Late last year, Sennheiser, known for their high quality products, entered the console headset market with the introduction of the Sennheiser X320 headset. This headset enters the market in the mid-range category with an MSRP of $149.95. This set is specifically designed for the Xbox 360 gaming system, so sorry Playstation 3 fans you’ll have to wait. Despite that this set only work with the Xbox 360, the X320 is a high-quality product that will surely deliver gamers with an enriching audio experience.
Aesthetically, the X320 looks great. They incorporated Microsoft’s green Xbox color into the headset, and though it is a subtle effect, the dash of color looks good. The headset is substantial and built well. The set fits nicely over the ear and is comfortable over long periods of time. The band is adjustable and should fit any sized head snugly. Unfortunately, you are only given one set of ear and headband pads, but if you prefer cloth over leather than this should suit you just fine. Other headsets in this price category do offer users the choice between cloth and leather. However, if you only had the choice of one material cloth is better with sound-deadening, so this option makes sense. Sennheiser gave this set an “Open-Aire” design where the cups sit a little off the ear. This allows air to circulate between the ear and the cup keeping the ears cool. This does make the band and the bottom of the cups do more of the support than other units. Overall, this feature gave this set a unique feel while still being comfortable and cool.
The performance on the X320 is a bit of a mixed bag. On one had you have a very powerful and responsive speaker in each cup. Technically, these speakers are capable of out-performing other sets in its class. However, the cable hook-ups for this headset doesn’t take advantage of the hardware in this set. The X320 uses an RCA plug that is hooked into your television audio out jack. It was nice that the RCA plugs have a pass through, so you don’t occupy the audio out while using the headset. The problem is that RCA inputs are not capable of Dolby or any other surround sound available in other competitively priced models. It isn’t that the RCA inputs sound bad, but they lack the Dolby processing or directional sounds that are found elsewhere. The other issue is that the audio out plugs do not mute the sound, they simply repeat the signal so you will have to mute the television to only hear out of the set. Assuming you television has an RCA audio out connection and your television doesn’t constantly display the fact that it is muted, this hook-up would suffice.
There is also a USB connection required to connect to your Xbox. This is strictly a power connection since the audio is grabbed from the television. The USB cable is thirteen feet long which allows you to sit a good distance from the television. Though this length of cable seemed to bother other people, we thought this was a good thing. We normally sit about ten feet from our set, so we had plenty of cable to move around. The cable is also a heavy gauge which reduces the possibility of knots and tangling.
The microphone on this unit is very comparable to others in its class. The mic is a noise reducing model and cancels out ambient noise, so you are heard loud and clear. The mic is responsive and works exactly as you would expect it to. The boom can be adjusted up and down, but the distance between your mouth and the mic is fixed. We never experienced a problem with mic function so the fixed distance isn’t an issue, and it is more a matter of taste.
This headset does have some nice features including an in-line headset control and a flip-to-mute mic. The in-line control allows you to raise and lower the volume of the mic and music independently. Having this control is a nice feature and allows you to control the audio of the game to your liking. You can also mute the mic by flipping the boom to the upright position. It is intuitive to push your mic up if you don’t want to be heard so this feature felt natural and worked as it should. There is also an optional “Bass Boost” feature in this set which increases the bass output. Unless you are listening to music, this feature didn’t enhance the game audio favorably so it remained off for most of the review.
Overall, the Sennheiser is a high-quality headset that is tragically limited. Unfortunately at this price point there are other models that provide more features for the same money including True 7.1 Dolby Surround Sound or even wireless options. From a purely technical stand-point, this headset could out-perform them all, but due to an RCA connection, it just doesn’t put this set where it could be. When you consider that this is the first entry in the Sennheiser line, it was a great effort, and if the price were reduced, it would be even more enticing. We will certainly look forward to seeing what else Sennheiser has for the consoles in the future.