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Audeze Penrose Gaming Headset Review

Audiophile Headphones Meet Gaming Headset

Christopher Coke Updated: Posted:
Category:
Hardware Reviews 0

Audeze is well known in the audiophile space for its line of exquisite planar magnetic headphones. In 2018, it made its first foray into the gaming space with the Mobius, an impressive gaming headset packed to the gills with technology for gamers and audio enthusiasts alike. It later partnered with HyperX on its Cloud Orbit line of gaming headsets. Today, we have Audeze’s latest offering for gamers with the Penrose. It features the company’s acclaimed planar magnetic driver system, a new and improved microphone, and dual wireless connectivity that promises to take your console and PC gaming to the next level. Does it?

Let’s take a look and see if their potential matches their promise. 

Specifications

  • Current Price: $299 (Amazon, Audeze)
  • Style: Over-ear, closed-circumaural
  • Transducer type: Planar Magnetic
  • Magnetic structure: Fluxor™ magnet array
  • Phase management: Fazor
  • Magnet type: Neodymium N50
  • Diaphragm type: Ultra-thin Uniforce™
  • Transducer size: 100 mm
  • Maximum SPL: >120dB
  • Frequency response: 10Hz - 50kHz
  • THD: <0.1% (1 kHz, 1mW)
  • Earpads: Contoured memory foam: artificial leather
  • Microphone: Detachable broadcast quality mic
  • Battery type: Lithium-polymer (15hr battery life, 3hr charge time)
  • Wireless Connection:2.4 GHz Wireless (16bit/48kHz) + Bluetooth
  • Wired Connection: 3.5mm analog audio, USB-A-to-C charging
  • Weight: 320g (including battery)

If you’ve picked up one of the new consoles, you may be looking for a new headset to go with it. Maybe by virtue of its price, or the fact that Audeze’s clout is still rising within the gaming community, but the Penrose, as of this writing anyways, is one of the few high-end “next-gen” headsets not currently sold out. And honestly, that’s a good thing, because if you’re looking for a middle ground between audiophile headphones and a gaming headset, this is a darn good choice. 

Visually, the Penrose doesn’t take many risks. In fact, it looks extremely similar to Audeze’s other gaming headsets, the Mobius and HyperX’s Cloud Orbit series. I admit, the first time I saw them, the first thing I wondered is if they were really any different from the other Audeze headphones I’ve tried. There have been some big upgrades here, however, and for most gamers looking for a wireless headset, the Penrose is going to be the product of choice in Audeze’s catalog.

The biggest upgrade is that it now supports 2.4 GHz wireless. The Mobius was only Bluetooth compatible, which isn’t great for competitive gaming, and the Cloud Orbit headsets were each wired only. I was sent the Xbox version and there was no discernible lag on either my One X, Series X, or PC, with which it is also compatible. It doesn’t work wirelessly with Playstation 5, but is low impedance enough to be driven by the new DualSense controller if you don’t mind attaching the included aux cable. 

It also supports Bluetooth 5.0 and simultaneous connectivity. That means if you’re gaming and a call come in, you can take it without removing your headset. That also means you can use these headphones for music on the go, though I personally find the bright green rings below to cushions too conspicuous to wear out of the house. Thankfully, these are attached to the cushions and only held in place by magnets, so it’s entirely possible that you could replace these with something more subtle in the future. 

Audeze quotes the battery life at 15 hours, but I actually found it to be closer to 12 when using 2.4GHz at roughly 75% volume. This was enough for a good several days of playing for me but once it runs dry, there’s no fast charge for a quick top-off. From completely dead to replenished, you’re looking at a three hour recharge and I did have it die midway through the final mission of Call of Duty: Black Ops — Cold War, which quickly trained me to plug it in every night before bed. 

Despite looking very similar to the Mobius, it proves to be more comfortable. Audeze has somehow managed to shave 30 grams from its overall weight, coming in at 330 grams. I found that the Penrose X evenly distributed the weight, so I didn’t experience any hot spots, even after several hours of gaming. The clamp force is also “just enough” to stay secure on my head and create a nice seal around my ears. The pads are leather-trimmed and comfortable and do an excellent job of blocking out external noise. 

Unlike that headset, however, there is no 3D tracking here. Honestly, that’s okay, and considering it’s $100 less expensive, I call it a fair trade. The 3D head tracking was neat but didn’t gain traction in the mainstream the way it might have, frequently feeling un-utilized or even gimmicky depending on the game. Here, the natural positionality is more than enough without needing to turn your head to pinpoint sounds. 

As expected from my experience with other Audeze headphones, the Penrose X sounds great. The experience is driven by Audeze’s 100mm planar magnetic drivers, whose large size is able to deliver a powerfully full sound. They’ve been tuned to deliver a nice punch, so gunshots and explosions have the kind of “oomph” you’d hope for action games. The bass is surprisingly tame, however, standing in just enough to feel full and rumbly without making the mids and highs muddy.

I spent hours playing a mix of Call of Duty, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla and found the tuning to be great. The mids are tweaked to draw out footsteps for competitive games and small details, like far off birds or falcon calls jump from the mix. This is where planar magnetics excel, being able to traverse the frequency spectrum, maintaining a level of detail the dynamic drivers in most gaming headphones struggle with. They’re not the widest gaming headphones for soundstage, even with Dolby Atmos turned on, but they’re wide enough to provide a sense of space and presence in the game world. 

My only concern here is that some users might find them a bit bass light. Having heard a number of gaming headsets, I would frankly say that is an accurate statement compared against most gaming headsets. That’s because the majority of gaming cans turn the bass up too much to made lower-quality drivers sound more powerful and dynamic than they actually are. As a result, those drivers tend to lose detail in the pursuit of “gaming.”

The Penrose X, by contrast, draws those details out and allows you to hear everything, and exactly where it’s coming from. As a result, I’m confident that this tuning is very intentional. If gaming is about winning, then detail loss is a loser's game. Here, I never had a problem picking out approaching enemies even in the middle of a firefight, even on a chaotic map like Nuketown in Call of Duty. And, after all, this is Audeze we’re talking about. They know how to do bass well, so if they toned it back, it’s because they saw a benefit to it. Still, if you’re looking for a more traditional, boomy sound, this may not be the headset for you.

Finally, we have the microphone, which is great. It’s full bodied and natural, especially when connected with the auxiliary cable, and only moderately compressed over wireless. You can remove it when not in use, but I always tend to lose these things, so I relied on just bending the gooseneck out of the way. The only thing I don’t like is that the microphone mute is a switch mounted on the left earcup and I always found myself fumbling to find it and switch it.

Final Thoughts

With the Audeze Mobius coming in at $399 and the Audeze-designed HyperX Cloud Orbit coming in at $199, the Penrose slots right in the middle with its $299 price tag.

[Update: The Cloud Orbit has since been discontinued and is only available as a "renewed" product. The Cloud Orbit S, which is similar to the Audeze Mobius in its head-tracking capabilities, is now the only Orbit headset available new through HyperX and retails for $310.77 as of this writing, making the Penrose the least expensive Audeze designed gaming headset available currently]

This remains very expensive for a gaming headset, but the quality is inarguably good. The Penrose strikes a middle-ground between gaming headset and audiophile headphone and is priced to match. I wish the battery life were longer, or that it featured fast charge to get back in the action quickly, so there’s still room to grow, but if you’re someone who loves good audio and needs to hear every detail in your game or soundtrack, you’ll find a lot to love here. 

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.

8.5Great
Pros
  • Excellent detail across bass, mids, and highs
  • 2.4 GHz wireless and Bluetooth 5.0 simultaneously
  • Great positionality
  • Comfortable to wear even after several hours
  • Great microphone quality
Cons
  • Moderate battery life with no fast charge
  • Same aesthetic as ever
  • Very expensive
  • May be too bass light for some users


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight