Gaming headsets are a dime a dozen, aren’t they? There are so many different examples out there, and so many competing ideas, that it feels a bit overwhelming when trying to sort through the pile to figure out what it is you’re looking for. With the 500P, Turtle Beach offers an almost-wireless solution for anyone looking for a headset that’ll work with their PS3 or PS4 consoles. It offers a bit more than that though, which makes it not as clear-cut as the labelling on the box implies.
Turtle Beach packs in cabling for connecting the 500P to any device that supports a 3.5mm audio jack, so it can be hooked up to your phone, tablet or laptop. The cable includes the microphone jack, so you can use the headset as a hands-free kit while it’s receiving a signal from the USB-powered wireless transmitter. There’s a separate microphone attachment you can plug in when you need it. Turtle Beach also includes an optical audio cable and a USB cable for charging the headset.
Turtle Beach claims a 15-hour battery life for the 500P, but in my testing it stretched a bit further than that, lasting just over 16 hours before I charged it, even though it hadn’t completely died yet. The 500P has no in-line volume controls, and all controls are instead on the headset itself. Located on the right ear cup are two volume sliders for game and chat audio, a button for scrolling through a collection of audio balance presets (four standard, four for surround sound), and another button for muting the microphone.
Design-wise, the headset is comfortable once you start to break in the ear cushions, which are lined with foam. The cushions are firm and uncomfortable at first, and the oval, almost rectangular design means that people with wider ears won’t be able to comfortably wear the 500P. The headband and chassis are made of plastic with a matte black paint finish. The ear cups hide 50mm neodymium drivers inside, which deliver decent bass levels, have good performance in mid-range frequencies and offer a slightly wider soundstage. The maximum volume of the 500P is certainly capable of splitting some eardrums, so I’d recommend never setting it too high.
When it comes to build quality, I only have two real issues. One is that the plastic used on the sliders and the pivots feels really cheap and prone to breakages. The ear cups rotate to allow for packing them into a backpack or travel case, but putting any pressure on the extendable arms feels like it would be easily snapped with relatively little force.
Additionally, the design of the ear cushions will result in you either liking or loathing the Stealth 500P headset. If you wear glasses, the first few days or hours of breaking them in could be somewhat uncomfortable. If you wear a hearing aid (as I do), you’ll be happy to know that the ear cups fit over it without much issue, although it does create an air gap, so your hearing aid will pick up sound from your environment. Larger or softer ear cushions would have fixed this problem.
When it came to testing the Stealth 500P on consoles, I found the setup to be plug-‘n’-play for the most part. The consoles auto-detect the USB dongle whenever it’s plugged in, and the PS4 correctly transfers audio back to the default connection if I turn off the headset or unplug the transmitter. On both PS3 and PS4 I have no complaints about the sound quality. Turtle Beach’s DTS 7.1 implementation works well, though you can only use it with the optical cable plugged in.
Compared to running a regular headset over the Bluetooth connection on the DualShock 4, audio is clearer and less latent, and I can hear street-side chatter in Grand Theft Auto V better than with my SteelSeries Siberia headset. Popping caps into rival gangsters and making quick getaways in muscle cars sounds really good, and the chaos that is the game’s first bank heist is amplified by the sound of bullets whizzing past your ears when you’re using one of the surround sound presets.
Curious about unofficial support for other platforms, I plugged the 500P’s receiver into my PC and was surprised to find that the 500P is completely driverless for many systems. The sound is just as crisp and good as it is on the PS4, and the microphone audio worked just as well. I plugged it into other things around the house, and it worked straight away under Ubuntu 15.04 on my netbook.
The Stealth 500P doesn’t support noise cancellation, so taking this to LANs or using it in a noisy lounge won’t provide the best experience, but the microphone’s recording quality is actually quite good. It could do with a mic boom though.
Looking at things as a whole, my only complaints with the Stealth 500P lie in the plastic’s brittle feel and the ear cup design, which doesn’t really cater to the hard-of-hearing like myself who use hearing aids. Otherwise, it’s quite a good buy. There aren’t many headsets available which are compatible with such a wide range of devices and don’t need drivers installed at any point, ever. If you’re shopping for a single headset that works with nearly everything you own, look no further than this one.