The new Turtle Beach Stealth 300 is a bit of a weird one. It's a wired headset that comes with a 3.5mm audio connection, but due to its built-in bass amplifier, it also needs to be charged via USB every 40 hours or so - something that, normally, you only need to do if it's wireless.
Straight off the bat, then, the Stealth 300 is more of a faff than almost every other wired headset on the planet - except, maybe, the Steelseries Arctis Pro and its slightly convoluted GameDAC setup. Are the extra bass beats worth the extra hassle to make it one of the best gaming headsets around? Let's find out.
Technically, I've got the PS4-branded version of the Stealth 300 on test today, but both it and the green-garbed Xbox One edition are fully compatible with PC and are pretty much identical. The only real difference is that the latter makes a big song and dance about having support for Microsoft's fancy Windows Sonic for Headphones spatial surround sound tech, which isn't available on PS4.
That's not really a concern for PC people, though, as all that stuff is built into Windows 10 anyway, regardless of which headset you end up going for. All you've got to do is make sure Windows Sonic is enabled in your PC's audio settings. For us, then, it really just comes down to what your favourite colour is - blue or green?
Comfort-wise, I was pleasantly surprised by the Stealth 300's padded headband, as I was able to wear it for a decent amount of time without my dreaded friend Headache McSqueeze making an appearance. Its metal-reinforced frame also makes it feel a lot sturdier than its plastic casing might imply, and its fabric-coated ear cups were nice and snug against my cheeks.
So how about that bass, then, eh? Well, the Stealth 300 is definitely on the loud and boomy side of gaming headsets, but thankfully you can adjust how boomy it is using the Mode button on the left ear cup. Here, there are four different EQ presets to choose from, ranging from the default 'Signature Sound' to 'Bass Boost', 'Bass and Treble Boost' and just 'Treble Boost'.
In truth, I couldn't hear a huge difference between them all. To my ears, Treble Boost sounded very similar to Signature Sound, for example, but Bass Boost was probably the fullest and most all-encompassing one of the lot, and it really came into its own when I was blasting my way through a level of Doom.
Overall, the Stealth 300 is probably a little bass-heavy for my personal music tastes, but man alive, unloading the Super Shotgun into a Possessed Soldier's face has never sounded more weighty or, indeed, more satisfying. The headset did a fantastic job of helping me pick out where all of Doom's straggling enemies were hiding, too, their clear, throaty groans revealing exactly which direction I had to go in order for them to meet their Super Shotgun maker.
I was also impressed by how the Stealth 300 handled Hellblade's foreboding atmosphere without overpowering the all-important voices whirling around inside Senua's head. Again, switching between the headset's different presets didn't have much of a discernible impact when I stopped and listened to the stormy cacophony of Senua's first hallucination right at the beginning of the game, but Bass Boost once again proved to provide the richest and most detailed soundscape, creating a palpable sense of menace that the other EQ settings couldn't match. It also gave Senua's inner voices a welcome sense of warmth and depth during the game's opening cutscene, and it never felt like the bass was being pushed to the forefront at the expense of everything else.
Final Fantasy XV was another good match for the Stealth 300, the zips and zaps of Noctis' teleporting warp strike ringing crystal clear against the game's busy orchestral battle themes and growling monsters.
It's just a shame all that goes to pot when you try using the Stealth 300 as a regular music headset. When I fired up my Final Fantasy XV soundtrack in iTunes, for example, every track just sounded very loud and echoey, the main melodies always sounding like they were at risk of becoming lost beneath the booming bass. The game's piano tracks also sounded like the pianist constantly had their foot jammed on the soft pedal as well, giving them a slightly muted, muffled quality that didn't sound nearly as good as they did in-game.
Rock and pop music fared better thanks to a clearer distinction between their vocals and backing music, but there were still moments when very busy tracks - songs and instrumental soundtracks alike - just became too much for my ears to handle, making me wince from the sheer cludge of noise being chucked down my ear canals. It's a weird sensation, describing what too much noise sounds like, but it persisted even when I lowered the volume. It didn't happen often - just when there were a lot of instruments competing to be heard on a particular chord, for example - but this lack of subtlety just reinforces the fact that regular music listening definitely isn't the Stealth 300's forte.
There are other elements of the Stealth 300's design that annoyed me as well. For instance, I was never sure I was pressing the right bit of the headset when I wanted to cycle through its EQ presets, as the Mode button also sits on the same clicky bit as the main power button. Fortunately, the former only requires a single tap (giving you a nice little audible beep to indicate which profile you're currently on), while the latter needs to be held down for a couple of seconds, so it's not like you're accidentally going to keep turning it on and off again when you're trying to change presets. That said, it could still be more obvious what you're actually touching when you're blindly fumbling around for them with your fingers.
Given its console leanings, the 3.5mm audio cable is also on the short side - perfect for plugging it into a wireless controller, less so for those hoping to connect it round the back of a PC. Even worse, it needs a combined headphone and microphone jack, otherwise the mic won't actually work. Most laptops have these, but a lot of PC cases and motherboards tend to have separate ones, and it doesn't come with an adapter in the box. As a result, you'll either need to buy an adapter to make it work with your PC, or make sure you've got the right kind of jack beforehand.
Luckily, I had a spare adapter knocking around, so I was, in fact, able to test it. It's a rather diddy little thing that slides back and forth over the left ear cup, and it will automatically mute itself when it's pushed back away from your face - which is, again, indicated with a handy beep to let you know you've done it properly. There was a small background hiss present when I recorded myself talking in Audacity, but otherwise everything was crystal clear with no obvious pops and wind effects - impressive considering its small stature.
Overall, then, the Turtle Beach Stealth 300 is a fine headset when it comes to in-game audio, but for me it lacks the balance and extra subtlety to make it a good general listening headset as well. That's fine if you want something nice and full to bop your head to while playing games, but there are better, more well-rounded (and less frustrating to set up) headsets out there for roughly the same amount of money.
At £70 / $80 a pop, the Stealth 300 has two main competitors: the excellent USB-based Corsair Void Pro RGB, which goes for £80 / $70 these days, and the 3.5mm Steelseries Arctis 3, which is currently just £65 / $67 and produces the same great audio as its wireless sibling, the Steelseries Arctis 7.
Personally, the Arctis still reigns supreme at this kind of price, both in terms of comfort, ease of up and overall sound quality, and it comes with all the adapters you need to get it working straight out of the box. The Stealth 300 won't disappoint if you prefer your audio on the boomy side of things, but for those after a more versatile headset, both the Arctis 3 and Corsair Void Pro are better value for money.