Sharkoon’s X-Tatic SP gaming headset: One size fits all?

Is Sharkoon’s X-Tatic SP a PS3 headset, an Xbox 360 headset, or a PC headset? The answer is ‘yes’ once, twice, and thrice. Is it, perhaps, a Wii headset as well? The answer there is: er, sort of.

The X-Tatic SP screams ‘luxury’ in your face before you even rip it eagerly out of the packaging, peeking cheekily at you from behind a cardboard curtain (as seen above). Once free of its partially recyclable prison however, it may instead start screaming ‘Ikea’ at you like a drunken auntie instead. It’s a four piece deal – the main body of the headset, the microphone, a joypad adapter for the 360, and a Component Cable Hijack Device (my personal name for it, more on which later).

This is very much a wired headset. In fact, if you use it with everything plugged in at once, looking at all those wires trailing from your head can make you feel like a time traveller – in that you now find yourself in the future, and your robot masters have plugged you into the matrix. The point is, of course, the wires won’t be bothering you – they’re all out of view while you concentrate on your TV/monitor.

One of the most important questions is: is the headset itself comfortable to wear? The answer, thankfully, is ‘very’, thanks to the flexibility and padding. Also, despite its apparent chunkiness, it’s surprisingly light. Lengthy play sessions are no problem at all, and it’s easy to sometimes forget you’re wearing a headset at all.

I mentioned flexibility, and this is flexible to the point where it would seem suitable for the most mutated of heads. I pulled the earpieces away from one another until the arch connecting them was almost completely straight – with no creaks, groans, or snaps of complaint from the unit. If your head is twice as wide as mine (and one of your ears is set at the eleven o clock position) then this is the one for you! It’s also possible, for reasons that are beyond me, to twist each earpiece around by degrees until it faces inward (that is, toward your face).

"No time to talk to people because you're too busy playing videogames? Don't worry, I'll be your friend!"

I’ve found that if you turn both earpieces round all the way, and set the headset on the floor upside down without the microphone attached, it looks a bit like a smiley face. I’m sure this was intentional.

The microphone, too, is flexible – staggeringly so. It’s more flexible than Louie Spence. It’s so flexible, you will easily be able to find the perfect position for you. It’s so flexible – yes, I actually tried this – you can turn it right round and put it in your mouth while it’s plugged into the headset. Not very practical, but great for Marlon Brando impressions (you can almost, but not quite, stick it up your nose).

Provided you don’t do anything that foolish with the microphone, it picks up your voice very well. I tested it at various times with three other people using five different headsets between them, and was assured that my voice came through very clearly with each (though for some reason, two different people told me that I came through a little quiet on the official Xbox 360 Elite headset).

I must at this point however tell of the difficulties I initially experienced. When I first started testing the unit for chat, although my voice came through clearly, I broke up regularly; prolonged conversation was literally impossible. I later discovered that this was entirely my fault for not connecting the microphone correctly. If you buy yourself a Sharkoon X-Tatic SP, take the time to examine the instructions closer than I first did. When plugging in the microphone (which you only have to do once), make sure that the miniscule and almost invisible dots – one by the mic plug, one by the headset socket – are aligned.

With this issue corrected, I came through loud and clear with no trouble. When I began breaking up again at one point, I realised that this was because I was absently fiddling with the little unit which houses the input & output volume controls, the mute switch, and the device selection switch (PS3 &PC/Xbox 360). Clipping the thing to my t shirt just seemed to make the problem worse; I found that simply letting it dangle like some kind of desperately dull bling (and making sure not to fiddle with it) worked best.

The control unit

I also found that, regardless of headset/connection speed/IQ of the person I was talking to, they consistently came through loud and clear for me (though quality, obviously, varied slightly from headset to headset). Maximum volume was a little too loud for my liking, but it’s nice to have the option there. A volume control for your own voice baffled me slightly, as (a) there’s already a mute switch, and (b) it seems that only maximum volume will guarantee a nice clear voice on the other person’s end. You could always turn the volume down and swear at them, then turn it back up and pretend your connection slowed while you were saying how lovely they were. Oh, hours of fun.

But what of enjoying your in-game sounds? Well first and foremost, let’s get this out of the way: if you’re using an HDMI cable and can’t/won’t switch to a component, you can’t use the X-Tatic SP for in-game sounds. The adapter I so maturely referred to earlier as a Component Cable Hijack Device requires – yup, you guessed it – a component cable, either SD or HD. Connect the adapter to the headset, then plug the red and white audio cables into it to divert the audio to the earpieces. Plug the end of the adapter into your normal output (e.g. TV) and the audio will be transmitted there simultaneously. Then you’re ready to go.

Sharkoon are keen to stress that the X-Tatic SP has been designed with gaming in mind rather than music. So far as I can tell, this involves putting the emphasis on bass. It makes sense when you think about all the explosions, engine revs, gravel-voiced heroes, etc. found in so many games. It does mean that you don’t get the crystal clear sound of a decent set of speakers; but the trade-off there is layers of sound that you never even knew were there.

With the X-Tatic SP, you miss nothing. Be it a podgy torso disturbing a patch of flowers in Mario Galaxy or spent shells hitting the floor in Battlefield, the subtlest piece of ambience is delivered to your ears just as effectively as a rousing soundtrack to a set piece or the terrified screams of your enemies. Er, for example. Everything is, of course, presented in full stereo. It will certainly be a revelation for people who have previously relied on TV speakers.

I tested it across formats but, as I first received the headset shortly before the PlayStation Network went down, I haven’t been able to test PS3 functionality as thoroughly as I’d like. Nonetheless, I experienced no problems while PSN was still going. It worked equally well on all the above points with the 360 and PC too.

Now, the X-Tatic SP is advertised primarily as a PS3 and Xbox 360 headset, and the PC is mentioned only in the small print on the box. No mention whatsoever is made of the Wii; but, for audio at least, I can confirm that it’s compatible. The number of Wii games that support voice chat is tiny, and I don’t own any of them. As Wii Speak is required there however (anybody actually buy that? Anybody?), it seems safe to presume that the microphone will not work with any Wii games.

If you’re a multiformat gamer and you’re looking for a fully functional multiformat gaming headset, then – so long as you use component cables and don’t mind fiddling about round the back of the TV – this is a great place to start. Think about how often and how fully you’d use it, however, before shelling out the £45-£50 most online stores are asking.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

One comment

  1. Im interested but a bit pricy.

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