The Audeze Penrose X is, as near as makes no difference, perfect
- Manufacturer: Audeze
- Model: Penrose X
- Price: £299
- Platforms: Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Windows PC, Bluetooth devices
- Reviewed on: Xbox Series X, Windows PC, mobile
- Supplied by: Audeze
Audeze Penrose X Review
Audeze may be more well known for their studio-grade audiophile headphones, but they have made some fantastic headsets since they entered the gaming market. The Audeze Mobius wowed us with its incredible positional 3D audio and class-leading audio quality, while the LCD-GX brought impossibly clean and pure sound through its analogue connection.
Whilst these headsets are magnificent in their own right, they weren’t quite ideal for Xbox gamers. The Mobius still needed to be connected via a 3.5mm connection, and the LCD-GX requires an amplifier to get the full benefit of its superior sound due to the Xbox controller not outputting enough power through its headphone jack.
The Audeze Penrose X is Audeze’s first bespoke console gaming headset, that has the same audiophile-grade audio we’ve come to expect while delivering lossless low-latency wireless audio.
Although it shares very similar styling to the Mobius, the Penrose X has a couple of key differences: The Penrose X does not have the Waves NX 3D positional audio, and the microphone (which was just average on the Mobius) has been upgraded to a much better Shure boom mic.
Before I begin to wax lyrical about the stunning audio and superb connectivity features, I’ll address the only thing preventing this headset from being essentially perfect; Battery life. At around 15 hours, the battery life is sufficient for a couple of nights gaming, but competitors are squeezing out upwards of 25 hours now. This is quite literally the only negative thing I can say about this headset, though.
I have a few headsets that I usually use on rotation depending on whether I’m gaming on a PC, console or listening to music on my phone. Since receiving the Audeze Penrose X, though, I haven’t used anything else. It’s rare to find a headset that is good for everything, but the Penrose positively excels.
Design and build
What’s in the box?
- Audeze Penrose X headset
- USB dongle for 2.4GHz wireless connection
- Detachable Shure microphone
- USB-A to USB-C charging cable
- 3.5mm analogue cable
- Quick start guide
- Warranty card
I’m a big fan of the styling on the Penrose X. There’s no RGB, but they do have a distinctive green band surrounding the ear cups. I’d have liked more colour options like we got from the Mobius, but I find the green suits the Penrose and went down well with those I showed the headset to.
Even though it has an integrated battery, amplifier and wireless receiver, the Penrose X is very light, and it’s an extremely comfortable headset. The headband is quite narrow, but the super-squishy foam lets it sit comfortably on your head for long periods of gaming. Similarly, the clamping force is reasonably strong, but it’s offset by the luxuriously soft pads around the ear cups. This padding is also soft enough to remain comfortable whilst wearing glasses, which is a big plus for me.
The headset is fully adjustable, with an extendable headband, and forks that can be rotated 90° allowing the ear cups to lay flat if you hang the headband around your neck.
The Audeze Penrose X feels very durable and solidly built, constructed from high-quality plastic with a distinctly premium soft-touch feel. There is no audible creaking when twisting and pushing on the panels, and tapping on the earcups when wearing them (which can cause a hollow knocking sound on cheaper headsets) just gives off a quiet, muffled bump.
All of the controls for the headset are mounted on the left ear cup. The headset volume wheel, mic volume wheel, 3.5mm jack input, USB-C charging connector, microphone connector and multi-function button are on the edge of the cup, while the power button and mic mute switch are on the side.
Features and controls
(Following a recent firmware update the Penrose X has been updated to provide some very useful quality of life upgrades, and improved microphone quality.)
Much like the Mobius, a voiced announcement lets you know when you have powered on or off your headset, changed the audio source, changed audio profile or when the battery is low. Considering how much you can adjust, the number of buttons is kept to a minimum and using the headset quickly becomes intuitive. I kept the quick reference guide beside me for a short while but soon mastered the various controls.
Making adjustments to your Penrose X requires the Audeze app on either Android, iOS or a PC (Unfortunately, there isn’t an Xbox app yet). Connected to mobile devices with Bluetooth, you can adjust the chat mix, sidetone, EQ settings, and presets within the app, but you need to connect with USB to use the PC app.
You used to need to access the Audeze HQ app to adjust the audio balance between Wireless and Bluetooth audio, but the update allows you to press and scroll the volume wheel to adjust the balance on the fly. Similarly, game and chat audio balance can be adjusted by pressing and scrolling the mic volume wheel.
Audio profiles are another new addition to the Penrose X, though again, you need to connect via USB to the app to assign them. Audeze has made some custom profiles that you can download and install, or you can create your own with the 10-band EQ. The audio profiles made by Audeze are much better than expected; they have replicated the gaming profiles used on the Mobius, as well as a selection of music and movie profiles. There are 5 preset slots that you can save to the headset, and once assigned you simply hold the volume wheel in for a few seconds to switch between them.
The Penrose is a dual wireless headset, not to be confused with dual-band wireless. It supports audio signals over the included 2.4GHz transmitter (dongle), through Bluetooth, or with the included 3.5mm analogue headphone cable. Although you can connect the Penrose with USB-C for charging, it doesn’t transmit audio over the USB connection.
The 2.4GHz wireless connection is the primary source and the only way to connect to an Xbox, but it’s also possible to play audio from two sources simultaneously. You can pipe Bluetooth or analogue (3.5mm) audio from your phone or PC whilst connected to your Xbox (or PC) through the dongle. The dongle will always be the primary source, with selection for the other connections made with the multi-function button. Having the dongle work for both Xbox and PC (with a selector switch on the dongle) is a nice touch, as not all PCs have a Bluetooth connection, not to mention you get the benefit of lossless high-resolution wireless audio.
It comes already paired with the dongle, so all you need to do is plug it in and turn on the headset. To pair with a Bluetooth device you just turn on the headset, press the multifunction button once to enable Bluetooth, then double-press the power button. Once paired, whenever you switch to Bluetooth mode it will automatically connect to the most recent device.
Wireless range is mixed – through Bluetooth, the range is on par with most other wireless devices I’ve tested, but with the 2.4GHz dongle the range is around 5-6 metres, and just a few metres if there are any obstructions or interference. It’s more than good enough for sitting back on your sofa, even in a large living room, just don’t expect to go wandering around the house without it disconnecting.
Unofficially, the Penrose X will work with PS5 with the dongle set to PC mode, though this could be altered in a firmware update. For now, though, if you have both consoles then the Penrose X is the one to buy.
The Audeze Penrose X is by far the best sounding headset I’ve used on an Xbox. Seriously, aside from Audeze’s Mobius, it’s not even close. That’s not to say other manufacturers don’t make great headsets, but the Penrose X is on another level.
The audio tune on Audeze’s Penrose headsets eschews the typical bass-boosted audio most gaming headsets provide. Instead, the default flat EQ provides a natural, crisp and clean audio profile. A full spectrum of sound is delivered with astounding clarity across the full 10Hz to 50kHz sound range, with not a trace of distortion.
The bass produced by the Penrose is exceptionally clear, and it’s possible to pick out individual details even amongst the most intense action scenes. On a typical gaming headset, if you have bass-heavy music pumping alongside booming explosions and low-frequency rumbles, all the sounds tend to become mushed together. Instead, the Penrose lets you experience rich, deep and well-articulated bass, with amazing width.
Mid-range frequencies are tight and packed full of detail, while the high-end frequencies are bright, crisp and clearly audible no matter how complex the audio you are listening to may be. It’s when you combine all these frequencies together where the Penrose is most impressive, though.
The Audeze Penrose excels with its excellent separation that lets you identify individual sounds with ease. You’ll find yourself picking out sound cues you hadn’t been able to differentiate before, and it makes listening to games, movies and music an absolute joy. The same is true even at maximum (almost deafening) volume, where the rapid response of the planar magnetic drivers prevents the bass from becoming overwhelming and drowning out the rest of the range.
There is no active noise cancellation, but the passive noise cancellation is excellent thanks to the closed-back design and deep, well-padded earcups. Much like Audeze’s other gaming headsets, the Penrose has an exceptionally wide soundstage. Paired with Dolby Atmos, DTS Ultra or Windows Sonic virtual surround, it makes identifying directional audio cues a breeze.
I briefly mentioned it in passing earlier, but the Penrose X is thunderously loud. With a max SPL rating of >120dB, this means it can pump out audio at full volume without a trace of distortion (Be aware that listening to this headset at max volume could potentially cause permanent hearing damage).
Many headsets I’ve tested, especially those that connect to the Xbox controller, suffer from low peak volume levels. The Audeze LCD-GX is a prime example, as the controller cannot produce enough power to properly drive the headset. This isn’t the case with the Penrose X, though. The integrated amplifier produces the loudest sound I’ve yet experienced on an Xbox. 30-40% volume is more than sufficient for general listening, but on those occasions where I want to blast out some music, the extra headroom is most welcome.
The downloadable sound profiles are well worth the time to install. I set a few different ones that covered all of my regular uses: A flat EQ for when I was analysing the audio quality, a couple of music-oriented EQs that ramp up the bass, a movie and gaming EQ with a slightly heavier emphasis on the mids for vocal clarity, and an esports EQ that amplifies footsteps and gunfire. I found that the audio presets on the Mobius were too subtle, with only slight differences in the overall sound, but on the Penrose X, the difference is far more pronounced which is a huge improvement.
I would have liked the ability to name the presets, as unless you are on the app you can’t see what the presets are, but I found it easy to remember which presets I had set (1. Bass-heavy, 2. Music, 3. Movies and games, 4. Esports, 5. Flat EQ). Hopefully, Audeze will develop a UWP app for the Xbox to make adjusting presets and other features easier, especially as this is a headset made specifically for those consoles.
I’m Shure the mic is better now
The microphone quality is significantly improved over the Mobius, with the new Shure developed mic. However, when connected wirelessly, the quality is bandwidth limited to allow maximum quality to be dedicated to the game audio. Connecting via Aux (3.5mm cable) will give you a higher quality mic connection.
Audeze has produced a handy pair of comparison audio recordings that you can listen to and hear the difference for yourself:
Even wirelessly the mic is a major step-up from the Mobius’ mic, and I had no problems with people hearing me in chat. The mic also does a good job of naturally eliminating background noise, and there’s a useful toggle for sidetone so you can monitor your own vocals (long-press mic volume wheel to turn sidetone on, or use the app).
Battery life is rated at 15 hours, but I found it varied between 10 and 15 hours depending on the volume I was listening to and whether I was connected to multiple sources. Unlike something like the Nuraphone, there is no integrated audible or visual cue to let you know how much battery life is left, only to announce when the battery is low. The low battery announcement occurs when there is 10% battery remaining (around one hour of use left) and is accompanied by the indicator light flashing on the headset.
(You can get an accurate read of the battery charge remaining within the Audeze app, but for a device designed to be used with an Xbox, this is a disappointing omission.)
I consistently got a couple of days usage from the Penrose X between charges, and they can be used while charging if you are caught unaware. Charging takes about 3 hours from 0-100% when connected to the USB port on an Xbox or PC. As long as you get in the habit of keeping the battery topped up, it’s not likely to be a dealbreaker for most people.
The Audeze Penrose X is easily the best sounding headset available for Xbox consoles. Although the bass may not be as forced or rumbling as a typical gaming headset, it is much cleaner, and the resulting audio is clear and defined across the entire frequency range. It’s not a cheap headset, per se, but this is audiophile-grade tech, and the Penrose X offers sound quality way in excess of the very reasonable asking price.
Compatibility across a wide range of devices (including PS5) means the Penrose X could truly be your go-to headset for every gadget you own. It even has great comms now, thanks to the collaboration with Shure to improve the microphone quality. In short, if you’re looking for the best quality wireless headset for Xbox, PC and mobile, look no further. Aside from the battery life being not quite as good as the best in its class, there’s almost no fault to be found with this headset.