Audeze Penrose X Planar Magnetic Headset Review: This Is The Best Sounding Wireless Gaming Headset for Xbox and PC!

Penrose Wireless Planar Magnetic Headset

$299.00
Penrose Wireless Planar Magnetic Headset
8.7

Build

8.0/10

Features

9.0/10

Sound

9.0/10

What We Dig

  • Fast, Strong Connections
  • Crisp, Detailed Sound
  • Easy To Use Companion App

What To Think About

  • Tight Clamp and Firm Earpads Take Some Getting Used To

TL;DR

The Penrose X is an excellent gaming headset for Xbox and PC with top-notch separation, detail, and spatiality. It also does a decent job with music once you get it dialed in with EQ. The tight clamp and firm earpads may take some getting used to.

Intro

If you visit an online audio group or forum for headphones, it won’t be long before you come across someone asking about the best gaming headset. Many will tell you gaming-specific headsets don’t matter because they can never provide the sound quality of a good studio headphone combined with a separate microphone.

One could make a case for that, however, some people want an all-in-one solution. Not only that, they want the best sound for both music and gaming in one headset.

Well, that’s the premise behind the gaming headset I’m looking at today, the $299 Penrose X Wireless Planar Magnetic Gaming Headset.

This headset promises to leverage Audeze’s proven Planar Magnetic driver design to set new standards in clarity and detail. These are things that are prized amongst gamers, and also major strengths when it comes to Planar headphones. It also promises to provide many of the creature comforts gamers expect.

So does this headset make good on its promise? Read on and I’ll tell you what I think!

Disclaimer: The review unit I have on hand is provided by Audeze in exchange for a candid review. No external input has been given regarding the content contained in this evaluation.

Specs

StyleOver-ear, closed-circumaural
Transducer typePlanar Magnetic
Magnetic structureFluxor™ magnet array
Phase managementFazor
Magnet typeNeodymium N50
Diaphragm typeUltra-thin Uniforce™
Transducer size100 mm
Maximum SPL>120dB
Frequency response10Hz – 50kHz
THD<0.1% (1 kHz, 1mW)
EarpadsContoured memory foam: artificial leather
MicrophoneDetachable broadcast quality mic
Battery typeLithium-polymer (15hr battery life, 3hr charge time)
Wireless Connection2.4 GHz Wireless (16bit/48kHz) + Bluetooth
Wired Connection3.5mm analog audio, USB-A-to-C charging
Weight320g (including battery)

Build/Features

At first glance, the Penrose X looks like any number of gaming headsets made for use with Xbox. It has the almost obligatory matte black finish and Xbox green accents. It’s not until you look at the top of the headband, and see the “Audeze” printed in large type that you know there may be something different here.

And different it is, as this headset utilizes Audeze’s trademark 100mm Planar Magnetic drivers incorporating their patented Fazor waveguides and Thin Uniforce voice coils to reduce distortion, along with strong Fluxor magnets for enhanced control of the diaphragms.

Planar magnetic drivers are known for presenting more low-level and fine detail than dynamic drivers, which seems to make them perfect for gaming because that’s what you want when roaming game landscapes.

Audeze Penrose X Driver

Once placed on your head, the Penrose X feels extraordinarily light, which makes sense since the whole headphone is made of plastic. It’s high-quality plastic, however, and all parts seem to be fit together well.

Where the headband touches the crown of the head, there’s padding embedded to alleviate pressure, and matching contoured memory foam earpads mold to your head to facilitate some good passive noise canceling.

While the pads form to the head nicely, they also feel somewhat hard at first and may cause some slight discomfort when combined with the tight clamp of the headphones. At least this was the case with my head, which is definitely on the large side (size 7 3/4 hat size).

That said, I was able to get used to the pressure around my ears after a half-hour or so, and once I got them into the most comfortable spot, I was able to wear them pretty comfortably for about 1-2 hours at a time. YMMV.

On the bottom of the left earcup resides all the ports and controls, including a source selection button (aux, BT, 2.4 GHz wireless), a jack for the detachable boom mic, a USB charging port, AUX cord port, plus volume controls for the mic and headset. Everything is within easy reach.

On the side of the earcup are the power button and mute switch for the boom mic, which was developed in conjunction with Shure. The boom is adjustable, which makes it easy to get the proper distance between the mic and your mouth. Next to the power button is a small LED that gives info about battery life, source, and power status.

It’s probably worth noting that you can’t control music playback from the headset itself, you will have to control it from the source.

Connectivity

The Penrose X is designed primarily for wireless connectivity to the Xbox X/S Series or Xbox One using a 2.4 GHz wireless USB dongle. This same dongle also allows lossless audio connections to Windows 10 PCs for computer gaming and connects the headset instantly to either device.

The connection to the dongle was super fast, and I personally had no issues connecting, but if you do, Audeze provides some troubleshooting instructions in the manual. Voice prompts do a good job of letting you know the source you are connecting to as well as the connection status.

If you have a Playstation, Audeze makes the Penrose, which is basically the same headset with a PS-compatible dongle. By the way, the Penrose X will also work with a Playstation, Xbox, or select Nintendo devices using the included 3.5mm aux cable.

Along with the low-latency 2.4 GHz connection, the Penrose X is also compatible with Bluetooth, which you can use at the same time as the dongle. This allows a separate connection to a PC or Smartphone for chat, while playing a game on the console.

This of course also allows you to use the Penrose X as a standard wireless headphone to listen to music, which I did a lot. Unfortunately, the BT Codec is limited to the stock SBC codec, which is the lowest quality connection available for music. I wish there was a higher quality aptX or even AAC option on board for music listening.

That said, you also have a wired connection available for listening to music, which does offer slightly better sound quality than Bluetooth. One thing to keep in mind when using the wire is that the signal still goes through the internal amp and DSP, so you still need to have the headset charged and turned on to use it.

Because of this, Audeze warns against using the Penrose X with headphone amps, as the increased output of the external amp used in conjunction with the internal one may damage the headphones.

When Bluetooth is in use, you can also use the Audeze HQ app (PC or Android) to access some additional features like mic/game mixing, EQ with presets, general headset settings, and a “Sidetone” feature where you can hear your voice picked up thru the mic and played back through the headset. You can also get a reading of battery percentage.

I liked the layout of the app, and I found it really easy to use. You can set the EQ presets yourself, or download premade EQ presets for both music and gaming from the Audeze website.

Audeze HQ Apps

I downloaded a bunch of the music presets which are tailored to specific genres on my Samsung phone, and was able to load them in seconds. You can also download presets tailored to specific games, like “Call of Duty Warzone” or “Rocket League”.

While you can’t set an EQ while connected solely to the Xbox, the Penrose X will hold a preset previously selected while connected to the app. Then you hear the applied EQ when you switch back to the console.

Gaming

I played a few games on both the Xbox and PC via Google’s Stadia service, and it definitely provided a whole other level of clarity and separation compared to the $160 HyperX wired headset I used previously.

Playing “Control” on Stadia, I was amazed at how detailed the footsteps and background effects were on the Penrose X. Voices of characters were more intelligible than I have ever heard, and the music sounded extremely cinematic.

Spatiality was good as well, especially for a closed-back headphone. It was amazing to hear the low-level details that formed the atmospherics of a particular space or scene in the game. Everything was so crisp and clean!

The only issue I noticed with sound quality was the slight lack of impact when a grenade exploded, or a gun fired. I felt like I was missing a little something there, almost like a home theater without a subwoofer.

I attributed this to the usual Planar issues surrounding the lack of slam in the midbass. My dynamic driver headset did a better job in this small portion of the audioband.

While talking to people during a game of “Madden” on Xbox, I felt like the experience was on par with my HyperX headset. People were able to hear me and understand what I was saying easily, but that said, I didn’t have much issue on my other headset either.

I turned on the Sidetone feature, and I did notice there was less noise from “plosives” (the whooshing sound when saying p-words into a mic) when I was speaking, and I also didn’t hear any sounds from breathing as you may hear from a cheaper mic.

One thing that gave me an issue was trying to use the mic volume wheel to control the mic-game sound mix. Holding down the wheel to switch into mixing mode and then rolling the wheel to try to dial in the mix, seemed like a big hassle when coming from a headset that had a huge button on the side of the earcup to let you do this.

I found it much easier to control this in the HQ app, but that necessitated maintaining a Bluetooth connection to my smartphone at all times.

Music

As far as music listening was concerned, I found the Penrose X to be quite bright out of the box which wasn’t surprising really. Gaming headsets are usually tuned bright to play up detail in a game, so this is almost a necessity in this type of headphone.

To me, for music listening using some EQ was a must, as the factory tonal balance had the upper mids/treble boosted way too much for my taste. That said, Audeze seemed to take this into account when designing their “Power Up Your Music” presets, which are available on their website.

Each preset had the upper mids and lower treble reduced by at least 2db which helped a lot with the factory tuning. I actually created my own preset with a tiny boost in the upper treble for some added definition, and I was pleased with the results.

With the EQ set, the already spacious sound of the Penrose X was augmented with a beautifully balanced sound that sounded good with any genre. Mids were vibrant and crisp, and the clean treble provided some nice top-level detail that provided realism. The bass was tight and articulate with a speedy punch that drove the rhythm nicely.

The soundstage is as wide and spacious as you could expect from a closed-back headphone, and imaging is nice as well.

Listening to Diana Krall’s “Like Someone In Love”, I liked the clarity of the vocal, the fullness of the upright bass, and how defined the background instruments were as they were placed around the soundstage. It was quite lively and natural.

If I had any qualms with the sound, it would be a little more openness thru the midrange overall, it can be just a little too boxy at times. But this is not out of the ordinary for headphones under $300.

With EQ, I would say the Penrose X competes with a lot of Planar headphones in its price range, with the exception of the Hifiman Sundara, which is pretty much in a class of its own at $350.

When comparing the Penrose X to the Sundara, I have to say, first of all, it has a much better tuning out of the box for music, with wonderful neutrality that makes it one of the favorite headphones under $500. The Penrose can’t really compete with its air up top, low-level detail, or natural sounding mids (for a Planar headphone).

However, the Penrose X does sound good in its own right and gives you about 75-80% of what you get from Sundara after EQ, plus it adds all the gaming-specific features.

The Wrap Up

As a gaming headset for Xbox and PC, the Penrose X is truly remarkable, and I do believe it sets new standards in detail and clarity as advertised. It could use a little bit extra impact with explosions, but that’s not a dealbreaker by any means. For music, it’s a decent all-around headphone as long you’re willing to do some EQ’ing.

The only thing to think about really is comfort. The tight clamp combined with the firm earpads may be bothersome for certain folks.

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