PS4
Highly Recommended
4.5 stars
Overall Grade
4.5 stars

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Bottom Line
Highly Recommended

Turtle Beach Ear Force Stealth 500P

Street Date:
October 10th, 2014
Reviewed by:
Review Date:1
November 5th, 2014
Game Release Year:
2014
Platform:
PS4
Publisher:
Turtle Beach
Developer:
Turtle Beach

Editor's Notes

Turtle Beach Ear Force Stealth 500P reviewed primarily on the PS4 with some testing done on the PS3, PC, and various mobile devices.

Introduction

The new consoles have been around for almost a year, and for headsets, that means one big thing, the very first models built specifically for the PS4 and Xbox One are trickling out. That's not to say that existing headsets, like last year's models, ignored the new consoles, but the extra time means a lot in terms of refinement. With Turtle Beach, there is a whole lineup of new models for both consoles being rolled out, and some of these models feature new surround tech in the form of DTS Headphone:X 7.1. But beyond that, a new model like the Turtle Beach Ear Force Stealth 500P has a dizzying mix of features that is likely to throw current and prospective headset owners.

Turtle Beach Ear Force Stealth 500P box

Part of a Lineup

First things first, the Turtle Beach Ear Force Stealth 500P is smack dab in the middle of a new, wireless PS4 focused lineup from Turtle Beach. Aside from a swap in padding material and the added surround sound capability, the 500P is virtually identical to the new Ear Force Stealth 400. The true key addition is the DTS Headphone:X 7.1 design and implementation. Meanwhile, the primo Elite 800 has every feature Turtle Beach could think of, not unlike the Ear Force i60.

DTS Headphone:X 7.1

While the Ear Force Stealth 500P has plenty of features and a couple of quirks, it's distinguishing feature is DTS Headphone:X 7.1. Faux leather aside, the DTS Headphone:X 7.1 surround side accounts for $30 of the price, but I am extremely pleased to share that the extra money is well worth it.

Turtle Beach Ear Force Stealth 500P profile

I've been intrigued by DTS Headphone:X 7.1 for some time, and have been more than anxious to experience it on the PS4. At the same time, I've been incredibly impressed by Sony's own virtual surround sound as seen in the PlayStation Gold Wireless Stereo Headset. Amazingly, the 500P offers the best headset surround that I've heard on the PS4. The console is new and the options are growing, but this isn't faint praise. This is a headset surround solution that will be pleasing for years to come.

I was ready to write my review back in October, but elected to wait for the 'Evolve' Big Alpha. Oops. Fortunately, it eventually worked out, and the game only confirmed what I already knew, DTS Headphone:X 7.1, despite being limited to two driver headset, is no gimmick. As a hunter, I needed to be able to pick out any sound that might be the monster and locate its origin in 3D space (the monster is often above, and sometimes below), and I needed to do that while dealing with the noise of my team and native fauna. I also needed to be able to coordinate with my teammates via chat. Both of these needs were met no sweat, and the game's audio feast is something I wish every gamer could experience when they play.

Switching back to a stereo headset, for which the game still produces the same excellent sound assets from the game, is a huge step down in dimension, and this is how I really judge the quality of the surround sound. A home theater surround sound experience it isn't, but compared with a stereo headset delivery, the 500P is alive with another dimension of sound.

The 500P pairs wonderfully with 'Destiny.' I recently had to pursue some exotic bounties through the Crucible (Skirmish proving to be the best way keep my K/D ratio headed in the right direction), and it was pretty awesome being able to track jumping enemies that lay around corner by through jump sounds as it's key for me to be able to attach a grenade to ensure points. 'Destiny' has no way of tweaking audio settings, so the 500P's controls are big bonus, but more than that, playing with the 500P I actually noticed a lot going on audio wise that I had been missing previously. I can hear my team even in fireteam mode (as opposed the party audio), but can also pick out the locations of chests and resources just by way of sound.

Blu-rays

Naturally, the DTS Headphone:X 7.1 headset includes multiple surround presets, each with multiple EQ presets. As is custom for me, I began testing the Movie Mode surround sound by using my Digital Video Essentials: HD Basics Blu-ray disc. Then I moved on to 'Pacific Rim,' 'Godzilla,' and even 'The Raid 2.'

Again, the DTS Headphone:X 7.1 surround sound performed well. It's particularly good at recreating the center channel, which is easy to overlook but is crucial in providing the audio presentation that enthusiasts expect. What's surprising is how well the headset can handle a movie like 'Godzilla,' where the sound field goes from full quiet to completely active and back to full quiet multiple times. The interplay of sound between Godzilla and the MUTOs alone is enough to hear how exacting the surround sound tech is.

USB Transmitter and Optical Connection on PS4 & PS3

Turtle Beach has set up the 500P as a fully wireless DTS Headphone:X 7.1 surround sound headset for the PS4 and PS3, with other devices being a secondary consideration. On the console side, a thumb drive size USB receiver handles the chat audio, which is a big deal for the PS4 as it means that there is no need to connect a cable directly to the DualShock 4, which many wireless headsets both new and old still require. In this key sense, the headset is wireless. The transmitter, however, while using USB for chat and power, needs to be connected to the PS4's optical audio connection in order to get high quality audio sound. This is done using the included Toslink to 3.5mm Digital Optical cable, and that means a cable that runs from the USB transmitter in the front of the PS4 to the optical port in the back.

I do wish the PS4 had a USB port in the back for a cleaner install, but I was familiar with this sort of set-up from using Turtle Beach PS4 Headset Upgrade Kit. In practice, the little cable is very out of the way.

Turtle Beach Ear Force Stealth 500P USB

Plus, the sound quality coming from the optical port easily crushes the game audio from the DualShock 4, and by correctly setting everything up, the 500P gains the ability to independently control the game audio and chat audio, which is a feature every serious gaming headset needs. In contrast, headsets that can only prioritize either game or chat audio are a step down

Once hooked into the PS4, and after being sure to adjust the system's audio settings. The headset can be powered on by pressing the combo Power Button, transmitter light, and Turtle Beach logo. The headset is powered through a built-in rechargeable battery that is charged via micro USB.

Turtle Beach Ear Force Stealth 500P

There are two other buttons, On is the mic mute, and the other is a button that cycles DTS Headphone:X 7.1 surround modes and DTS presets. The two volume wheels control game and chat audio respectively, and my only objection is that it is that they turn so easily. This headset can get very loud, so these wheels can be considered a little dangerous. Amid the controls is a 3.5mm audio jack.

PC Compatibility

I was able to use the USB transmitter with a PC for wireless stereo sound, but only through the chat function. (That means all volume was controlled though the chat wheel.) PC compatibility isn't an officially supported feature, but in my experience, the PC functionality is right on par with the PlayStation Gold Wireless Headset.

Other Devices

The Ear Force 500P has no Bluetooth function, which seems like a bummer until factoring in the low weight, 8.6oz and long battery life. Instead, it has a 3.5mm audio jack, which with the included cable, allows use with the Vita, iPhone, Xbox One, or any other analog stereo and mic device. Oddly enough, the headset needs to be powered on to work this way, but the result is amplified sound, which is nice. Unfortunately, any volume control needs to be done directly on the connected device. Admittedly, this mobile functionality is taken as a given, and one I don't expect to use much. I won't be popping this headset out on a plane, but it would be useful if I did.

What is a lot more useful in my case is that while playing wirelessly with PS4 or PS3, audio or calls can be directed to the headset through this cabled connection. That means I can play 'Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor' wirelessly and have anything I want to listen to piped directly to the headset. In some cases, when games get long and their soundtracks become stale, I like to listen to music and even sometimes audiobooks, so with my phone, the 500P is excellent. I can even take calls, and say chat with my fiancée without having to miss a step or even touch the headset. This kind of functionality might be a little less important with the recent audition of the USB music player on the PS4, but I love it all the same. It's not a feature offered on the Gold PlayStation Wireless Stereo headset.

Turtle Beach Ear Force Stealth 500P mic

Removable External Mic

While it might not be obvious, the Ear Force Stealth 500P uses a detachable mic. The mic appears to be identical the one I reviewed as part of the Ear Force Z60, minus a rubber sleeve. From the Ear Force Z60 review, "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." The 500P does have mic monitoring, but lacks any kind of noise cancellation (not as big an issue with a removable mic) or active chat boost.

Battery, Comfort & Build

The battery life is listed at 15 hours, and it seems to work well. With a headset that seems to always outlast the DualShock 4, it's hard to worry about the battery. (It seems to have been meant to outlast the PlayStation Gold Wireless Stereo Headset, which it does.) It can be used while charging, and I am able to use one micro USB for both headset and controller just by occasionally checking the battery level, which shows up in the PS4 UI. The headset will power down if left on for 10 minutes without any signal. As is typical for headsets, this sounds good in theory, but only works when the headset has been left on without anything else on.

While it's not the most comfortable headset I've ever used, I can wear it for hours on end without any trouble. Turtle Beach's current elongated circle cup design is better about going around my ear than the former oval style. The low weight allows it to be much more comfortable than heavier, feature laden models. That said, it's not exactly a pretty model. The headband has some very droll looking plastic, and the whole package is blatantly without a single success in terms of style. Still, what's there feels pretty heavy duty. The ear pads can lay flat for transport and packing, and beyond a significant impact from something solid like a car battery, I have no concerns about it breaking.

Other Notes

The headset features the Turtle Beach electronic voice to say helpful things like "powering on" and "Movie Mode." Range is pegged at 30 feet and bears out well. (Again, it seems meant to outrange the PlayStation Gold Wireless Stereo Headset, which it does.) It's not all good news, however, as some problems mare the model.

While not a major issue, I dislike how the receiver would stay on for a while during the PS4's standby mode; its blue light shining to indicate that it was working when it should be resting. After updating to 2.00, I was sure to set the new Rest Mode options to "power off after three hours."

When powering up or powering the PS4 down, there can be annoying audio pops. These never happen during use, and can be easy to forget, just in time for the next one. Best practice is to turn the headset on after the console and then power off before shutting down. Another issue that is quite silly, but also annoying, is the flashing light on the headset that indicates it is receiving. In a dark room, say when watching 'Godzilla,' the triangular light is all-too strobe like. Hopefully, Turtle Beach can fix this poor design choice through a firmware update.

Having to adjust the settings on the PS4 when not using the headset (set Audio Priority to HDMI or to Optical) and then again when the using the headset is a bit of a nuisance, though this is likely a Sony restriction, and one that may change. While not a problem of concern for me, the USB transmitter lacks any kind of optical pass through, so using the transmitter and another optical audio device such as sound bar could require some ungainly cable swapping.

For Those With Preset Issues

Some readers have indicated an issue where the Surround Presets are "missing," and in such cases, holding the preset button does not provide access to the DTS Headphone:X surround modes. My set hasn't had this issue, but one possible fix (based on the comments below) is to re-pair the transmitter with the headset. (Pairing instructions and FAQ can be found here.)

Final Thoughts

Frankly speaking, Turtle Beach had their work cut out in this segment. The Ear Force Stealth 500P has some quirks, such as the so-so aesthetics, but when in use, it is a champ that delivers excellent headset surround sound through DTS Headphone:X 7.1 in games and movies. Chat performance is executed wonderfully and wirelessly with a detachable mic, mic monitoring, and the independent volume controls. It's an all-around great headset that stays comfortable as it powers through multiple lengthy sessions without a battery care and with the nice bonus of auxiliary phone connectivity.

Tech Specs:

  • 50mm diameter speakers with neodymium magnets
  • Console Audio Connection: Optical
  • Console Chat Connection: USB
  • PS Vita/Mobile Devices 3.5mm
  • Headset Power: Rechargeable Battery
  • 2.4GHz
  • Removable Microphone

Audio Formats

  • DTS Headphone:X 7.1
  • DTS Surround Sound Modes
  • Mic Monitoring

Motion Controls

  • No

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