Audeze Penrose X – Design and Features
The Audeze Penrose and Penrose X wireless headsets – the latter of which I reviewed – both offer the company’s planar magnetic/Neodymium technology. These high-end, $300 headsets use 100mm planar magnetic drivers alongside Fluxor magnet arrays and Fazor Waveguides in each cup; the drivers and array provide clarity while the waveguide reduces distortion. Forgoing an in-depth analysis on how all of this tech works, I can say that the Penrose X sports well built cans that allow for an amazing audio-based experience when gaming.Of course, that’s just on the inside. The outside of each cup offers various niceties as well. For instance, the Penrose X uses contoured memory foam and artificial leather to provide a soft and comfortable fit. Which is notable given the pressure applied by its headband – the X squeezes in such a way to keep itself from falling from your head during play.
Besides a soft touch, there’s nothing of note on the right ear cup. The left cup, however, houses all of the buttons and ports. That includes the microphone and USB-C charge ports, a standard 3.5mm audio jack (for wired gaming), multiple volume control wheels, the power button, microphone mute switch, and a nifty multi-function button that changes the Penrose’s connection type.
All of these buttons and such are of a typical headset design. That said, there’s actually a lot going on convenience wise. Take the multiple volume control wheels for example. Having separate volume wheels for the mic and game sound is always a plus. What makes them great though is their secondary functions. Double click the headphone volume wheel and the Penrose X will link back to the last Bluetooth host device it connected to (more on that in a bit). Pressing and scrolling the mic volume wheel will adjust the game chat mix, separating the chat and game volumes in order to better hear one or the other.
The power button has multiple uses as well. Pressing and holding the button will turn on/off the headset. Single clicks will pause and play audio or answer and end calls while double clicks (with a brief pause in between presses) will begin Bluetooth pairing. The multi-function button has similar uses. Long presses start the wireless dongle pairing while single clicks toggle between wireless, Bluetooth 5.0 and Aux connections.
Again, the Penrose X seemed to be designed with convenience in mind. Several useful options and features are always at your fingertips. Beyond that is the ease of play. Out of the box, all I had to do was plug in the flexible boom mic and connect the 2.4GHz wireless dongle (which comes with the headset) into a USB port on my gaming PC and Xbox Series X to get things going. Even pairing to my phone to listen to music was a breeze; the Penrose connects remarkably fast. Connected directly to a device is also easy thanks to its 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable. Really, the only thing that’ll slow you down is the headset’s 3 hour charge time, which will net you 15 hours of battery life.
Audeze Penrose X – Performance
The Penrose X performed wonderfully, whether it was paired with my Android phone, PC, or Xbox Series X. This was especially the case with Xbox. For one, there was no need to adjust audio rendering settings as it supports any spatial audio system as long as it doesn’t have to do any manual processing. This basically means that, because the Series X handles everything on the backend, you can just plug and play – there’s no need to switch from say, Dolby Atmos, if that’s the setting you’d typically use with the Series X. The Penrose X can handle it and provide a virtual surround sound experience without needing to be fiddled with.
Another thing that stood out is the ability to alter the game chat mix. One of my biggest pet peeves with using wireless headsets on the Xbox One (and now the Xbox Series X/S) is how there’s no menu option to change the chat and game volumes separately; they’re there but grayed out, only usable with wired headsets. And while one could lower the in-game sound via a game’s sound settings, they would need to do that for every game, subsequently raising the volume back up when not using a wireless headset. The Penrose X circumvents this issue with its mic volume wheel.
By pressing and holding before scrolling up or down, I was able to adjust the game chat mix using this wheel; looking at my gaming TV, I could see the grayed-out bar sliding back and forth. This made playing games like Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War bearable as I didn’t have to worry about explosions drowning out the chat. Speaking of explosions, they all sounded excellent. Gun fire, footsteps, someone slowly opening a door in an effort to be sneaky – it all came in loud and clear. And with the solid connection provided by the 2.4GHz wireless dongle, I didn’t have to worry about latency issues.
Jumping over to PC for a few rounds of Valorant, I quickly found myself immersed in the action. That’s not to say that the Penrose X always performed exceedingly better than my previous headsets, but only that it didn’t need much tweaking to provide a great experience. Still, if I did need to tweak the sound, I could use the AudezeHQ software to do so. It allows the toggling of sidetones, mix adjustments, EQ changes (using it’s 10 band interface), firmware updates and more.
Most of my time with the Penrose X was beyond pleasant. There were some issues worth mentioning though. The Penrose and Penrose X both allow for simultaneous connectivity via wireless and Bluetooth connections. This allows for some quick swapping – I was able to chat with friends via Discord, switch over to my phone to answer a call, and then switch back to my PC using one button. This type of functionality is great on paper. Unfortunately, the mic itself doesn’t switch back and forth with you.
My friends on Discord could still hear me talking after switching to my phone. I had to manually mute myself on the app to keep the call private. Also, on a few occasions, a game’s audio from my PC and the person talking to me on the phone could both be heard at the same time. Switching between devices, completely stopping the activity on one before starting something on another, proved to be beneficial. But trying to go back and forth quickly was met with mixed results.
Then there’s the mic. Toted as a broadcast quality microphone, it mostly lives up to the hype. That said, it can be a bit finicky. All headset mics require the proper positioning to work well; put it too far away and no one can hear you, too close and you’ll sound muffled. The Penrose X’s mic is different. No matter where I put the mic people could hear me. Which was a good thing. How well they could hear me though, depended on the slightest of adjustments.
I checked on Audeze’s recommended microphone positioning. Tried to keep it between 2 and 6cm from the lower left corner of my chin, slowly moving it around to get things just right. During that time, I’d ask my friends how I sounded. I’d go from low or muffled to great and back again even though I was barely moving the mic. It took a few minutes but, in the end, I was able to place it in a spot that worked, where everyone could hear me talking without also hearing me breathing.
As mics go, it stayed in place while I was playing. I didn’t have to mess with it again until I accidentally knocked it out of place. This time, to fix the sound, I recorded myself while playing around with the mic’s positioning. I could always hear myself, but it took a while to get it to where I’d be comfortable streaming or podcasting. You could chalk this up to user error – it’s possible that I wasn’t as gentle with the mic as I thought – but the microphone does take some getting used to. More so than a lot of other headsets I’ve used over the years.
Best Gaming Headsets
Audeze Penrose X – Purchasing Guide
Both the Audeze Penrose and Penrose X can be pre-ordered directly from Audeze with an MSRP of $299.99. The Penrose units are shipping now, with the Penrose X to follow later this month.