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Review

Oct 30, 2019

Turtle Beach Elite Atlas Aero Review

Lights Off
5 Incredible
Retails for: $149.99
We Recommend: $149.99
  • Developer: Turtle Beach
  • Publisher: Turtle Beach
  • Released: Sep 30, 2019
  • Platform: Windows
  • Reviewed: Windows
Review:
Evan Rowe
Price:
$149.99

Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On October 30, 2019
Last modified:November 12, 2019

Summary:

The Elite Atlas Aero is incredibly impressive; the wireless performance is flawless, the battery life is phenomenal, and the audio quality is truly excellent. The hardware controls on board feel great to use and being able to remap them to suit your needs is a brilliant feature. Despite being a long time proponent of wired headphones, I have no qualms whatsoever about making the Elite Atlas Aero my new main squeeze, and I heartily recommend it to anybody in the market for a new set.

It’s hard to dispute the value and importance of a quality headset for a solid gaming experience. A good headset is the difference between playing a game and experiencing it. It is the crucial element in clear communication with your team in competitive play. It is the tactical advantage in a tense situation. Having serious hardware for your ears that lets you hear clearly and effectively is as essential to your gameplay experience as your monitor, your mouse, or your GPU.

With the headset market getting more crowded by the month, it can be hard to know what’s truly worth your while. Enter the Turtle Beach Elite Atlas Aero. This is Turtle Beach’s flagship wireless headset and from the moment you open the box and feel the weight of the set in your hands, it’s evident that you’re handling a premium piece of audio hardware, and once you hear what this impressive headset can do, you’ll wonder how you ever managed to get by using anything else.

Hardware/Design

When you open up the box, the Atlas Aero sits front and center, cradled carefully in custom-cut foam and waiting patiently for its inaugural performance. The contours are showcased nicely and the controls on the back of the left cup face upward, subtly but clearly communicating that this is a feature-rich device.

The headset has some heft to it, but not too much. The materials feel strong and look great, sporting subtly textured carbon finish on the exterior plastic with some chrome accents, and soft, breathable cloth on the cups covering thick layers of comfortable foam. The two dials for controlling headset and mic volume are a nice medium-friction rubber so they’re easy for your finger to engage, and they report back with soft, subtle tactile feedback as you turn them.

Slipping the headset over your ears for the first time, it feels snug and secure, like it’s giving your head a gentle hug. It’s a little different from most wired headsets I’m used to, but practically speaking this is a big positive as it means the Atlas Aero is designed to stay on your head without causing excessive discomfort. In fact, I was impressed that even after long play sessions of 4-5 hours at a time, neither my head nor my ears ever felt sore, which is a testament to the level of thought and care put into designing it for comfort, fit, and longevity.

If it hasn’t become evident yet, nearly every surface on the Elite Atlas Aero has a lovely tactile feel, and there has clearly been a great deal of care put into selecting materials which feel really nice to touch, and more importantly, are appropriately considered for the ways in which you interact with them. Where so many headsets (and peripherals) pick materials based solely on looks, the Elite Atlas Aero goes above and beyond by looking _and_ feeling wonderful.

Also included in the box are the detachable microphone, a stereo audio cable so you can use the headset with essentially any device, a USB charge cable, and the all-important USB dongle, a relatively low-profile transmitter with a multi-colored indicator light that comes pre-paired with the headset so you can literally plug and play.

Wireless Performance

I opted to slot the dongle into one of the top-facing ports in the front of my case for maximum signal clarity, and for quick and easy visibility of the LED status indicator. Given that I was able to walk around my office and even leave the room without any signal issues, I’m sure you could choose to put the dongle on the rear of your case, but I think the convenience of the at-a-glance connection indicator combined with the transmitter’s low profile are both reason enough to keep it where you can see it.

As far as how well the wireless connection works, there’s not much to say other than it’s excellent. In my over 30 hours of testing, the experience was as seamless as if I were using a wired headset. No cutouts, no skips, no lag, no interference. The range is also pretty solid, and I was able to walk about 25 feet away from my desk before the connection started to drop out. Practically speaking you probably won’t ever _need_ to step this far away, unless you realy want to keep in touch with your friends while you dip out to the kitchen for a snack, but if anything it demonstrates you should have no issues in your immediate desk area.

It’s also worth stating the obvious, which is that the benefit of a wireless headset is not having a cable danlging down from your head. If you’re used to using a headset with a cable of any decent length, you already have plenty of freedom of movement, but there is a difference in no longer feeling the slight tug from the weight of cable. Noticing the _lack_ of that sensation is a small but unexpected and welcome surprise.

All of the controls for the headset are onboard and reside on the left ear cup. Along the back edge, there are two volume wheels, one for headset volume (which automatically maps to controlling the Windows system volume), and one which defaults to controlling the in-ear mic monitor. There’s a big button below the volume wheels for activating the Superhuman Hearing feature, but this and the second volume slider can both be remapped to a variety of functions, like adjusting the game and chat audio mix or engaging 3D spatial surround. A dedicated mic mute button rests on the outside of the cup.

The cups themselves are extremely comfortable, made with thick layers of soft but durable foam, which sport some built-in adjustable notches hidden below the covers to allow the arms from glasses to pass through comfortably. This kind of attention to detail helps ensure that the Elite Atlas Aero will be a comfortable fit during long sessions for literally anybody.

Sound

When it comes down to it, the one key thing that really matters when choosing a headset is whether it sounds good. There’s no sense in spending big on a headset if it can’t deliver great sound, or else you’ve just overpaid for fancy earmuffs. I’m happy to say that the Elite Atlas Aero sounds really great overall. The drivers in the cups are no joke, capable of a robust range with rich bass, strong mids, and generally clear highs. There’s a real sense of bathing in sound while you have the Elite Atlas Aero strapped to your head.

The Elite Atlas Aero’s audio capabilities really shine when listening to music with dynamic ranges, and in any kind of movie or game scene with complex audio. The headset delivers clear sound in virtually every scenario, making it easy to focus on the parts that matter without the background audio competing for your attention.

The one minor issue I noticed was that in some cases, the really high-end can lose a bit of fidelity, with the sound seemingly falling away or faintly breaking up, though what this really sounded like to me was an encoding issue rather than a problem with the drivers themselves.

A lot of the headset’s strong audio performance is due to the unit being its own USB sound card, providing virtual 7.1 audio and full control over how the surround sound is sent to and played by the headset. Having it as a discrete output device that doesn’t rely on your motherboard’s audio jacks gives it the capability to go well beyond what most wired headsets can achieve.

Software + Features

The Turtle Beach Control Studio software plays a key role in making the whole package work. Beyond simply providing the software communication interface with the headset, it unlocks the full range of capabilities and customization available with the Elite Atlas Aero.

Using the software, you can dial in the bass and treble exactly where you want them, so you can really make the bass thump or let it mellow as a subtle undertone. There’s also a fully featured EQ complete with customizable presets so that you can get as precise as you like with the full spectrum.

You can use Control Studio to remap the customizable controls to your liking so that you’re not wasting valuable time in-game fiddling with the settings you care about.

Generally the software works reliably; it does a good job of managing your settings and keeping everything properly in sync. The UI does a decent enough job; the controls work, functionality is grouped logically, and while it doesn’t always feel like the most responsive program in the world, the important thing is that it works. I’d somewhat prefer to see the “settings” modal exist as another panel alongside the others as it holds some important functionality, but this is a minor quibble.

The software also facilitates access to some of the sound card’s extra features, in particular the Superhuman Hearing and Waves Nx 3D Audio. I spent time experimenting with both settings in multiplayer games to get a feel for what kind of competitive advantage they actually offer, and while I’m not particularly sold on either, I can understand the use cases for both and I think some people might enjoy them.

Waves Nx 3D Audio is the licensed solution for providing virtual 3D surround sound to the headset, and it generally does what you would expect. Sounds feel like they come from _all_ directions, but the effect doesn’t feel as natural as I would hope, and when the setting is enabled, it knocks some of the audio richness down a notch or two in exchange for the privilege of mostly convincing directional sound.

The Superhuman Hearing feature seems to do some heavy post-processing on the audio to extract specific frequencies and emphasize them while pulling down others; it’s more or less a very specific EQ designed to make sound effects like footsteps, reloads, and general combat noise be easier to pinpoint. In this regard, it’s effective, but honestly the hollowness it inflicts to most of the rest of the sound isn’t worth turning this feature on in my opinion. This headset sounds great and enabling Superhuman Hearing feels like deliberately hamstringing its capabilities. I can see how in highly competitive online gameplay, this would be a positive, but for casual use I can’t say I’d recommend it.

Microphone

The detachable microphone included with the Elite Atlas Aero is easily one of the best headset mics I’ve used. It provides a remarkably clear, crisp audio feed of your voice that blows most of the competition out of the water. My friends in voice chat were all very impressed with the quality given that headset mics tend to sacrifice some amount of richness and clarity for their size. That’s not to say its on par with a dedicated microphone by any stretch; while the clarity is great, the audio profile is still mostly flat. This isn’t really a knock against the microphone, as its primary purpose is as a communication device, and believe me when I say your teammates will hear your clear as day. Just know that if you had your heart set on using this as your primary streaming mic, it’s not going to give you the professional quality results you crave.

The microphone also features noise canceling to isolate your voice against whatever background audio you might be competing with (loud case and GPU fans, perhaps?), and unsurprisingly it does a great job of this as well. Its relative size and proximity to its primary audio source (your mouth) helps minimize the amount of noise canceling work to do in the first place, but as a person who games in an echo-y room with a loud-ish GPU, this is a great feature to have if you’re not rocking a dedicate mic already.

Wrap-Up

I’ll admit that I’ve hand-waved off a lot of headset technologies for many years; wireless felt like it would present too much of a compromise in some way or another; 3D surround without independent physical drivers seemed like a gimmick. I have been wary of adopting any of these features for a very long time, waiting for them to be done well and not just for the sake of including them.

The Elite Atlas Aero is incredibly impressive; the wireless performance is flawless, the battery life is phenomenal (30 hours or more between charges, as advertised), and the audio quality is truly excellent. The hardware controls on board are great to use and being able to remap them to suit your needs is a brilliant feature, arguably one of the best things about the headset apart from its core functionality. Despite being a long time proponent of wired headphones, I have no qualms whatsoever about making the Elite Atlas Aero my new main squeeze, and I heartily recommend it to anybody in the market set. This is the high bar for wireless headsets today, hands down.

Bonus Round

If you’re happy with your current headset but are interested in the software features and improved sound processing the Elite Atlas Aero provides, you may be interested in the Atlas Edge Audio Enhancer. This standalone USB device transforms your standard stereo headset into a fully featured 3D audio, surround sound capable set with nearly all of the same great features, and it’s controlled by the same Turtle Beach Control Studio software that the Elite Atlas Aero uses. You can get access to 3D audio, Superhuman Hearing, a full EQ, game and chat audio mixing, and more, with improved clarity and quality over what your motherboard’s stereo output can offer. It’s a $29.99 pickup that could drastically overhaul your current experience and gives you some great bang for the buck.

The Elite Atlas Aero and Atlas Edge Audio Enhancer were provided by Turtle Beach for review purposes.