A decent headset can be a gamer’s best friend, especially if you have neighbors who don’t appreciate sounds of explosions and gunfire being blasted through speakers at all hours, but it’s important to make the right decision about which headgear you want wrapped around your ears during serious gaming sessions.
Game Rant put the Ear Force Z Seven, the new professional gaming headset from Turtle Beach, through its paces to find out whether it stands out from the crowd as a listening and communications device for the audio connoisseur.
The Ear Force Z Seven was tested on a few different games to get an idea of its range. Since the headset was made by Turtle Beach, it only felt right to try it out with the seminal co-op shooter from Turtle Rock Studios, Left 4 Dead, to see how well it held up as a communications device in the frenzy of battle. After mowing down a few hundred zombies we tested it out on the techno beats and sci-fi madness of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, to measure how well it aided both stealthy and noisy approaches to taking over garrisons.
To measure the comfort of the Ear Force Z Seven during lengthy gameplay sessions, we took it for a spin through a marathon playthrough of Telltale Studios’ The Walking Dead. Finally (and masochistically) we turned the volume right up for maximum atmosphere, turned the lights down, and indulged in survival horror game Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
Readers are obviously going to be most interested in how this headset works for gaming, but to put it through its paces with other mediums we tested it out with a range of music from different genres before settling in to watch Christopher Nolan’s Inception, which received Oscars for its sound mixing and editing.
The minimalist black and white palette of the Ear Force Z Seven might be a little dull for players who want a bit of flash in their headgear, but the overall effect is pretty sleek and professional, and the braided black/white cables are a pretty nifty extension of the scheme. If you’d prefer to add a splash of extra color to your headset; however, the side panels can be removed and replaced with customized versions for a more individual look.
One of the drawbacks of the headset is that there is no wireless version available, but the good news is that both the headset jack cable and the microphone can be removed to make it easier to walk away from the screen without taking the headset off. The microphone plugs into a jack just inside the casing of the left ear cup, while the headset jack is attached to a small trailing cable, also on the left ear cup, with a 6-pin connector. The ear cups also rotate, allowing them to rest comfortably flat on your collarbone, so it’s easy enough to wear the headset while out and about as well. You can also wear the headset without needing to detach the microphone.
The ear cups and headband are fitted with memory foam and covered with black faux leather, with white stitching on the underside of the headband. On the cups this works extremely well for noise cancellation, as does the very tight fit of the headset, and the padding allows it to sit comfortably and stay in place. The downside to the strong grip is that gamers who wear glasses may find them digging into the sides of their head, and even without glasses the vice-like grip can be a bit distracting at first.
Weighing in at 340 grams (0.75 pounds), the Ear Force Z Seven definitely isn’t the lightest headset around, and during the initial test run the weight of it actually led to a bit of neck pain. That said, during the marathon gaming session, however, there wasn’t any real noticeable discomfort, so it might just take some getting used to.
When it comes to getting the absolute most out of a game’s sound design, the Ear Force Z Seven really is a truly worthy purchase. As mentioned above, the close fit and noise-cancelling cups allow for truly absorbing immersion into whichever game world you choose to plug into, and actually makes it possible to pick up on nuances and smaller sounds that you might never have noticed before. The 50mm drivers handle the lowest bass noises and the highest trebles with ease and without any distortion, even at maximum volume, and the sound is rich and detailed.
Not only does the ACU give the option of attuning the audio experience to the genre of game being played – so that a stealth game can be enhanced with “superhuman” hearing that boosts low sounds, or an action FPS can have greater clarity of gun noises and explosions – the high quality surround sound can be crucial for picking out where footsteps, barks or gunfire are coming from. It’s not a stretch to say that this pinpoint-clear sound might actually save your (virtual) life.
The Ear Force Z Seven’s microphone is detachable with a flexible boom that allows it to be adjusted to the player’s preferred distance. The actual audio quality offered is more or less standard for headset microphones: a little tinny and flat, but still clear enough that teammates never had any trouble hearing exchanges during gameplay. The foam cover is helpful for reducing noises from breathing or pops from explosives, but if you’re recording a podcast or commentary for a Let’s Play and desire high quality voice audio then it’s probably a good idea to invest in a separate microphone.
The audio performance of the Ear Force Z Seven is its strongest draw, with the actual microphone something of an afterthought, but this is a solid choice for gamers who love to be fully immersed into the worlds they’re exploring. The sound experiences offered by this headset outweigh some of the potential comfort issues and the plain design, and even accounting for its flaws the Ear Force Z Seven is worthy of its place in the Major League Gaming Pro Circuit.