Turtle Beach is a gaming company, that makes gaming headsets, for gamers. Or is it? The i30 is one of Turtle Beach's newest pairs of headphones, and instead of being made for the Xbox and PlayStation crowd, it's built for iPhone and Android owners. The New York company has made a wireless media headset that can compete with Bose and Sennheiser and other top brands.
What Is It?
The $299 Turtle Beach i30 is a over-the-ear headset with Bluetooth and active noise cancelling; its analogues are the Logitech UE9000, Bose's QuietComfort 3, and Sennheiser's MM 550-X Travel. An internal rechargeable battery means you don't need to keep a stack of AAs handy, though -- just plug the microUSB cable into a wall charger for at least 10 (up to 20) hours of battery life.
The i30 is largely built out of sturdy polycarbonate, finished mostly in a glossy white with lashings of satin anodised aluminium. Turtle Beach's palm-tree-island logo appears on each earcup's red metal centre pin, where the telescoping headband -- mostly metal, with some smooth jet black leather -- connects. The only other splash of colour is the twin red wires that extend from band to cup; the i30 headset strikes a good compromise between classy and funky.
Being a Bluetooth, battery-powered headset you don't need to have any tangly wires connected to use the Turtle Beach i30 -- even though you can use the 3.5mm jack on the base of the left earcup if you're so inclined. All the Bluetooth, noise cancelling and volume controls -- oh, and the i30 also has an inbuilt microphone and can receive phone calls -- are distributed across the aluminium bezels of the left and right earcups.
What Is It Good At?
When it comes to actually playing music, the Turtle Beach i30 is a strong performer. It's not the most flat and measured headset around, but that's not necessarily a bad thing; these headphones have excellent mid- and lower bass that suits electronic and pop music, great treble detail for clear vocals and a mid-range that is just loud enough to flatter acoustic tracks without overwhelming higher frequencies. If you compare the i30 with the majority of other Bluetooth headsets on the market, you'll come away impressed.
With the i30's companion iOS (or OS X) app, you can monitor and alter a huge range of settings on the headset. Most important is the four-mode equaliser, which lets you choose between bass and treble boost, or an all-in-one bass and treble boost. For the majority of my testing with this Turtle Beach headset, I didn't use an equaliser, because for the most part it just doesn't need any tweaking straight out of the box. Similarly, the vocoders, which alter your voice when you're taking a phone call, are a nice novelty but not especially important.
All this Apple integration doesn't mean the i30 is made only to suit that platform, though; there's nothing stopping you from connecting the headset via Bluetooth or analog audio to your PC or Android phone, or any other piece of tech that supports A2DP. There's no Apt-X codec support, but the i30 supports Bluetooth 3.0+, so there's no big wireless bottleneck with any modern smartphone or other mobile device. You can use the left earcup's buttons to switch between equaliser and vocoder modes; the app isn't mandatory in any way.
The i30's noise cancelling is also excellent. I'm a big fan of active, over-the-ear noise cancelling headphones and Turtle Beach genuinely doesn't disappoint with the i30 -- there's only one noise cancelling mode as opposed to the three of my all-time fave Audio Technica ATH-ANC9, but that mode does an extremely good job of blocking out ambient noise.
What Is It Not Good At?
For me, the fit of the Turtle Beach i30 was a little off. The flatness of the earcups meant they didn't seal perfectly (on my admittedly large head), so if I moved my jaw I could break the seal and let in some ambient noise. This will obviously vary from person to person, but I found that I had to wear the headphones quite tight to create a good seal, which meant that after a couple of hours of straight wearing there was a small amount of fatigue.
Despite being perfectly sturdy, the i30 doesn't feel quite as well-built as some of its competitors. It'll certainly last a long time, even if you're not especially careful with it -- the hinges and plastic earcups are well designed and well constructed -- but the materials used don't have that same flair as, say, a Bose headset. You are buying the i30 at a significant discount, of course, and for the money there's not too much to complain about.
I expected to write this review complaining about battery life -- the combination of noise cancellation and Bluetooth is usually a killer -- and during the first couple of full-charge test drives, the i30 conked out after just over 10 hours of use. On my third and final charge, though, under the same conditions, I clocked a full 16 hours of moderate-volume play time. This is closer to my ideal expectations, and as such there's no negative to be found in the i30's battery life. In the same way, the headphones' speaker drivers loosen up after a dozen or so ours of burn-in and start to sound even better.
Should You Buy It?
The fact that Turtle Beach is offering a limited run of i30 media headsets for $149 on eBay makes them even more attractive. For $150, the i30 is an excellent piece of audio hardware and one that I'd be happy to own and use every day.
Even at the regular, everyday cost of $299, though, the Turtle Beach i30 is worth its asking price. It has a few gimmicks -- the unnecessary equaliser and vocoder, and the somewhat gaudy Turtle Beach logo -- but behind that is a powerful, versatile, musically gifted pair of headphones.
As noise cancelling and Bluetooth headsets go, you can split the market into two halves -- the imitators made for a dollar and sold at a massive margin, and the real, properly designed, high quality music devices built to be enjoyed. The Turtle Beach i30 is most definitely the real deal.