[nextpage title=”Introduction”]You don’t have to be a bona fide audiophile to enjoy listening to a home theater setup. Nowadays the 5.1 system is as ingrained in our culture as the stereo system was for our parents. For those lacking in space/money to invest in a true home theater setup for the PC, and those who like a little privacy while gaming/seeing DVDs, there’s the option of buying in a 5.1 headset. The Turtle Beach Ear Force HPA-2 is aimed at gamers and people who want to have a small home theater experience without waking up the neighbors. Let’s see how it fared.
The Ear Force HPA-2 comes with the headset itself, which is kind of huge, and a staggering amount of wiring. There’s a cable coming from the headset that you have to hook up to a small amplifying unit by a DIN connector, and from that you get a long wire that splits into five other wires, four ending in 3.5 mm minijacks (front, center, surround and sub-woofer channels) and one terminated in a USB plug (to power the amplifier). There is also a set of splitter cables to connect the Turtle Beach to 5.1-channel multimedia speakers. Finally you have a removable microphone. Overall the setup has 11.5 feet (3.5 m) of cables.
The amplifier has a general in-line volume control as well as separate volume controls for center, front, surround, and sub-woofer channels. The unit should rest upon the table (taking up more space), being midway the whole wire, which also features a shirt clip.
[nextpage title=”Installing the Turtle Beach Ear Force HPA-2″]The Turtle Beach Ear Force HPA-2 works with most modern PC whose motherboards have six on-board sound channels (click here to read our tutorial on how to make this connection). You just have to connect the minijacks following the color code stated in the manual, run the sound configuration on the Windows Control Panel and that’s it. We did the whole thing in less than three minutes. Remember: you gotta have a spare USB port to power the amplifier.You should turn the individual sound channel volume to the maximum, and then use the master control to select how high you want the general volume. Be careful, however, with the subwoofer volume since it packs a mean punch, especially during explosion-filled games or high octane action movies. If you can equalize the sound through software for maximum boost to the bass, you’ll have a blast in your ears, believe us (we did just that).[nextpage title=”Using the Headset”]Even tough it’s pretty big and weights 11.9 oz (340 g), the Ear Force HPA-2 is very comfortable. It has a leather-covered adjustable headband and velvet-covered earcups that cover the whole ears. Inside them there is a 40-mm front, a 40-mm surround, and a 30-mm center driver, and a discrete sub-woofer. The bendable mic can reach the user’s mouth or be put aside. Our only gripe is with the excessive long wiring and the need of table space for the amplifier.After overviewing the headset, let’s go the best part of our review: actually putting the product through test by playing games, listening to music and watching movies. Call of Duty 4 became true to its title thanks to the immersive experience of playing in a 5.1 sound channel environment. Shots coming from behind actually felt like there were enemies behind us, and the grenades exploding really made us jump in your seats. We also tested it by watching the opening battle scene from Gladiator, and the surround effect was amazing: arrows whistling past us, and the booming soundtrack and effects just got that extra boom. But for that to happen you have to remember to set your media player software to 5.1 channels. Finally we listened to a eclectic music selection raging from the dance pop of the Black Eyed Peas, the hard rock of Metallica and some classic Sinatra. Sound response and fidelity were great, and the bass got center spot once more.Despite its awkward size, long cables and the need for some table space for the small amplifier, the Turtle Beach Ear Force HPA-2 have replaced the excellent Razer Piranha which we have been using as our main headset since it was reviewed.[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]Turtle Beach Ear Force HPA-2 headset main specifications are:
- 40-mm front and surround channel speakers: Impedance: 32 ohms; Frequency Response: 20-20,000 Hz
- 30-mm channel speakers: Impedance: 32 ohms; Frequency Response: 80- 16,000 Hz
- 30-mm sub-woofer: Impedance: 16 ohms; Frequency Response: 50Hz – 15kHz
- Weight: 11.9 oz (340 g)
- Four 3.5mm input jacks
- Adapter weight: 3.9 oz (110 g)
- Power adapter: USB power
- More information: https://www.turtlebeach.com
- Suggested retail price in the US: USD 99.95
[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]Strong points:
- Excellent bass boost
- Immersive 5.1 sound experience in games and movies
- Ideal for gaming, music listening and seeing DVDs on the PC
- Comfortable design prolongs usage
- Too many long cables
- Needs table space for the amplifier
- Too big a setup