- Brand: Sharkoon
- Model: X-Tatic AIR
- Website: http://www.sharkoon.com/?q=en/node/2347
- Price: £89 (at time of review)
Ever since 2003, Sharkoon have been releasing mid-range to high-end products at low end prices. Having such a company philosophy can be a mixed barrel, as in today’s market, there are many brands competing with each other in terms of designs, prices and even specs. Sharkoon have always remained loyal to their consumers and are always looking to improve which is something that sparks innovation in the field.
With many different popular products available from Sharkoon, today I will be taking a look at their X-Tatic Air Wireless Gaming Headset. How good does it sound? Is it comfy? And is it worth the current price tag? Let’s find out, starting with the specifications…
- Ultimate wireless gaming experience with Xbox® 360 and PS3™
- Operating range of up to 10 meters*
- Compatible with PC and Wii™
- 360-degree reception
- Connection to other audio sources (e.g. TV, Receiver etc.) with RCA connector possible
- Dual RCA input with source selection
- Flexible and detachable microphone
- Operates on two AAA rechargeable NiMH batteries with up to 10 hours continuous operation**
- Transmitter station with integrated AA and AAA NiMH batteries charging function for headphone (AAA) and Xbox® 360 gamepads (AA)
- USB charger port for PS3™ gamepads
- PowerCharge Function enables battery charging during standby mode and gaming
- Easily accessible controls on both ear caps
- Separate game and voice volume control and microphone mute button
- 3 Equalizer modes for special sound effects***
- Headset auto sleep function initiates after 3 minutes to conserve battery power when out of range and/or without audio signal
- Driverless Plug and Play operation with Windows XP/Vista/7/8 via USB interface
- Integrated headset mount (can be attached/removed at any time)
- Supply Voltage: DC 5V
- Channel Frequency: 2.403 ~ 2.477 GHz
- Gamepad Charger / USB Port: max. 500 mA
- Standby Power Consumption: 0.065 ~ 0.1 W
- Dimensions: 160 mm x 142 mm x 248 mm (L x W x H/with headset mount)
- 160 mm x 142 mm x 44 mm (L x W x H/w/o headset mount)
- Weight: ~270 g (w/o batteries)/~331 g (with batteries)
- Battery Specification: 2x 1.2 V (NiMH)
- Channel Frequency: 2.403 ~ 2.477 GHz
- Operating Voltage: 2.2 V ~ 3.0 V
- Operating Current: typ. 85 mA, max. 110 mA
- Speaker diameter: 40 mm with Neodym magnet
- Impedance: 32 Ω
- Sound Pressure Level: 120 dB +/- 3 dB at 1 KHz
- Frequency Response: 35 Hz – 24 kHz (-3 dB)
- Power Output: typ. 20 mW, max. 30 mW
- Dimensions: 185 mm x 101 mm x 197 mm (L x W x H)
- Weight: ~263 g (w/o batteries)/286 g (with batteries)
- Diameter: 4 x 1.5 mm (L x W)
- Directivity: omni-directional
- Sensitivity: -42 dB +/- 3 dB
- Impedance: 2.2 kΩ
- Frequency Response: 100 Hz – 5 KHz (-3 dB)
- Operating voltage: typ. 2.0 V
- Game consoles (e.g. Xbox®, Xbox® 360, PS3™ and Wii™)
- DVD and media players with RCA audio connectors
The X-Tatic Air comes presented in a black box, which has a clear illustration of the headset and its wireless receiver. The text and background for the headsets illustration is green, which matches the colour of the headsets padding. It includes information regarding which model the headset is and which platforms it’s compatible with also.
On the rear, there is a detailed list of the specifications and the design keeps in-line with the rest of the packaging. The information is displayed in multiple languages which include English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese and Polish.
The contents that come bundled with the X-Tatic Air include
- Transmitter station incl. headset mount
- Detachable microphone
- 1x RCA cable (male/male)
- 2x RCA adapters (2x female/1x male)
- 1x USB cable (type A male/type A male)
- 1x 2.5 mm chat cable for XBox®
- 4x NiMH AA rechargeable batteries and 4x NiMH AAA rechargeable batteries
- Power adapter (110 V~230 V) incl. travel adapters (EU, US and UK)
- Manual flyer
The amount of accessories is due to the cross platform compatability of the X-Tatic Air. This includes the PC, PS3, Xbox 360 and the Nintendo Wii-U.
The wireless receiver serves more than just 1 purpose. It is a stylish sleek all black colour with the X-Tatic Air logo in green. On the front as you can see there is a USB port which is for the sole purpose of charging game pads up, although this can be used to charge other USB devices also. There is also a source button which allows you to flick between the different sources such as the Xbox or PC and LED indicators for the different batteries and the power.
On the rear of the base, we have all the required audio connections to connect to each device. There are 2 x Red/White RCA inputs and 1 x PS3 microphone input which also doubles up as a PC input. There is a USB cable included to connect to the PC as well as a DC in which powers the unit via the mains.
On the front, is a compartment used for re-charging the re-chargeable batteries that come with the X-tatic Air. Included are 4 x AAA batteries used for the actual headset. It takes 2 x AAA at one time meaning while you’re not using a set, you can charge a set up. This is really handy if your headset dies mid game, as it means you can quickly switch the fresh ones in and away you go again. Also included are 2 x AA batteries designed for your game pads, notably more for the Xbox 360 controller.
It’s nice to see Sharkoon have included the AA batteries, which is a nice touch for Xbox gamers.
Now let’s take a look at the X-Tatic AIR headset itself…
The X-Tatic itself is all black, with green soft padding on the headband. The finish is a black gloss and the majority of the headset is made of plastic. The headset itself is very light, and even with the batteries installed it weighs in at just over 300g.
On the left ear cup, we have a 3.5mm audio jack which connects to your Xbox 360 controller and also the jack for where the detachable mic is attached. The main advantage of being able to move the mic is if you’re just listening to music, you can ensure the mic is not in the way. There is also a mute button which allows you to mute your microphone; especially handy if someone comes into the room during a gaming session like your fiancée and wants to talk to you in private etc. In view also, at the bottom of the cup is the voice/pc mic volume controls, this allows you to adjust the volume without having to alt tab out of game etc.
The X-Tatic AIR comes with an adjustable headband. This allows the headset to fit on even the biggest or smallest of heads. With everyone having a different sized/shaped head, this is quite common on headsets, but still a good thing to see nevertheless. The actually mechanism is made from stainless steel, which gives it a strong feel meaning its less likely to break than say a plastic one for example.
Here you can see a close up of the amount of padding included in the ear cups. The material is a soft and feels very comfortable to touch.
On the right cup, we have the powered side. This is the side where the battery cover can be found and is also where you install the 2 x AAA batteries. The power switch and power indicator light (which illuminates green when powered on) can also be found here.
To give a large variation of the X-Tatics capability in terms of sound quality, I decided on a certain testing methodology and one that I feel would get the most out of the headset. I have split testing into 4 main categories, Gaming, Music, Voice Communication via Skype, and finally Comfort.
All testing was done via my Asus Xonar D2X sound card as I felt if you are willing to spend the money on buying a quality gaming headset, you would also opt for a dedicated sound card. However this does come down to personal preference and personally I felt it would get the most out of the headset whilst testing.
With the cross compatibility of the X-Tatic AIR, this headset is clearly designed for gaming, so it’s fitting that its first test would be just that. Starting with DOTA 2, the ever popular champion’s Vs champion’s game, the first thing I noticed in the sound was the much defined treble. In saying that, the sound is slightly tinny which I feel is due to the wireless. The bass is punchy which I do like and the mid-range seems to be balanced right which in my opinion, is one of the most important tones. One issue I did find, although the tone was fine, the sound was quite distorted at times and had issues with the sound cutting out. Whether this is due to wireless interference or another underlying issue, I don’t know. The one thing I do know though, is so far so good.
Next on the agenda, is the very popular FPS game, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, which gave very interesting results. First of all, while playing Nuketown, bouncing betties had their usual screech upon detonation, but the explosion sounded very flat in my opinion. Gunfire sounded very good although footsteps weren’t so good. I got killed quite a few times; I’m used to footsteps having a slightly defined bassy thud but this wasn’t the case with the X-Tatic. Obviously the headset being wireless is slightly reducing the sound quality; it wasn’t the greatest immersive experience I have had while playing BLOPS 2.
To test the music reproduction qualities of the X-Tatic AIR, I picked 3 songs from 3 different genres.
Rock: INME – Crushed like a fruit
Dance: Tony De Vit – The Dawn (Dark by Design remix)
RnB: Rihanna – SOS
Starting with INMEs Crushed like a fruit, the intro is a little guitar lick which is a very good indication of tone. The sound started off great, but as the bass guitar and drums kicked in, they didn’t seem very defined; more like a mishmash of instruments instead of being blended into a musical masterpiece. I felt the X-Tatic struggled to cope with some of the sustained guitar notes and felt a little tinny which isn’t a good sign, but as mentioned earlier, a wired headset is usually almost better than wireless, due to other factors involved.
Next up on the playlist, was a dance track by the legendary Tony De Vit, namely The Dawn. With lots of different instruments, sounds and well recognised noises, the most defined sound in my opinion was the treble. The bass was slightly lacking and with sound card being built into the actual unit itself – there isn’t much room in the way of equaliser modification etc either. One good point was the euphoric breakdown of this track; it sounded sublime and was a real compliment to the X-Tatic.
Finally, we have the lovely Rihanna’s track entitled SOS, more of an RnB/Pop song, this song was a real surprise, and it sounded fantastic. The best thing about the song was the very clear vocals, bumps and grinding of the beat, really shows how diverse the tone is on the headset.
Using Skype was a different kettle of fish, joining my colleagues in a group call gave for very interesting results. Without informing my colleagues that I had changed headsets, I entered the call and was greeted right away with, is your mic broken; not the kind of thing you want to hear when your testing out a new headset, this wasn’t due to the lack of sound, but more the constant hiss in the background which I think is due to the wireless connection. The sound quality whilst people talking was pretty good overall. Although this headset has been a mixed bag of results over the different testing procedures, I get the feeling this headset has a pretty well defined list of strengths and weaknesses.
Comfort is where the X-Tatic AIR shines best in my opinion. The padding on the closed cup feels luxurious and the headset is pretty light (sometimes too light for me), and didn’t weigh my head down after long sessions while wearing them. The padding in the headband is also very generous and I had no issues with my head feeling tired wearing them or felt like I had to take them off at any given point.
One issue with comfort was, although my head is quite big, they felt a little loose and if I shook my head, they could quite literally have fallen off. I had to have them at full tightness at all times during my tests.
So having had the chance to live with the Sharkoon X-Tatic AIR Wireless Gaming Headset for the best part of a week, how did they get on?
Starting with the most important aspect, the performance, these were a very mixed bag of results indeed. From the gaming results, the headset is very capable for what it is; the sound is defined but can sometimes lack bass. Another issue was that the sound would sometimes cut out, it could be wireless interference which I have to say is probably the biggest factor of the issues this headset has. DOTA 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 overall sounded pretty good, it’s much easier to explain criticisms than good points in my opinions and I stand by what I say in regards to the wireless issue.
Tone was a varied bag depending on the type of audio that was being listened to. Rock music sounded a little drowned out due to the bass; a good balance of high, mid and low ranges is vital for a great rock anthem. Bass wasn’t as defined as the RnB and even the dance music, so this headset in my opinion isn’t very suitable for music. I have to say this is a gaming headset and for its intended purpose, it is good, but when I look for a product, I look for one that ticks all the boxes and this one does have most of them ticked.
In Skype, this headset was quite poor in the majority of respects, the microphone sounded pretty unclear according to my colleagues, and considering they didn’t actually know what the headset was compared to my usual headset I’d say that was a good indicator of its performance (which is a Steelseries Siberia V2, which in terms of price, is nearly half the price of the X-Tatic AIR). I even did a small recording using Windows Sound Recorder and I have to admit, the mic does sound like it’s drowned out. What I mean here is the sound is sort of muffled which isn’t good when you’re using voice communications software on a regular basis.
The other benefit I would like to mention is the wireless range of the X-Tatic AIR. I could walk around my house and although it would randomly cut out for a second or two, the sound quality remained good which is a fantastic achievement. The X-Tatic AIR did have a tendency to cut out even when sitting in front of the receiver, which could be due to interference or an abundance of wireless signals in the room, I really don’t know.
One thing I do know is, the price is very reasonable, coming in at £89 they do come in at a cheaper price point than headsets with the same kind of spec. But unless you need the wireless or it is more convenient for you, I don’t feel wireless competes with wired in terms of sound quality. That being said, you have to take all things into account as they are, and the Sharkoon X-Tatic overall is a very good headset and should be considered, especially if you’re looking for a multi-platform headset capable of delivering decent sound quality at a good price – make sure these are on your shopping list.
Thanks to Sharkoon for the sample and I look forward to seeing more of their products in the near future.
The X-Tatic AIR is a strong entry into the wireless headset market, especially at £89 and if you’re looking for a headset capable of multi-platform use, then make sure you consider the X-Tatic AIR.