PC
Highly Recommended
5 stars
Overall Grade
5 stars

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Bottom Line
Highly Recommended

Turtle Beach Ear Force Z60 Surround Sound PC Gaming Headset

Street Date:
September 5th, 2014
Reviewed by:
Review Date:1
August 15th, 2014
Game Release Year:
2014
Platform:
PC
Publisher:
Turtle Beach
Developer:
Turtle Beach

Editor's Notes

The Ear Force Z60 is a wired headset designed primarily for the PC and Mac, and is reviewed as such.

The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Introduction

Gaming headsets are something of a minefield of features and flashy box art. On the one hand, it's a business built on word of mouth. If you game online, then you have an entire community of friends and others player to poll about headsets. Beyond the grassroots, there are hardcore tournaments players and a whole class of game streamers who won't suffer through a single session with a substandard headset without letting the whole wide world (internet) know. On the other hand, it's a business that moves fast, with products coming out from manufacturers seemingly around the clock, and there seems to be no end to the hordes of gamers making that very first headset purchase.

Amid growing and ongoing competition, consumers are hard pressed to find headsets that can justify all on the ink and bullet points that adorn their boxes and product pages. Even a headset like the Ear Force i60, which I really like, and the upcoming PS4 focused Elite 800 seem to include superfluous features such as mic morphing.

Turtle Beach Ear Force Z60 DTS Headphone:X 7.1 surround sound PC Mac review

But where the wireless i60 can boast of everything but the kitchen sink, the Ear Force Z60 keeps it simple. It has two killer features, DTS Headphone:X 7.1 surround sound and 60mm Neodymium drivers, and meanwhile, every other characteristic/feature of the headset has been exacted in the name of delivering exactly what a PC gamer wants from their gaming headset.

DTS Headphone:X 7.1 surround sound & 60mm Drivers

I've written about my interest in DTS Headphone:X 7.1 surround sound before, and now that I'm more familiar with it on my own (outside of product demos) I'm more certain than ever that it is the next step in headset/headphone surround sound. This is still a two driver virtualization design, but it's a surround solution designed and built into the hardware to maximize the delivery method. In the Ear Force Z60, the audible payoff is going to make for a lot of believers in the tech.

Frankly, the Z60 wasn't on my radar at all, but when I discovered it at E3, I was intrigued. As a wired headset, it can really deliver the volume, and with its 60mm drivers, it's far better at realizing the bass home theater enthusiasts crave than the extravagant Ear Force i60.

Turtle Beach Ear Force Z60 DTS Headphone:X 7.1 surround sound PC Mac review

I'm getting little ahead of myself though. You see, the Ear Force Z60 is almost so simple my parents could use it. The Z60 consists of two pieces (three if you count the detachable mic). There's the corded headset with its familiar 3.5mm male connector, and there is the Z60 Surround Sound Control Unit. One end of the control unit is USB, and the other is a small box that houses the amplifier, the DTS Headphone:X 7.1 surround sound, all of the controls (two volume wheels and two buttons), and finally, the 3.5mm port for the headset.

Like the i60, the Z60 moves from PC to PC (and Macs) without a single snag, just requiring that I make it the default audio device and that I check it's set for 7.1.

A single button on the control unit toggles the three surround modes (the four option turning it off). Each surround mode, Game, Movie, and Music, justifies the Z60 as a purchase. It's that good.

Surround Sound Perormance

I won't dwell on the Music surround performance. It's very good, but be wary of any bass boost settings and watch your equalizer settings. "A preponderance of bass" comes to mind, but that can be seen as a small and reasonable trade-off. Audiophiles should know to expect this headset to add a bit more cow bell to any given track.

Turtle Beach Ear Force Z60 DTS Headphone:X 7.1 surround sound PC Mac review

But if music reproduction is a little bombastic, the movie surround performance is killer. It's still a headset and not a Bazooka tube or Kicker, but watching 'Lone Survivor' on Blu-ray makes for sound field almost worthy of foregoing a home theater. That's probably a statement bordering on hyperbole, but the headset really can deliver the range from whispers, soft soundtrack notes, and crinkling leaves on up to whizzing bullets and a sound design packed with dialogue, soundtrack, SFX, etc. If you have to pack up your home theater and only have the Z60 and a PC, you'll be more than ok. Once again, the Digital Video Essentials: HD Basics Blu-ray disc has helped me to explore the 7.1 sound stage in an organized manner.

And now for the Game surround mode. Again, there's no "super-hearing" gimmicks here, just excellent game audio reproduction. Once more I delved into 'Far Cry 3' and tracked both man and animals, savoring my ability to navigate the jungle sounds while taking it all in.

Even before trying the Z60 on 'Far Cry 3,' I used them for something that I can't discuss, the 'Evolve' PC alpha. (NDA) If you're at all familiar with the game then you see why it would be perfectly suited for demoing a PC headset. Over the course of three days, I poured hours into it, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Turtle Beach Ear Force Z60 DTS Headphone:X 7.1 surround sound PC Mac review

Removable Mic and Controls

Moving onto the removable mic, and the features get a lot less sexy. The mic snaps into the left ear cup in a way that feels extremely solid, and is even simpler than some other designs I've used. I left the mic in the headset while moving it from place to place, and though it flexed on its articulating arm, it just did not seem to care one bit. Still, removing it is simple enough.

Turtle Beach Ear Force Z60 DTS Headphone:X 7.1 surround sound PC Mac review mic

Described as a "high-sensitivity mic on removable boom," the mic just works. This a good thing, what the majority of PC players should want in practical terms. It's not exactly no frills. Like many Turtle Beach mics, there's Microphone Monitor, which is useful when you are used to it, and there's no discernable lag, which there isn't in this set. I can hear my voice and make my own vocal adjustments as necessary. There's also Dynamic Chat Boost, which keeps chat audible even during peppered explosions. (Very useful in 'Evolve' where dead quiet and loud explosions alternate frequently.) These features just work, and don't require any action on the user's part.

Mic controls include a simple mute button on the control unit (red light means mic off), and a volume wheel just for chat, also on the control unit. All of these mic/chat features should sound like a "best of" feature set for Turtle Beach users. The only other controls are the audio volume wheel and the surround mode button. (Whatever mode is currently selected, lights up, which is preferable to the i60's implementation.) As with other wired Turtle Beach headsets, users will want to make sure they never crank that volume wheel close to the max.

Mobile, PS4, & Xbox One Support

Without the control unit, the Z60 becomes a great stereo option for corded use with a phone or mobile device. The caveat here is that the device needs to be pretty powerful to push the Z60. My iPhone for example, works extremely well with the Z60, and it was very easy to get the volume to a deafening level. The PS4's DualShock4, however, is another story. Both it and the Xbox One Stereo Headset adapter can only provide somewhat forgettable performance with the Z60. The experience isn't awful, but if you move the Z60 from its inline amp to the PS4, it's going to feel like a step down even if only considering stereo performance. Playing the 'Destiny' beta, for instance, the headset worked fine. I could hear my fireteam, the game audio, and they could hear me, but I preferred the i60 with its built-in power source to using the Z60. Likewise, without the control unit, there's no mic mute or volume controls, which again can be found in other headsets. These days it seems that users in general prefer to only have the volume control on their mobile device, a request which headset and headphone makers are happy to conform to, but I'm happier with the redundant inline control.

Turtle Beach Ear Force Z60 DTS Headphone:X 7.1 surround sound PC Mac review

Styling, Durability, and Comfort

The Ear Force Z60's styling is quite basic. A splash of red just baerly breaks up the sea of glossy and matt black plastic. There's a strip of fake leather on the very top and in a few spots on the ear cup, but all of the points that contact the ears and head are made of the breathable fabric used in most Turtle Beach headsets. This might be most heavy duty knit I've seen, but overall it feels like the application of a time tested design.

The same can be said of the plastic. The Z60 with its larger ear drivers, doesn't support the speaker plates used to decorate many headsets. (Not a loss by my reckoning.) There's no hint of mettle visible, though it likely forms the spine. The whole package seems to say "for extreme, heavy duty use." I wouldn't drive an 18 wheeler over them, but the plastics in use suggest they won't be cracking anytime soon or even in the next several years. From my understanding, that was a big point in this headset's design focus, longevity and endurance. I should mention that this headset did not seem to require a moment of break-in time. Aside from it being corded, it's one the most the comfortable sets I've used, and yet it forms a breathable seal around my ears.  The headset notches that set the fit for the user won't be slipping out of place, which is appreciated in a PC headset.

Turtle Beach Ear Force Z60 DTS Headphone:X 7.1 surround sound PC Mac review

Other Notes

The headset ear cups can lay flat for transport, and indeed, with its powerful mobile performance, a user could theoretical walk around the mean streets while wearing the corded headset. The cord is attached, and my hope is that the attachment point never fails. If there is a feature missing in this tight and smartly made package it would have be a mobile phone port on the control unit. I'm okay with the admission and I just chalk that up to me asking for more along with mobile device volume controls.

Turtle Beach Ear Force Z60 DTS Headphone:X 7.1 surround sound PC Mac review

Final Thoughts

The Ear Force Z60 sounds excellent, provided the user is looking some noticeable bass performance. The Z60 also feels great, like it should be considered the ideal prototypical design for a corded PC headset. Though exhibiting a car interior's worth of plastics, the Z60 seems heavy duty, emphasizing reliability and comfort over style. Beyond the killer feature combination of DTS Headphone:X 7.1 surround sound and 60mm drivers, the microphone performs to an exacted standard. The mobile device support is a nice bonus. While the Z60 is a superb option for many uses, like watching Blu-rays on the PC, the headset seems destined for deployment for endless hours gaming online. Today, it's a new product, but soon, I expect it will be a standard of PC gaming at all levels.

Turtle Beach Ear Force Z60 DTS Headphone:X 7.1 surround sound PC Mac review

Tech Specs:

  • 60mm Neodymium speakers
  • Analog and USB connections

Audio Formats

  • DTS Headphone:X 7.1
  • DTS Surround Sound Audio Modes

Motion Controls

  • No

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