Given how little people seem to care about sound quality these days — as evidenced by the dominance of streaming and iTunes — it might seem odd to do a review of a headset based on how well they present music. But as someone who does care how well or badly his music sounds, not to mention his games and movies, that’s exactly what I did when the good people at Turtle Beach sent me a Turtle Beach i30 Wireless Mobile Media Headset ($199.99). And while they’re not perfect, I was pleasantly surprised at how good they work…and sound.
The Turtle Beach i30 Wireless Mobile Media Headset are Bluetooth-enabled, noise-cancelling headphones designed to work with your phone, game machine, tablet, what-have-you. They have four built-in EQ presets — flat, bass boost, treble boost, bass and treble boost — as well as a built-in, rechargeable battery that uses a USB cable, so can use the same plug as your phone or tablet. It even has a small mic, so it can be used with your phone.
The Turtle Beach i30 Wireless Mobile Media Headset also has a computerized woman’s voice telling you when you’ve turned it on, turned it off, engaged the noise cancelling, and so on. Granted, there are lights for those three actions as well, but there aren’t for when you adjust the EQ presets or use the headset to adjust the volume for Bluetooth. Though it takes a moment to do any switching, so if you’re using them to watch a movie or TV show, you’ll want to pause before making an changes, lest you might miss an important plot point.
To start my test of the Turtle Beach i30 Wireless Mobile Media Headset, I put them on, and found that they were a lot more comfortable than most noise-cancelling headphones I’ve owned or tried. Mostly because they don’t squeeze your head as hard. Instead, they mostly feel like a regular pair of headphones. Now, they do squeeze a little, which would bug my mother, who’s prone to getting headaches. But for me, it wasn’t bad, and not nearly as hard as other noise cancelling headphones I’ve tried.
Next, I used the Turtle Beach i30 Wireless Mobile Media Headset to listen to music via a wired connection. Specifically, the newly remastered version of Led Zeppelin IV, the Gone Girl soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, The Astounding Eyes Of Rita from Anouar Brahem, Faith No More’s Sol Invictus, and Somewhere from Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, and Jack DeJohnette. While none sounded as good as they do when using my stereo’s speakers, they still sounded good, though a little heavy on the bass.
I then compared the sound of the Bluetooth connection on the Turtle Beach i30 Wireless Mobile Media Headset by linking it to my Amazon Fire HD and listening to John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme Part I: Acknowledgement” (from, of course, the album A Love Supreme), “Shake Your Blood” by Probot (from their eponymous album), and “2112: Part I: Overture” and “2112: Part II: The Temples Of Syrinx” (from Rush’s 2112) on YouTube. Admittedly, YouTube doesn’t have the best sound quality, but it still gave me a good way to compare the sound quality between the wired and wireless connections. Which, as it turns out, wasn’t terribly different. Using the wire was noticeably cleaner, while the Bluetooth connection made it a little muddier, but it wasn’t a huge difference.
I also tried the wired/Bluetooth comparison for gaming by linking the Turtle Beach i30 Wireless Mobile Media Headset to my Vita, where I played Zen Pinball 2 and Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Evolved. Again, the sound was cleaner and sharper with a wired connection, but the difference was even less noticeable than with music.
Finally, I tested the noise cancelling capabilities of the Turtle Beach i30 Wireless Mobile Media Headset by going down to my apartment building’s basement when both the water softener and a washing machine were running. With the noise cancelling on, but no other sound coming through the headphones, the noise from the water softener and the washing machine was reduced to a low murmur, one that was completely wiped out when I turned on some music on the portable CD player I brought with me. I also tested it in my car with the engine running, and found that the noise cancelling blocked most of the motor’s sounds.
Though, in both instances, the Turtle Beach i30 Wireless Mobile Media Headset still blocked out a fair amount of noise even without the noise canceling turned on just by virtue of having those big cups engulfing my ears.
There is, of course, the noise cancelling vs. sound quality metric. While some noise cancelling headphones are good at cancelling noise but don’t sound good (such as the Bose I’ve tried), others have better sound but don’t cancel as much noise (which is what the iHome’s I had before were like). The Turtle Beach i30 Wireless Mobile Media Headset is decidedly in the latter camp, but did a better job of blocking out noise than the iHome’s.
As nice as the Turtle Beach i30 Wireless Mobile Media Headset may be, though, they’re not without their shortcomings. The most glaring of which is that — unlike every other headset, noise-cancelling or otherwise, that I’ve ever used — you have to turn them on for them to work. They don’t work if they’re off or out of power. Which means that if you forget to charge them, you’re out of luck.
It’s an issue that’s compounded by the fact that the Turtle Beach i30 Wireless Mobile Media Headset doesn’t have a battery indicator. As a result, you may not realize the is about to run out of juice. Which, as I noted above, would render the headset useless.
The Turtle Beach i30 Wireless Mobile Media Headset also has volume controls for when you’re connected to something via Bluetooth, but they don’t work when you use a wired connection. There’s also no volume slider on the wire itself, which is commonplace in headphones these days.
Along with the unit itself, the Turtle Beach i30 Wireless Mobile Media Headset comes with a audio cord, a USB cord to recharge the unit, and a 1-to-2 adapter so you can use it on an airplane. It also comes with a rather sturdy carrying case that not only protects the headset, but nicely includes an inner pouch for the aforementioned cords and adapter. But because neither the carrying case nor the inner pouch have zippers, the case can’t be totally sealed, and the pouch’s opening is near the case’s opening, it’s possible that the airplane adapter could slip out if the bag is turned on its side or upside down. Though this will probably only happen if the adapter is alone in the inner pouch. When I placed it beneath the two cords, they kept it safely inside.
Also, because the cups of the Turtle Beach i30 Wireless Mobile Media Headset are big, it’s kind of bulky when it’s in the case, which makes it less convenient for traveling than other headphones I’ve owned.
Even with these issues, though, the Turtle Beach i30 Wireless Mobile Media Headset is good for listening to music or playing games, especially when you’re travelling. They’re comfortable, reasonably light, and, most importantly, sound good, especially when wired. Which, as someone who cares about sound quality, is exactly what I need.