The Turtle Beach Elite 800 is a high-end wireless headset that’s intended for use both at home and on the move. It works with wireless devices using Bluetooth 4.0, with dual pairing allowing you to connect two devices at the same time. When you’re at home, a combined charging dock and transmitter connects to your PS3, PS4, PC or Mac and sends the audio to the headset.
The Turtle Beach Elite 800 comes packed with the sort of high-end features you’d expect from a £250 portable headset. Active noise cancellation is a very worthwhile feature if you travel a lot or use your headphones in noisy areas. There’s also DTS Headphone:X 7.1 Surround Sound, programmable audio presets for specific games, and intelligent Dynamic Chat Boost so you can hear people over the noise of the game.
While the Elite 800 isn’t as stylish as wireless headsets from Bose and Parrot, it’s a big improvement on previous attempts from the company and gaming headsets in general. It’s clearly been been inspired by Beats Studio Wireless headphones, sharing very similar headband, ear cup and cushioning design, although they sadly don’t fold up in the same way.
There are a few issues with the headset but they are relatively minor. Battery life is adequate but relatively short at around 10 hours, when competing products like the Mad Catz F.R.E.Q. 9 double that length. There are a lot of buttons on the ear cups and they’re easy to press by mistake. And the lack of any support for Xbox consoles without buying separate adaptors is a shame when you’re already having to spend £250.
It’s fair to say Turtle Beach has had a lot of success in gaming headsets over the last ten years. As online gaming has grown in popularity, dedicated headsets have gone from being a luxury to a necessity, and Turtle Beach has reaped the rewards. Through partnering with pro gamers, releasing a wide range of products covering pretty much every price point, and just making good products, it’s become probably the most famous name in this particular market.
The company has created high-end gaming headphones before, including its most recent “Seven” line. It’s also made high-end wireless portable headphones for more general lifestyle use, like the i30. The Elite 800 aims to combine both these functions into one headset--one that can be used for gaming at home and then taken out of the door for listening to music on-the-go.
This means that the headset sports Bluetooth wireless connectivity for connecting to portable devices such as laptops, tablets and mobile phones, while a bundled wireless transmitter works with most devices that have an optical audio output, such as a PC, Mac, PlayStation 3 or PlayStation 4.
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The Elite 800 pretty much has it all when it comes to connectivity. Dual Bluetooth 4.0 pairing means that it will work with two devices simultaneously, so you can be listening to music from your tablet and take a call from your mobile. If your portable device doesn’t have Bluetooth connection, such as the 3DS, then you can connect using a 3.5mm cable, which is included in the box.
The wireless transmitter/dock connects to devices at home including PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PC and Mac using an optical audio connection and micro-USB. Setup varies slightly from machine to machine, but the package includes all the necessary cables, and the instructions are fairly straightforward. One particularly nice touch is that the transmitter also features optical audio throughput, so you can still send the surround sound signal to your AV receiver or TV.
There’s a big omission that you might have noticed from the home console compatibility list: Xbox consoles. You can connect the headset to the Xbox One, but you have to buy a separate adaptor from Microsoft, which costs around £20 in the UK. It’s a frankly ridiculous situation, the blame of which lies completely at Microsoft’s door. However, while we’re more willing to give sub-£100 headsets a pass for not including such an adaptor, we’re less forgiving of the Elite 800. At £250, it seems pretty reasonable to expect a headset to work with the second best-selling console of the moment.
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This wireless transmitter is novel, as it also acts as a dock to charge the headphones when they’re not in use. This feature is not entirely necessary, as the headphones can be charged using the included micro-USB cable, but being able to drop them down and pick them up without fiddling with a cable is certainly an elegant touch.
The headphones themselves are nicely designed, boasting more in common with a pair of Beats headphones than previous gaming headsets from Turtle Beach. There are a few things that still hold Turtle Beach back though in terms of design. The earcups are a little bit too busy with various logos, the flashing Bluetooth status lights look stupid, and they don’t fold up for easier transportation.
The plastic shell of the headset feels solid and built to last, which is advantageous because the package doesn’t include a carrying case. The padding on the ears and headband feels soft and luxurious, and it’s incredibly comfortable on the head. This is somewhat surprising given the overall weight of the headset of 372g, which is really heavy next to the i30 at 314g.
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The headset is also covered in buttons which control what you’re listening to, with eight buttons in total split across four on each ear cup. On the plus side, this means you don’t have to reach into your pocket to control what you’re listening to: you can skip tracks, increase or decrease volume, adjust the audio profile to boost bass and treble, turn the mic on and off, activate noise cancellation, and control Bluetooth.
On the downside, they’re way too easy to press by accident. They’re located on four axes on each ear cup, which is exactly where you’d normally touch to adjust the headset or turn it off, and they don’t require any real pressure to depress, so it’s a bit of a problem until you’ve used the headset for a while. It’s also a lot of things to learn when first using the headset, because you obviously can’t see the buttons when you’re wearing it.
We mentioned that the default ear covers look a little busy because of all the logos. Thankfully, they can be replaced with new ones, allowing this headset some level of customisation. If you register the headset with Turtle Beach, you become an “Elite Member” and qualify for two free pairs of speaker plates, as well as other useful bonuses such as a two-year extended warranty and a t-shirt.
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The Turtle Beach 800 is one of the best-sounding gaming headsets we’ve ever used. It sounds gorgeous at both the high and low ends making both games and music really come alive. It also goes up to frankly ridiculous volume levels, addressing the quietness that we’ve often encountered on previous Turtle Beach headsets.
The headset also includes all the features you’d expect from something at this price range. The Active Noise Cancellation is a very worthwhile feature for those who travel a lot, and it’s improved dramatically over the feature on the i30, which sometimes felt like it created pressure. It’s a subtle effect that blocks out most of the ambient noise in your surroundings, and if you’re playing music as well, you can pretend like the outside world doesn’t exist.
The headphones also boast DTS Headphone:X 7.1 Surround Sound for audio sources that output a Dolby Digital audio signal. This allows you to experience audio as if it’s coming from a pinpointed source, such as bullet fire from behind you, or a car crash to your side. Like all surround sound processing for stereo sources, it’s something of a fudge, and we prefer the pure stereo option, but it’s a feature you can enable or disable at your will.
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More interesting, and lacking on most other gaming headsets, is the ability to load in specific audio profiles for individual titles such as Battlefield and Titanfall. This is done through Turtle Beach’s Ear Force Audio Hub software on PC, or the Android app. The downside is that there’s no iOS app at this stage, while the Mac software only updates the headset’s firmware, it doesn’t control audio profiles. We were using a Macbook Air and an iPhone 6 Plus for this review, so we found the lack of software support to change audio profiles annoying.
Thank god, though, that Turtle Beach has removed the vocal effect options from its headset--the i30 had buttons to make you sound like someone else, and we lost track of the number of phone calls we answered using this headset where the person at the other end of the line told us we sounded like a robot.
Bluetooth range is good, if not exceptional -- we were able to get around 20 feet away from our Macbook Air without the audio breaking up. Battery life of 10 hours is more problematic -- competing headsets such as the Mad Catz F.R.E.Q. 9 go up to 20 hours, doubling this performance. After charging the headset overnight, we encountered the “low battery” warning at around 7pm, which isn’t ideal for those who use their headphones all day.
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We also encountered the same sort of Bluetooth problems that have long plagued headsets such as these. We’re talking about occasional audio drops, randomly switching between sources, and some of the controls working on some platforms and not others. The Elite 800 has fewer of these sorts of issues than other wireless headsets we’ve used, but if you’re used to the solid performance of a wired headset, it can be jarring.
The Turtle Beach Elite 800 gets most things right. It’s a supremely well-made headset that sounds absolutely fantastic and is packed with compelling features. The active noise cancellation works well, the individual game-based sound profiles are a welcome bonus, and even the surround sound works well.
There are also lots of nice touches--the charging dock is an elegant power solution, the audio passthrough is a smart way of still being able to get audio through your speakers, and the headset also looks pretty good. It’s certainly better looking than most gaming headsets, and the customisable ear cups are great addition for proper game fanboys or girls.
There are a few issues, such as the lack of Xbox One support, the relatively short battery life and the bulk and weight of the headset itself. However, these are relatively small problems, and don’t majorly detract from the good work done elsewhere. If you’re looking for a wireless gaming headset that’s also good for use out-and-about, the Elite 800 is the best option currently on the market.
The Turtle Beach Elite 800 excels at the basics of audio performance, comfort and features, making it a great headset for gamers both at home and on-the-move.
N.B. - The Xbox One specific, Turtle Beach Elite 800X, is due for release in the Spring. Read more about the Elite 800X here.