WHAT Tritton AX Pro 2010

PRICE $180

COMPARE TO Astro A40, Turtle Beach Ear Force X41

WHY COMPLEX IS CO-SIGNING In the world of online multiplayer gaming, being able to hear is integral. And we don't mean being able to hear prepubescents talking about raping you, or whining about you stealing their kill, or cramming a remote up their own ass—we mean being able to hear your teammates, enemy footsteps, even the sound of a gun reloading. Or it could just be that your girl is tired of the sounds of gunfire echoing through the house. Either way, that's where high-end gaming headphones come in. Tritton's top-tier model has been around since early 2008, but was plagued with enough minor issues that the company released an updated unit last week. The cans managed to retain their best qualities—true digital 5.1 sound, four separate speakers in each earcup (which can be adjusted on the fly, depending on how much subwoofer or delay you want), separately controlled game and voice sound via the same inline controller—while bringing a few much-welcomed improvements...

The removable boom mic in particular is flexible now, and connects to the cans much more securely; the previous version's mic jacked in via a locking plastic collar that chipped easily, requiring replacement. More padding has been added to the headband, making long-term usage more comfortable: a four-hour stint using them resulted in no discomfort, either from the unit's weight or its fit. The Xbox Live cable has gone from 2.5mm jacks to 3.5mm, which the company says means increased voice communication quality; the difference wasn't perceptible, but it definitely didn't get worse, so if this was a complaint for you in the past it's safe to assume the problem has been remedied. The sound quality is impressive; even playing in a snow-filled level (Derail on Modern Warfare 2), we were able to hear footsteps—and the direction they were coming from—clearly enough to find cover and ambush a player even though they hadn't shown up on my minimap. Plus, the headset comes with enough connection cables that it works with Xbox 360, PS3, PC, or a stereo receiver (really, anything with either an optical audio or analog 5.1 output)—so if you want to just watch a movie or TV, you can lose the boom mic and plug in for a Surround Sound experience without waking up wifey.

For all the positives, though, the AX Pro still retains some of its less compelling attributes, especially cable overload. Just like the original AX Pro, the new version requires a mind-boggling number of wires to get everything connected. To wit: Xbox 360 to "Digital Audio Controller box"; DAC box and headphones dovetailing to AC adaptor; headphones to DAC box; headphones to Xbox controller. (At least there's only one AC adaptor this time around; before, the headphones required a separate power adaptor.) This time around, the 3.5mm XBox voice cable uses straight headphone-style jacks rather than 90-degree bent ones, which makes the connections feel a bit more precarious—as though you could damage the jack accidentally.

Minor drawbacks aside, the AX Pro 2010 still offers what only one other gaming headset (the Astro A40s) can—true digital 5.1 sound—for $70 less. (The Turtle Bays may be wireless, but that leads to its own flaws, like interference and an inconsistent voice connection.) And with sound quality like that, you can deal with the cables. Trust.