With the introduction of its AX 720 7.1 virtual surround headset and stablemate AX Pro discrete 5.1 surround headset, gaming manufacturer Tritton acknowledged that its audience is split into two distinct camps when it comes to those all-important rear and side channels. Whilst the AX Pro housed four individual speakers in each earpiece that ranged from a 30mm sub down to a 23mm speaker for the center channel, the AX 720 placed its faith in stereo 40mm speakers working in conjunction with Dolby’s software to produce its enveloping surround soundscape. The results were pretty decent too, with those faked-out rear and side channels proving a welcome substitute for the slightly tinny 30mm drivers in its more expensive cousin.
This new version of the 720 (minus the AX and with a + tacked on to signify change), increases the size of the speaker in each earpiece to 50mm and also throws in a range of tweaks and alterations to what was an already popular and highly customisable setup. The USB-powered control box takes a standard optical audio cable as its primary input, meaning that you can hook it up in a matter of minutes to any Xbox, PS3 or modern PC that you have lying around. A range of included adaptors covers most other connectivity demands that you might have, and if you’ve got an older system and another ten minutes to spare you’ll be able to hook yourself up through a standard 3.5mm audio jack and utilise a variety of microphone sources for that all-important in-game chat.
You can pretty much throw any source at it then, and the 720+ will likely respond positively. Being a jack-of-all-trades isn't always the best path towards a quality product however, so once you've gotten the 720+ hooked up to your tastes, is it still a good fit for a hardcore gaming audience? With a few reservations, absolutely.
Setup & Impressions
If there's one area in which the Tritton brand seems to be moving forward year-on-year, it's that of presentation and packaging. From the understated box (understated by gaming standards, anyway), to the sleek plastic and cardboard innards, the 720+ is a product that - although not reeking of high-end manufacturing - manages to pitch itself firmly in the mid-to-high bracket of gaming peripherals, with a pleasing look and feel to almost every component.
It's hard to imagine being confronted with a box quite like this even a few years ago, as an example:
Delving into the contents, the orange box presents you with the headset itself, along with a USB-powered receiver and a host of peripherals that will allow for connection to a wide range of devices. Although the primary input of the 720+ is a standard optical socket, the included breakout adaptor means you'll be able to hook up any HDMI-enabled Xbox 360 as well. You could also use the combined USB and 3.5mm audio jack cable to connect up any device with a standard headphone and/or microphone socket. As long as you can get USB power, you're good to go.
To complete the package, the 720+ ships with Tritton's standard flexible microphone that locks into the left earpiece, along with a cable adaptor to attach it to your Xbox 360 controller. Playstation 3 and PC owners running through the USB receiver simply need to select the appropriate device from their system and calibrate as necessary - no extra wires required.
The mini USB receiver acts as the hub for the Tritton 720+, featuring a large power button and a single push-button control for selecting the type of EQ and audio processing that best suits your source. As with most modern gaming peripherals these days, it's decked out in bright blue neon lights whenever it's in service, and unfortunately doesn't come with the ability to dim them if you have no choice but to set up in eyesight of your screen. It is however, very small and could be easily tucked away if necessary.
Connecting it up to your chosen source is as simple as connecting up the USB cable to a suitable socket and plugging in the optical cable, and there are (outside of the bundled accessories anyway) no further components to worry about. The unit itself can either sit horizontally or vertically, although due to its lightweight nature and the lack of a stabilising stand, it's probably wise to make sure it's not in an area in which damage can occur should you accidentally tug the headset cable a little too vigorously during that game of Black Ops!
That main cable also comes with a quick-detach control unit that allows for independent adjustment of both in-game audio and voice chat, along with the usual slider switch to mute your voice in moments when you need to collect yourself. Those volume mechanisms are both rocker-style implementations however, which can be a little ungainly when trying to dial in a necessary volume tweak with any speed or precision. On the plus side of that, all the available controls feel solid and are easy to access without looking down at your hands.
The headset itself is largely constructed of white plastic with orange trim, featuring faux-leather padding. It's a lightweight unit but feels as if it could withstand some heavy use where necessary, and it doesn't creak or groan too much when moving your head or adjusting your position. The headband itself is incredibly rigid and sturdy, clasping to your head tightly at all times and generating a fair amount of heat around your lobes during long sessions. Fortunately the earcups also allow 90 degrees of rotation for moments of down-time, which is a God-send when you need to rest up and allow your skin some time to breathe.
The beating heart of audio reproduction in the 720+ stems from Dolby’s 7.1-channel proprietary gaming headphone technology, but if you’re in the market for a late-night all-round media solution, there are also music and movie modes to sample with a quick flick of a button. It should be stated at the outset however that, as always, specific devices like this are very much tailored to their primary use, and it’s unlikely that I’ll be ditching even my cruddy old pair of JVC stereo headphones for the 720+ if I’m just in the mood to relax with a bit of Rodrigo y Gabriela. Other uses aside, does the fake surround work for gaming purposes? In a nutshell - yes; and there are several knock-on benefits to quality from having just the lone 50mm driver for each ear.
In practice, the surround audio in the 720+ is virtually indistinguishable from the more expensive discreet-speaker variety, and effects are easily placeable for each of the separate channels that you'll be used to. Testing Modern Warfare revealed the sort of precision that's required for even basic online play, with gunfire and footsteps recognisable for their direction and distance. Firing up Forza 4 and heading into in-car mode showed off a good level of throaty bass to add to that mix, with the engine clearly placed either in front of your head or a few feet behind depending on the vehicle selected. Battlefield 3, as with any DiCE game, sounded superb, and even the relatively meagre 25Hz-22kHz frequency of the hardware didn't seem to matter all that much.
Somewhat surprisingly there's also a good sense of depth in most surround audio pumped through the 720+, which is likely a result of the large earcup design and the space afforded between the driver and your ear. Audio rarely sounds hollow or carries an echo even with all that room to breathe (which was a problem with some of the older designs of this nature), and testing with a game like FIFA 13 shows up some of the benefits in comparison to normal speakers. The added intimacy allows you to appreciate audio and effects you might have missed in a conventional setup; there is the realisation that commentary samples are compressed to a shocking degree in EA's primary sports franchise; and the satisfaction of being able to drown out your opposition with a quick flick of the volume control.
Whilst we're exploring that angle, it's probably also worth mentioning that the detachable microphone for the 720+ does a decent job at presenting your voice to others, with the selectable voice monitoring technology working as advertised. In testing, few people could hear anything besides my own voice even with speakers firing out audio into the room, whereas sampled recordings on the PC sound clear but come with a slightly distant quality that might put potential podcasters off. In terms of hearing your colleagues or opponents, the ability to bump up the volume of chat in the headset mix cannot be underestimated, as any regular Xbox Live user would attest.
However positive those impressions of the 720+ are however, there are always going to be caveats with any multi-purpose equipment like this. In this instance, the most noticeable of them occurs when switching to music playback, which (although an improvement thanks to the 50mm drivers this year) is noticeably flat and fairly lifeless in comparison with any decent dedicated stereo headset. Cutting out the USB receiver and running an analogue input into the 720+ from a PC at least allows for some EQ tinkering to get the most out of whatever you're listening to, but even then, the 720+ is still a bit of a drab performer. It's a long way from being horrible, but it's far from inspiring, and the tight fit of the headset makes you constantly aware of exactly what you're doing.
It also needs to be noted that the USB receiver brings a small issue to the party in the form of a low-volume audible buzz fed back into the headset. This is, it must be stated, almost a complete non-issue during normal use and can only be noticed when things are deadly quiet, but it is nevertheless there to an appreciable degree. Once you hear it you definitely cannot un-hear it, and that might constitute a problem for those of you with finely-tuned ears or those of you that play more quiet and introspective titles with any degree of regularity.
If you stick with gaming as the primary use for the 720+ however, it's a very capable headset and one that only really suffers at the hands of some overly-rigid design and the odd moment when things grind to a halt and you hear the feedback from the receiver. It's a surprisingly rounded and lively experience with a decent amount of depth, and any game that demands surround audio will prove to be a good match for the technology. Subtler compositions are still best suited to conventional stereo headsets of course, but it has to be said that the majority of videogames don't really fit into that category. The accessories bundled with the 720+ mean you'll not likely have to invest in anything else for a complete setup, and decent microphone performance rounds out the package nicely.
- All-in-one solution for PC, PS3 and 360
- Virtual Surround works well
- Seperate controls for game and chat volume
- Built to last
- USB powered, no need for a wall socket
- Surprisingly spacious soundstage
- Good microphone quality
- Buzzing noise from USB control box is noticeable at quiet volumes
- Slightly uncomfortable and hot over longer sessions
- Only three EQ settings
Tritton 720+ Gaming Headset Review
Tritton have a somewhat mixed reputation for quality amongst the gaming community at present, but products such as the 720+ will hopefully prove to some that they're heading in the right direction. The headset itself is a sturdy and well-built piece of kit that'll likely last you well into the next generation of hardware, but that comes at the expense of a little bit of comfort over longer gaming sessions. There are always trade-offs to be made in terms of design and functionality however, so knowing that the headset is built to last will be an equal boon for anybody burned by the flimsy plastic and thin cables of cheaper alternatives.
In terms of pure audio quality, the 720+ does a good job in creating a spacious soundstage out of those 50mm drivers and the Dolby software, as a result there were no problems in clearly identifying audio cues from specific channels when playing online shooters such as Modern Warfare 3 and Halo: Reach. The audio mix (in gaming mode) appears to accentuate the mid-to-high range a little in order to appease the pro gamers out there, but there's also no shortage of kick in the low end for those of us that prefer a more balanced experience. Movie mode adds a further level of warmth to that equation, but with only three EQ settings to choose from, some might be disappointed they can't customise that aspect of the system a little further.
Given that the speakers themselves also sit a good distance from your ear, there's ample room for the 720+ to create the illusion of depth that many gamers will demand, and fortunately the headset manages that without introducing too much of the cavernous sensation that plagued older models. Indeed, besides the lack of customisability highlighted above, the only real major downside to the gaming audio in the 720+ is the trademark buzz of the USB control box that presents itself to your ears during quiet moments. That's a complaint I've had about virtually every generation of Tritton headsets that ship with a mini-receiver however, and it is at least less pronounced in this iteration than it has been in others.
Even with that caveat, the 720+ is a good solution for anybody that wants a late-night surround sound rig, or alternatively those gamers that simply haven't got the room or the means to purchase an amplifier and speaker setup. The 720+ offers up superior audio quality in comparison to older models thanks to its 50mm drivers, and in my personal opinion gives a much more pleasing level of performance than headsets with discreet speakers for each channel. There are undoubtedly improvements to be made in terms of comfort and fine-tuning that can be implemented next year for other aspects of the package but, for the money, the 720+ is a good recommendation for anybody in the market for this type of experience.
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