The headset market is flooded. Already there are numerous Turtle Beach headsets complete with their puzzling and somewhat incomprehensible letter abbreviation names, you’ve also got Astro doing the same thing and an entire multitude of various brands in between. However, the Tritton brand of headsets seem to have emerged from practically out of nowhere to become one of the best on the market, and thanks to their official license with Microsoft’s Xbox 360, you know that you wont find a product better suited for 360 use. Now, Mad Catz have released their latest wired stereo headset in the Tritton brand and I got to go hands on – or more ears on – with it over the last two weeks and it’s hard not to be blown away by what’s on offer.
Having already been suitably impressed by the Tritton Primer, the wireless stereo headset, the Detonator actually manages to improve upon that by quite a way. In fact, the only real downside we could possibly say about it is the wire that tethers you to your TV and console. While the wire itself is a generous 14ft (4.2 metres) in length, the real issue comes from the incredibly short wire between the power USB and the audio cables that plug into the back of your TV. As I use an original Xbox 360 instead of a shiny and sexy slim model, I run my picture and audio through a component cable – I also only have one USB port on the back of my console which is currently used for the Wireless adapter. Because of this the cable doesn’t reach, so for the last two weeks I’ve had my wireless adapter plugged into the front of the console, something that isn’t ideal. It just seems that the design didn’t take older model 360 owners into account, which is frankly a rather careless design decision.
Now my major gripe is out of the way I can move onto all the boxes that the Detonator does tick! First off is the headset’s build quality. It’s really rather fantastic and feels robust and sturdy. Sure they are rather bulky in comparison to the Primer, but they feel sleek and slick at the same time. The choice to make the Detonator with a matte finish also makes them feel high quality, as opposed to the cheaper looking glossy plastic found on other headsets – the metal detailing is also another particular highlight. As the Detonator has a long cable at its disposal, the headset itself is relatively uncluttered too as all controls are found on the wire itself, meaning you wont be fumbling around near your ears trying to find the right dial to turn up the volume with, or to mute the mic; it’s a small feature, but it makes using the headset much easier.
In terms of comfort, the ear cups are larger than those found on the Primer, meaning that the headset fits comfortably over even the largest of ears and thanks to some super-soft cushioning, wearing them after hours of play is still comfortable. Another particular bonus is that I managed to wear my glasses whilst using them and didn’t feel any excess pressure against my head – a bonus for many glassess wearers I’m sure! The headband section is also comfortably padded and extending arms and swivelling ear cups mean that it fits most size heads with ease and packs away flat for storage.
In terms of sound quality, the Detonator manages to pump out some of the best sound I’ve heard through a stereo headset in a long time. The wireless Primer packed an impressive 40mm driver, but the Detonator smashes that with an incredible 50mm speaker driver. This means that both crisp highs and some deep and rumbling lows are produced – making them fantastic for playing games with. Despite the fact they are ‘only’ stereo headsets, they really immerse you in the gaming experience and our playthrough of Halo: Reach and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD was only improved thanks to wearing these bad boys. As these are wired headsets you can also use them on laptops or mp3 players too, and again they are pretty impressive – and incredibly loud.
One thing I did notice though is that spoken word wasn’t replicated quite as well as it could be, largely feeling flat when watching a film or listening to an audiobook or podcast through them – however when playing a game most lines of dialogue came across clean and crisp so it’s probably more down to the content being used than the headset itself.
For many though, the real merit of a headset’s worth comes in the form of it’s microphone and online prowess. Just like with the Primer, the clarity of online chat is really rather good, kicking the sound quality of a standard 360 headset out of the park. As Microsoft compress voice chat it’s still not crystal clear, but that annoying background fuzz has practically disappeared and, as the Detonator has a detachable mic, the sound quality is still high despite the fact it’s a removable connection. Just as you’d expect, the Detonator also has a separate audio channel for voice chat and game volume, so you don’t have to listen to people natter away if you don’t want – or if for some reason you want to listen to whiny fourteen year old American kids boast, you can listen exclusively to that.
Strangely, Tritton have also included something known as Selectable Voice Monitoring, or SVM as it’s called on the button and the box. Honestly, it perplexes me as to why anyone would like to listen to the sound of their own voice while they play games. The only sort of person I can imagine wanting to do so must also love the smell of their own farts – as being able to hear your own voice, as others hear it, is one of the single most unnerving things that you can do on the planet. But the feature is there for those that want it, and it does work very well, although I can’t honestly say I enjoyed using the feature.
Tritton have consistently delivered high quality sound and build to all of their products, and the Detonator is no exception. Every moment of using them was a pleasure, and quite honestly, I’m tempted to say that this wired option is actually better than the wireless Primer headset – which was already an impressive piece of kit. Thanks to the Detonator’s light build, incredible comfort, brilliant sound quality, and ease of use it’s practically a no brainer when it comes to weighing up what entry level stereo headset you should pick up.
Audio/Visual – 5/5: They look the part and have the sound quality to match. As close to perfection as you’ll find in a stereo headset.
Gameplay – 5/5: Incredibly easy to use and really offer some game-enhancing audio that allows a deeper and more rewarding playing experience.
Value – 4/5: Still relatively expensive for a headset, you would still be very hard pressed to find one that sounds and feels as good as the Detonator within the same price bracket though.
Innovation – 4/5: The SVM feature is unnerving but for those that want it it’ll be a welcome addition. Feature rich headsets in a pleasing design, it’s impressive how Mad Catz have managed to do it.
Final Score: 4.5/5