Black Ops II Themed Turtle Beach Headphones

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Marketing Image from Turtle Beach

I’ve long been a fan of surround sound headphones for gaming. Over the last few years I have used a variety of headphones, but I think the best I’ve used so far are the Turtle Beach: Earforce Tango. The kind folks at Turtle Beach loaned me a pair before the holiday break so I sat down for a couple marathon sessions of Call of Duty Black Ops II.

The Earforce Tango is one of five new Black Ops II themed headsets by Turtle Beach. They include three surround models, the Tango, Sierra, and X-Ray, as well two stereo models, the Kilo and Earforce Earbuds. The Tango and X-Ray are the only wireless ones with the Tango topping the list at about $299 MSRP, though I found them online much cheaper.

In my experience there are two things that matter most for gaming headphones, sound quality and comfort. The Tango is the best in both of these departments of any gaming headset that I’ve used yet. It doesn’t excel at everything, but for these two reasons alone I’d pick it over the others I’ve tried.

In my opinion the Tango sounds great with sufficient surround separation and clarity to give an aging gamer an advantage over the younger kids. I could easily pick out the direction and distance sounds, allowing me to start timing my attack before someone rounded a corner, or ambush someone who was attempting to reload in cover. I spent the better part of an evening switching between the Tango and my Turtle Beach XP400 to see if there was a difference. In Black Ops II there was a slight, but noticeable improvement with the Tango. According to the specifications they are tuned for playing Black Ops II. In other games, including Skyrim, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and Max Payne 3, I really couldn’t tell a difference.

Comfort is also very good, but similar to the XP400. The Tango has a slight edge over the XP400 because of the memory foam headband and ear cushions, but weight and fit are nearly identical. I wore them for about 6 hours at the longest stretch and was just starting to get tired of them.

The Bluetooth radio in the headset allows it to pair with two devices. The first will usually be the Xbox controller chat module, or a PS3. I was also able to pair it with my phone and answer phone calls while in-game without missing much of the action.

I did have some problems with pairing the headphones with the Bluetooth dongle on the Xbox controller. It would occasionally lose the pairing and I’d have to set them up again. I suspect that some of my problems were from using multiple headphones (Tango and XP400) at the same time, but this is a scenario that is very likely to occur in any household with multiple gamers.

One other occasional issue I had was that audio dialog in games on the center channel would occasionally be muted. This happened most in Dragon’s Dogma, but I had the same problems with the XP400 in Kingdoms of Amalur and Mass Effect. In all cases this was solved by power cycling the headphones, or just waiting for the game to launch before powering the headset on.

Wireless range is improved over the XP400, but not a lot. Both game sounds and chat would work from the kitchen, but started to drop out as soon as I stepped into the garage. Even so, the connection was not lost, and audio returned to normal as soon as I moved closer to the transmitter. I usually sit about six feet from the TV so range is not really a factor for me. The Tango uses both a 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz radio.

I found the addition of Black Ops II voice prompts both useful and annoying. When powering on the Tango sasy: “Earforce Tango Powering On!” or “Bluetooth Powering Off!” While this is an improvement over the cryptic beeps and bloops of the XP400, the volume and urgency of the prompts gets old after a while.

If you’re in the market for a set of headphones, and you value the Black Ops II branding, then the Tango may be what you’re looking for. If you’re on a budget, the PX5 or XP500 models are nearly identical in shape and size and similar in programming.

Street price for the Earforce Tango is about $200 now. The PX5 can be found for around $150.

At $200 the Tango is a good buy, but if I had to purchase another set now, I’d pick the PX5 and put the $50 toward a new game. The Black Ops II branding is cool and the orange-on-black styling looks great but I can’t say for certain if that and the memory foam pads are worth $50 difference in price.

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