Turtle Beach i60 review

Turtle Beach is well known in the gaming community, with its gaming headsets favourites of tournament players. So you might be thinking what is a gaming headset company doing designing a headset with Apple users in mind. Macs aren’t exactly renowned as gaming machines, although Mac gaming is getting better. So what opportunity has Turtle Beach identified in the Apple market that has lead it to market this new Wi-Fi headset as ideal for Apple products?

Obviously we aren’t talking just Macs, and neither is Turtle Beach. The i60 headset is designed for use with Apple products, most notably for multitasking between various different Apple products. For example, you could listen to the movie you are playing on your Mac and answer a call on your iPhone at the same time while the movie audio continues to play in the background. You could even talk to Siri on your iPad that’s over the other side of the room, all via the i60 headset.

The multitasking is possible because the i60 headphones feature both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0 +EDR connectivity, Turtle Beach is also selling at the slightly cheaper i30 headset but that set lacks the Wi-Fi, relying on Bluetooth for wireless audio. Listening to music via Bluetooth is never going to give you a great experience, so the i60’s look like the obvious choice, but do the additional features warrant the extra £100 expense - that’s £349.95 compared to £249.95. And does the Turtle Beach i60 Media Headset even warrant a price that puts it in the same league as big players such as the Bowers & Wilkins P7 Mobile Headphones, Parrot Zik, and Bose QuietComfort 3 (in fact all those headsets cost less than the i60s).  

In the Turtle Beach i60 box

The first place to start is by looking at what’s in the box. Along with the i60 headset there is the i60 transmitter; a USB cable for connecting your Mac to the transmitter; a headset charging cable that plugs into the USB port on your Mac (there’s no mains charger included); an audio cable (for plugging in your iPad or iPhone); a 6.3mm adapter plug and an airline adaptor plug (why don’t airlines just change this port?); a headset carry bag (pictured below); a Quick Start Guide; and a Turtle Beach sticker. Rechargeable lithium polymer batteries with, according to Turtle Beach, up to 15 hours continuous operating time are also included, although it’s more realistic to suggest you will get 10 hours of continuous play on a single battery charge.

Turtle Beach i60 set up

That Quick Start guide is definitely worth a read because these aren’t simple plug and play headphones, but don’t let that put you off, the reason they aren’t plug and play is the fact that they offer surround sound capabilities and you’ll need to change the default settings on your Mac to get the most out of them. You can view the i60 instruction manual online here.

That manual takes you through the set up with easy to follow illustrations. Start in System Preferences and in your Sound settings associate the Turtle Beach i60 Media Headset with Output and Turtle Beach i60 Chat (USB) with Input. Then you need to open the Audio Midi Setup and configure the speaker output at 8ch-16bit integer. The multichannel then needs to be changed to 7.1 surround. It sounds much more complicated than it is - the clear instructions in the guide make it simple.

Once you have told your Mac what it’s dealing with the next step is to set up the transmitter that connects with the headset via Wi-Fi. If the LED is blinking it is unable to communicate with the headset. To get the headset and transmitter talking, start by turning the headset off, then press and hold the Power Button for about 5 seconds until it announces “Pairing Headset”. Now press the pairing button on the transmitter until that LED begins to blink. When the units are paired the LED will remain on on the transmitter, the LED on the headphones will blink intermittently, and a voice will announce “headset paired”.

Finally, setting up Bluetooth pairing is a case of pressing the Bluetooth LED on the side of the headset for 5 seconds until the voice prompt announces “Bluetooth Pairing”.  Then go to Settings on your iPad or iPhone, turn on Bluetooth and select Turtle Beach i60 Media Headset from the devices listed. The good news is you can simultaneously pair to two Bluetooth-enabled devices with the i60 at once and the i60 will automatically remember the last two paired devices upon powering on. However, only one Bluetooth device can be active on the headset at a time.

You can also pair your headset with your Mac via Bluetooth, but you won’t be able to take advantage of the surround sound audio features.

Receiving a call via the i60 headset

Once set up you can listen to audio on your headset via Wi-Fi and, as long as you are connected to your iPhone via Bluetooth, when you get a call you’ll hear your ring tone and you can answer it. If you get a call when you are listening to audio on your headset the audio will be lowered automatically, but it will still play in the background and when the call is finished you won’t have to reconnect the headset to your computer.

To answer that call you tap a button on the side of the headset. The mic is incorporated into the headset and it offers noise filtering technology. There are a total of nine buttons and various combinations of key presses to learn, from a double key press to redial a phone number to three key presses to activate Siri, but it’s logical enough to learn and you’ll hear a button selection voiceover so you know what you pressed.

Audio settings for the i60 headset

There is an app you can download to your iPhone (Ear Force Audio Hub) that allows you to fine tune your headset. We like the way you can adjust and optimise sound using various presets from flat equalisation or to bass boost, but also a mid boost for human speech, Footstep Focus (ideal for game play), and Superhuman hearing (also designed for gaming). There are also three surround sound settings: movie mode, music mode, game more, you can also turn surround sound off. The strange omission is the fact that you cannot increase or decrease the volume using the iPhone app, nor do the volume controls on your iPhone have an impact. Given that many of the presets are louder or quieter than others it’s frustrating that you need to use many different means to make adjustments. We would have preferred to be able to adjust the sound levels from our iPhone given that we were using it to change the sound presets. Adjusting the volume is a case of finding the buttons on the back of the ear piece, or using the Wi-Fi transmitter, which features a big outer ring for volume control. This volume control is a bit redundant if you happen to be over the other side of the room, which is after all the point of using Wi-Fi, but it looks nice.

You can also play around with the microphone using the app. There are four settings: flat, high morph (to sound like a chipmunk), low morph (to sound like a robot), and voice reverb. We’re not entirely sure when we’d implement these sounds.

The Bluetooth volume control in independent of the Wi-Fi volume control - so if you have the volume on high while you are watching a movie, you won’t be deafened if friend calls.
The various audio settings hint at the uses Turtle Beach is anticipating for this headset. As we mentioned earlier, gaming isn’t huge on a Mac, but it is growing, and obviously gaming is massive on the iPad and iPhone. Here we’d advice plugging the headphones in directly, rather than relying on Bluetooth though.

The superb 7.1 Surround Sound and 5.1 Channel DTS means this headset is ideal for watching movies. We also found the mid boost great for radio and TV programmes that focused on the spoken word. However, we found it frustrating that the audio levels in films were considerably lower than for music, meaning that movie sound levels were quiet unless we set it to super human hearing (perhaps you needed super human hearing to hear the other audio settings). It’s odd that the sound levels were so different when movies and music were compared. We have been told that the audio can sometimes vary due to the different room modes within the DTS Headphone:X Surround Sound system. These modes automatically move the position of the virtual speakers to give a better surround sound experience depending on the format. However, we’ll look in to this further.

We were impressed with the audio quality for music - but our audiophile technical editor is yet to try them out himself, so we may update this article if he decries them not up to his exacting standards.

Unfortunately these aren’t noise cancelling headphones so they aren’t ideal for use in noisy environments. Noise leakage was reasonable, but if you do have the music on loud expect to annoy the person sitting beside you. The i30 do have noise cancelling capabilities though - making it seem like an odd ommisison from the i60. It appears that the i30, which are designed for use with the iPhone and iPad when out and about, benefit more from noise cancellation in what might be more noisy settings.

Turtle Beach i60 comfort

Since this is an over-ear headset many will be concerned about comfort, especially if you are planning to use them for long periods of time. We found them to be light weight, and the leatherette ear cups were soft and comfortable to wear. With it’s previous focus on game players, it appears that Turtle Beach knows how to make headphones that you can wear for long periods of time. We did feel that they were a little lose on our head, however.

The headset itself looks nice enough, with a white plastic finish that will stand out from the crowd (should you want to). The Turtle Beach logo will also speak to those who are familiar with the brand.

OUR VERDICT

The £349.99 asking price might seem a bit high and, as we said above, it puts them in the same league as Bose and the like. At that price we’d hope for noise cancellation, but the surround sound quality is superior and as a result we suspect that it would take a lot of external noise to distract you. Our only criticism is that the audio levels are so different between music and movies and this makes the fact that the audio level can't be turned up via the iPhone app all the more frustrating. (We'll keep testing this aspect of the i60s and will update this review should we find a solution).

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