TurtleBeach EarForce PX21 Review

Console gaming headsets are in a weird place. On one hand, they’re relatively cheap and plentiful. On the other hand, that low price point means the drivers inside aren’t great. Hardware manufacturers like to cover this up with bass response, the PX21 set is no exception.

Though I don’t think you can even find a headset for consoles that doesn’t color the output, it isn’t any excuse for making cheap junk.

The big downsides are often similar across manufactures and models, comfort for extended sessions and quality.

TurtleBeach’s PX21 headset looks fine on paper, it has a great mic that is super-flexible, and is the first headset from TurtleBeach to support the PS3. It also supports the 360 and PC gaming.

The immediate downside is simple.

There is a terrible hissing noise.

You can minimize it by swapping out the included red/white RCA bypass jacks for going straight to your TV or hi-fi tuner setup’s headphone audio out jack, and then adjusting that system’s volume up. Then you turn the volume down on the PX 21’s built-in amp.

But that still doesn’t eliminate the hiss, and it is extremely annoying during any part of a game that has quiet spots.

Games with quiet spots are why I own a PS3, I don’t play just shooters; I play games like Heavy Rain and I don’t want the quiet points in games to be marred by the ear-piercing whine these produce. Even the recent Red Dead Redemption sounds like crap and gives me a headache due to this headset’s hissing noise.

Of course to hook them up they need to be plugged into the PS3 (or other device) via USB for power. On the 360 you’ve got a special bypass cable to chat through the controller. On the PS3 the connection is simpler since the chat audio goes straight through the USB cable.

This means the headset is really mixing two inputs, the game connection over the RCA (or headphone jack)  input and the chat audio over the USB wire or the supplied 360 bypass cable.

This design of two mixed inputs is either brilliant or stupid. Brilliant because it works around every situation you might want to use it in, stupid because the hardware TurtleBeach has chosen is so cheap it can’t really give you a clean sound.

The PX21 headset is otherwise extremely lightweight & comfortable. It also covers the technical bases of supporting the PS3, 360, and PC gaming. I hope TurtleBeach will go back to the drawing board to design a headset that doesn’t hiss, even if it means raising the price slightly. Maybe in some magical laboratory somewhere these things don’t hiss, but other reviews corroborate my testimony. As it is I cannot recommend this headset unless you only play loud games that have little-to-no quiet points, like Modern Warfare 2.

Even then you should keep your receipt, I returned the PX21 headset to Best Buy after just 24 hours.

Author: Jack Slater

A Philadelphian living in Hawaii. You can follow or contact me on Twitter where I'm @TimeDoctor, via the contact page, or via e-mail to zjs@zacharyjackslater.com. Find out more about Nuclear Monster here.

19 thoughts on “TurtleBeach EarForce PX21 Review”

  1. I own the PX21 headset and I think it is fantastic for the price. Excellent sound and communication, and the features gave it a leg up on the competition. As for the “hiss” you seemed to have encountered, did you try connecting it with a USB-AC power adapter? I think you may have just had a noisy USB. You should also keep the chat volume down when not in use and try turning off the expander.

  2. Hey Chrissay,
    I agree, the features are above-average. As far as I know it is the only headset on the market to have them, I just wish the hardware quality matched the innovation.

    With regard to the USB-AC adaptor, that kind of defeats the purpose since the voice chat is supposed to go over the USB audio.
    Also, if I recall correctly the hiss was there even when I plugged it into my laptop. I also tried turning down the chat volume and I didn’t like what the expander did to the audio so I had that off most of the time anyway.

    One thing that I found particularly interesting about your comment was that a WordPress plugin I use says you work for Turtle Beach, and I feel obligated to the readers to mention that.

  3. 3 days ago my beloved X1 headset died so first I tried the X11. Same headset, just new ergonomic design right? Wrong. Terrible hiss, no bass and more of a cheap feel to the overall design.
    So, I decided (against my wifes better judgment) to pay a little more for what should be technically a better product right? Wrong again.
    Turtle beach have taken a massive step backwards in product quality, and to be honest I feel cheated by yet another gaming-related company.

    Treat your X1s with care, you may never see the like again!

  4. First, I have no clue what hissing noise you’re talking about. This headset is fantastic, I love it, especially the fact that it’s the only Turtle Beach model for the PS3. Also, I use it only for MW2 because that’s the only game I like to play really, and another thing, I have no idea what the expander does.

  5. this thing is a piece of crap.i got it and it was so cool,then one of the sides it just turn of then it then it turn off . i got so pist off and the ear set came of and i just put them away for ever.now i have to wait a long time to get a new one.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. piece of crap, ive got mine since august, first ones i returned coz there was no sound coming from the left ear, the new set has now packed in only being used for ten weeks, i lost my receipt, shop dont wanna know,

  7. People, people, please. With regards to HISS, one MUST understand what the black box connected to the headset is: it’s an AMPLIFIER. The point of an amplifier is to take the incoming signal and jack up the volume, via the “game volume” knob. Any amplifier creates noise, and on this headset, it is a hiss. You want a simple fix? The way to get rid of hiss coming from the post-amplifier is to use the VOLUME on the sound SOURCE, i.e., your TV or your home theater system. By keeping the amplifier’s volume LOW on the PX21 headset, you eliminate the hiss that is created when the amplifier amplifies the signal coming from your source. ALWAYS USE SOURCE VOLUME WHENEVER DEALING WITH AN OUTSIDE POST-AMP. The chat knob, when jacked up as well, creates some hiss. Again, this is due to the fact it’s taking sound from the source (PS3) and amplifying it.

  8. Hey Jay!
    When i turn down the sound on the AMP, and then turn up the sound on my TV, nothing happens. Why? Did i missed a setting or something?

  9. the px21 is good for its priuce i mean but please can anyone help no sound coming out of the left ear its because the wires is loose i fiddled about with it the sound occasionly comes back it disappears can anyone help!! i have passed the warranty anyone knows how to fix it

  10. i got my px21 a couple of days ago and the left ear came of anyone know where i can get a fix pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees

  11. i was mid-way through a game and the sound from my left ear peice just went off.. anyonw know whats happed here ?

  12. I just purchased the PX21 headphones from JB-HIFI in Brisbane and Unpacked them, plugged them in and there is no sound coming from the right ear piece. I have plugged them into my computer also and the same thing. Will be taking back tomorrow and either getting replacement or a different type if i can.

  13. I just bought these headphones and I have to admit that the noise floor is just too high. The black box yes is an amplifier, and is USB powered. Lowering the volume of the headphone and increasing that of the PC (or any source you use) has no effect for me. If I cannot get a refund for it, I will cut the cable and connect it directly to my PC, as well as the microphone.

  14. can you please help me. my son has pulled the wire out of his px21 headset completely. i have no idea which wire goes where on the small circuit board inside the headset. have tried youtube and everywhere to no avail. a picture or diagram would be brilliant

  15. I recent got the DPX21 (PX21 with the DSS) and also find the annoying hiss/noise…. after extensively researching on the internet and testing, I can confirm the source of hissing is from the PC USB port. I “fixed” the problem by plugging the USB into a AC-USB power (my iphone plug) and the hiss is gone… yes I lost voicechat but it sound so much more powerful and clean!! will only plug into PC USB when I’m in online games where I would anywhere not notice the hiss….

  16. emm my px 21 i bought 3 days ago and i took them back from my friends house and i plugged in the mic its says that the mic is plugged in but when i speak the mic dosent move and friends carnt hear me?

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