2016 has been a healthy year for the competitive audio market. Across each major manufacturer, we saw excellent releases for both casual and professional audiences, and I was lucky enough to analyse a great deal of gaming-audio products throughout the year. In my opinion, Turtle Beach remains in the spotlight alongside Creative Labs and SteelSeries as the most versatile and valuable name in the Esports scene. With the launch of the Elite Pro Tournament Gaming Headset + Tactical Audio Controller, Turtle Beach has given Esports athletes one of the most flexible audio tools for competitive gaming.
The headset and amp are sold separately and retail at a hefty $199.95 each (original price). Even though the cost seems excessive, audio enthusiasts who seek specialized features for competitive needs will appreciate what this unique combo has to offer. It’s also worth pointing out that the sales price is currently listed at only $165.95 per item, and Amazon offers the bundle at an even lower price of only $322.39. The point is that by the time you read this coverage, you’ll find reduced prices for both the headset and the amp.
Let’s take a look at the Elite Pro Tournament Gaming Headset first. This is a genuinely impressive piece of gaming gear that is designed to make an endearing impression. The moment I held the headset in my hands, I fell in love. The design is exuberant without seeming gimmicky. The Elite Pro boasts a playful aesthetic that doesn’t shy away from calling for attention. The steel headband and the adjustable fit system offer a smart solution for easy adjustability and immediate comfort. I appreciate the bold and industrial engineering approach that has benefits from both a stylistic and practical perspective. The whole thing just screams with style, and is simultaneously as tough as a mountain.
"With the launch of the Elite Pro Tournament Gaming Headset + Tactical Audio Controller, Turtle Beach has given Esports athletes one of the most flexible audio tools for competitive gaming."
The 50mm NanoClear speakers are enveloped by a special material that blocks external sounds. It’s very cushiony and comfortable, although it tends to get warm if used for extended periods. On the upside, if you’re like me and wear glasses, the tempurpedic-style material offers notable pressure relief when the temples are sandwiched between both ear cups and the head. Overall, the Elite Pro has given me no problems in the two weeks of constant gaming.
If you are purchasing the Elite Pro Tournament Gaming Headset on its own, you’re still walking away with admirable audio performance. Without the amp, the Elite Pro has enough oomph to compete solo. You may be losing out on virtual 7.1 surround sound and all the audio presets as they’re tied to the Tactical Audio Controller sound card, but the excellent raw performance is more than enough for everyday usage.
"It’s a wonderfully constructed headset that delivers superb performance for all your gaming needs, even if you decide to pass up on the TAC."
The Elite Pro gives out crisp and precise sound. Unlike many gaming headphones that exaggerate low frequencies, the bass isn’t overbearing and perfectly balances with mids and highs. Shooters in particular sound intense. Gun fire has a satisfying punch that makes games like Battlefield 1 feel eerily realistic. Fighting games are equally exciting. When playing Street Fighter V, each punch and kick gives off a thrilling sensation of force piercing through the wind. If you're looking for immersion, the Elite Pro will draw you in instantaneously.
The detachable microphone is one of the better gaming mics I’ve tested in recent memory. My gaming partners on the other line regularly commented on the audio clarity coming from my end, and I had a very easy time hearing overlapping chatter without any problems. The mic is sometimes too good for its own good, as it can pick up minute background details that may essentially distract some users.
Headset Conclusion: As a solo device, the Turtle Beach Elite Pro Tournament Gaming Headset is one of the finer pro-gaming peripherals on the market. It’s a wonderfully constructed headset that delivers superb performance for all your gaming needs, even if you decide to pass up on the TAC.
If you’re looking for further audio tweaking options and a plethora of mic performance settings, then the Tactical Audio Controller is a must. This is a unique amp that’s packed with features heavily geared towards professional gamers. I’ve been using the term “amp” somewhat loosely here, because the Controller is more of a functionality hub than an actual amp. I guess this may be a good time to get the negatives out of the way, since the Controller is an otherwise excellent aid for competitive gaming. As an amp, the Tactical Audio Controller is incredibly weak. The large volume dial has to be turned halfway up in order to hear any sound, and most games have forced me to crank the volume to max levels to properly hear all frequencies. This is especially disappointing when compared to the significantly cheaper, and infinitely better, Sound BlasterX G5.
"As an amp, the Tactical Audio Controller is incredibly weak. The large volume dial has to be turned halfway up in order to hear any sound, and most games have forced me to crank the volume to max levels to properly hear all frequencies."
Poor amplification aside, the Controller is precisely what I’ve always wanted within my gaming setup. Unlike most audio peripherals that require additional software for sound adjustments, the Tactical Audio Controller gives users the ability to access all tweaks during gaming, which makes it stupendously practical when you just want to quickly shift between modes without tabbing out of the program. You can still download a Controller Hub directly from Turtle Beach’s site, and it will allow you to assign further game profiles to the available presets, but it’s not necessary for achieving maximum performance.
The Audio Controller is designed for tournament gaming, and therefore benefits pros more than the average gamer. Remember my issues with the mic picking up too much detail? Well, if you have the Controller, you can easily monitor your mic levels and make proper alterations. You can limit background noise (completely eliminating my previous complaint), there’s a slider for balancing game/chat volume and you can boost your outbound mic volume in case your teammates are having a hard time hearing your voice.
"Even though the plethora of mic settings are mainly geared towards pro players, the conveniently placed audio modes are going to benefit anyone who uses the TAC."
The Tactical Audio Controller is compatible with all major gaming platforms, and it comes with all necessary cables for each connection type. All configurations are straightforward, but on Playstation 4, however, it’s imperative to set the Digital Out (Optical) to ONLY Dolby Digital 5.1, otherwise you’ll get very poor quality and may mistake the sound for a defective unit. You can even connect multiple TACs for a lag-free, local chat experience using a standard Ethernet cable (sold separately)—just make sure the cable is no longer than three meters to avoid signal loss.
Even though the plethora of mic settings are mainly geared towards pro players, the conveniently placed audio modes are going to benefit anyone who uses the TAC. Here, you’re presented with two sets of options: DTS Surround Sound modes and Signature Sudio presets. Each mode has four programmable phases that can be customized via Turtle Beaches Audio HUB, but most of the essential presets are already pre-programmed for immediate use.
"Despite my gripes with the TAC, I highly recommend it to gamers who take competitive gaming seriously and want something niche for their audio needs."
Highlight features include the Superhuman Hearing mode that enhances minute details to give competitive gamers an auditory edge, and the Signature Sound that, in my opinion, offers the most balanced performance. I personally don’t find the other presets as useful since they distort the sound integrity. The Footstep Focus mode, for example, amplifies background noise to a point where the entire sound stage can only be described as metallic. The same can be said for the 7.1 surround sound implementation. It’s very inaccurate, and I found it extremely disorienting and dizzying.
I suppose that’s the downside to having too many options—some things work while others don’t. When used together, the Elite Pro Tournament Gaming Headset and Tactical Audio Controller offer superb raw performance without the need for extraneous audio modes. I found myself sticking with the basics for most of my media needs, including music. Turtle Beach has proven that they obviously know a thing or two about audio, so I wish some of the “buzzword” features were dropped.
TAC Conclusion: This is a tricky one. The TAC is a specialized amp for pro gamers, and the features it offers are imperative for tournament gaming. For everyone else, there are cheaper and, based on your needs, probably better options. The TAC’s biggest downside is its poor amplification performance. For something that costs nearly two hundred bucks, you’d expect more power than what’s being offered. Despite my gripes with the TAC, I highly recommend it to gamers who take competitive gaming seriously and want something niche for their audio needs.