As important as visuals and gameplay are in these interactive entertainment thingies we fiddle with as a hobby, videogames wouldn’t be videogames without decent sound design. As technology has progressed we’ve got more and more ways to listen to the blips and bloops our favourite games generate, be it through stock TV speakers, a dedicated set up or, probably more commonly these days, a set of headphones. Indeed, as streaming and video content becomes more commonplace and accessible to content creators, a good headset with built in microphone is a fairly critical piece of kit. Manufacturers Turtle Beach are known for producing high quality pieces of earwear for gamers and the Elite Atlas Aero one of the more recent additions to their arsenal.
Aimed specifically at PC gamers and streamers, the Aero is a wireless take on their Elite Atlas headset. In the box you’ll find the headphones themselves, a detachable boom mic, a USB wireless dongle, a micro USB charge cable and a 3.5mm cable, as well as all the expected documentation. The 3.5mm cable allows you to connect the headset to pretty much any device with a compatible connection such as an XBox One, PS4 or Switch via the headphones jack, but if you’re buying these specifically for this purpose then you’re really missing the point. In this mode you can’t use the boom mic, instead being restricted to the inline mic on the cable, nor can you make use of all the whizzy features that PC owners will gain access to once they’ve plugged that little wireless dongle into their machine.
And downloaded the Turtle Beach Control Studio software. And updated the firmware on the headphones. Okay, so these aren’t necessarily plug and play as most headsets aimed purely at console players will be, but the extra controls that you unlock when connecting wirelessly to a Windows 10 or 8.1 PC are absolutely worth it.
Let’s look at the headset itself for starters. The first thing that strikes about the clams is the weight of them. Removing them from the box they feel solid, well constructed and reasonably weighty. They are not, however, heavy as you’ll quickly find when putting them on and the cushions on each earphone are incredibly comfy and support the weight of the whole system well. Comfort is, of course, paramount with any piece of tech like this and the Aero certainly deliver on that front. As well as the aforementioned boom mic, there are also a number of manual controls that can be found on the left ear cup. A button on the outside edge of the phone will mute the mic, while a dial on the back will turn the volume up and down. In addition to these, there’s also two other controls; another dial and a chunky push button, and this is where the Control Studio software starts to come into play.
The Control Studio does exactly what you’d expect and gives you a control panel to help you fine tune your headset, from configuring the overall volume, the mic level and the bass and treble levels, it also allows you to do such things as boost in game speech, set a noise gate on the microphone and tweak the game audio and microphone mix. It also gives you access to those previously mentioned headset controls which can be customised to tweak any of the built in controls you wish – the dial could allow you to set the fantastically useful built in mic monitoring on the fly, for example, while the button could let you toggle the “Superhuman Hearing” setting on and off, a Turtle Beach feature which amplifies low level sounds such as footsteps. As well as extending these macro functions with keyboard shortcuts and fine tuning the audio with an EQ, the other setting easily available from the control studio is the Waves 3D audio which is, quite frankly, wonderful.
The quality of the sound coming from the Aero is absolutely marvelous. I tested them with several games and came away mighty impressed. The world of Ori and the Blind Forest comes absolutely alive with the headphones picking out tiny sparkles of audio detail and allowing Gareth Coker’s wonderful soundtrack to layer itself clearly alongside the game audio. In 3D games that support surround sound, the 3D audio setting brings even more depth. I’ve used 5.1 speakers on my PC before and it’s always been hit or miss as to whether the effect is immersive or if it simply sounds like there’s an imp sat on the bookshelf behind me, but playing The Witcher 3 with the Aero on immersed me in the world of Temeria more than I’d ever experienced. I felt like NPC’s were surrounding me, I could hear monsters creeping out of the wilderness and the fantastic weather effects were amplified to new levels, with the creaks of trees and the patter of rain coming to the fore.
On the other end of the spectrum, the boom mic on the headset produced some fantastic sound itself, although I did find I had to position it slightly close to my chin to avoid unpleasant pops and “breathing noise” as I was using it. The aforementioned mic monitoring is great to identify when this is an issue, however, and the control studio will allow you to tweak the mic level and noise reduction to produce a better sound for your streaming and YouTube needs.
This is a genuinely great headset with all the comfort and audio quality you’ll need; it’s genuinely hard to find much to fault in it. The inline mic on the 3.5mm adapter isn’t great and has a tendency to crackle when it rubs up against clothes; it’s a shame that you can’t use the boom mic when you are wired in as it would make the headset far more appealing for use with consoles. I also had a couple of teething problems where my PC would lose connection to the headphones, or connect but deliver no audio. These were solved, however, by updating the firmware and, bizarrely, moving the USB dongle to a different port. As I’ve said, not quite plug and play, but these premium headphones are aimed at an audience who needs something that’s going to be comfortable for long periods and deliver fine control over the audio they both produce and capture – on that front the Elite Atlas Aero absolutely deliver.