Turtle Beach Ear Force Stealth 500X Wireless Surround Sound Gaming Headset for Xbox One
- Street Date:
- November 4th, 2014
- Reviewed by:
- Brian Hoss
- Review Date:1
- April 26th, 2015
- Game Release Year:
- Xbox One
- Turtle Beach
- Turtle Beach
Ear Force Stealth 500X reviewed primarily on the Xbox One, with some use on the PS4 and various other devices.
The Xbox One is a relatively new console, and for a time, every week seemed to bring upon users a console first of one sort or another. The Turtle Beach Ear Force Stealth 500X is full of such firsts, most notably, the first fully wireless Xbox One headset, and the first to sport DTS Headphone:X 7.1 Surround Sound.
Other notable features of the 500X include a cabled aux connection for a mobile phone, DTS Surround modes and EQ presets, independent chat and volume control, and optical passthrough.
At its debut, the Stealth 500X is Turtle Beach's top of the line Xbox One offering, but it also carries with it several important design characteristics of older Turtle Beach headsets. Figuring out if these characteristics are pros and cons is great fodder for review, but the 500X is full of other surprises, including PS4 compatibility.
Welcome to the Xbox One
For anyone who plays online or else seeks some neighborly privacy or possible enhancement with their audio experience, a headset is a must. The Xbox One has had an interesting headset history that started with the bundled unit, which was followed by Microsoft's headset adapter and eventually, third party headset adapters. In essence, this means that many headsets are bound to the Xbox One controller when it comes to delivering both game audio and chat.
There are several headsets, however, that take their game audio from the Xbox One's optical port. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of these headsets (including several from Turtle Beach) are called "wireless" because they uses a wireless transmitter for game audio, but they really aren't wireless when it comes to chat. In order to get chat audio and deliver mic input, these headsets still are bound by wire to the Xbox One controller. For many users, this tether is not ideal, and that is where the Stealth 500X comes into play.
The Stealth 500X is the only headset (at least until the Elite 800X is released) to deliver both game and chat audio wirelessly on the Xbox One. In doing so, chat quality is no longer tied into the Xbox One controller's signal.
Just like I alluded to in the Introduction, the 500X fully wireless capability is its chief feature, followed closely by its unique for the Xbox One use of DTS Headphone:X 7.1 Surround Sound (again, until the Elite 800X is released). Over the past year, I've really gotten to know the nuances of DTS Headphone:X, which amazingly, people are beginning to understand is part of the DTS X vision. I'll get into how the 500X sounds in practice later on, but here is a good place to point out how simple it is to briefly test the headset's surround sound capability.
Having connected the 500X's wireless transmitter by USB and optical cable to the Xbox One and then set the console to bitstream out Dolby, I was ready to test. And after running the Audio Test Patterns from my Digital Video Essentials: HD Basics Blu-ray over and over while tweaking settings here and there (in some cases, purposefully using the wrong settings), I was left with a very important initial conclusion, there's no chance that a discerning listener would ever fail a blind comparison when it comes to the surround sound versus stereo sound. The Stealth 500X uses twin 50mm drivers, but it's be designed to deliver seven channel surround in tune with DTS Headphone:X playback. Really though, it's 360 degrees around the head, and picking a specific channel spot is only going to happen in a test situation. (Bass reproduction is a different story. The 500X won't rattle the user's teeth or chest cavity, but the lows are there.) This makes for a different user experience when compared with a home theater, but it's actually more in line with the kind of ideal surround sound being pushed at both DTS and Dolby.
A Refined Classic
So while the 500X has not one but two halo level, cutting edge features (and a subset lesser, but still important ones), much of its design, from the shape and materials used, to the mic, controls, and ports are a few years old. I mentioned this in an off-hand way to a Turtle Beach engineer at CES, and you would have thought I had thrown coffee in his face. For the most part though, this older form factor is more than just familiar, it's well refined. Many users favor a flexible, detachable boom mic, and the 500X's knit material earcups and headband are loads more comfortable than the fancy i60. Part of that has to do with the weight, which is kept low through the use of plastic, but really, this is such a refined design that goes from the ear swivel to the headband tension, that a brand-new, just out of the box 500X requires zero break-in.
It's not only the comfort and feel of wearing it. The 500X uses seven buttons and (gasp!) two volume wheels for a control set that beats pants the of the Elite 800. Of course, there are no swappable tags to be found here (those green rings are there to stay), but the ease of control far outweighs that option for me.
It's not all good news. The large plastic swivel for the boom mic is nicely articulate (it stays in place), but the ridges on the mic often rub on one thing or another and cause a highly exaggerated amount of noise. The worst of this happens when using the mobile device cable. Not only does the wireless marvel become tethered when electing to connect up a phone, but the cable, which is annoyingly a special 2.5mm to 3.5mm kind (remember the 360?), and mic compete for the some of the same space. That cable on its 2.5mm headset end, needs to not get yanked or otherwise be encumbered, so this can threaten to be more than just an annoyance.
Not only is there an obviously last gen 2.5mm connection to deal with, but the charging cable is also the old-school (think PS3 controller) mini-USB. This isn't a huge deal, but micro USB connections are standard these days. It could be worse. The USB cable on transmitter is fixed. Again, not a huge deal, but it does make me frown a little whenever I move the transmitter between consoles.
One last oddity. Though the preset and surround mode controls are nice and tactile, the audio feedback system is altogether basic. Turtle Beach's newer designs have a friendly Star Trek like voice that lets the user know which preset or surround mode they've just toggled on. In contrast, the 500X uses a system of high tones and low tones. For example, three high tone beeps means the Music Surround Mode is now active. From there, one low tone beep means the Signature Sound preset. With four surround modes and 16 presets to play with, counting tones is not ideal.
Most of the above drawbacks are just quibbles. Using the 500X on the Xbox One is almost the exact kind of joy that users are usually looking for when they opt for a nicer headset. I mentioned that the 500X has familiar feel, one that's light, breathable, and doesn't require a second of break-in, and because of that, I was able to fire up 'Forza Horizon 2 Present Fast & Furious,' and in no time flat (I do really like driving in 'Forza Horizon 2') I was stunned to find that I was so engrossed that forgot I was wearing a headset. It wasn't until I jumped into a party that I remembered the 500X. The sound design in that game is really tops, and it comes through with the 500X.
As I hopped online to play some Search & Destroy in 'Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare,' I was a little surprised not to find either Footstep Focus or Superhuman Hearing audio presets. I don't normally use these, but a lot of users do, and Turtle Beach usually includes one or both in their nicer headsets. Turns out that both (along with like a 100 other presets) can be swapped in using the Turtle Beach Audio Hub (PC/Mac app). I did this (along with a firmware update) and the whole process took just a few minutes. From there, it was easy enough to reconnect the transmitter to the Xbox One and go.
Naturally, the 500X went well with 'John Wick.' Here again, bass in a headset isn't going boom anything like a movie theater, but the half dozen scenes of action and cool cat and mouse moves are nevertheless a joy. That certain combo shot with the vehicles still seems solid (and otherworldly for the movie's protagonist).
Even more intriguing is the less bombastic 'Daredevil' series. Those handful of scenes per episode (like the flashbacks) where the audio is the major focus are so much fun with the 500X.
I've found the 500X's mic to be one of the better boom mic designs I've used. Likewise, the three-step Mic Monitoring makes more sense than certain other recent designs. The windscreen stays in place and the omni-directionalness does seem to pay off, with there being less of that sweet spot. Dynamic chat boost works well, but that means in the 500X's primary use, which is gaming on the Xbox One.
So the 500X is billed as an Xbox One and mobile device only headset, but I was able to get it working with the PS4. The transmitter accepts the PS4's Dolby bitstreamed out optical signal quite readily, and 'Bloodborne' chillingly spare audio presentation is just fine. On the chat front, however, the 500X can only be described as functional on the PS4, and that is through the use of the 2.5mm to 3.5mm cable and the DualShock 4. I was able to chat effectively, but I could only hear others through the left ear. I tried some other 2.5 to 3.5mm cables that I had without any good results, and I don't recommend that users try even that. In this case, chat volume can only be adjusted in the PS4's settings and the new quick menu. It's usable, but the powerful and lush game audio is always threatening to overcome the chat. Anything coming in through that mobile cable, including the PS4 chat, doesn't appear to benefit from Dynamic Chat boost.
It almost seems a shame to achieve a fully wireless headset design, and then turn right around and tether a phone, but without Bluetooth, it's the only option. I wish it was implemented better but, the mobile cable connection is much appreciated, and makes the 500X considerably more versatile. It can go on the road and be used with a phone, vita, laptop, etc. It also means that the 500X can be used to play and chat on the Xbox One while simultaneously being connected to a phone, and that is a huge must for me.
Since the transmitter has an optical passthrough and an analog audio input, any device that outputs optical or line out audio may be able to be used to certain extent with the 500X. For example, a PC with optical, or even better a PC with optical and Dolby Live encoding. That said, I don't recommend using the 500X with a PC.
The battery life is very hearty and was never issue. The build quality is what I would consider to be Turtle Beach classic with fabric being the contact points and plastic being everything else visible. It's a refined design that should stand up to years use from most users.
The Turtle Beach Ear Force 500X is a fully wireless DTS:Headphone X powerhouse on the Xbox One, and it comes packed in a classic, boom mic, form factor. The lack of Bluetooth and reliance on a 2.5mm to 3.5mm cable in secondary situations (like the limited PS4 support) are the only significant detracting factors. Even with the Elite 800X waiting in the wings, the 500X is a fully wireless surround headset that Xbox One users can be proud of.
- 50mm drivers
- Console Audio Connection: Optical
- Console Chat Connection: USB
- Mobile Devices 3.5mm
- Headset Power: Rechargeable Battery
- Transmitter Power: USB
- Mic Monitoring
- Dynamic Chat Boost
- Detachable Uni-Directional Mic
- DTS Headphone:X 7.1
- DTS Surround Sound Audio Modes
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