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IF YOU'RE A LONGTIME PC user, you might remember Turtle Beach as one of the original manufacturers of computer audio hardware—we’re talking soundcards that competed with the best that Creative Labs had to offer. You might also have been dismayed in recent years, as the company became known for producing high-end headsets aimed primarily at console gamers. Turtle Beach has never forsaken its roots, though; its lineup has always included some solid offerings for the PC. The Ear Force Z6A is the latest in that line.
The Z6A features perfectly respectable build quality, with ear cups that swivel and flex to fit comfortably on any shape of head. The padding on the headband and the ear surrounds isn’t exactly plush, but we found it comfortable enough for extended wear. As is generally the case with Turtle Beach products, the Z6A boasts stylish design, with sharp-looking chrome accents and deep blue detailing.
Turtle Beach’s Ear Force Z6A headset delivers bona fide surround sound, but it depends on analog audio connections.
Turtle Beach describes the Z6A as a “true 5.1” headset because it includes a six-channel amplifier driving four speakers—front, center, surround, and low-frequency effects—inside each ear cup to deliver more realistic positional audio. The front and surround drivers are tilted to help your ear localize the source of each sound, presumably by introducing microsecond delays so that each sound reaches your eardrum at a slightly different time. Using the amplifier, you can adjust the front, center, surround, and LFE volume levels independently.
The headphones are considerably more directional than a conventional two-channel headset, and they deliver strong mid and high frequencies. We found their bass response, on the other hand, to be a little weak—particularly while listening to music and movie soundtracks. We encountered some other shortcomings, too. The heavy in-line amplifier—which draws power from your computer’s USB port—is at such a position on the cable that it usually sits in your lap.
As an analog headset with three surround inputs and a mic jack, it's not going to work with most notebooks, which lack multi-channel output. But that's the price to be paid, as gaming multi-channel audio through analog is still superior to USB digital schemes.
We must note that Turtle Beach offers a host of optional adapters that will let you use the Z6A with any setup, but they cost extra.
If your computer has the right audio outputs and you want headphones capable of delivering directional audio for games, and if you have another set of phones for listening to music and watching movies, the Z6A is a fine choice.
Good directionality; solid build quality; clear sound for gaming.
Poor bass response; a surfeit of cables.