This review may be updated in the future to account for any changes in accessibility of the unit or its firmware.
Review last modified:
Though surround sound headsets have been around for a number of years, there are normally two names mentioned within this sphere of relatively niche gaming devices: Astro and Turtle Beach. I was fortunate enough to be contacted by Turtle Beach and given the chance to review the Stealth 500x surround sound headset for Xbox One. I'd not actually used a surround sound headset before this review and had read a large amount of information and critique regarding the quality of the virtual surround system. However, before we come to the verdict, let's start with the box and unpacking it.
The box actually comes in a cardboard sleeve/outer casing. The top end of the inner box also features a small piece that would likely be used to hang the product up in shops (on my unit it was stuck down). The top and bottom of the inner box are attached to the sleeve by 2 adhesive circles, one in the middle of each end. You can remove these using a fingernail and pull the box free.
Once removed, the box should face upwards, with the slightly raised triangle in the middle. With the hanger facing to your right, you will see another adhesive circle to the left sealing the bottom of the inner box. You can remove this as you did with the previous ones.
Once this circle is removed, you can pull the section that it was attached to upwards and to your right (if the circle was facing to your right). Two tabs will come out with it as part of the assembly, which eventually brings the whole top of the box away to reveal the products underneath, covered by a sheet of material. This sheet can then be removed to reveal 2 smaller boxes underneath in a plastic case. This plastic case can be easily removed by looking around the sides for a point that is lower than the rest. Feel underneath one of these points and you should be able to get a hold of the edges and pull the plastic section free.
The flatter and more square of the two boxes in the plastic section unseals via the insertion of a fingernail into and lifting away of one of the longer edges, along with the lifting away of the rest of the flaps around it. This contains all the print documentation for the product. The second, rather longer box, which can be undone via flicking out the semi-circular tab on one of the long sides, pulling it down and pulling away the top, contains a USB lead, 3.5 mm audio cable, the microphone and an optical cable, all contained in separate plastic or polythene wrapping which can be removed relatively easily in each case, as follows:
All cables have cable ties which you can untwist carefully and remove.
- Optical Cable: Two pieces of tape seal the bag, simply pull these and keep a hand on the main area of the bag to detach them.
- USB Cable: One large piece of tape attaches the opening of the bag to the rest. Pull this firmly and it should come away allowing you access to the cable.
- 3.5 mm audio cable: The piece of tape holding the opening to the rest of the bag isn't easy to spot but once you do, just pull and it should grant you access to the cable.
- Microphone: Pull the top of the bag, it came away easily when I did this to gain access to the microphone unit itself.
Back to the main box
In the main box where the plastic section was, you will now find the headset and the transmitter in the middle (the latter is wrapped in a polythene bag). Though the whole assembly is in another plastic case, you can actually (carefully) remove the transmitter by grasping an edge, lifting and feeling where the wire that comes out extends from. Guide the wire carefully out of the hole in the plastic casing and you should get it free, wrapping and all.
Removing the transmitter from the bag is simple enough. Simply open the top (where the wire is) that is sealed by tape (which you can pull to remove). Then pull the transmitter carefully by the wire and with a small amount of pushing the bag so that the transmitter can get through everything should come free.
Now we come to the headset. It can simply be extracted by gripping the foam headband and lifting it up. The rest should come free without issue.
The headset comes with plastic film over the outside of the ear cups which can removed if you wish One ear cup contains the microphone socket, marked by a swivelling tube-like protrusion and the other contains two sets of two buttons. The front and back of the left ear cup, with the microphone, have a separate volume knob on each side. For connectivity, the left ear cup has a 3.5mm port at the bottom and the right hand ear cup has a USB socket at the bottom.
The volume knob on the front of the left ear cup controls chat volume and the one on the back controls the game volume. The button directly above the microphone is the on/off button for the entire headset (hold it down to achieve either of these) and the button behind it is microphone on/off. The button to the front of the on/off button for the headset controls the monitoring functions for the microphone which has three settings, indicated by three beeps (1 for low, 2 for medium and 3 for high),.
The transmitter has plastic protective film over the front of it that can be removed if you wish. With the angled side facing you and sloping upwards and away, the unit has three buttons on the right hand side. The back of the unit houses the USB cable and 3 sockets.
Set Up and pairing
To start using this headset, I had to first plug the headset and the transmitter into my PC and loaded the ear Force Audio Hub software (Found here on the relevant page on Turtle Beach's website). I went with the headset first, connecting the USB cable to the correct socket (with the USB symbol facing in towards where your head would be). I then loaded the Ear Force Audio Hub software. Though the information that I could update my product was available with NVDA, the buttons could not be clicked by conventional means of mouse navigation or even flat review, both of which are relatively common ways of getting around programs that have not been designed with accessibility in mind from the beginning). After pressing Alt U, however, I found that the updater was prompting me to connect both my headset and transmitter. I did this and it seemed to change nothing on screen. I therefore closed the app and relaunched it with both components plugged in. I continued to receive the message that my product was not detected.
After a full shutdown, logging back in and attempting to use the OCR add-on for NVDA, I somehow managed to activate the click here to download drivers button, though I'm not sure how and I would suggest getting sighted help to solve this reliably. A device driver install dialogue appeared where I clicked Install and the process continued on its way. This seemed to then fix the problem as I then was presented with a window with the title content tool. However, I wanted to add the superhuman hearing preset to the headset but couldn't do this with NVDA without sighted help.
Realising this I resolved to test with the default sounds and see how far I got as I thought it would theoretically reduce the amount of time this review would take.
With sighted help I found that further updates were required as well, thus requiring sighted help to initiate the update, close the window that appears after the updates are complete and also to even select new presets, which I promptly did thus having a slightly custom set of sounds but nothing that strays into game-specific territory.
Once I'd updated my firmware on both the transmitter and headset, I had to figure out how all the buttons worked. Though this took a while, the manual was at the very least somewhat helpful and is accessible, if you're willing to put up with a PDF file (which are sometimes a little on the quirky side when it comes to ease-of-use for screen readers).
I tested this headset with Halo 5: Guardians and Killer Instinct, the latter of which I play on a regular basis and the former seeming designed for surround sound (with Astro, Turtle Beach's competitor, producing surround headsets for this title in particular).
I wasn't truly testing this game with the Stealth 500x for its integration with surround devices. What I was trying to see was, in fact, how it stood up to its much cheaper and stereo-only competitor, the PDP Afterglow AG9 headset (my default when it comes to the majority of games on the Xbox One). However, even in segments that should be bass heavy and loading in the most bass-heavy preset I could find from the Headset's default selection in addition to the customs I had installed with assistance, I couldn't seem to get enough kick out of the 500x to justify it for use with fighting games like KI. Even Mortal Kombat X, which has impacts that are as heavy if not more so than in KI didn't sound as in your face as it probably should. As a result of these extensive tests and realisation that the headset wouldn't suit my current choice, I switched games.
Halo 5: Guardians
For a game that is, from what I could gather, designed to take full advantage of surround sound to immerse gamers in the rich worlds and lore of the series, the Stealth 500x, unfortunately, delivered a poor showing. Sounds that should've come from behind me only sounded like they were off to the side or just out of place completely. When I turned, I hoped that the camera would pan and thus allow me to appreciate the full scope of the surround system. However, all I heard, regardless of what preset I chose, was a slightly filled out stereo image. Whether it's the games I'm playing, my console's setting or the presets I have installed, I'm not sure. But in terms of using this headset for games, I feel like there are better options out there (maybe not surround sound capable ones, but ones that provide greater clarity and kick).
Whilst the headset might lack expected elements in the audio department, it certainly doesn't lack for comfort. Once you've worn it for a while, the foam padding will feel well-suited to your head (or at least it did in my case). During the time I tested the headset I didn't feel like this new headset was putting large amounts of pressure on my head, or that it would give me any long lasting pain were I to leave it on too long.
Well-built headset and well packaged
Microphone is very flexible and sounds clear.
Physical setup is simple enough as long as you know what ports you need to use from your console.
Audio cues to indicate modes and microphone settings work well after you understand the layout and organisation
Separate game and chat volumes are useful (as you can leave chat where it is and adjust game volume if needed)
Inaccessible software for working with presets and updating hardware.
Tone system can be confusing, as is reading the manual if unfamiliar with PDF documents and their idiosyncrasies (though not entirely the company's fault, as PDF is an industry standard for manuals, I feel it worth mentioning anyway).
Virtual surround isn't all it's cracked up to be
Lacks in bass, even in bass-heavy environments or games.
Currently I do not feel I can recommend, with any clear confidence, the Turtle Beach Stealth 500x. Though it is a comfortable piece of kit, it has, as of the time of this original review's publication, numerous accessibility flaws and lacks any clear improvement over stereo headsets that I can easily discern that would make me want to purchase this headset at the price points I have seen on Amazon and other similar retailers. However that is not to say that this is a "bad" product and with time, firmware updates and the cooperation of the company I feel this headset could become what it should've been at first: a surround sound headset capable of delivering an immersive experience.
Back to the main page