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Ear Force P21 Gaming Headset
Score: 95%
Developer: Turtle Beach
Device Type: Audio


You're too loud. Your neighbors complain about the noise, your significant other complains about you yelling when you're playing your games online and you've finally realized there's actually a problem, after getting hoarse during your last online gaming session.

What you need is a headset that lets you submerge yourself into your game... without drowning the people around you in gunshots and explosions at the same time. The Ear Force P21 Gaming Headset even has a Chat Boost feature that keeps you from having to yell to hear yourself by increasing the volume of your voice proportionally with the game audio.


The sound quality of the Ear Force P21 Gaming Headset is excellent. When I tried it out with the PS3 version of Ghostbusters, at times I forgot that I didn't have my home surround sound system turned on. And, that's saying something; my surround system sounds pretty good. The stereo audio sounds best with the Expander feature turned on. This is a built-in feature of the Ear Force P21 Gaming Headset for giving the audio a wider stereo sound.

Actually, what you get in the Ear Force P21 Gaming Headset is, essentially, two headsets in one. First, there's the stereo headphones. These get their sound from a mini phono plug. The other headset built into the P21 is a mono USB headset. What does this mean? Well, for one thing, when you use it with a PC* or Mac*, you'll need to set up your audio devices appropriately. This isn't a big deal, really. Just a few clicks in your configuration. (In Windows, for example, this would be in the Control Panel's Sounds and Audio Devices tool.)

Having a headset and a "separate" headset presents a lot of opportunities, which the P21 Gaming Headset capitalizes on nicely. Specifically, the P21 monitors the volume of the game's sound and automatically boosts the level of the chat volume to compensate with its built-in "Chat Boost" feature. Additionally, there are separate volume controls for the game audio and the chat audio on the in-line audio control box, as well as a bass level control for the game audio. Finally, since the headphones are noise-cancelling headphones, the P21 Gaming Headset uses this noise-cancelling functionality to remove the game sounds that are picked up by the chat mic - pretty cool.

Another very important feature for me is comfort. The Ear Force P21 Gaming Headset is very comfortable, with ear cups that have padding material covered with a jersey-like netted material, allowing airflow to keep your ears cool during extended gaming sessions. The microphone is a very flexible, rubber-coated boom mic that will go wherever you want it to and then stay there nicely. When the mic is not needed, you can swivel it up alongside the side of the headphones to move it out of your way.

*Out of the box, the Ear Force P21 Gaming Headset works with the PS3. With adapters available at Turtle Beach's website, however, it is possible to use this headset with PC or Mac computers.


  • PS3: Any model of PS3. One free USB connection is required for using the chat functionality. If you are using the PlayStation AV-Out cable, the Ear Force P21s can connect in-line with the Red and White (audio) connectors. If you are using HDMI, you would need to intercept the audio signal elsewhere (I used the headphone out on my Home Theater tuner) or configure your PS3 to use HMDI for video and the PlayStation AV-Out for audio, then use the in-line option.
  • PC/Mac: Free USB connection, use included mini-phono plug to RCA connectors splitter.

  • Compact, In-line Audio Control Box with Amplifier
  • USB Connection for PSN Chat
  • Flexible Noise-Cancelling Boom Mic
  • Combines PSN Chat with Stereo Game Sound
  • Stereo Expander Feature "Widens" Sound
  • Bass Boost Control on Control Box
  • Chat Boost Feature Dynamically Equalizes Chat with Game Sound
  • Eliminates Game Sounds Picked Up by Chat Mic
  • Separate Volume Controls for Game Sound and Incoming PSN Chat
  • Built-in Mic Monitor Lets You Hear What You're Saying

Drawbacks & Problems::

The only audio drawback was the addition of some hiss into the sound. While it wasn't too noticeable when the game volume was high, it could be distracting in quieter moments in games.

One feature that Turtle Beach points out for the Ear Force P21 Gaming Headset is that you can turn the ear cups so that they will rest flat against your chest when you're not actively using them. Maybe I just have a thick neck, but I find this "resting position" to be very uncomfortable. Then again, I don't like wearing ties, either, so maybe it's me. Either way, I don't feel this is a huge issue or crucial feature to have, so I didn't really factor this into my evaluation. If you're someone who needs headphones that you can wear around your neck when you're not using them, then you may find this to be a useful feature.

One additional oddity that I experienced with my Ear Force P21 Gaming Headset was swapped audio jacks. Specifically, the red and white RCA jacks (used for the gaming audio in) had to be swapped when connected to a system for the audio to be on the correct side: Red had to be connected to White and White to Red. This may be an issue with the specific unit I received, and is as simple a matter as a wire being connected wrong or the wrong color connectors being used, but when I first connected the headphones as described in the instructions, I noticed that directionality was incorrect. This was fixed once I swapped the connectors.

All things considered, I am very pleased with the Ear Force P21 Gaming Headset, despite the few small gripes found above. To me, the sound quality is the most important factor, followed closely by comfort. The P21s excel in these categories. The integration of the headset and headphone features into a single product that is better than the two alone is icing on the cake, making for a very solid product. These are the headphones I plan to use when I build a flight/mech/racing simulator cabinet.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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