Polk Striker Pro Zx
- Street Date:
- September 24th, 2015
- Reviewed by:
- Brian Hoss
- Review Date:1
- October 14th, 2015
- Game Release Year:
- Xbox One
Polk Striker Pro Zx reviewed primarily with the Xbox One (both controllers types), the PS4, and PC.
Polk has been trying to leverage their audio reputation into a gaming presence for a few years now, but the results have been mixed. Finally, after introducing the new Striker Pro headset at E3, the model is available for public consumption. Right off, the Striker Pro is significant for its specific intent as multi-platform PS4/Xbox One/ PC headset. The Striker Pro P1 and Striker Pro Zx are fundamentally the same, but the Zx includes the headset adapter required by the original Xbox One controllers. The Striker Pro sports Polk's tuned 40mm passive drivers, a fold flat, balanced design, and detachable right-ear flexible boom mic, a triple cable system (console, PC, and mobile cables) and a combination in-line volume control and mic boost switch module.
The Polk Striker Pro Zx
In prior years, Polk's partnership with Microsoft made the Polk gaming headsets appear to be system exclusives. This was true even in a case like the Four Shot when the headset actually worked better on PS4. Fortunately, with the Striker Pro this has all changed. Being a passive headset, the Striker Pro fully embraces what appears now to be an industry standard, that little 3.5mm jack on the DualShock 4 and newer Xbox One controllers.
Since this review is for the Striker Pro Zx, it's worth establishing the differences between the Striker Pro P1 and the Striker Pro Zx, which are mainly cosmetic. The Striker Pro P1 is black with victory red highlights, and the Striker Pro Zx is black with emerald green highlights.
The Zx includes a chat adapter for the older Xbox One controllers. This is the same Polk wireless Headset Adapter that the company introduced last year, and as with other chat adapters, can be used with the new controllers if so desired, but is not required.
And that's it. The Striker Pro Zx is more expensive than the Striker Pro, but that extra money gets the user a wireless headset adapter. As chat adapters go, I like the Polk design, which features a Chat Loop and dual mute function. Otherwise, the only differences in two headset models is the coloring.
The Polk Striker Pro Zx
Having established that the Polk Striker Pro P1 and Striker Pro Zx are the same headset in different colors and boxes, we can focus on the headset.
I recorded an unboxing when I first got the Striker Pro Zx, and it's included below as it establishes certain things that have carried through into the review.
From that initial unboxing to now, I really like the look and feel of the Striker Pro Zx. It's balanced so that it never presses down on the ears or head, each surface that touches the wearer has a premium feel. It has some extra padding in the headband when compared with its Four Shot predecessor, and I admit I miss the little Polk Heart inside the ear cup, but really, the Striker Pro Zx is an intelligent step forward in terms of looks.
Not only is it comfortable, but it is able to be worn comfortably off ear on the neck when need be, provided the boom mic is not attached. The whole package visually has a nice understated style. The hints of color and overall construction put it above a generic all-black headset, but it manages to completely avoid the pitfall of a typically tacky gaming headset. That is, I could wear the Striker Pro Zx around an airport or subway without feeling ridiculous.
Likewise, the headsets cable system, which can seem complicated to discuss, is very simple in practice.
There is a special cable that is long and splits into mic and audio terminals for use with a PC sound card, and there is a cable with a dangle mic and button that is for use with a mobile device, say when on the move. Otherwise, there is one cable for use with consoles and just about everything else. That leaves the inline volume module, which I'll come back to later on.
Driver & Mic Performance
I can't be on my own when I say it's about blanking time that Polk got it right. The Striker Pro has an audio signature that emphasizes mid and high clarity over muddled bass. It's particularly good at getting the most out of a game's soundtrack, but FX, voice-acting, ambient, and the like are wonderfully conveyed as well.
I used the Polk Striker Pro Zx while I reviewed 'Transformers Devastation' on the PS4, and I just loved hearing the Autobots and Decepticons chatter and fight while DiCola's soundtrack circled around the vintage notes of the franchise. It's a stereo experience, but everything comes together in such a clear way- it's fun to pick out certain sounds in the midst of such would-be cacophony. Using different weapons and identifying their specific (and shared) sounds is perfect with the Striker Pro Zx.
On the Xbox One, I switched back and forth between a Day One controller with the Polk wireless headset adapter and a new Xbox One controller with the built-in 3.5mm jack.
The only really trouble I had was with the NXE dashboard doing its beta thing. Once I made sure the new controller was up to date, it behaved fine. I was thrilled to get to use the Striker Pro Zx with the 'Star Wars: Battlefront' beta. Obviously, if picking out sounds was fun in 'Transformers,' it was downright exhilarating as well as tactically important in 'Battlefront.' Using party chat, I am pleased to find that Polk seems to hit upon a great mic design at last. Not weak, but neither is it too sensitive. It's also more sensible than their other quirky mic desings. It's nice to have the mic mute button on the mic itself, but I also found once or twice that I wasn't certain if the mute was on, so I just pulled the mic out altogether, which I easy enough. The mic is flexible, but it's much better about staying in the shape I want than many other designs I've used.
Nothing like being a rebel against the Walker Assault on Hoth and hearing the unmistakable hero unit on the enemy side, and here again picking out the sounds of Vader in the middle of a chaotic, if coldly bleak, battlefield seems like what the Striker Pro was made for.
Hopping onto the PC for some 'ARK: Survival Evolved,' and suddenly I had a problem with the left ear cup not playing. This was only happening with the PC cable, and what I found is that the 3.5mm audio end of the cable on the head set side had a deep scratch. It's super tiny in the metal connector, but it almost bridges two of the connections, which in turn causes a disconnect on the left channel. Once I found that scratch and lightly smoothed it over (basically I brushed away the thin metal flakes that were extended from the connector), it no longer gave me trouble. I don't know if the cable was damaged before or after I opened it, but when I was trying to figure out the issue, I was relieved that I didn't specifically need the PC cable. The PC cable is long, and it carries the mic and audio signals separately, but nothing was stopping me from using the console connector on the PC. (I can split the mic and audio out on the PC side easy enough.)
After that little issue, the Striker Pro Zx became an excellent PC headset. No matter how it's boxed, PC gamers (especially anyone who is often listening to music) in the market for a cabled headset should think hard about the Striker Pro.
Another issue I had with the Striker Pro Zx involved the inline volume module. The module has a mic boost switch, which does do a nice job of allowing PS4 use without having to crank up the system's mic boost setting, though that is still an option. The volume wheel also works exactly like it should. The issue is that the module has a little weight to it and connects via a right angle 3.5mm connector. When combined with the right angle connector on the console cable, and the whole chain is a little ungainly. I found myself stepping, sitting or otherwise pulling the cable, and when it rotates a little in the DS4, there is some noise. The noise is just during the rotation, and being sure not pull the cable, which I should do anyway, and it was fine. Still, the issue could have been improved with a tweak or two. Maybe straight instead of angled connections would have done it.
With the Striker Pro Zx, Polk finally has the full package. The headset sounds great, picks up well, and it manages to be both comfortable and stylish. The true multi-platform support should put it on anyone's radar, and the sound characteristics are happily atypical for gaming headsets. I have a qualm or two about the cable system, but it's nothing that Striker Pro's modular design can't account for.
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