Turtle Beach HPA2 on Xbox 360 – Review and How-to

Turtle Beach HPA2 on Xbox 360 via Creative Extigy

There are a number of Surround-Sound gaming headset around from the likes of Turtle Beach, Astro and Tritton, however if you want to use them on your console the pickings are slimmer. The excellent wireless X41 from Turtle Beach are probably the best of a batch of “Xbox 360 Ready” headsets – but they are simulated surround sound. The X41s and the Astro A40s use Dolby Headphone – the market standard in simulated surround sound over stereo. True 5.1 headsets are a rarer beast.

To allow for discrete 5.1 audio you need more than two speakers (at least 6). The HPX-2 headset from Turtle Beach is one of the few headset in the world that has multiple drivers in each ear. 4 on the left and 4 on the right provide a centre and sub-woofer driver for both ears, front and rear left audio in the left ear and front and rear right audio in the right. This is a huge sacrifice in individual driver quality and size to provide more distinct placement of audio.

A Dolby Headphone enabled amp allows you to enjoy surround sound using the highest quality headset you can afford. You can lose critical positioning (especially directly behind you) however atmosphere is not lost.

The important choice when choosing a surround sound gaming headset is audio quality vs positional accuracy.

The caveat with discreet 5.1 audio headsets (like the HPA2) is that they are for PC only.

Or are they?

The difficulty with consoles comes from the fact that they only output surround sound in Dolby Digital via an optical cable. All 5.1 headsets are designed to be connected to separate analogue jack connections. Common for PC sound cards but completely absent from all video-game consoles.

What you need is something to convert the digital audio into analogue. This is what “Xbox 360 Ready” headsets provide inside their boxes and why they claim to be so ready. If you want to use a different headset you can use your hi-fi or even your PC’s soundcard, but a device like the A40 amp can be far more appropriate. If you don’t have a suitable beefy hi-fi or PC you will probably want something a little more affordable too.

There are a fair few of these devices around but quality can be an issue; so it is rather convenient that there is something perfect for the job – the Creative Extigy.

Creative Extigy

Creative Extigy

Currently discontinued (eBay it is then) though still readily available, the Extigy is made by PC audio leaders Creative and it is a USB-powered soundcard designed for Laptops. Originally released in 2002 – it has apparently never been bettered. Essentially an external Audigy 2, it allows you to convert a Dolby Digital signal, via optical, into analogue 5.1. The conversion is done with only a minor delay (the best I have experienced for such a process) and automatically – and you don’t even need to connect it to a Computer. For around £40 it really can’t be beaten.

Another useful feature, particularly so in this case, is its separately amplified microphone input. Combined with a clever bit of wiring this enables you to hear you team mates and enemies on Xbox Live clearly, even when everything is exploding around you. Whilst Xbox-specific headsets are designed with the Xbox Live communication system in mind, PC or vanilla headsets are not.

Without a system like this you are forced to use the Xbox’s own gameplay audio/chat merger which is woefully inadequate.

USB Power adapter

USB Power Adapter

Although you don’t need to plug the Extigy into a PC you do need to power it via its USB connection. You can use any USB-to-mains plug adapter for this. If you haven’t got one they are extremely cheap on eBay.

The HPA2’s amp also requires USB power. It is highly recommended that you power the HPA2 amp with a USB-to-mains plug adapter, even if you are using it for a PC/Laptop. If you power it from your Computer’s USB slot you will likely receive a lot of interference from your headset.

Xbox Live Chat cables

You will need (minimum requirements):

  • Datel Xbox Chat adapter
  • 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter
  • 3.5mm stereo to dual-mono splitter cable

The Xbox 360 Controller requires a mono input from your headset’s microphone and transmits a mono output from Xbox Live chat. This output needs to be connected to the microphone input on the Extigy. The volume of this can be amplified to your preference and will be audible in your left ear.

Datel - Xbox 360 Headset Adapter The Datel adapter allows you to mute your microphone and adjust the volume of you friends/enemies on Xbox Live. The splitter cable can be hard to come by as most splitters actually split the stereo giving you two stereo outputs. This is no use. We need to separate the two channels in to two separate mono (or left audio) cables.

You may be able to use a different configuration of cables (leave a comment if you do) and you can get far cheaper headset adapters from eBay. The Datel is the cheapest solution with mute and volume control from my research though. At the end of the article I have included some pictures and descriptions of 4 different setups.

The image below shows you an example of how to connect your headset to your Extigy and Xbox 360 Controller. (Have a look further down the page for my actual setup).

Xbox 360 Live Chat via Extigy (HPA2 Headset)

There is a shopping list at the end of this page with all of these cables as well as eBay search links to buy them.

Turtle Beach Ear Force HPA2/HPX-2

Turtle Beach HPA2 Package

The HPA2 package from Turtle Beach is a combination of their adaptable HPX-2 headset with an in-line 5.1 USB-powered amp. The HPX-2 is one of the most highly rated gaming headsets. It is frequently suggested as a replacement for the A40 headset, and is compatible with the A40 amp with a simple $10 adapter cable – the HPX-1.

Unfortunately Turtle Beach only offer the HPX-2 and it’s associated cables to the USA. So finding what you want can be quite difficult here in the UK. I luckily managed to find the HPA2 package at ExpansysUK for a very reasonable £65. The HPX-1 lead is available for £10 from limexb360.co.uk. Lime is probably the most comprehensive place to go for all Turtle Beach headset and accessories – though they may not always be the cheapest.

The headset itself has a quality build and should be comfortable for a wide variety of head sizes. They look stylish and there is simply nothing to complain about. The in-line amp has individual volume controls for front, rear, centre and the sub-woofer. It is of reasonable quality and providing you give it USB power as outlined above you will experiencing a minimal amount of  hissing – though it is still there.

The sound quality to me is superb, but I am hardly an audiophile. I am sure those with more experienced ears will be able to pick at this, but I cannot.

Overall this headset provides a great audio experience, and by all accounts the best “true” surround sound available via a set of headphones.

Xbox System Settings

Xbox 360 Audio Settings - Enable Dolby Digital 5.1

Xbox 360 Voice Settings - Play through Headset

You need to make sure that you have Dolby Digital enabled in the Xbox 360 dashboard to get surround sound out to the Extigy. You also need to make sure that your chat options are set up as above so that you can here your friends clearly.

– – –

Once it’s all up and running you can begin sound-whoring with the best of them. I bought this setup with Battlefield: Bad Company 2 in mind and I couldn’t be happier. With the “War Tapes” audio option enabled you can completely immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the battlefield. I find myself acquiring out-of-sight targets much easier and sniper/anti-sniper tactics have never been simpler, thanks to an increased awareness of bullet trajectory.

When it comes to surround-sound headsets your options are clear. If you want Wireless get yourself some X41s, if you want the best audio quality then pick yourself up the A40 amp and drop a few hundred more on some Sennheiser or something. If you want discrete 5.1 audio and don’t mind cables, then the HPA2 and Extigy combo is the only way to go.


I have taken some pictures of my exact setup to try to a help a little more.

HPA2 and Xbox 360 - My Setup

HPA2 & Xbox 360 - Headset adapter end HPA2, Xbox 360 and the Creative Extigy (DD Decoder End)
Click on the picture to see the full-size versions.

All the items I have used are:

  • Turtle Beach HPA2 headset package (Google) (eBay)
  • Datel Headset Adapter (Google) (Amazon) (eBay)
  • 2.5mm (Male) to 3.5mm (Female) (eBay)
  • 3.5mm stereo jack extension cable 1.5M (eBay)
  • 3.5mm stereo to 2 3.5mm mono splitter cable (eBay) <-Direct link
  • 3.5mm stereo jack cable 0.2M
  • Toslink digital optical cable
  • Creative Extigy (eBay)
  • USB power adapter [for HPA2] (eBay)

If you use a different configuration these cables may be useful too:

  • 3.5mm stereo jack cable 1.5M (eBay)
  • 2.5mm stereo jack cable 1M (eBay)
  • 3.5mm stereo female-female coupler (eBay)
  • You may also need some USB Extension cables (eBay)

I have tried to make sure that the searches on eBay are as accurate as possible, to make sure you get the right devices and cables. Don’t forget to sort by Price (and P+P) to get the best deal.

– – –

Xbox Live Headset connection setups

Xbox Live Custom Headset Setups: Datel Headset adapter to 3.5mm to 2.5mm adapter cable

Datel Headset adapter (recommended)

Xbox Live Custom Headset Setups: Generic XBL Puck to Mic IN & 3.5mm out

Generic XBL Puck adapter (made in HK; sold everywhere)

Xbox Live Custom Headset Setups: 3.5mm to 2.5mm adapter cable to dual mono adapter

No headset adapter (otherwise setup is the same as with the Datel puck)

Xbox Live Custom Headset Setups: Mic IN to 3.5mm to 2.5mm adapter cable

Pink Mic IN from your PC headset and a 3.5mm to 2.5mm adapter cable (not recommended)

Check the comments below for some more helpful advice. Ask if you need any further help.

26 thoughts on “Turtle Beach HPA2 on Xbox 360 – Review and How-to

  1. I bought all the cables using the links above but can not get this setup to work.

    The only way I can get the mic to work is to plug the pink jack from the hpa2’s into the stereo end of stereo to dual mono splitter and plug one of the mono cables into my controller. With this setup I am struggling to hear my team mates even with the voice volume on 10 and game volume on 1.

    Not sure what I am doing wrong. Are you able to show where you bought your cables?

  2. You need to make sure that you have a cable running from the controller to the extigy.
    If you only connect the microphone to the controller then you will be hearing your team mates via the Xbox’s sound rather than the “headset” sound.

    The exact splitter cable I used is:
    3.5mm STEREO to 2x Female MONO Converter Splitter Cable – from cablestop on ebay
    http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=320553618500

    No other cable should matter. I’m 99% convinced the first Stereo to 2xMono cable I tried/purchased was a lie – so this is the one to watch out for.

    • Thanks for the info. I purchased the the same splitter cable as you and this seems to have done the trick. I can hear my teams mates loud and clear now.

      Great article.
      Thanks
      ginge

      • sorry mate i cant give you a picture at the moment. The picture in the article is a bit different to my set up because i use the splitter cable from the link in eddebaby’s reply above not any of the ones from the link in the original article (6th in list). the correct splitter is 3.5mm male stereo to two 3.5mm female mono’s not the male to two males shown in the picture in the article.

        So I have a 3.5mm male stereo to to 3.5mm male stereo from the red female mono end of the splitter to the mic channel on the extigy.

        From the white female mono end of the splitter i have a 3.5mm male stereo to 3.5mm female stereo extension cable which goes to the pink mic jack on the hpa2’s.
        You dont need the female to female coupler.

        I only use one usb adaptor and one usb extension cable to power the hpa2’s inline amp. as the dude below says my extigy came with an ac power adaptor.

        I had some problems with 2.5mm to 3.5mm converters and would recommend getting one from maplin.

        you may also need an elastic band to keed the datel headset adaptor in the pad. the weight of the cables seems to pull mine out.

        Hope this helps
        Gingerbeard

      • That adapter isn’t necessary – you might need it with a different set of cable though. Also I have updated the article with a picture of my working setup.

  3. You stated that you need to power the Extigy by USB connection? It has an AC Power adapter, so why would there be a need for the USB connection other than for hooking it up to your computer or laptop? Also, since the HPA2 has been replaced by the Z6A(has xbox live chat input), could you hook the mic for xbox 360 chat directly into the inline amplifier and bypass the extigy all together(just for xbox chat).

    • UPDATE: The Z6A no longer needs the Pink mic connection from the Headset to the Controller and from the Extigy to the Controller. You can use the inline controller Xbox Live Chat connection and plug directly into your controller. No need to run the extra setup. AWESOME headset too.

  4. On TB’s website it says that you need to buy a sold separately cable kit for the Z6A to work on the Xbox 360 but the kit is currently not offered for sale so I’m a little confused on what you would need for the Z6A to work with this set up. Anyone care to elaborate?

    • Well you would need an External Dolby Digital Decoder. I’ve got a Creative Labs Extigy. You could also use the Tritton Dolby Digital Decoder or an HD Audio Rush or Sharkoon SCU. That would allow you to keep the 5.1 to the headset. If you use Turtle Beach’s kit to hook up to the xbox 360, you will only get stereo.

      Items you’d need:

      External Dolby Digital 5.1 Decoder (Extigy, HD Audio Rush, Sharkoon SCU, Tritton Dolby Decoder, etc.)
      2.5mm male to 2.5mm male cable(connects controller to headset inline controller)
      Datel Headset adapter if you want mute & volume adjustability(optional)
      Toslink cable
      (3) 3.5mm cables(3ft,6ft,10ft) if you need more length from the headset to the External Dolby Digital Box

  5. In this video

    the guy says you only need this adapter http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001078FV8. The fact that he had to google where each color went from the HPA2 outputs makes me question his credibility… But i was wondering if theres any truth to this? Or will there be a volume issue that gingerbread was having? Also is the 2.5-3.5 adapter mono or stereo? I bought a stereo one with 3 black bands on the output, but it didn’t work.

    • You can just use that cable – but you will get your “chat” audio bundled in with the game audio (i.e. it sends xbox live chat through the ‘speakers’ rather than the ‘headset’.)
      The splitter allows you to send your mic to xbox live and receive your friends chatter back through the headset You can then hear it much more clearly.

      The 2.5-3.5 adapter is stereo.

  6. I’ve updated the article with more information about using the headset with Xbox Live. I’m going to look into the Z6A now to see how that works.

    I will also update this article (or maybe put it up separately) with information about connecting the HPA2 to the PS3. Basically, you need to buy the Amigo II from Turtle Beach and connect it up with more cables than you’d care for. So in that way it is the same as the Xbox :)

    Z6A Edit:
    As Anon has said, with the Z6A you can use a 2.5mm male to male cable to connect from your Xbox controller (or puck) to the Z6A’s inline amp (using the ‘Talkback Cable Jack’). You don’t need to use the splitter or even the pink mic connection. Much easier!

    It’s tempting to pick up the Z6A Amplifier on it’s own for this reason. Both headsets should be interchangeable.

    Also it seems that you can hear your own voice from your mic back through the headset. This is something I am trying to get working with the HPA2s at the moment. Although, it also appears you can’t turn it off, without disabling the microphone completely, if you don’t like it.

    The Z6A also seems to be identical to the MW3 branded “Ear Force Charlie”.

  7. If i need to extend my pink mic cable to be long enough for the second option to plug into the generic xbox adapter, can I just use a simple 3.5 mm extension stereo or something else?

  8. I’ve just got the Extigy and while I am thinking of getting the Psyko Carbon, TB Z6A or Roccat Kave’s can you please tell me how you control the volume whilst gaming and if the Extigy’s CSS works?

    Reason is I’ve just connected my Sennhesier’s to the mic port and used the optical out from the xbox into the Extigy and the volume control dial does nothing and also the CSS function. I’m concerned now if my soundblaster is faulty.

    Thanks

    • I believe the CMSS only works when connected to a computer. You have to enable it in software.
      As for the volume control: Does it not affect anything?
      Make sure that the Dolby Digital (DD) light is on, make sure the independant mic volume is turned up.
      Make sure you have Stereo chosen in the xbox settings for your stereo Sennheiser’s. Make sure you have Dolby Digital for 5.1 headsets (don’t use the WMA option).

      Sorry that these aren’t really direct solutions to your volume control problem, hopefully there is something helpful in here though.

  9. Does brand have a big effect? I live in the US so I wasn’t trying to order from over seas. I’m thinking I might have to though… I’m using the first setup. Though the brands are different the adapters match the specs, I.e. input output size, mono or stereo etc.

    I am having two issues one is that people constantly complain my Mic is creating feedback, static and serious background noise. People tell me it’s unbearable so I usually keep my mic muted unless I need to talk which gets annoying. My other issue is that if I plug the 3.5 stereo jack, leading from the red mono splitter, into the mic input on the front of the extigy it produces a really loud buzzing or humming which drowns out all other sound. I’m having trouble figuring out the issue… Any ideas?

    Thanks.

    • Brand doesn’t really have an effect. “The 3.5mm stereo to 2 3.5mm mono splitter” cable is the one most people have issues with. The one used is a Stereo Male to 2x Mono Female.

      I have also had issues with the “2.5mm (Male) to 3.5mm (Female)” cables. Though they usually just don’t work at all.

      Otherwise make sure that the mic input volume dial isn’t too high. Because it is powered (amplified) it does add static to the line. I set mine at about a third or less.

  10. This setup worked perfectly. The only thing I had to do differently to get everything to work was switch the red and white cords. I plugged my extigy into the white mono end and the HPA2 into the red mono end and everything works great. Thank you for the information.

  11. Hi nice post it actually helped me allot but I am still having some issues with the set up. I have everything on you list and set up exactly as you stated but it only works with third party controllers not the original Xbox controllers. Apparently, from the test I made, if the controller does not see a load on the out put (headphones or a speaker) the controller stops sending the signal (chat voice). Cause I treid to get a reading on my multimeter with a male to male jack but it dint work. At last I put a spliter (or actually a duplicator) at the end that the extigy mic-in would go connected and connected one end to the extigy and the other to some headphones, i had around, and finally it worked.

    Then I tested the set up with a third party controller and it can be hear with or without the headphones acting as a load.

    not sure if its a mistake on my end but checked thoroughly and came up with this conclusion. please tell me if any of you have had the same problem. Ahh it might be worth mentioning my xbox is really old and my controller is the one that came with it.

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