Audio is probably one of the most under-rated parts of today’s media. Sure, there are many audiophiles out there, but rarely does the average person pay it much attention. I never realized this until I did a project in my high school art class. We were tasked with taking several different forms of visual media (i.e. TV, movies, games, etc…) & enjoy them for an hour each. Then, repeat the process, only this time with out the sounds enabled. This difference is night & day. The feelings that any form of visual media evokes on it’s viewers are enhanced & a lot of the times completely dependent on the audio. Watch a scary movie & you’ll note the intensity of the background music or the random grunts/moans/screams. Take it away & you’ll find it isn’t no where near as frightening as you thought it was. It’s an eye-opening experiment & very easy for anyone to try at home.
Gaming is no exception. Even though there are a few stand outs like Marty O’Donnell (Halo series) & Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy series), most people who work on the music & sound effects in games are unknown to the average gamer (heck, most of the couldn’t tell you who Marty or Nobuo are). But, if you mute the TV, you’ll find that the games play as flat & shallow as a wet piece of paper. From the sweeping orchestral scores of the Halo franchise to the sounds of a growling Hunter hidden away in the shadows in Left 4 Dead to the whizzing sounds of bullets flying past your head in Modern Warfare, the audio in games add a level of depth to the experience that envelopes the player & completes the world the designers have created. To truly immerse yourself into these interactive fantasies, you need to put as much into your audio set-up as you do your video set-up. Here’s where Tritton hopes to help you out…
I’m sure everyone would love to have the full on 7.1 THX certified speaker system in there gaming area. But, beyond the expense, there are other issues with having an open speaker set-up. The distraction factor is still there & you may still disturb others in your home. The best remedy for all those factors is a personal headset. Tritton has a couple of contenders that will vie for your hard earned money (& should win compared to the other options on the market today).
The Tritton AX 180 can be considered the “low-end” set based on the cost, but the sound is anything but “low end”. It’s universal, meaning you can use it on any current gen system (360, Playstation 3, Wii, PC & MAC) & features both in-game sound & two-way voice chat with an in-line break-away controller. The set up was a breeze, connecting to your RCA audio source with a pair of pass through red & white jacks plus a USB connection. Snap in the removable mic (& in the case of the Xbox 360, connect the control unit to your 360 controller) & you’re good to go. For $70, I don’t think you can find a better sounding headset. Everything was crisp & clear, from the voices in the distance to the explosions happening in front of me. Even though it’s an analog connection, the positional audio was still functional & sounded better than the simulated surround sound coming out of my LCD. Having separate volume controls for both in-game & chat audio allows for you to put your focus where you want it. Playing online with a bunch of screaming 12 years olds? Turn down the chat volume & enjoy the in-game soundtrack. Need to hear your buddies while your hunting down terrorists? Turn down the in-game music & chat away. You don’t realize how handy that functionality is until you have the option to use it. With all that said, it’s still an analog connection. There are better options out there, so lets look at Tritton’s answer to that: The $130 AX 720…
The set-up for the 720 is just as simple, albeit a bit different. Instead of the analog RCA jacks, you’ll have a separate amp that will require another spot on your power strip. The amp connects to your consoles through the digital-out port on your 360 audio dongle or on the Playstation 3 console itself. Since it is digital, the headset will only work on devices that have a digital-out, which means this won’t be a solution for your Wii audio issues. The amp supports Dolby Digital & Pro Logic II codecs along with dual headset jacks so you & your buddy can get some local split screen action going without waking up your little brother. The removable flex mic & the in-line break-away control unit work the same as the AX 180. What isn’t the same is the quality of the sound coming out of it. Full on 5.1 surround sound means that you’ll know it when you’re holed up in a sniper perch & someone is coming up the stairs behind you. I tested it out on both consoles, playing games like Modern Warfare 2 & Uncharted 2 along with watching my Blu-Ray copy of The Dark Knight. The quality was just fantastic & put the analog connection of the AX 180 to shame. The difference in the experience between using the AX 720 & just listening to the sound coming from my TV was like the difference between a Big Mac & a porterhouse steak. Everything was crisp & clear with none of the background hisses & pops that come with just about every non-digital connection. The surround sound will have you looking over your should to see if the voice you heard was in-game or actually behind you.
If I had any gripes about either of the headsets, it would be that they are both wired. In today’s wireless age, it can be a bit cumbersome to have to be physically connected again. Both sets have about 9 feet of cord, but still, it was a bit of a pain. I do have a Turtle Beach X4 set which is wireless, but the sound wasn’t quite as clear as the AX 720. It’s for that reason that Tritton went wired with these sets. In just about any application, a wired connection will always outperform a wireless one. In order to make sure gamers are getting the best quality they can get, for Tritton, wired was the only way to go. The physical quality was there too. Where the Turtle Beach set broke within 2 weeks of my purchase, the Tritton set is still in one piece & works like a champ, even with all the extended sessions I put them through. Plus, the Turtle Beach set bugged me after a couple of hours. My ears would start to hurt a bit & I would need to take them off. Tritton trumped that as well since both of the sets were very comfortable to wear. In fact, I put 12 hours straight on the 720 when Modern Warfare 2 launched & most of the time I didn’t even realize they were on. I would gladly trade a wireless set for one that doesn’t hurt after an hour of play. With unparalleled sound quality, unmatched voice chat, & comfort to boot, it won’t matter what your budget dictates in this trying economy, Tritton has you covered with a great (sounding) bang for your buck.