This is a PC headset that boasts wireless Dolby 7.1 surround sound, game-based audio presets, and Bluetooth. Check out our Turtle Beach Ear Force Z300 review
We recently reviewed the Turtle Beach PX4, otherwise known as the first wireless headset built for the new Sony PS4. The Turtle Beach Ear Force Z300 headset is broadly similar in terms of features and price, except it's for PC and Mac.
The headset is completely wireless, connecting to a USB pen drive-sized transmitter. As long as you're running Windows 7 or above and download the correct driver, the headphones offer support for Dolby Surround 7.1 audio.
They also boast Bluetooth compatibility, meaning you can connect to two wireless devices and take phone calls while using your PC at the same time. With so much functionality, are these the wireless headphones every PC gamer should own? And have they got what it takes to make it into our best gaming headsets roundup?
Turtle Beach Ear Force Z300: Design
The Turtle Beach Z300 is a well-made headset - the ear cups and headband are made of soft fabric, which is comfortable around your ears, if not quite as soft as the leather finish found on the company's higher-end headsets.
There's a detachable microphone (included in the box), which plugs into a small arm that protrudes from the left headphone, even when not in use. We particularly like Turtle Beach's wireless transmitter - it's tiny, and fits snugly into any USB port on your PC or Mac.
While the Z300s offer loads of features, they're controlled by a lot of buttons on the headset itself. There are no fewer than seven buttons, two volume wheels and two ports on the compact headset, so it feels busy as a result.
We often ended up pressing buttons we didn't mean to, as it takes a while to learn the position of everything when the headphones are sitting on your head, where you can't see the labels.
Turtle Beach Ear Force Z300: Setup
While the Z300s are feature packed, setting them up is a doddle. You simply plug the wireless transmitter into the PC or Mac, turn the headphones on, and if necessary, hold the sync button (ours paired automatically).
PC users need to activate the headphones as a playback device in Windows 'Sound' options, and download a driver from the Turtle Beach website to activate Dolby Surround support. On the Mac, there are no drivers to install, but on the downside, only Stereo sound is supported.
On PC, this setup becomes slightly annoying if you regularly switch between headphones and another audio device, such as speakers.
The only way to restore audio to your speakers, we found, was to manually disable the headset in Windows, or yank the USB transmitter out of your machine, where it could then easily get lost. It's a bit of a chore.
The headphones house a rechargeable battery that draws power using the supplied mini-USB cable. That's fine, although with micro-USB being the more popular choice for mobile devices these days, we're not sure why Turtle Beach hasn't caught up.
It's especially confusing as these headphones are designed to be paired with mobile phones, and this could have cut down on the number of cables you need to take when travelling.
Thankfully, the Z300s are well equipped to work with mobile devices both new and old, with Bluetooth for compatible devices, and an included headphone cable for everything else.
If you do connect by Bluetooth, you can pair up with your computer and a mobile device at the same time, which is a nice touch, meaning you can take calls without interrupting your gaming. You can also pair up to two Bluetooth devices at once, such as a mobile and a tablet.
One quick setup note worth mentioning - the Quick Start Guide included in the box is fine for setting up, but is low on detail for features such as audio presets.
Turtle Beach Ear Force Z300: Comfort
The Z300s follow Turtle Beach's somewhat ostentatious design trademarks - the company's logo is splashed across both the inside and outside of each ear cup, for example. The red stitching on the headband is a nice touch, but these aren't stylish headphones - if that's a concern for you, look to SteelSeries' PC range, or Beats/Parrot/Bose on the mobile side.
Thankfully, the Z300s are at least comfortable to wear, thanks to the use of high-quality components. The padded headband is particularly good at distributing weight across the top of your head, while the mesh cushioning around the ear cups is comfortable for prolonged use.
This is particularly relevant, as the battery life of the headset is an excellent 15 hours. One of the reasons battery life is so good is that the the headphones turn off automatically after five minutes of inactivity, which is way too short in our opinion. It became annoying during our review if we went away to do something else, and there's no way to adjust the setting.
It's great that the Z300s double up as both a PC and mobile headphones, but bear in mind that they're not particularly portable. They're light, but they don't fold up, and there's no case included to keep them protected in a backpack.
Turtle Beach Ear Force Z30: Sound Quality
The Z300s sit at the sweet spot in Turtle Beach's headset range in terms of price and performance. They sound fantastic, with crisp and clean audio across every type of media we tested, including music, movies and games. They go really loud without distorting the audio, and they provide a good amount of bass without overemphasising the lower notes.
The headset also offers lots of customisable audio options that allow you to tailor your experience to different situations. For example, the Dynamic Range Compression option allows you to emphasise softer sounds such as footsteps over louder noises such as explosions, which is actually useful for first-person shooters and other action games.
There are also four different Game Mode presets for emphasising treble, bass, or both, which is also useful in action games. Sadly, this option isn't particularly user friendly - the settings are just called 'Game Mode 1', 'Game Mode 2' etc, meaning you have to refer to the manual to figure out what they actually mean.
The wireless range of the Z300s is both brilliant and disappointing, depending on your audio source. Surprisingly, the Turtle Beach transmitter is the real problem - the audio started to drop out when we went one floor away from the USB device, meaning we couldn't go in a different room while listening to music from our computer.
Bluetooth audio from our iPhone 5s was a totally different story - we were able to go three floors away from our phone before losing a signal. It's impressive stuff on the Bluetooth side, but it's puzzling as to why it should be so much better than Turtle Beach's own transmitter.
Turtle Beach Ear Force Z300: Verdict
The Turtle Beach Z300 wireless headset is competitively priced, sounds great, and offers some excellent features for the price. Whether you're gaming or listening to movies or music, they sound great, as long as you're in the same room as the wireless transmitter.
This then begs the question: why buy a wireless headset that's so restrictive, when a wired one is so much cheaper? Bluetooth wireless performance is much better, but that's a moot point, as you're much more likely to keep a portable device on you while moving around wearing the headphones.
More expensive headsets from Turtle Beach and SteelSeries offer more audio presets as well as more comfortable leather finishes, but the Z300s have everything most PC gamers will ever need in a wireless headset, and they sound great.
Turtle Beach Ear Force Z300 release date: Out Now
Turtle Beach Ear Force Z300 price: £169