Turtle Beach Ear Force i60 Review

Game Information

Price: 

$299

Manufacturer: 

Turtle Beach

Reviewed On: 

27" iMac, iPhone 5s.

Turtle Beach are well known for their console and PC gaming headsets, but on the Mac? Not so much. I had previously tried out their wired Ear Force Z60 headset, but was ultimately disappointed and returned it –the headband was too tight and the controls were clunky.

All that being said, I was very interested when Turtle Beach announced their Apple-specific line of headsets in the i30 and i60 variants. A PC/console focused company launching a Mac specific product? Interesting indeed. The initial cost on the i60 was a whopping $400, which felt overpriced. It had since dropped to $300, which was when I decided to pick one up and test them out. While $300 is still a lot of money to spend on an accessory for your computer, they are competitively priced against the likes of Astro and SteelSeries for comparable wireless models.

Unboxing & Design

Unboxing isn’t much of a thing these days given the digital era we reside in, which is why getting hardware is still such a treat. Opening a new piece of tech is always exciting and satisfying as it unfolds. While the i60 wasn’t boxed spectacularly, it was packaged very neatly, which certainly has its merits. A knife or pair of scissors will get you into the box which unpacks quickly.

The i60 (and i30) come with a neat Apple-like aesthetic that would match most Mac setups. A combination of sleek white and black cover the headset, while the base station is tidily white, with a silver volume knob. Construction feels solid, yet also very lightweight. There are no external microphones on the headset, but rather dual hidden noise-canceling microphones housed in the unit itself.

The headband is made of synthetic leather, while the ear pads are memory foam with the same covering. In said earpads are 50mm diameter speakers, which claim to deliver professional grade audio. Lastly, dual-band wifi is meant to give an interference-free connection, while the bluetooth lets you connect to mobile devices, or if you really wanted, your computer.

I was amazed at how light the i60’s felt on my head.

One of the better aspects of the i60 is that it has everything you need for 100% functionality on your Mac already in the box. While other high-end headsets that I have used require you to purchase a separate optical to mini toslink cable to enable virtual surround sound, here you just plug and play via USB, pair the headset, adjust some options in system preferences and Audio MIDI setup and you are good to go.

Also included in the box is a mobile cable to hook the headset up directly to your phone, (which you can also do via bluetooth) an airline adaptor plug, a cloth carry bag and a 6.3mm adaptor plug if you really want to go old school. Lastly they include two Turtle Beach stickers if you really want to plaster your gear with advertising. (I didn’t).

Use and Comfort

After all the excitement of unboxing and connecting the i60 to my system, I was eager to test it out. I have been using Astro headsets for the last few years, so I was mostly curious how these would stack up against them. Sliding it over my head for the first time, I immediately noticed two things: it was very lightweight, almost barely noticeable on my head, and it was very snug. Close to being uncomfortably tight, perhaps, though I figured with use it might loosen up a bit.

The i60 manages to fit a fairly complex set of controls onto the ear cups. On the back of the left one sits the power button, audio presets such as bass boost or superhuman hearing, and the microphone settings. These can be toggled between normal, high and low morph, or reverb to affect your voice. On the back of the right ear cup are all the bluetooth controls as well as the mute microphone button, easily tapped with your right thumb.

Ear Force i60

Annoyingly, there is no actual volume control directly on the headset. Given they are wireless, I frequently use my headphones away from the computer, or sit back and watch a movie. On my Astros A50s a flick of my thumb easily let me adjust the volume, but the i60s provide no option. Turtle Beach must assume you would only use the headset away from the computer on bluetooth, as bluetooth volume adjustment is provided on the headset itself.

The headphone cable jack is on the bottom of the left ear cup, while the charging port is on the bottom of the right ear cup. I found this annoying, if only because I always set up my base stations to my left, which meant if I charged the headset while using it, the cable crossed over my body. I could fix this by moving the base station on my right, but that’s just not how I like my desk set up. But I can’t really knock it for this too much as a solution is available, just not to my preference.

Ear Force i60

The base station serves as more than just the wireless link. A comfortably sized volume knob sits on top of the base, letting you easily adjust media volume with the outer wheel, or chat volume with the inner slider. Conveniently you can tap the slider to mute all audio in a moment – something I made use of for taking a phone call or answering my door. The base station also indicates whether the microphone is muted, and lets you cycle through the surround sound presets for music, movies, games, or turn them off altogether.

After an hour of music-listening and general gaming, I ran into the first problem. Either these were designed by someone with small ears, or I have big ears. I can’t tell which; all I know is the ear cups are too small for me and my ears started to hurt from being squished. What I do know is that comparable top-of-the-line headsets such as the Astro A50 and SteelSeries H are much bigger and do not have this problem.

Despite the ear-squishing going on, I was amazed at how light the i60’s felt on my head, and after a day of use I still hardly noticed them being there. The lightweight nature of these cannot be understated and was definitely one of my favorite things about the i60’s in general.

 It has everything you need for 100% functionality on your Mac already in the box.

The audio quality on this headset is fantastic and met my expectations, but I continued to run into problems. The sound would periodically lower in volume and quality at regular intervals for no reason that I could tell. Whether it’s music, movies or games, the decrease in volume lasts for 10-15 seconds – then "pop" – back to normal; noticeably louder and better sounding.

The strange dip in sound quality also seemed to affect the microphone. I would be on my voice server with friends and the microphone would briefly degrade, making me sound fuzzy and muffled, then return to normal. I did file an issue with tech support, but ended up returning the headset before it was resolved. So I’m not sure if I had a faulty unit, or something was causing disruption to the audio.

Be Surrounded By Sound

What truly gives the i60 a leg up over the competition is that it doesn’t feature virtual surround sound, but an actual form of surround sound via its DTS Headphone:X 7.1 technology. I can’t profess to know all the details behind it, but I do know what it sounds like compared to virtual surround sound – and there is a marked difference. The first time you use virtual surround sound in a headset vs a normal one, the difference is incredible. The difference here isn’t as mind-blowing, but nonetheless I was getting positional audio in games that support it, such as Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. Conversation came from the appropriate directions, as did the sounds of swords clanging or guns firing.

Ear Force i60

This definitely adds another level of immersion to your gaming that other headsets on the market simply can’t offer you right now. This is really the make-or-break feature of this headset and if you absolutely must have surround sound, then there is no other high-end option for you at the moment, at least from gaming companies. I haven’t done my research into non-gaming audiophile grade headsets, so I don’t know what’s available.

Beyond Gaming

Most gamers tend to listen to music and watch shows or movies with their gaming gear. The i60 holds up well for both music and watching a movie on my system. Sound was great whether I was listening to hard rock, classical music or something in-between. Movies were appropriately cinematic and punchy sounding as far as action goes.

I will have to say I was disappointed there was not a flat option with the surround sound. You are forced to choose between music, gaming or movie presets for your sound. After testing, I found the music mode to be the best for everything across the board, so stuck with that option.

Ear Force i60

Another strong feature of the i60 is that it is not just a computer headset, but equally comfortable on mobile devices such as iPhones and iPads. Connecting via bluetooth to your iPhone lets you make and receive calls for example, or stream music. Conveniently, you can control the bluetooth volume from the headset, as well as play, pause, skip tracks, fast forward and rewind.

There’s also a mobile app available that lets you change the audio presets, mic settings and check for firmware updates. I installed this to test it out, but didn’t find it very useful. Still, if I was going to be using it on my phone all the time it would probably be useful to have.

Conclusion

I would have replaced my Astro A50s with these if the ear cups were just a bit bigger. Even though I had some issues with comfort and sound quality, I really loved the overall design and experience the i60 provided.

If you are looking for a high-end headset just for gaming on your desktop or laptop, I would probably recommend the Astro A50 headset or SteelSeries H Wireless over the i60. But if you want actual surround sound (over virtual-surround, which the others have) and have multipurpose needs such as frequent mobile use or airplane travel, then the i60 would be the clearer choice. Are they expensive? Sure, but they earn the price tag with the range of available integration, complete out-of-box functionality, and overall design and sound quality.

Highlights:

+:

  • 100% out of the box functionality
  • Surround sound in your (supported) games!
  • Also excellent for movies & music
  • Multipurpose use (travel, mobile, desktop, etc)
  • Lightweight

-:

  • No volume control (for computers) directly on headset
  • No flat option with surround sound (must choose a mode, music, gaming, movie)
  • Potentially too tight for your head over time
  • Ear-cups not wide enough (for me)

Image Gallery: 

  • Ear Force i60
  • Ear Force i60
  • Ear Force i60
  • Ear Force i60
  • Ear Force i60
  • Ear Force i60

The EarForce i60 was reviewed using a unit purchased by the writer. Read more on MacGameCast's review and ethics policy here.

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