Tech Review: Turtle Beach Elite Pro Tournament Gaming Headset (Turtle Beach, 2016)

The Elite Pro Tournament Gaming Headset are Turtle Beach’s top-of-the-line gaming cans. Built with high level eSports play in mind, they are designed to be the sort of thing a professional e-athlete would prefer.

I am not a professional e-athlete, just a guy who likes to play Overwatch while sprawled inelegantly on his bed. Therefore, I can’t really review the Elite Pros in the manner for which they were intended. I can review them as a set of consumer headphones, however, so that’s exactly what I’ll do.

I am also notoriously (some would say infuriatingly) picky when it comes to headphones. Not just gaming headphones either, I mean any headphones. I own a pair of Sennheiser HD 598’s that I love and use for everything from gaming to everyday music listening, thus every other set of headphones I try has to measure up to their lofty (and perhaps unfair) example.

Gaming headphones are frequently the kind of tech I use only momentarily before tossing them into the hall along with other tributes that have displeased me. They are often poorly leveled, poorly weighted and uncomfortable to wear. In good news for the Elite Pro’s, they were not tossed into the hall — but they didn’t become my go-to headset either.

The headphones come in very lovely packaging, like most high-tier items do these days, reminiscent of the sorts of boxes Apple likes to put together. They want taking it out of the box to be part of the “experience.”

The first thing I noticed after yanking them ignobly from the packaging was that the whole unit was way lighter in the hand than I was expecting, just judging by their size. Where they do contain a bit of weight is in the cans themselves. The moment you put them on, the cans clamp down over your ears like they’re trying to create a vacuum. I’m sure this has to do with the unit’s noise cancellation abilities, but it felt like the headset was trying to suck the inside of my ears out. Even with the multiple sliders and customisation options offered on the headset, I could only wear the Elite Pros for about an hour before my ears began to ache and I had to switch back to my Sennheisers.

In terms of audio reproduction, the Elite Pro’s are above average for a gaming headset but they also fall into many of the same traps that their contemporaries do. The bass is crazy pronounced, to the point where it sometimes obscures high-frequency sound. This is, presumably, to make gunfire and explosions sound beefier but if you’re playing something quieter then its all a bit of a waste.

I used these headphones with Batman: The Telltale SeriesOverwatch, FIFA 17 and Battlefield 1. While the virtual surround sound performs quite well and gives you a good sense of spacial awareness, in some of the more intense BF1 matches things did become a bit of an aural haze. I know that’s kind of the point in BF1, but it became difficult to pick out when I was being snuck up on in the din. Overwatch suffered no such problems, providing pretty well-leveled audio throughout.

I did find myself struggling with the side-mounted boom mic a little. My PC is oddly picky about accepting headphone/mic combos and so it took some finagling to get it to work properly. My friends reported its throughput to be acceptable, without popping or much background noise which is good to know. Where it struggles is in the holding of its own weight. The mic itself is supported by a pliant metal boom that allows you to move it into whatever position you wish. The hinge that connects the mic to the headset doesn’t quite have the grip it needs to hold the mic in place and so I often found it sagging during gameplay, particularly if my moved my head around. This was even worse when I was playing games that didn’t use the mic and tried to return it to an upright position — it would sink into my peripheral vision within a few minutes and lurk there until I tucked it away. It is detachable, however, so if it really starts to piss you off, you can just disconnect it.

One thing I want to point out as a possible warning to parents who are going to have younger players begging them for this headset — these things can get loud. The full volume on these headphones is such that I can’t see how it wouldn’t cause hearing damage if used repeatedly during long play sessions. I like it noisy as much as the next person, but holy crap. I already have tinnitus from years of going to loud gigs and even my ears were like “Dude, no, turn it down.”

If I have one other real criticism it’s that the cord could be longer — the Elite Pro’s are compatible with consoles and the cord reflects this in that its really only long enough to reach a controller. Using them with my PC meant fishing out a 3.5mm aux extension cable I had lying around.

It may sound like I’m dumping on the Elite Pros but that is, as I said, because I’m kind of picky about this stuff. Truthfully, I did find them pretty solid overall and certainly perfect for short-bursts of intense play. And if your ears are like mine and start to ache after a while, they’ll enforce regular breaks which can really only be good for your health.

The headset also features a number of sliders and controls to fine-tune it for maximum comfort and for those with oddly shaped heads, this will be something of a godsend. I also like that the headphones accommodate for those who wear glasses. Given the faintly ridiculous name of “ProSpecs Glasses Relief System,” the reality is that the ear cups are soft enough that they don’t put pressure on your frames while you have them on. It’s a nice touch and one I appreciate.

All told, the Elite Pros are a worthy pair of cans with a few odd design choices here and there. The sound isn’t quite as good as I would expect from a $300 pair of headphones but they’re certainly no slouches either. They’re among the better sounding gaming headsets I’ve used, but maybe shop around on price because right now they’ll bore a bit of a hole in your wallet.

Score: 7.5 out of 10
Highlights: Solid noise-cancellation; Solid mic; Great bass reproduction
Lowlights: Heavy after long periods of use; Crazy loud, use caution; Needs a slightly longer cord.
Manufacturer: Turtle Beach
Release date: Out now