Tritton AXPC, AX360 Review

Today we’re going to go over Tritton Technologies’ two “5.1” headsets, the AXPC and the AX360. Do they really stand up to other “5.1” headphones or are they just another dead corpse along the consumer electronics highway.

Tritton AXPC, AX360 Review

This past summer it seemed that everyone and their mom had their own take on “5.1” headphones. We saw Audio Technica, Turtle Beach and numerous others release this “revolutionary new technology”, which in some cases seemed like nothing more than smoke and mirrors combined with stone-age electronics. Among the competitors, there were a fair share of duds and an equal amount of sets that really shined among the rest.

This summer at QuakeCon, I was browsing the booths of vendors that were showing off their wares and came along the Tritton Technologies booth with a bright orange table filled with flyers and bright orange and blue pairs of headphones with a banner reading “5.1 Surround Sound Headphones” plastered across the front. Interested, I stood there for a bit and talked with the rep a bit about both pairs he had and really got interested in the units the more he talked. Thought I didn’t get to try them out on the floor, I was still pretty satisfied with the features that I saw. We exchanged information and I continued to cover the Quake tournament that I was originally attending the event for.

A few months later, I was sent both their AXPC (marketed toward PC gamers, orange) and their AX360 (for console gamers, blue). Since they are mechanically the same inside the units, I thought I’d review them both at the same time, as the only thing that really separates the two is the output options.

CategoryHeadsets
ManufacturerTritton Technologies
ProductAXPC (TRIUA512), AX360 (TRIGA600)
Price$126.95

Packaging

By the time they arrived, I was already pretty psyched that these would be my first pair of “5.1” headphones. I always love trying out new technologies and seeing if they really stand up to all the hype. I opened the shipping box and found two, clear-plastic clamshells with the sets inside. I pulled the shells out and flung the box aside; leaving a trail of packing peanuts behind like it was Christmas morning. I held them for a bit and then began looking for a way to open the first one. I struggled a bit and slowly came to the realization that scissors would be required. I got a pair out of my desk and continued to try to open the plastic with them. The fact that they are made of a relatively strong plastic combined with some odd curves made this no easy task, and in fact it took a couple minutes to just get ONE OF THEM opened. After straining for another several minutes, I finally was able to pull both sets out of their plastic fortresses and onto my desk. Overall, it was one of the most unpleasant times I’ve ever had opening a package and didn’t put me in the giddy mood I usually am in when I get something new.

Features
AX360
• True 5.1 Digital Audio Headset
• Dolby Digital and Dolby Pro Logic Certified
• Digital audio connection for DVD, PC, PS2, PS3, XBOX, XBOX360, and all other devices with digital audio output
• 8 speakers, 4 in each ear cup
• Rumble Technology
• In-line volume adjustment for Front, Center, Rear and Subwoofer controls
• Includes external 5.1 audio controller or can connect with any 5.1 amplifier
• Detachable microphone for PC gamers, XBOX live compatible
• Light weight and ergonomically designed for comfort and quality to allow for extended periods of use
AXPC
• USB Interface
• True 5.1 Surround Sound
• Rumble Technology
• 8 Individual Speakers
• Removable Microphone
• Inline Audio Controller

Comfort

Since both sets are constructed entirely identical (except the outer shells), I can say wholeheartedly that both feel exactly the same: not very good. Now, I’ve tried just about every style and design of headset or headphone out there, but for some reason these seem to be the most uncomfortable. In this case, it’s not just one element that makes them uncomfortable either; it’s various aspects of the design. From the width of the over-head band, to the material of both the cushions around the ears and over-head band, to the depth of the cans; everything just feels “off”.

First off, the sets both feel as if they were designed for someone with a massive skull in mind. Now I consider myself to have an average size head, not too big or too small, but I just can’t imagine who would find this comfortable. Even on the smallest setting, it feels like the headphones are hanging onto my head by a hope and a prayer. Second, the depth of the ear cups is rather shallow and I could feel my ear up against the cloth inside. Even with the extremely minimal clamp the headphones have, having my ear pressed up against the cloth and the speakers inside were quite unpleasant, and something I don’t look for in quality headphones. Next, the “leathery” material covering the pads around the cans and the band going across the top seems low quality and is rather uncomfortable. The inner filling is packed in tight enough that there is very little give and no way for them to give that cushy, soft feeling you get with other sets. Just wearing the sets is not the best experience and it’s hard to find any positive things about the feel of these things.

If this were the Figure Skating Olympics Of Audio Technology and I needed to give these sets a score for comfort, I’d give them a 1, the German judge would give them an 8 (Germans love their pain and bondage) and the Russian judge would give them a -6.

Performance

Hoping that it would get better after the initial distaste for the feel of the set, I hooked up the AXPCs to my Audigy 2 ZS, set all the sound card settings to stock levels, and enabled 5.1. For the AXPC, I wanted to cover just about every element a gamer could want these headphones for. For the AX360s, I used some of the different inputs that a console gamer would use, such as RCA and Optical.

Music

For music I used the AXPCs to listen to some different CDs that I have recently got; Tiesto’s “In Search of Sunrise 6”, Musiq Soulchild’s “Aijuswanaseing” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced”.

I decided to start off the music section with a little Musiq Soulchild, who is known for his inventive rhythms and great beats. The album is mixed with some great songs like “Just Friends (Sunny)”, “Love” and “Speechless”. Unfortunately, just about all the lows and most of the highs aren’t there when listening through this headset. The deep bass that comes in the beats of just about all the songs on the albums is distorted and garbled, leaving the music flat and lifeless. I even tried to tune the Bass and Treble settings on the card to improve the sound quality, but to no avail, the “quality bottleneck” seems to simply be the set. I persisted through the entire album, only to be left dissatisfied and let down. This wasn’t looking good.

In the classic “Are You Experienced”, Jimi Hendrix changed the world of music as he showed why he is one of the great innovators of rock and roll. This album defined a generation and set the standard with songs like “Hey Joe”, “Manic Depression” and “Purple Haze”. Though not as much as with Musiq Soulchild, I was still left wanting more out of what I was hearing. The mids and highs weren’t as distorted as much as the lows, but it’s Jimi Hendrix for Christ’s sake; listening to him in anything less than perfection should be a crime. The only way I can put this in perspective is to say that it felt like I just killed off an endangered species. I wept for hours.

As I reached the last of my new-ish favorite albums, I cringed when I wondered how the AXPCs would make very technical and dynamic albums sound.

PC Gaming

But hey, gamers are called so for a reason, so let’s dig into some games. I’m going to take a look at 3 of my all-time favorite games: Quake 3, Half-Life 2 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat.

Starting with Quake 3, I wanted to concentrate more on positional sound than sound quality. In my opinion, being able to accurately hear where things are happening is almost as important as seeing where they are happening; so for me a good set of headphones is right on the list with a quality video card and monitor. After playing a few matches with these, I must say I’m pretty surprise how accurate these things are. Positioning-wise, these are some of the most precise I have used yet, and definitely score some points in this department.

Half-Life 2 is one of my favorite games because there is so much going on around the player that it’s sometimes overwhelming- let’s see if these can keep up. At the beginning of the game, the main character starts out in a train station full of passengers and other random people standing around talking, while guards loom over, sometimes shouting commands to pick up trash or to stay away from the area. As I made sure EAX was enabled, I was amazed how the AXPCs presented the audio environment with such clarity and distinction. Even with my eyes closed and holding forward, I could pick out the voices as I walked through this mental soundscape. Again though, the quality is far from great and brings down my mood after discovering the wonderful audio positioning these headphones bring.

I have found that Call of Duty 4 is one of the most technically demanding games in respect to audio. In some of the Iraq missions, the sounds of tanks rolling along the street, screams of enemy insurgents and commands of teammates are almost dizzying. I decided to also take advantage of the massive amount of action going on to test the Rumble feature on the set. As for quality and clarity, the set is still pretty flawed. At above-average volume levels, the set starts to lose credibility, as well as any kind of handle it used to have on the sound coming through them. At this point the sound has transformed into a garbled mess of unorganized noise- almost impossible to pick out certain voices and sound sources.

Xbox Gaming

For the Xbox, I used the AX360s and their unique input options that make them quite special (and most likely attribute to their steep price tag). With a number of different inputs at my disposal, I decided to go with the optical input since I have a custom cable with that option. So after hooking up the mini amp and the headphones, I was ready to play some Halo 2 with headphones for the first time.

Again, the AX360s are plagued with the same design flaws as the AXPCs and they feel like they are barely being held on my head. One nice feature I did find with the set was the ability to individually adjust the volumes in the different speakers, though it may throw you off when considering the virtual soundscape. Overall though, I thought that playing a console shooter like Halo with headphones was great and a great change from playing it with regular TV speakers. If you are a hardcore console gamer and don’t mind mildly-butchered sound quality, these may be the ticket.

Conclusion

After going over this review, I started to feel like I might have over-exaggerated just a bit, so I slid on both headsets again and repeated each of my tests. Nope, I feel I was pretty spot-on with my descriptions and accounts of using these. For the price they are asking, I really expected higher quality units, and was sadly let down when both were nowhere near what I was expecting. My overall experience with these sets has been extremely disappointing and one that I would like to quickly forget.

Pros

  • Removable microphones on both the sets
  • The directional sound is very accurate
  • Tons of input options on AX360 set

Cons

  • Sound quality on both sets is atrocious
  • I never got either set to sit comfortably on me head
  • Ear cups are too shallow (personal)
  • Little to no clear bass, no matter how I tuned the sound card
4.5/10

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