Sharkoon: X-Tatic SX headset

Sharkoon have geared themselves up to wade into the murky waters of mid-range gaming headsets with two new bits of kit, the X-Tatic SX (for the 360 and PC) at around £40, and the X-Tatic SP (for PS3, 360 and PC) weighing in at ten quid more.

Ah, promo images, so chic, so sexy...

Truth is there are tons of mid-priced headsets on the market, and each has something going for it, so let’s have a look at what makes the SX stand out.

In short, these are among some of the most comfortable headphones at this price we’ve tried. After a couple of hours of gaming, at a point when many of its competitors (yes, Turtle Beach Ear Force X1, we’re looking at you) suddenly start reminding you that your ears would much rather not be encased in foam and faux suede and your head would much rather you took the damn things off so as to give your neck muscles a bit of a rest, the SXs are still acting like they’re not really there, which makes a great deal of difference if you’re prone to headaches from too much headphone use.

Indeed, the comfort these cans offer is right up there with the best of them, and is their best feature by a long shot. Which, for serious yet skint audiophiles, must sound some sort of alarm bells, because away from their weight and comfort, the SXs are found wanting.

The mic, which is detachable and designed in such a way that it’s quite difficult to reattach while still wearing the headphones, comes up too short. Now, that doesn’t actually effect it picking up your voice, but it does effect your perception of what is right, leading your fingers to wander up to the side of your face time and again to pointlessly fiddle with it when no amount of fiddling will pull it closer to your mouth…

That is one chunky beast of a volume control...

What’s more irritating and most definitely a design flaw, is the jack socket connection direct to the 360’s control pad. One of the problems with the headset that comes with the console is that this socket eventually fails, especially if you unplug your headset after every session. The jack becomes loose and you lose connection. What most of these headsets do to get around that (since most manufacturers recognise that this is one of the reasons gamers look for a new headset) is have a specially designed jack plug that grips the controller in such a way as to make it impossible for the connection to be lost. But the SX’s socket just isn’t up to the job. It wobbles. So much so that the familiar crackle of static will boom out of the headphones whenever you accidentally knock the jack against yourself.

Yet this isn’t the SXs’ biggest fault. No sooner is it plugged into the USB socket and nestled atop your head, then the first audio cock up appears – a faint humming sound that is clearly audible at all volume levels. Of course, it’s too quiet to be a problem once you’re playing a game, as it’s lost behind the wall of noise; but when you’re playing an FPS and relying on every bit of audio for information on an enemy’s whereabouts, little things like distant hissing sounds really ruin the experience.

At the business end of things, the mid-ranges and highs are adequate for the money you’re paying, but the bass seems a little bit lacking. This is way more obvious when you use them to listen to music through your PC. In gaming terms, the loss of some meat on the bass bones might seem insignificant, but with Sharkoon blathering on about the inbuilt amp, you’d expect these headphones to deliver a deeper resonance than they actually do.

The size of the volume control, which feels huge, and the bizarre clip that comes attached to the wiring, detract from this headset’s overall appeal, even if the wiring itself looks like it’s of heavy duty spec. Have a close look though, because that thick wiring that runs up to the cans themselves contains both the jack and USB cabling, so it’s more than likely that the cabling is standard.

It’s a tough call, and one you’ll have to make on your own. The SXs are never going to blow the competition away on sound quality, and if your controllers’ jack plugs have been overly abused then these cans should be avoided; but if you’re looking for a fair priced set of headphones that won’t lead to headaches and sore ears, and you’re not overly concerned about that quiet hiss, then you can’t go far wrong with these babies. It’s a frustrating situation to be in, choosing comfort over delivery – kind of like the choice between a 1200cc sport bike or a gnarly custom trike. So what are you, a greasy biker too fat and old to be racing around after dark or a hip speed freak in custom leathers and shiny helmet?

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Written by Neil

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