Product: Mad Catz Tritton 720+ 7.1 Headset
I can remember the first time I experimented with playing a games console with some kind of sonic enhancement to improve the overall experience. It would have been around 1993, and I figured a way of hooking my SNES up to my Dad’s stereo using the trusty old red and white tipped cable. It was incredibly crude and primitive by today’s standards, yet hearing the likes of F-Zero and Super Mario World booming out of those two massive, arcane speakers was to my young mind akin to playing video games in a movie theatre.
Of course, these days things have moved on in ways I couldn’t have imagined back then. Consoles like the PlayStation 3 are capable of outputting 7.1 surround sound, and there are devices on the market that genuinely can make your living room gaming experience something similar to a trip to your local multiplex. But sometimes you have to think of the neighbours, which is why gaming headsets are such popular gadgets. They enable us to enjoy personalised, high quality audio, as well as doubling up to enable to voice chat that is such a part of playing video games online. The Tritton 720+ is my first experience of using such a dedicated piece of hardware, and I am pleased to say I was suitably impressed by the results.
The most striking thing you notice from the get go with this dazzling bit of kit is how classy the box is, and how well the contents have been presented. Everything nestles perfectly inside the extremely dashing box, which also includes a large, easy to follow instruction manual that even a technophobe like myself was able to follow without any issues. I have unboxed brand new game consoles before with less sumptuous packaging.
Inside the box you get the headset itself, a microphone attachment, and all of the leads necessary to connect it to your PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 or PC – including an optical cable. There is also a cool looking decoder box, which is powered via a USB lead and has a volume control and LEDs that tell you what mode the headset is in. The decoder looks really neat, with the “T” logo emblazoned on the top.
The actual cans you slip over your ears are fantastic. Hard plastic in construction, there is plenty of padding to make long gaming periods comfortable, and everything swivels about nicely meaning it is not difficult to find the optimum position on your head. The microphone is similarly versatile, a small bendy thing that can be removed when not in use and can be rotated and positioned wherever you want. The striking colourway is extremely classy, cool white with black and orange detail, it looks like an expensive piece of equipment and is every bit as snazzy as that set of Beats By Dre the hipster sat next to you on the bus was rocking the other day.
Given the amount of features and the fact that the whole setup is USB powered, it isn’t wireless, but there is a generous twelve feet of cable. Attached to said cable is a little remote control which allows you to control microphone and headset volume without having to reach for the decoder.
If I was going to level one criticism at the device it would be the plethora of leads and cables, that some could find daunting, or difficult to keep track of if, like me, the back of your telly is a Spaghetti Junction of crazy cables and myriad consoles and whatnot. When using the Xbox 360 functionality, you have a hard wired headset, with another Xbox LIVE cable to plug into your controller, which seems a little cumbersome but is not a deal breaker by any means, particularly when you understand that Tritton have been extremely generous, covering a lot of bases with the compatibility of just the one headset.
In terms of performance, you cannot knock the 720+. Whichever variety of Dolby you happen to be using – be it the 7.1, Dolby Digital EX, or Pro Logic IIx – it sounds sublime. Of course I went straight in with the PlayStation 3, wanting to sample the full 7.1, and was not disappointed. I tried it out with Madden NFL 13, and felt like I was actually part of the huddle as I attempted to drive the New York Jets down the field. The crowd noise is given a whole new level of intensity, the monolithic introduction music sounds like the opening to a movie down at the Odeon. Moving on to another sports title with PES 2013 was much the same, a treat for the ears which enhance the experience tenfold. Everything I have thrown at the 720+ was the same – playing Resistance 3 was a real eye opener, the way I could hear the Chimera approaching from the distance, the intensity of the gunfire, and hear anything and everything all around me.
Moving on to the Xbox 360, Gears of War 3 and Street Fighter X Tekken gave me the opportunity to try out the microphone during online play, whilst listening to the aural treats in Dolby surround. The microphone is far better than the standard Xbox 360 bundled-in headset I am used to using, and I loved the way you can change the volume to your exact liking using the little remote. Using the 3.5mm jack setup, the headset also performed well from the microphone side of things when having a conversation over Skype on my PC, something which is very useful when I am recording Saint & Greensie for the millions…and millions of Saint & Greensie fans. In fact, the only device I was unable to test that the 720+ is compatible with is the Mac, which I do not own, but chances are it will deliver to those of you who compute using an Apple machine.
Let us not forget the fact that the 720+ can enhance not just games, but movies too. Blu-Rays on your PS3 sound terrific when using the headphones, and I couldn’t resist busting out the Betamax of the HD era, testing the redundant but nonetheless occasionally useful Xbox HD-DVD player in surround sound. Let me just say that the Blade Runner Special Edition HD-DVD (which is perhaps the best, most affordable HD version of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece and gets a full five stars from me) nearly had me in tears when I heard the majesty of the Vangelis score through my bawse new hardware.
The clarity and intensity of the audio shocked me. It was at times like experiencing some of the games I played for the first time, not to mention some of the music I listened to off of my Xbox 360 hard drive. There is no distortion even when turned up full whack, and some beautiful, shudderingly good bass in the mix. It is a device effectively capable of giving a genuinely competitive Dolby 7.1 performance without the need to splurge several hundred pounds on reams of AV receivers, speakers and other expensive kit down at Richer Sounds.
VERDICT: This is an extremely tasty piece of kit, to say the least. For a very competitive price you get a headset which, whilst not at the very high end of the market, delivers a top drawer performance for a great selection of devices. For someone who has a small baby in the building, and has to be respectful of neighbours in the block of flats where I live, it allows me to really crank things up when I am playing and reviewing games, without upsetting the little man or anyone else. It has given some games a new lease of life thanks to how the improved audio enhances the experience. Tritton are now looked after by Mad Catz, a firm who have consistently impressed me with the design and performance of the products in the arsenal. This is a high class headset which I thoroughly recommend and now takes pride of place just behind my telly, ready to take out when I need to escape into my own little gaming microcosm.