MSRP: $75 (approx. – available via resellers only)
MyGamer hardware Score: 9.1/10
The first thing one notices about the TRITTON AX51 headphones is their color: a bright, metallic-acid green, worlds different from the staid grays and blacks that other, competing products favor. A closer inspection of the box yields some interesting (and welcome) details: true 5.1 audio delivered from 8 separate and discreet speakers; individual volume controls for the front, rear, left, right and subwoofer channels; extra-long cord (7.5 feet!), the better to reach all the way to the back of a PC case. Heck, it even has a detachable boom mic, folding travel-friendly design and included carrying bag.
We've tested a boatload of gaming headphones over the years, and by-and-large, most performed reasonably well in the audio department. Shy of having a music major's educated ear and some serious audio hardware, any headphones in the $70-$120 range are likely going to sound pretty damn good, and in this area the AX51's certainly don't disappoint. We tested the headphones with practically every game we could think of, both in stereo mode as well as in true surround, along with 5.1 DVD movies and even CD music recordings, and found the sound reproduction to be crisp and responsive. Bass was pleasantly bone-shaking without the "buzz" that cheaper headphones can have, and the individual volume control for the sub channel is a welcome addition for bass-heavy music tracks (it can easily be turned up to near-overpowering levels).
Where the AX51's really shine is in the comfort of their design and the overall quality of the materials used in their construction. While testing, we wore the TRITTON headphones for upwards of 4-5 hours at a stretch during marathon World of Warcraft sessions, and never once experienced any form of discomfort – no sweaty ears, no headaches, no tingling or pain… nothing. This is, in a word, exceptional, and elevate the AX51's to the highest tier of True Gaming Nirvana. Other touches like the included micro-suede travel bag, the plug-style, totally removable boom mic and visually compelling case color is all just tasty, tasty gravy.
Of course, the AX51's aren't perfect. All this performance comes at a price, namely the necessity to use a power brick to power the AX51's sound control module. You read that right: you need to actually plug the headphones into your surge protector to use all of the product's features. Who would have thought we'd ever see the day? Also, because of the hard-wired volume control pod (which is about the size of a big pack of gum) using the AX51's with an MP3 player or other portable music device would be impossible, even if the DC power requirement weren't an issue.
Also, since the AX51's use 3 separate cords (just like a set of 5.1 desktop speakers), actually setting them up with a desktop PC already pre-wired with sound is a bit of a pain – you need to disconnect your current audio outputs and plug the AX51's into their place. Don't get me wrong: doing so is well worth the trouble when only true, positional audio will do, but it is a pain to dig around in back of a tower PC at the best of times.
If you're lucky enough to have a notebook gaming machine with true 5.1 outputs, however, then you're golden – just plug in the snake's nest of cables, settle back and prepare to lose yourself in a world velvety audio goodness. The AX51's were obviously designed to be taken to LAN parties or other places where gaming geeks gather, and serve as the perfect compliment for the lucky gamer that possesses a surround-enabled laptop rig. These are, quite simply, the best sub-$100 surround headphones we've ever tested, and even with the few minor complaints, we still would recommend them to any well-heeled gamer that will settle for only the best.
For their overall polish and professionalism, wealth of features, and outstanding audio performance we're happy to award the TRITTON AX51's this month's hardcore hardware Award. Congrats, TRITTON!
Pros: Looks awesome and incredible positional sound. Even better, your ears won't be aching, sweating or burning after an hour in front of World of Warcraft or halfway through a DVD. Finally!
Cons: Requires external power to use, must be plugged into the PC's surround speaker outputs for max performance – not an issue for high-end gaming notebooks, but can be a PITA for desktops. Unusable with other portable audio devices such as MP3 players, due to hard-wired audio pod – a modular system, one that allows the headphones OR a set of speakers to be attached, would be better.