, I was able to select the three channel sets that I was not using with the phone, and turn them down, making more power available for the 'Front.'
Durability & Style
Now before I get into the sound quality, let me mention some of the other headset-centric areas of concern. First off, as any user of headsets and head phones/earbuds knows, durability is always a concern. Sadly, this is weak area of the review. The build quality seems reasonable for a product made of visible glossy plastic and pleather. The only apparent metal is in the terminal jacks, mic stalk, and in-line terminal control clip. The cans of the headset swivel for comfort and allow for a full 90 degree rotation, which is how the headset was packed in the box. Nevertheless, whether it is in the household or in the office, the headset needs to stay at its home. Technically, you could pair this headset with a nice laptop and take it on a plane, airport and whatnot, but the headset would demand some serious protective and space-hogging considerations. The white finish with black accents scream "Storm Trooper" and illuminated Tritton logo are just shy of gaudy; the overall visual package walks a fine line with a nice balance of flourish and finish. Again, assuming that the user is not walking around with them. In addition to the PC adapter, Mad Catz sells replacement ear cups and a replacement mic, which, with the mic in all black, means a high potential for being shoved in drawer and lost more than being broken.
That is the thing, the product gives off a feel where a conscientious user, one who takes care of it, can expect to get two years out it. The most likely things to fail are the spot where the cable connects to the headset and the plastic spine that holds both ears together. Mad Catz gives the purchaser a 2-Year Limited Warranty, so if the user keeps the headset looking good, I imagine that Mad Catz would repair something like a loose connection.
Again, comfort is a common and major concern of anything related to placing speakers on your head. An individual's comfort level can be quite different from one to another for various reasons. That said, this Tritton has dazzled in the comfort area. The Tritton line has gone through a few revisions, and this latest one is a comfort stunner. The combination of an even amount of tension in the headset spine, the available swivel in each ear cup, and the shape of the ear pads, means that I am able to use the headset from sunrise to sunset with only slight discomfort. Occasionally, my left ear feels pinched and needs a break, but that is normal for me with headsets, helmets, etc.
The shape of the ear pads is more square than oval. The over-the-ear style may be the biggest difference maker. The pads go around, rather than on my good-sized ears. Though the fit is still snug, it allows some air to flow with the likely tradeoff being noise isolation. That means that wearing these on airplane might irritate your immediately adjacent neighbor, and that you would still be able to hear that neighbor talk. That is, unless you are playing something like an action scene, which can effectively drown out a nice amount of outside noise.
The detachable stereo microphone is basically fine. The mic's pickup may be a bit sensitive, but its flexible stalk allows for a large degree of adjustment, which should allow most mouth-breathers to compensate. A switch on the in-line controls mutes the mic, but there is a caveat. If combined with the console decoder box, the user gains the ability to turn off their voice. Both the Selectable Voice Management and 360 mic port are pointless for the the PC. Plus, attempting to activate the SVM by depressing the SVM rocker causes the Mic Mute switch to cease muting. Depressing the SVM rocker again will restore the Mic Mute switch's correct function. The little microphone bug may lead to some embarrassing microphone situations, but mainly serves as a reminder of missing functionality.
Ease of Use
Here the headset loses some points in part due to the lack of a decent included connection guide. The four mini jacks are color-coded, but both the included documentation (a one-sheet), and the downloadable user manual fail to spell out which colors go to which channel set. Green for mains and orange for center/sub are standard, but the silver for rear/sides and purple mic made for some trouble. Of course, my soundcard's gold-plated connections did not exactly help. I resorted to isolating each channel set by turning down the others in order to make the right connection. The volume lights go: Green > Blue > White > Cyan > Red with some gradations in between each color change.
That left me with one of two common issues. I had a ground loop issue that I solved by plugging the USB cable in a Belkin hub rather than directly into my motherboard. The second common issue, which did not affect me, but might affect some, is having to plug in the headset rather than speakers.
Currently, I am using a combination of Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 for daily use and HDMI/DisplayPort 7.1 out to my receiver for surround. That leaves my 5.1 analog connections free for the Tritton's. In other recent set-ups, I would have had to chose between the speakers or the headphones. The fact is that the Tritton's, like a decent surround set-up, demand certain considerations.
Note on Mac support: I did not test the headset on a Mac. I have a MacBook Air that delivers great surround out of its Thunderbolt and TOSLINK ports, but I neither play 3D games nor much multichannel video off of it. An external soundcard would be required to make it happen at rate.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
One feature that seemed missing was some kind of Aux input jack, but I found that the port meant to be used to connect the the Xbox 360 controller's microphone could be used for this.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Finally, just like loading up some stellar material after finishing any good home theater, we come to the sound quality. Hours and hours of AAA PC games and Blu-rays over the course of a few days helped me reach my verdict.
Stereo quality is good to great and close to the point where the clarity reveals flaws and fine detail alike. The amplified main channels work well, but won't wow any audiophiles. As for surround content, the headset just cannot replicate the distance that a good surround set-up manages easily. Sounds that pan from front to back have nowhere near that startling "did I just hear that" sensation.
Thunderous bass is likewise difficult to achieve. Bass redirection was a must for me, but attempts to further increase bass to try to replicate the strong resonance of a subwoofer risked muddying all sounds.
And yet, even with these issues, I was blown away by the Tritton's. My experience with surround simulating headphones always involved a muddled soundstage and what may be worse, processed sound. Taking a single driver and trying to play sound effects, dialogue, ambient sound, and a soundtrack can be very problematic, especially when those things have already been separated into several channels and then recombined. In comparison, playing four channels through four drivers for a single ear without having to reprocess makes for clear, consistent and immersive sound. While a single driver can somewhat handle the multiple sounds of a soundstage, the ear is already expert at listening to multiple sounds at once.
Games like 'BioShock Infinite' and 'Far Cry 2' pair with the headset perfectly. Multiplayer 'Call of Duty' matches also sound precise and engaging, with several sfx making up for the lack of distance in same side front to back panning sounds.
At times though, I had to feel like this headset missed its true calling, Blu-rays. The soundstage of in-game AAA games is constantly in flux due to user input, which at times reduces the headphones to feeling like a clearer sounding matrixed headset. In contrast, the fixed viewpoint per moment of a Hollywood Blockbuster with its indulgent mix of music dialog and sound effects makes the headset's flaws seem irrelevant.
At $130, the Mad Catz Tritton Pro+ 5.1 Surround Sound Headset for Windows and Mac delivers some of the best headset surround sound, at least if you appreciate a pure signal and clear sound. It won't replace a nice receiver and six speaker combination, but it is a great option for times when that kind of set-up is impractical. For the headset to prove its worth though, it needs a dedicated computer set-up. Anyone needing to enjoy surround sound without disturbing the rest of the household, say late at night, owes it to themselves to give the Mad Catz Tritton Pro+ 5.1 Surround Sound Headset for Windows and Mac a shot.
- Speaker Diameters: 30mm Front & Rear, 23mm Center, 40mm Sub
- Magnet Type: Neodymium
- Audio Input Type: 3.5mm x4
- USB Powered: Yes
- In-line Audio Controller
- Removable, Flexible Microphone
- PC 5.1 Adapter
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