Audio has always been an integral component of video game immersion, and games that utilise apposite sound designs are more often than not a far more engaging affair than games that include rudimentary sound designs. A good sound design is not limited to a game’s soundtrack either, with voice acting, weapon sounds and other general sound effects all comprising a game’s audible spectrum. This is even more pertinent when talking about VR, considering that VR is the most immersive gaming experience available on the market. So having access to top-notch sound design is imperative for players wanting to get the most out of their VR experience. However, it is not all about the sound design, players must have access to (at least) a decent quality headset and Turtle Beach is no slouch in this regard. Turtle Beach is a name that is synonymous with gaming audio peripherals; whether it be casual, serious or professional gamers, Turtle Beach have products that are tailored to the needs and budgets of the gaming community.
Enter the Turtle Beach Stealth 350VR headset, a device designed to deliver a quality VR-audio (PSVR, Rift and Oculus) experience at a mid-range price ($149 AUD), which for the most part it does. A couple of small issues means it doesn’t quite deliver the optimal performance, but it does come rather close.
First off, one of the main things that a headset has to have is comfort. The past couple of Turtle Beaches I have used whilst having good sound quality have never been overly comfortable to wear, at least for extended periods of time. The 350VR is an over-ear design with memory foam cushioned ear cups and I was very pleased to find the 350VR’s super light and comfy to wear; they’re hands down the comfiest pair of Turtle Beaches I have sported. Comfort was extra important considering I had a PSVR unit strapped to my head, but thankfully the 350VR’s slipped nicely over the VR headset and I seldom had to adjust them after putting them on. Fine-tuning the volume was never a hindrance either with all volume dials located on the left ear cup.
The 350VR is no tawdry affair either with the adjustable headset band having plenty of give, meaning that it’ll fit nicely on your friend’s big melon while they test your VR out and then nicely slide back to your preferred position. There is a detachable noise-cancelling mic included for players that engage in online squad-based affairs which gives relatively clear in-game and party chat, however adjusting the volume of either game or chat volume isn’t as intuitive as it is in the higher priced headsets. All of the 350VR’s inputs, switches and dials are located on the left ear cup which includes a micro-USB port for charging (we’ll get to this in a minute), a 3.5mm jack (which you’ll use to connect your headset to your VR unit), mic jack, on and off switches for both power and mic and two volume control dials (master volume and bass). It’s good to know that all the required cables are included in the box.
However the true litmus test of any audio product is how the sound quality holds up. The 350VR utilises two 50mm speakers, which coupled with the integrated built-in amplifier delivers a relatively rich and crisp sound quality. The best audio experience I had was with more atmosphere and story-driven experiences such as Here They Lie and Robinson: The Journey. Thanks to the 350VR’s 3D audio, those atmospheric experiences felt a lot more immersive, with eerie sounds such as a prowling adversary creating trepidation that I have seldom experienced from standard speakers. Different games require me to play around with the bass levels to get the right mix and the more bombastic sounds such as weaponry (think RIGS) came across well, but often a little too bassy and losing that crispness, and even with the bass control I never felt I was able to hit that audible sweet spot. Generally I had no qualms about the sound quality, however to the trained ear or the self-confessed audio connoisseurs amongst us, the 350VR’s somewhat limited dynamic range might be a little off-putting.
Battery life on the 350VR is rather impressive, with a single charge supposedly giving 30 hours of play time. This appears fairly accurate as I often left them on during 5-6 hour sessions (with breaks) and they never seemed to go flat. I also took the headset for a spin plugged into the Dualshock 4 while playing Watch Dogs 2, and while the sound quality was adequate, it lacked the quality of my Astro A50 headset (obviously given the price difference).
I have a spent over a month with the 350VR’s using them on-and-off with a slew of different VR games and overall I am impressed with the quality. The headset is tailored to create a more engaging VR experience and it definitely excels in this. However, the question is what does it do that other headsets can’t? And the answer is not much. While the 3D audio and integrated amplifier are a nice touch, the sound can easily contain too much bass and become a fairly muddled affair. The biggest boon that the 350VR provides is comfort. Compared to my other two headsets (A50s and Sennheiser), the 350VR’s were by far the most comfortable for VR use. If you’re finding yourself playing more and more VR titles, then investing in a quality VR headset such as the Stealth 350VR is recommended. However, for the more casual VR players at $150 AUD (available from both JB HI-FI and EB Games) the 350VR are a good buy, but by no means essential. Unless you have money to burn.