Turtle Beach Ear Force SEVEN Series Headsets
Turtle Beach is perhaps a name better known amongst console gamers since you can easily find their Ear Force lineup of headsets somewhere close to where the boxed console games are in certain stores. Most Turtle Beach Ear Force headsets are compatible with computers or any electronic device with a 3.5 mm jack nonetheless because most gamers or even most people make due with one set of headphones for all their devices. The Turtle Beach Z SEVEN we have for review is actually part of a much larger family of SEVEN headsets. The Z SEVEN is posited as the version for PCs and Macs, the XP SEVEN drops the computer compatibility and goes for Xbox 360 and PS3 compatibility, The M SEVEN is the mobile variant, and the XO SEVEN is the first third-party headset compatible with Xbox One. Then there's also a bunch of limited edition SEVEN headsets with alternate earcup decorative plates themed after games and movies such as Captain America, Thor, Call of Duty: Ghosts, and Titanfall.
Despite the compatibility and incompatibilities that happen out of the box, the headset itself across all named versions is the same. The M SEVEN and XO SEVEN are perhaps the most basic versions and are packaged with the minimum number of accessory cables for their operation. The Z SEVEN and XP SEVEN are the versions that comes with the Audio Control Unit, an external sound card while the latter, the XP SEVEN, includes an additional console interface adapter.
This doesn't mean we're actually reviewing all the Ear Force SEVEN headsets, but because the headset is more or less the same, some overarching generalizations can be and will be made. All Turtle Beach headsets come with a 1-year warranty and the Z SEVEN can be purchased at Amazon for $212.06 shipped
Turtle Beach Ear Force Z SEVEN Tournament Grade PC Gaming Headset Features
Turtle Beach Ear Force Z SEVEN Tournament Grade PC Gaming Headset Specifications
- SEVEN Pro Gaming Headset: 50mm speakers deliver immaculate audio quality. Comfortable memory foam ear cushions create a noise-isolation barrier from distractions
- Audio Control Unit (ACU): Combines External USB Sound Processor & Amplified Audio Controller
- Precise, adjustable surround sound on any PC or Mac
- Powerful audio presets and customization
- Ability to drive your desktop speakers
- Phone/music player connectivity
- Flawless Surround Sound: Pure, uncompressed (PCM) surround sound on PC or Mac using USB connection
- Phone/Music Input: Connect a mobile phone or digital music player to the ACU to play your favorite music and take calls
- Versatility: Pop out the mic boom and attach the mobile adapter to use with your mobile phone, tablet or portable gaming systems
- Comfortable, Twist-Cup Design: Soft memory foam cushions on ear cups rotate-to-flat for wearing around your neck
- Adjustable Surround Sound Angles: Customize your audio experience by altering the positioning of the surround sound
- Voice Morphing: Disguise your voice by changing the sound from deep lows to screeching highs
- Dynamics Chat Boost: Chat volume automatically increases as the game volume gets louder
- Sonic Lens + Sound Field Expander: Focus on sound cues that are difficult to hear like enemy footsteps by altering the sound field
- Speaker Mode: Connect your desktop speakers to enjoy many of the ACU benefits when not wearing your headset
- Customizable Plates: Check out new speaker plate designs at www.TurtleBeach/seven
- Speakers: 50mm diameter speakers with neodymium magnets
- Condenser Microphone Frequency Response: 50Hz - 15kHz
- Weight: 12.2oz/346g
- Speaker Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20kHz
- Speaker Impedance: 32 ohms
- Microphone Design: Removable Uni-Directional
- Earcup Design: Around-Ear (Closed)
- Control Unit
- Headset output jack: 3.5mm
- XBOX 360 chat jack: 2.5mm
- Auxiliary input jack: 3.5mm
- Speaker line outjack: 3.5mm
- Power: USB (5V @ 400mA max)
- System Requirements
- Headset output jack: 3.5mm
- XBOX 360 chat jack: 2.5mm
- Auxiliary input jack: 3.5mm
- Speaker line outjack: 3.5mm
- Power: USB (5V @ 400mA max)
Turtle Beach Z SEVEN Unboxing and Contents
Sliding off the cardstock sleeve with the product information is a big box that opens up to reveal the contents inside.
The headphones are sandwiched between a molded plastic cradle and transparent plastic cover. Next to it is a box that holds the Audio Control Unit and underneath is another box containing accessory cables.
The Z SEVEN comes with four cables and a microphone. Three of cables plug into the Z SEVEN's modular cabling system.
A card sleeve holds a quick start guide, controller presets reference, Turtle Beach stickers, and a warranty notice for support in Australia.
The Audio Control Unit gets its own box with a quick reference card.
SEVEN Gaming Headset
The Ear Force SEVEN is a full sized headset with circumaural earcups and is essentially the same in all alternate SEVEN variations. The hinges and earcup padding help to evenly distribute the high clamping force as much possible. This tight fit also passively isolates the ears from outside noise.
The earcup is seemingly made of plastic, though the weight of the headphones also indicates that a high amount of material is being used, probably for a double enclosure driver design. The decorative plate features the Ear Force SEVEN name and a foil sticker of the MLG Pro Circuit logo.
Two sets of hinges above each earcup let them twist enough for a secure fit under the headband's clamping pressure.
The headband length is adjustable using the commonly used ratcheting mechanism.
The padding on the headband is wrapped in stitched leather including a cross stitch pattern that causes bumps to come off in squares.
The detachable microphone can be bent in any shape and direction. Its unidirectional pickup pattern makes it forgiving of its positioning, but unforgiving when detecting other surround noise.
Audio Control Unit
Both the Z SEVEN and XP SEVEN come with an Audio Control Unit that acts as an external sound card while the later which we are not reviewing comes with a console adapter for Xbox 360 and PS3. No software drivers are provided in any form, but upon detecting the Audio Control Unit for the first time Windows may need to download compatible drivers which it should do automatically as outlined in the Quick Start Guide.
Advanced headset settings that normally might be found in the software control panel are placed onto the Audio Control Unit like a remote control.
Using the Audio Control Unit for the first time was a confusing and unintuitive endeavor. The big wheel actually doesn't control master volume – that's one of the smaller wheels on the side. The big wheel controls either microphone volume or in combination with Cycle Speaker Selection adjusts the volume of the virtual surround channels. Pressing the button in the center of the wheel will mute the microphone.
The numbers 1-8 are for either voice morphing or headphone equalizer presets which are selected by switching between CHAT and MAIN.
On the backside is a 3.5mm jack intended for connecting speakers to the Audio Control Unit.
Looking to the right side of the Audio Control Unit is a wheel for adjusting the master headphone and a Mode button that switches output between headset and speakers.
On the left side is a power button which could be useful if you want to turn off the lights on the Audio Control Unit, a microphone volume wheel labeled PGM, and volume control for audio incoming from an attached smartphone.
At one end, the Audio Control Unit can be connected to a smartphone, a SEVEN headset (or any headset), and an Xbox 360 controller though a cable for the latter is not included with the Z SEVEN.
The Audio Control Unit can use lots of cabling. It can connect to PC and Mac systems by USB and optionally with a 3.5mm analog output bypass.
There's a big metal clip on the underside positioned and flush between three rubber feet.
Subjective Listening: Music, Movies, and Games
Not everyone hears the same as each other. People's ears are different and preferences dictate our style. The subjective listening tests in our reviews not only compare the product with other gaming headsets, but also audiophile-grade headphones. Those who don't regularly listen with higher-end equipment may not notice the sound quality deficiencies we are able to notice.
What is interesting to note is that the Audio Control Unit and the SEVEN headset can be used independently of each other to vastly differing results. Using the Audio Control Unit as a sound card audio source produces low quality sound on par or even worse than that of onboard audio. The SEVEN headset on the other hand has lots of potential when bypassed or plugged into a better audio source such as a dedicated sound card.
The Audio Control Unit as a sound card produces low quality sound and any headphone receiving output including the SEVEN lacks clarity and energy. However, the Audio Control Unit does have a bypass with its USB plug and is handy in case the 4-pole 3.5mm adapter for the SEVEN introduces too much interference.
Using the SEVEN headphones with other audio sources such as our collection of various ASUS Xonar cards yielded much better results. It's quite detailed and has a sound character in between warm and flat. The bass has strong presence, but is only mildly punchy and moderately crisp while elevated trebles bring some liveliness. Though the SEVEN isn't the most fun headphone for listening to music with, it's better than a number of other headsets we've reviewed this year.
The Audio Control Unit is only capable of Dolby features when used with the Console interface included with the XP SEVEN. Since the Z SEVEN we have on hand lacks this feature and the Audio Control Unit isn't an effective sound card, there's no good reason to use it if one has better audio output sources.
Otherwise, the SEVEN headphones do quite well with movies with good response across all audible frequencies. No sound is out of place and good detail prompts fairly clean instrument and vocal separation. The warm sound character gives audio a kick that's short of the tighter jabs produced from more precise headphones.
The Ear Force SEVEN leans more to immersion than it does towards positional audio, though a means of reducing the bass can improve the clarity of positional cues. This is due in part to good treble precision the SEVEN produces though the sound character still won't be able to accurately place all the sounds.
Of course, the Audio Control Unit isn't that good as a source since the sound detail is fuzzed out.
The microphone input with the Audio Control Unit is actually capable. Recording quality is on the level of most of the other high-end headsets we've seen before with no distortion that renders voice unrecognizable.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
If you've been following carefully, the Z SEVEN is about two stories with very divergent plots. There's the SEVEN headset which is shaping up as a solid piece of audio that stands well on its own while managing to look quite attractive. On the other hand, there's the Audio Control Unit (ACU) that just falls flat on its face. If one so desires, the SEVEN headset can be bought on its own in the form of the M SEVEN and XO SEVEN. The problem with those versions is that they don't appear to have separate headphone and microphone 3.5 mm plugs and instead using a 4-pole 3.5 mm plug for mobile devices.
So let's first talk about what there was to like about the headset. It's comfortable due to the generous padding, large ear space, and hinges that really spread out the pressure from the high clamping force. Without that pressure, the top of the headband would be supporting more of the headset's substantial weight onto the top of the head. This so far seems to be a pattern with headsets that have much reinforcing material though one would have to be wary with the hinges on the SEVEN – they don't look the most convincing even though we haven't yet broken our review sample.
The SEVEN headset packs some pretty good sound quality if it isn't outputting audio from the sound processor in the Audio Control Unit. The headset has a good response from dedicated sound cards as it is able to push good detail in that combination. The sound character is close to flat with some warm signatures. The treble comes forward, but the bass is unexpectedly bland and controlled though still existent. As headphones, the SEVEN is good all-around though not particularly specialized for anything. The microphone isn't out of line either as it keeps up with the high standards set by other high-end gaming headsets.
Now there's the Audio Control Unit which by the way, which shouldn't be avoided for its sound processing abilities. It's rather unfortunate really that what we can assume that half the price one pays for the Z SEVEN package is for an external sound card and controller that's not only a bit unintuitive to operate, but performs so poorly as a dedicated sound card. I had initially thought that the SEVEN headset sounded like garbage until I plugged it into an mp3 player. It was then I discovered that it was the Audio Control Unit that was holding back the headset. The ACU allows for passthrough from other sources which allowed usage of one of the ASUS Xonar cards used in our headset reviews and the SEVEN headset's microphone without a 4-pole to dual 3-pole adapter.
Only so much can be assumed for the other SEVEN headsets from the Z SEVEN we tested, but the M SEVEN and XO SEVEN seem more sensible to buy since they're about as no-nonsense the Turtle Beach SEVEN gets – the Audio Control Unit is the real loser in the Z SEVEN package. Not as much can be assumed about the XP SEVEN as that's geared for consoles and includes hardware that wasn't tested. The headset on its own is $80 good and that's actually decently close to what the M SEVEN costs
. Yet, the Z SEVEN costs $212.06 on Amazon
right now and that's even more than the supposed higher up $199.99 XP SEVEN
for some reason. Yet I still can't readily recommend the SEVEN over the Kingston HyperX Cloud headset, the range of similar priced Plantronic headsets, or the SteelSeries Siberia V2. Those are all headsets from manufacturers that better understand what the PC gamer wants and thinks. I can't help but think that Turtle Beach may have been entrenched in its game console headset ideologies when adapting the SEVEN for PCs.
Legit Bottom Line:
The Turtle Beach SEVEN headset is gorgeous and outputs a great sound, but the Z SEVEN Audio Control Unit is confusing fluff that doesn't even perform a tenth of its absurd price.