For a budget headset, the XO Three is seriously impressive. It makes good use of Windows Sonic for surround sound audio, and its build quality means that it’s not going to break on you anytime soon. If you play online games at a high level, then you might want to splash out on something with slightly better handling of surround sound, but if you just want to have a good time online with friends then the XO Three makes a good argument for you to save your money.
- Comfortable to wear for long periods
- Good Windows Sonic compatibility
- Microphone is crisp and clear
- Surround sound lacks nuance
- Lacks advanced features
These days, the vast majority of games – even on consoles – feature online multiplayer (competitive, co-operative or both), so the best gaming headsets are essential for the modern gamer.
There are gaming headsets out there that cost as much as a new console. But, are these premium cans really necessary for those who aren’t interested in one-upmanship?
The Turtle Beach XO rejects ostentatious luxury, going with value instead – it’s a no-frills, wired Xbox One X gaming headset for the meant for users that neither have a ton of cash or harbor aspirations to become professional Esports players. And, at just $69 (£49, AU$79), it’s an affordable headset even before all the Cyber Monday deals. There are going to be a ton of Cyber Monday gaming deals this year, and we expect the Turtle Beach XO Three to be at the center.
Design and build quality
As gaming headsets go, the Turtle Beach XO Three is about as basic as they come. It uses 50mm drivers – bigger than you would expect at the price – and has a detachable, high-sensitivity microphone boom which can be bent into whatever shape you feel most comfortable with.
The Turtle Beach XO Three is physically impressive. It feels solid enough to handle some punishment (as headsets often do when playing games that are harder than Dark Souls), with a chunky leather strap that has plenty of cushioning. The earcups are big and comfortable, even if they use normal foam rather than memory foam. Green highlights signify that it’s meant for the Xbox One, but pedants may argue that it’s more a yellowy green than the one Microsoft uses.
The XO Three doesn’t look or feel cheap, and we were happy to wear it for several hours at a stretch.
The cable features both a microphone and a mute slider – that’s all you get. There’s no surround sound, active noise cancellation or ways of changing the equalisation.
The Xbox One has a weird design choice that’s been bugging us for years now: its standard controller doesn’t have a 3.5mm jack for a gaming headset. Instead, you have to pick up an ugly lozenge-shaped Xbox One Stereo Headset Adapter, which costs 10 bucks and slots into the proprietary connector on the controller.
Thankfully, this problem has been fixed in the Xbox One S, whose controller finally features a 3.5mm jack. Still, for the longest time, we were wishing for an Xbox-One gaming headset that came with an Xbox One controller adapter as standard. But, the XO Three has missed this chance to impress us.
However, the XO Three does take advantage of a piece of tech recently added to all varieties of the Xbox One via an update: Windows Sonic for Headphones. Enable that on your Xbox One, and you’ll be able to get 3D surround sound with the XO Three – which is something of a revelation for a $70 headset.
Performance and sound quality
Among the games we tested the XO Three with were Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Both of which demonstrated that the Windows Sonic for Headphones 3D surround sound actually works. It may not provide the subtlest of 3D sound implementations – you can tell very clearly whether sounds are coming from left or right, but not, say, if they are just left or right of centre. But it does work, nevertheless, and proved very handy at giving advance warning of incoming enemies, or a general idea of the direction of incoming bullets from unseen enemies.
Surprisingly, Windows Sonic for Headphones had another beneficial effect: it gave the XO Three a noticeable bass-boost, which was pretty welcome since in its base state, it’s a very neutral-sounding headset without the bass extension commonplace among headsets costing $100 or more.
But with Windows Sonic for Headphones doing its stuff, the XO Three’s sound became much more dynamic, with that atmospheric bass rumble which gamers love coming into play. One minor complaint we had was that the top end sounds a tiny bit hollow (rather than warm), but for the price, the XO Three sounds simply spectacular.
And we found a way to make it sound even better, by swapping the Xbox One Stereo Headset Adapter for one of Turtle Beach’s orange Elite Pro Audio Adapters, which packs an amplifier and various EQ options. The only slight problem is that it costs $49.99 – the same as the XO Three itself, which rather defeats the object of buying an XO Three.
But the fact that it opened up the sort of dynamic sound that you would expect from a headset costing over $100 illustrates that the XO Three has the basics right – its 50mm drivers, in particular, are decent. The microphone proved sensitive enough to allow clear chat even in artificially noisy surroundings, and was outstanding in more typical situations.
Overall, we reckon that the Turtle Beach XO Three might just be one of the best $70 headsets you can currently buy for the Xbox One. It takes great advantage of Windows Sonic for Headphones, rendering it suitable even for hardcore gamers on a strict budget.
Perhaps if you’re on the fringes of a pro-career in Call of Duty or Rainbow Six: Siege, you might want to gain an edge by splashing out on a headset with more sophisticated surround-sound.
But for games like Destiny, Ghost Recon: Wildlands or their ilk, or any flavour of MMO, it sounds decent enough to let you play to your full potential, and is sufficiently comfortable to let you play games for much longer at a single stretch than you really should.