The Turtle Beach Ear Force i60s gaming headphones are aimed squarely at audio-loving Apple device owners, but are they any cop?
Turtle Beach has introduced three new headphones designed for use with Apple products; the i10, the i30 and this, the premium model i60.
The Turtle Beach Ear Force i60 headphones are wireless, boast built-in microphones and incorporate DTS Headphone:X 7.1 surround sound.
The premium £350 price tag puts them up against the likes of B&O, Bowers & Wilkins, Beats and Bose in the high-end 'designed-for-Apple' headphone category, but only the Parrot Zik Wireless headphones by Starck match the i60s for wireless features, sound quality and accompanying iOS app.
Turtle Beach Ear Force i60: Design
There's no shortage of high-end headphones designed for Apple products, and as you'd expect, they're a stylish bunch of cans as well. The Turtle Beach Ear Force i60s aren't quite as luxuriously impressive as the B&O BeoPlay H6 or the Bowers & Wilkins P7, but they are completely wireless, while the understated black, grey and white colours stylishly complement Apple products including the iPhone 5s and iPad Air.
The base station that connects to your computer follows a similarly understated design, but it's relatively big - around the size of a beer mat and as thick as a pack of cards. This is used to control the audio and mic volume, as well as set up audio presets for movies, music and games.
Finally, the box includes an audio cable for connecting to any wired audio device, a 6.3mm headphone adaptor for devices such as amplifiers, and an airline adaptor for use on planes. There are also two micro USB cables; one for connecting the base station, and another for charging the headphones. There's sadly no power supply, so you'll need to buy one or use your computer for recharging.
Turtle Beach Ear Force i60: Setup
The i60s are relatively simple to setup, although their wireless connectivity and wealth of features mean it's not as easy as simply plugging in a pair of wired headphones. The headphones may be marketed at Apple owners, but they work just as well with Windows PCs - on both systems, it takes a couple of minutes to change system settings to enable surround sound functionality.
These headphones come with a lot of features and options, which are mostly accessed by pressing one of the nine buttons on the headset. Bluetooth 3.0 connectivity allows you to pair the headset with up to two other devices including phones and tablets, so you can take phone calls and listen to different audio sources.
Turtle Beach has also included preset surround sound modes for movies, games and music, which are toggled using a button on the base station.
The other features of the headphones are rather less useful, and generally overcomplicate things as a result. One button on the headset toggles four different settings of voice distortion, which makes your voice sound low or high to whoever is listening to it.
This feature is a mainstay of Turtle Beach's gaming range, but it's massively out of place on a headset aimed at Apple users. It's more annoying when you consider that noise cancelling, a feature that genuinely would appeal to this market, has been omitted on the i60s, but is included on the cheaper i30 model.
There are also two buttons on the headset for switching between different audio presets. Some of these eight options are useful, such as emphasising bass and treble, and many are aimed at gamers, with options to bring up feint noises such as footsteps and grenade bounces.
It's great that the i60s boast so many features, but a lot of them feel redundant, while the sheer number of buttons to facilitate such functionality feels completely at odds with the simple design ethos of the Apple products they're designed for. We found ourselves constantly hitting buttons by mistake when taking the headphones on or off, which was incredibly frustrating.
Thankfully, for iPhone owners at least, Turtle Beach's iPhone app does a much better job of tweaking the headset's settings. The visual interface makes it much easier to choose the inputs and outputs you want, rather than cycling through them using buttons. Non-iOS owners aren't so lucky though - you'll have to use the (unlabelled) buttons on the headset.
Turtle Beach Ear Force i60: Comfort
The i60s are stylish, comfortable and luxurious. They're not light at 316g, but the weight is well distributed, and the contact points are coated in a soft leather finish. The headhpones don't fold up, so they're not as portable as other headphones at this price, but Turtle Beach does include a carry case in the bag.
One annoyance we found was that the cups slide smoothly up and down the arms of the headphones to adjust for head sizes, rather than clicking into place. This meant that they would change position easily when kept in a backpack, and we had to repeatedly reset their position when putting them on again.
Turtle Beach Ear Force i60: Sound quality
Overall sound quality from the i60s is impeccable. Listening to music is an absolute pleasure, and the audio presets mean the headphones are well suited to both bass-heavy R&B and vocal-heavy rock.
Surround sound reproduction is equally good - the 7.1 DTS surround setting creates an impressive sound stage for movies from the two internal speakers.
The headphones also impress in terms of loudness - they may run off batteries, but they go way beyond recommended volume levels. They also last a long time - we clocked over 10 hours of continuous use from a full charge.
It also helps that the headphones turn themselves off after a few minutes if there's nothing playing, or if they sense no movement.
The package also includes a wired headset cable which will improve battery life over using Bluetooth, but we were disappointed to find that it didn't feature a remote control for pausing music or adjusting volume, so you will still need to enable Bluetooth to control such features on an iPhone.
We found that the wired remote control from a pair of Beats Studio headphones worked just fine though, if you do want to buy one separately.
The limited range of the headphones, at least when using the base station, is a major disappointment. The headphones only worked when there was a line of sight to the base station, dropping out completely when we walked into another room.
It's strange, because Bluetooth connectivity fares much better - we got well over 20 metres away from a HTC One before losing a signal.
It's also annoying that the headset's volume buttons don't work when listening to audio through a computer - you have to use the volume control on the base station. This effectively means you can't sit on the sofa and listen to music from your Mac in the same room, because you can't mute or even adjust the volume if someone starts talking to you.
It's baffling for a pair of wireless headphones, and it's this lack of attention to detail that's likely to aggravate the target market of Apple users the most.
Turtle Beach Ear Force i60: Verdict
The Turtle Beach Ear Force i60s offer amazing audio quality and plenty of features, many of which are genuinely useful. However, there are also plenty of unnecessary features such as voice distortion, which only overcomplicate the device, a lack of noice cancellation and an unbelievably poor wireless range from the base station.
They're fine for audiophiles who own Apple mobile devices, but there's still plenty of room for improvement.
Turtle Beach Ear Force i60 release date: Out now
Turtle Beach Ear Force i60 price: £350